All About ‘The Process’

Frank looks to last 6 games as stepping stones for better tomorrow

Lawrence Frank has been more than willing to experiment with various aspects of the team during the last few games of the season.
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
Lawrence Frank won’t ever take his foot off the pedal, but he is willing to alter course to get to the only destination that matters to him. He said two interesting things after Sunday’s overtime loss to Chicago. One was about competing as hard as the Pistons did in losing to the Bulls every night, not just when a heavyweight shows up and exposes your team to the risk of embarrassment; the other was about sprinkling in a little lineup experimentation in the half-dozen remaining games.

Can you be resolute in trying to win games while also being committed to tinkering to best gauge an untested player’s skills under fire, or see how different two- or three- or four-player lineup combinations work, or how a player who struggles in certain matchups at one position might compensate when moved to another spot?

Frank mentioned two things in particular he’d like to see: Jonas Jerebko getting some minutes at small forward, a spot he played in the first half of his rookie season with great promise; and Vernon Macklin getting a shot at the frontcourt rotation.

Is Frank willing to lose a battle in order to better position the Pistons to win the war? Some might see a gray area; Frank sees black and white. He’d reject the notion of that question. Frank is a Bobby Knight protégé, and Knight was famously friendly with as many football as basketball coaches, including Bo Schembechler and Bill Parcells, of whom Frank has become an ardent admirer through Knight’s introduction.

Remember the old football saying: The expectation is for the position, not the player. So Frank isn’t viewing the insertion of Macklin into the frontcourt rotation for however many minutes he’ll get in the last 10 days as anything but a final exam for a student who’s attended every class and handed in every homework assignment and now gets to prove he should be passed on to the next course along with his classmates.

Frank’s radar is always up when he’s asked questions whose answers could reveal prejudicial thinking about how many minutes older players can absorb or how much responsibility younger players should be entrusted. If Joe Dumars hands someone a Pistons uniform, he’s a Piston – full membership, same benefits and same expectations as everyone else.

The foremost consideration – the only consideration, really – for Frank is the team. If something – a lineup change, a redistribution of minutes – contributes to team success, it’s a priority.

Success, by the way, goes beyond wins and losses. Put the two topics we’ve discussed here – the insistence on a focused, team-wide effort every night and the desire to learn more about how various players respond to broader responsibilities – in the context of Frank’s frequent sermons on “the process.” He distinguishes between good wins and bad wins, good losses and bad ones.

He’d rather lose the right way than win the wrong way today because it fosters a greater opportunity for team success tomorrow. Foot always on the pedal, eyes and mind always open to another route to the place where that success lies.