Focus on D

Monroe goes from quiet to ‘the loudest guy in the gym’

Greg Monroe is suddenly a middle-aged Piston. Not by the calendar, necessarily, where it shows he’s just 22. But in years of service, with two seasons under his belt, Monroe can pull rank on six players already. That thought made even him step back a minute on the eve of training camp.

“In the team meeting, I talked about how I went from being the youngest guy on the team to last year having two guys with less experience to now (six) guys that I have more experience than. So I’m trying to grow up a little faster and be more of a leader.”

To the extent that leadership is partly a function of comfort, the summer prepared Monroe well for taking on broader responsibilities. He went to Summer League in Orlando, in large measure to establish a mentorship role with Andre Drummond, and put in work from coast to coast, Los Angeles to Washington, but nowhere more than in Auburn Hills. Given his status as the team’s top performer and one of the centerpieces of their future, he understood it was his time to steer a course. The evidence can be seen – heard, rather – in training camp practices.

“Greg went from being one of the lower-talking guys to now being the loudest guy in the gym,” Lawrence Frank said after Friday’s morning practice, the sixth of camp. “It just gives you great evidence of how when you’re willing to improve and make changes, what happens. Greg is a great example.”

Monroe spent a great deal of his summer focusing on an improved offensive repertoire. He is much more comfortable with the ball away from the basket now and has refined his footwork in the post. It’s not quite as easy to spend summer months working on specifically getting better defensively, of course, except for the work put into conditioning drills to increase strength, speed and quickness. He focused on that just as relentlessly and appears much more fluid running the court. His raw numbers might reflect the offensive improvement for the season ahead, but Monroe is as intent on showing he’ll be a significantly better defender, too. Being vocal is one element of that.

“Communicating, second efforts and just fully understanding the schemes,” he said. “Last year, we were still learning. Mid-season, everyone was still learning the coverages. I think I’ve made big strides. Now I’m trying to help Slava (Kravtsov) and Andre Drummond and all the younger guys. You have to communicate. You have to be the quarterback on defense when you’re the big man, because most of the time you’re on the block, you’re in the lane, so you can see everything. That’s one thing Coach L and the whole coaching staff has been focusing on with me, Slava and Andre.”

“He’s making strides,” Frank said. “It’s going to be a process. It’s a hard thing to do. He’s incrementally getting better. He had an unbelievable summer. He’s working very hard here and he’s reaping what he sowed.”