Great Expectations

Frank: Monroe ‘can be very special in this league for a long time’

Greg Monroe could be accepting All-Star berths for years to come.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
If Greg Monroe grabs 13 rebounds in his next game, he’ll be averaging a double-double. He’s at 16.3 points and 9.9 rebounds right now, numbers that loudly announce his candidacy for the All-Star team. The Pistons’ 6-20 record, fairly or not, drags down his chances. But Lawrence Frank’s projection for Monroe’s future sure makes it sound like he expects future All-Star appearances to be routine.

“You see great growth from him,” Frank said after Monday’s practice with the Pistons enjoying their first consecutive days without a game to be played since the Dec. 26 season opener. “He works at it. He’s committed. He wants to be a really special player, yet the thing that’s amazing is unbelievable upside and growth. He literally is just scratching it. There’s so much more to come.”

Like what?

“Just tons. Those are conversations I have with him – not necessarily with the media – and it may not translate into 45 (points) and 25 (rebounds), but he just has so much more in him. He’s getting better, but he has great upside – he really does.”

What does Monroe hear Frank imploring him to improve in those conversations?

“Everything – nothing’s ever good enough for him when it comes to me,” he said, smiling. “He pushes me. He’s helping me get better and he’s helping our team get better. He sets the bar high for us and he expects us to reach that bar and I think it’s helping our team out a lot.”

Over his last eight games, Monroe is averaging 18.3 points and 11 rebounds a game and his shot attempts have inched up to 15 a game. His shooting percentage remains high – he’s at 52 percent for the season – as Frank gradually increases Monroe’s role within the half-court offense and defenses increasingly make him the focal point of their game plan.

“When I’m posting up, they’re keeping a guy at the elbow, a little extra help,” he said. “Different defenders play different ways. It’s not any one way. They’re kind of sinking in. That’s basically the stuff they’re doing – nothing tricky. I get the ball a little more this year in the offense, so I get my opportunities to score and make plays.”

Frank spent the extended run-up to the regular season envisioning ways to make use of Monroe’s passing ability and ball skills. Using Monroe as a “hub” of the offense is how Frank phrases it. As defenses adapt and Monroe finds the ball in his hands much more than as a rookie in John Kuester’s offense, his turnovers have spiked in some games. Monroe has had four straight games of four or more turnovers.

“Some of his turnovers were on face-ups and dribbling in traffic,” Frank said. “Some of them are tight spaces in the post, some are trying to execute a dribble handoff. They kind of vary. When you’re put in these new positions, there’s not an automatic transfer. That’s part of the growth and development of our team. Big picture, in the half-court, we want to continue to use him as a hub. That’s part of the vision and that’s where we’re going to move.”

“I have to make better decisions,” Monroe said. “I have to be a little stronger with the ball. That’s something I have to get under control.”

Monroe has demonstrated repeatedly since early in his rookie season the ability to adjust and weed out imperfections, so no one would be surprised if the recent rise in turnovers just as quickly fades.

“He’s only 21,” Frank said. “When you go through and watch him every day, the tape, he’s getting a lot done. But he can be very special. He really can be. He has a chance, if totally committed, he can be very special in this league for a long time.”

  • Ben Gordon and Will Bynum both returned to practice on Monday after extended absences. Bynum has missed the past 14 games with a strained right foot tendon, Gordon the past 10 with a sore left shoulder. Their status is uncertain for Wednesday’s game at New Jersey, though.

    Gordon said he felt good going through practice, although his wind will take time to come around, but he’s unsure what will happen when he encounters jarring contact.

    “It’s really just one of those things that you don’t know until you get hit there,” he said. “I didn’t get hit there today, so I keep playing and just keep going through it and hopefully I can dodge whatever contact that might set it back. But today it felt good, so I’ll keep going from there. It’s a tear. Any time you have a tear, you run the risk of tearing it further.”