Leaner Monroe primed for transition to Pistons power forward
But his body tells the story of his summer. In preparation for his move to power forward, Monroe knew his body would need some fine tuning. He’ll be playing farther from the basket at both ends, so he wanted to be lighter on his feet and in the best condition of his NBA career, now in its fourth season.
Since leaving Las Vegas in late July, where he logged an impressive week at USA Basketball’s minicamp while playing mostly at power forward and often against traditional small forwards, he’s been back home in Louisiana but hardly taking it easy. He worked with a new personal trainer and hired a chef, and the result is the leanest Monroe the Pistons have yet seen.
“I’m in great shape,” he said. “I went to a new guy who was great for me. I got a chef, changed my eating. I just wanted to get in the best shape I could. I wanted to make sure my body was in great condition. I think I did a good job of that and the people I work with did a great job of getting me on the right path.
“With the changes, my game is going to have to change a little bit. I don’t think I’ll have a problem with it, but I have to make some small adjustments and make sure I’m as mobile as possible, make sure I can feel comfortable scoring in different ways from a little farther off the post. I’ve been working on a lot of different things.”
Aware that the key to taking the next step is proficiency with his mid-range shot, Monroe said he put more work into knocking down 15- to 18-foot jump shots than anything else over the off-season. But he also devoted time to ballhandling and the payoff was evident in a three-on-three game at the practice facility on Monday. Matched against Josh Smith, about as challenging a defender as Monroe figures to face at power forward, Monroe made several strong moves to the basket from the elbows and wings with either hand.
“I’ve been working on a lot of different things, especially dribbling,” he said. “With me playing farther out on the court, that doesn’t mean I’ll be shooting from out there every time. It’s being more comfortable making moves, also, farther away from the basket.”
That three-on-three game got spirited with Smith’s banter serving to up the level of competitiveness. Monroe welcomes the edge Smith promises to add to the locker room.
“That’s who he is,” Monroe said. “They knew how he was coming in and he’s one of those guys you need. That edge is what brings a lot of teams over the top. It’s contagious. You know you have somebody in your corner who’s a great teammate, who’s willing to go to bat for you. It makes you want to do that, too. He’s definitely going to help us out.”
Smith is one of many new faces, of course. The Pistons, in fact, will have more newcomers (eight) than holdovers (seven) on their 2013-14 roster. The coaching staff, except for assistant John Loyer, is full of newcomers, as well.
“It’s totally different right now,” Monroe said. “The energy in the gym has been great. We’ve been getting up and down and the runs have been great. Everybody’s competing, everybody’s playing hard. We’re getting all the way into that training camp mode.”
The trade that added Brandon Jennings cost the Pistons Brandon Knight, to whom Monroe was as close as he’s been to anyone since joining the Pistons in 2010.
“Brandon Jennings is a great player,” Monroe said. “I don’t want to say it was bittersweet, because I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t want Brandon Jennings. He’s a great player, a proven player, so I’m happy he’s on the team. But me and Brandon were friends, so it’s always difficult to lose someone you got close with. But we both understand that it’s a business. I’ve talked to him all the time since the trade. It was tough, but I wish him the best and I’m sure Brandon Jennings is going to be great for us.”
While Monroe was working out in Louisiana, Andre Drummond was getting the bulk of Rasheed Wallace’s attention at the practice facility. Monroe anticipates both of them benefiting by their daily interactions with one of the NBA off-season’s more fascinating coaching hires.
“He’s Sheed,” Monroe said. “I’ve watched him growing up, so I know what he can do on the court. He was great on both sides of the court. There aren’t that many people who are better defenders in the post than him. If you’re getting a little taste of that every day, it’s only going to help you get better.”