Arnie Kander listens and observes the body at a different level, though, and it didn’t take the Pistons strength and conditioning coach long to get to the root of Maggette’s injury-plagued 2011-12 season with Charlotte.
“All on one side of the body – knee on the right, Achilles on the right, lower back on the right,” Kander said. “And there’s a particular reason for that. We’re addressing that.”
They are doing it by breaking Maggette’s footwork and stride mechanics down to their most basic elements. One drill Kander has Maggette executing, ad nauseum, is standing about 10 feet from the basket, in the middle of the paint, and taking a few methodical shuffle steps left – slide step, slide step – before releasing a flat-footed shot, then repeating the exercise to the right, over and over.
“He’s really just taking the load off to build up more scar tissue around me knee, to keep my Achilles right, back, hamstring – he’s really trying to do everything the right way and not press,” Maggette said. “It’s more about footwork and getting everything aligned the right way. You’re just retraining everything to go the right way and each time I come in, my footwork gets better.”
On Monday, Kander had Maggette walking from one end of the team practice facility court to the other, a harness attached to his mid-section, pulling a stack of weights behind him – the same drill he devised two summers ago to help Tracy McGrady get back on the floor.
“He’s really good,” Maggette said. “I heard so many good things about him from Chauncey (Billups) and all the guys who were here before. Just the opportunity to come here and work with him, I’m feeling much better.”
The Pistons acquired Maggette in late June from Charlotte, sending Ben Gordon to the Bobcats. While Joe Dumars admitted a primary motivation for the trade was to create salary cap flexibility in 2013 – Maggette’s contract has just one remaining year, Gordon’s two – he was also intrigued by Maggette’s proven ability to score and, especially, to get to the foul line. That attacking mentality also meshes well with Lawrence Frank’s preferences.
“When I talked to coach, it was about just being aggressive and scoring the ball,” Maggette said. “We’ve got a lot of young talent I enjoy watching – Brandon (Knight) and Greg (Monroe), Andre (Drummond) coming in, Kyle (Singler), a former Duke guy, who has so much potential in his career. Their careers are just starting. I’m just going to come in and play as much as I can. I don’t know how many minutes – probably between 15 and 20 and that’s fine with me. It’s more about preparation for them. I was in a situation where someone else was doing it for me and there has to be a transition period.”
With Singler and Tayshaun Prince at small forward in addition to Maggette, it’s conceivable the Pistons will ask Maggette to provide some insurance at shooting guard, where the trade of Gordon has left only rookie Kim English behind incumbent Rodney Stuckey.
“I can still do that,” he said. “I’ve done it over my career – two, three, even the four in Golden State with (Don Nelson). Whatever I need to do to help. The biggest thing is just bringing positive energy for this team. I’m in a good place right now, to be able to do that and help out this organization. This organization was built on excellence. You take a look and see all these banners up here – they didn’t get here by not working hard and doing the right thing. I just want to be a part of that.”
Maggette plans to spend the rest of the week continuing to work with Kander, then head home to Orange County, Calif., for the rest of August, returning to Auburn Hills for a month of workouts before training camp opens. Kander said Maggette should be comfortably ready to go full speed when camp opens.
“He reminds me a little of Tracy in regards to very intense, very bright guy, loves to train,” Kander said. “Like I told him, let’s figure out the line between training and overtraining. The nice part is you’ve got a guy who’s real cerebral.”
Maggette admits to being a little bit itchy to do more, but Kander is sticking to the script. Until he feels comfortable that Maggette’s movements have been properly retrained – correcting bad habits that come when a player overcompensates after suffering an injury – he won’t let Maggette start running.
“It’s a step-by-step process until I see everything – your knee, your Achilles, your back, your shoulder – starting to connect. Then we’ll open it up a little bit more. There’s plenty of time. It’s already corrected. Now he has to get endurance over holding the corrections.”