Back to Business

Pistons mix rest, preparation to put 4-day break to best use

Lawrence Frank cranked up the intensity at Wednesday’s practice
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
Here’s the flip side of being the NBA’s busiest team for two months: four days off between games in January. For coaches, it was a chance to step back and view the season – what’s transpired and what’s ahead – from a new perspective. For players, it was a few days of rest and recovery before plunging back into the deep end.

The Pistons took Monday off, then Tuesday players rotated through the practice facility for mandatory individual workouts with assistant coaches and weight training under the supervision of Arnie Kander and his staff. On Wednesday, Lawrence Frank put the team through the type of practice usually reserved for training camp – a full 2½ hours with the last big chunk devoted to full-court scrimmaging that afforded Frank the opportunity to look at different playing groups to put to the test some of the thoughts that the schedule hasn’t allowed a fair trial until now.

“You definitely evaluate,” Frank said. “That’s why through practice we had a bunch of different combinations” – two in the first quarter, then three per quarter after that, he said. “I’ll go back, watch the tape, see what fits. We all get a chance to see games and we had the benefit of practice. You’re constantly going to manipulate and see. Maybe you want to look at different guys in different spots.”

The second unit – Andre Drummond, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum – had played especially well until Sunday’s loss to Charlotte snapped a four-game losing streak. The Bobcats got back in that game by scoring 38 points in the second quarter, cutting a 13-point deficit to one by halftime.

So – yup – Wednesday’s practice opened with a brisk review of defensive fundamentals. When it got around to the scrimmage portion, though, Will Bynum smiled about the performance of the second unit, intimating that they won the day.

“Second group had some good energy today,” he said. “You’ve got to ask (the first unit) – see what they say about it.”

“At this point, to get these couple days off and to come right back in the gym and get after it, it felt good,” Daye said. “We got to get off our feet a little bit. We had a hard practice today, did some scrimmaging for a long period of time. I think that helped us gel a little bit.”

The high-tempo practice was more about maintaining a competitive edge than about conditioning, Frank indicated.

“This is a rhythm game,” he said. “It’s unique to have this time off, so if you don’t put forth maximum effort today and tomorrow, it’s very unrealistic for you to expect to perform at a high level on Friday. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s why it was very, very important to do the amount of up and down we did today.”