Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

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Richard (Las Vegas): Defining roles and players buying in – for example, Jason Maxiell saying, “Ben and me, our job is to be physical.” Rodney Stuckey – penetrate and draw fouls. Jonas – rebound, score some. Monroe – score, rebound some, etc. Everybody playing defense on a string. Yeah, this is starting to feel like the Pistons, eh?

Langlois: Less than a month since training camp opened, there are plenty of positive signs on the horizon, Richard. Lawrence Frank has been well received by his players. I have to admit I was a little surprised – and yet encouraged at the same time – at the postgame reaction to the loss to Chicago on Wednesday, a game in which the Bulls quickly and clearly showed they were the superior team, yet a game in which the Pistons played hard until the last possession. As I wrote following the game, Ben Gordon and Jonas Jerebko, among others, registered disappointment bordering on disgust with their performance, and Lawrence Frank lamented the execution, though not the effort his team put forth. The Pistons’ schedule to open the season was rough – nine of the first 10 opponents made the playoffs last season – and they were put at a disadvantage by the lockout and abbreviated training camp with a new staff that needed to implement an unfamiliar system. But their focus has been sharp, even as they make mistakes while trying to absorb Frank’s philosophies, and I think it’s pretty clear that they’re all pulling their oars in the same direction.

Joel (Marquette, Mich.): We’re seeing a different type of game from Jason Maxiell this year. Was a 10-foot jumper always part of his game and John Kuester didn’t let him utilize it or is it something he’s worked on? His new moves are really going to help the Pistons.

Langlois: When he’s playing like he has for the last few games, Joel, I don’t think it’s a new Maxiell so much as the old Maxiell. People forget that Maxiell helped the Pistons win a lot of games even when he was playing behind Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess. One common element from Flip Saunders to Michael Curry to John Kuester is that the coaching staffs all held Maxiell in high regard because they felt they could trust him – maybe not to knock down that mid-range jumper consistently or devour rebounds in volume, but to be assignment sure and to take the game to the opposition physically. His teammates have always loved Maxiell for that aspect – his willingness to stick his nose into the fray. The key for Maxiell is conditioning – it’s not as easy for him as for others to stay in peak shape and, because he’s undersized for his position, he relies on lift and explosion to be effective.

Rossko (Bendigo, Australia): As a lifelong Pistons fan – in Australia, a rarity indeed – I have rarely been as proud as after watching the Orlando game on Monday. I commented to a friend that it like a clinic in basketball fundamentals. How is Lawrence Frank getting it so right? Team chemistry seems to be good and improving every game.

Langlois: Welcome to Mailbag, Rossko. Actually, we get quite a bit of feedback from Aussie fans, so you’re not alone. I think Frank might say they’re not getting it quite as right as he would like, and not nearly as right as he hopes they’ll be getting it by season’s end, but you make a great point. Frank has said repeatedly since taking the job that despite the circumstances of the lockout and the necessity of installing new offensive and defensive systems in a compressed time frame, he wouldn’t skip steps on fundamentals. Signs of progress are evident, but the nature of these things is that it takes a while before the evidence results in dramatic differences on the bottom line, wins and losses. We can look to Detroit’s football team, the Lions, as proof. They were making clear strides under Jim Schwartz two years ago but still taking their lumps, which continued over the first half of the 2010 season. All of a sudden, the Lions started winning – and winning national attention – when the steps had started to be taken long in advance of that point.

Andrew (Montrose, Mich.): Are there going to be Pistons Days at Meijer again this season?

Langlois: I’m told that plans are in the works. Keep checking back at Pistons.com and we’ll make details public as plans are finalized.

Paul (Cavite, Philippines): Will Bynum got another DNP-CD. Why?

Langlois: Your question came in between the Orlando and Chicago games, Paul, and Bynum – after three DNP-CDs in the first five games, played a season-high 16 minutes against Chicago. But that was because Rodney Stuckey suffered a first-half groin injury and left the game with five minutes to go in the second quarter. Lawrence Frank has said it basically boils down to roles. With three point guards and little size in the backcourt aside from Stuckey, somebody had to be left out – or else minutes had to be cut from the three guards who are playing. We saw last year how difficult it was to find enough minutes to get any of the four guards in the rotation into a rhythm. Ben Gordon really should get 30 to 35 minutes. Stuckey, because of his size, is going to be needed for more than that, probably, so pencil him in for 35 or more. As long as Brandon Knight continues to show flashes of his vast potential and unique playmaking and scoring skills, it wouldn’t be prudent to scale back his role. He’s probably going to play at least 20 minutes a night. And, when the Pistons need a larger wing defender, Frank has shown confidence in Damien Wilkins, who has rewarded that confidence with solid play. That really doesn’t leave much for anyone else. Frank has said he views Bynum as a difference maker, especially offensively, and expects that Bynum will be called upon. As Wednesday’s game showed, he’s one hamstring or groin strain, or foul trouble, away from a significant role.

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