Lawrence Frank, in fact, did just that over his time with New Jersey.
As the Pistons push along in their quest to establish the identity Frank desires, the rotation remains in flux. For all the consternation over who should start in the backcourt or when Andre Drummond should move in alongside Greg Monroe for the opening tip, a fixed rotation is really the greater challenge for an NBA head coach than identifying the five players who start.
“It’s all based on the game – it’s based on guys’ performance,” Frank said after Wednesday’s shootaround and before tonight’s game with Phoenix. “I don’t think you can just have a rote script, especially when you’re a team like ours.”
One notable change to look for tonight, perhaps: Rodney Stuckey will more than likely be the backup point guard in the first half. And from there, well, stay tuned …
“What we’re going to do is Rodney will get the first crack at playing those minutes,” Frank said. “Now, he may sub in earlier in the game for either Tay or Kyle, but then when we bring in Corey or another wing, Rodney will then be at the point and we’ll go from there and then, depending on how the game is going, Will could be in there or if Rodney is going really well it may not be that half for Will or that night for Will – or vice versa.”
Frank’s rotation was at 10 to start the season: a starting five of Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell and Tayshaun Prince and a bench unit of Drummond, Kyle Singler, Will Bynum, Jonas Jerebko and Kim English.
That lasted six games. The Pistons were 0-6 at the time. For the seventh game, a loss at Houston in which the Pistons were at last wrapping up a 10-day, six-game road trip, Frank cut the rotation down to nine, eliminating the spot English had held. Twelve players saw action in that 14-point loss, but only nine had played until Frank pulled the plug midway through the fourth quarter and sent on Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and rookie Khris Middleton.
The rotation went back to 10, though, on the night of Nov. 14 – or would have, in all likelihood, if Stuckey hadn’t missed the game due to illness. On that night, Singler moved in to replace Stuckey and Corey Maggette was cleared to play for the first time since suffering a preseason leg injury.
When Stuckey came back in time for the next game, two nights later, Frank was again back to a 10-man rotation. For the season’s 14th game, at New York on Sunday, there was one tweak: Villanueva replaced Jerebko as Maxiell’s understudy at power forward.
Then came Monday night, the win over Portland, in the 15th game. Frank went with the same 10-man formula for the first half, but cut the playing group down to nine in the second half by keeping Bynum on the bench and using Stuckey as the backup to both Knight and Singler in the backcourt.
Other changes could be in store. English could find a way back into the playing group at shooting guard if Stuckey is going to spend more time at point guard. Frank talked about Jerebko or Daye as possibilities for backup minutes behind Prince.
“Anything is on the table,” he said. “Foul trouble, or someone is underperforming. It’s trying to figure out which pieces fit on that night. As long as you’re giving maximum effort, it starts there. Usually you can work things out when you’re playing hard.”