Defense First

Pistons have tools to be first-rate on D while offense finds its groove

Andre Drummond
Ron Turenne (NBAE/Getty)
The Pistons might not figure out exactly what they have on offense in time for their Oct. 30 season opener. The best way to ensure they don’t have to tunnel out of trouble whenever the light comes on is to play lock-down defense from opening night forward.

And that’s their expectation.

“We’re a defense-first team,” Will Bynum said. “We’ve got the length, we’ve got the size, we’ve got the quickness. We know defense wins games and that’s what we’re all about right now, just trying to get the principles down and get through this rough training camp.”

Andre Drummond’s presence was felt on the defensive end during his rookie season even as he was only learning NBA personnel and style of play. With a greater role ahead this year, his impact projects upward. Adding Josh Smith’s defensive versatility gives the Pistons two defensive game-changers in the frontcourt. Cheeks will demand on-ball pressure from his point guards, and in Brandon Jennings, Bynum and rookie Peyton Siva he has players with the quickness to accommodate his vision – to force turnovers, steer defenders to his shot-blockers and create transition scoring chances.

Cheeks stressed his defensive expectations to the team before Tuesday’s first training camp practice, which tilted heavily toward defensive drills.

“We established on the defensive end of the floor what I wanted to establish,” Cheeks said, “realizing we’re going to win games on the defensive end. You’re going to miss a lot of shots, but our defense has to be our staple. I think that’s what we accomplished today. Transition defense and half-court defense is how we’re going to win games.”

Bynum doesn’t grasp the commonly held view that the Pistons might struggle offensively to space the floor, believing there’s too many talented scorers on the roster for any real concern, but still sees defense as their ticket to success.

“That’s what we’re going to depend on,” he said. “Offensively, we’ll be fine because everybody’s talented. We just get to know one another and get to know what everybody likes on the court, but defensively we have to get stops. That’s the only way.”

Smith played on good defensive teams in Atlanta, but he never had the type of size alongside him that he’ll have in Greg Monroe and the size and shot-blocking Drummond represents.

“Defensively, we should be really good,” he said. “It’s going to be hard for guys to come in and be able to get easy layups and come into our paint. Defense is what makes you succeed in this game, because you’re not going to have it night in and night out every night on the offensive end.”

Chauncey Billups is better known for his offensive mastery, but he regularly picked up All-Defense votes in his heyday and never lost sight of the fact that the bedrock of the 2004 title team during their run of seven straight 50-win seasons was its stingy defense.

“That’s the only way you win,” he said. “We know that very well around here. All the great teams that played hard, it was defense first. We should have the ability to be a good defensive team with all the bigs we have and shot-blockers and rebounders. The big guys can really move as far as defending pick and rolls. So that has to be our calling card, defense. Offensively, we’ve got pretty good weapons. We should be able to figure that out.”