Bond of Brothers

Pistons band together to pull each other through tough times

Greg Monroe and the Pistons support each other through off-nights and tough stretches.
J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
You’d think Lawrence Frank offers a cash reward to the two Pistons who first arrive at the scene of a fallen teammate. That’s a message he delivered back on Dec. 9, the first day of training camp, and it took hold and hasn’t yet been shaken.

It would no doubt please him to know his Pistons have taken the next logical step in the bond of brotherhood that Frank has emphasized is essential to any refortification of the culture that made the Pistons his New Jersey team lost to in the 2004 playoffs one of the NBA’s most unified forces.

That logical next step is helping a teammate up figuratively as well as literally, offering the mental pick-me-ups that are even greater evidence of the bonding process than the physical variety.

So it was a few weeks back, when rookie Brandon Knight was struggling through an unproductive few games, that Greg Monroe put his arm around his teammate and offered words of encouragement.

“I just pulled him to the side and told him, ‘it’s one game – you’re going to have to forget about this game,’ ” Monroe said. “Just come out and continue to play hard, whether the shots are falling or things are going your way. You just have to continue to play hard and everything else will fall back into place.”

Two days later, Knight racked up a season-best 26 points to go with seven assists against zero turnovers as the Pistons beat Milwaukee, which had held Knight scoreless four nights earlier.

It’s time somebody returns the favor.

Monroe has been the Pistons’ pillar of strength this season, putting up double-doubles in nine of 11 games before Tuesday’s outing against San Antonio. After an encouraging start – Monroe grabbed five quick rebounds and made several strong moves for scoring chances around San Antonio’s all-time great Tim Duncan – he grew visibly frustrated over misses at the rim and three or four calls (or non-calls) that didn’t go his way.

Frank removed him from the game midway through the third quarter and never went back to him, which said more about the way Ben Wallace – on a night he played in his 1,055th game to set the post-merger record for appearances by a non-drafted player – energized the Pistons than it did about Frank’s faith in Monroe. Monroe finished with four points and six rebounds in just 22 minutes, matching his season low set in a foul-plagued opener at Indiana.

Before the game, Frank was marveling over how consistently Monroe has played.

“That talks about his improvement as a player,” he said. “There are many levels he still has to go and I think he’s going to get there because of his commitment, his character and his work ethic. But he’s been extremely consistent. The thing I most respect about Greg is what matters most to him is letters, not numbers. It’s wins, not the numbers he puts up. That’s what’s vital for our franchise in terms of getting back on track.”

Getting Monroe back on track in Boston after a rare night off is the surest way the Pistons also get there.