Prepared for Change

As Monroe moves to power forward, building leg strength becomes a key

Greg Monroe
Greg Monroe's off-season workouts will help with his defensive abilities at the four spot.
Dan Lippitt (NBAE/Getty)
Greg Monroe’s move to power forward doesn’t fundamentally change the summer Arnie Kander has planned for him, but there will be tweaks made in his training regimen to acknowledge the change.

It might sound curious at first blush that the Pistons’ strength and conditioning coach will focus on getting Monroe stronger to play a position that will demand greater defensive range and mobility. Until you hear his logic, at least, and then it all makes perfect sense.

For the increased lateral mobility Monroe will need to guard the expanding number of range-shooting power forwards, Kander says, he’ll first need to strengthen his legs and hips.

“You have to first work on muscle strength to be able to get in those positions,” he said. “It means get better at basketball movement. What gets in your way? What blocks things? For Greg, it’s getting better at stances. On offense, he can get away with an upright stance. Defensively, he has to really learn defensive stance – stay wide. When you start narrowing your stance, it’s hard to go lateral. Great defenders stay wide.”

Kander cites Lindsey Hunter as an example of a player who built up his legs to become a premier defender.

“He stayed wide the whole way, but it takes a tremendous amount of leg endurance,” Kander said. “Because you get tired.”

The process of building that leg endurance is something that can evolve over years, Kander said, and might take even longer with big men than a perimeter defender like Hunter. But a solid summer of work can and should make a noticeable difference for Monroe.

“It’s going to take a summer of conditioning, but he will,” Kander said. “He’s already started. Not even a week after the season, he was back in already. … Every year, he’s gotten better and his body has gotten stronger. But with big guys, if you advance his weight too quickly, that’s a load and any load becomes a load on joints – tendons, ligaments, cartilage. Those sources need to slowly have more load over time. You can’t rush that process.”

Monroe is a vastly different player than Andre Drummond, whose addition is the catalyst for Monroe’s switch to power forward. Where Monroe has a more diverse game, Drummond’s calling card is his athleticism. But Kander scoffs at the notion that Monroe has less room for growth than Drummond.

“If we didn’t have Andre, people would say Greg is really young. People forget, he just got done being a teenager just a few years back,” he said. “There are still body changes to go through for him. He’s a young, young man. There is still a lot of growth that’s going to take place in your body. He’s going to get so much stronger in the post. When he makes his moves, these guys are going to bang off there 4 inches away and that can make a huge difference.

“You’re not going to make Greg into Andre and he can jump 42 inches off the ground, but he’s going to get more solid on the first move so when he bangs into a guy, space is created. Because he’s real quick to his second movement. We’re going to get him more solid in his strength, in his legs, in his hips.”

Kander, in fact, will tailor some drills for Monroe to acknowledge the switch on the offensive end, where he might spend more time a little farther from the basket.

“We work on all basketball skills,” he said. “It’s not like you’re a center so we work only on center skills. I don’t ever separate at that level. You get better at your athleticism, you get better at movement, you get better at dribbling. But there are certain angles we’re going to work a little bit more. We’re going to continue to work on a lot of movement with the ball, right-hand finishes.”

Kander could well be working with one of the NBA’s youngest teams next season. The only players 30 or older on the roster as the season ended are all pending free agents – Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum, Corey Maggette and Jose Calderon – and it’s possible none will return. That means a particularly busy summer for Kander. I’ll have more on what he has in store in the days ahead in True Blue Pistons.