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Ilyasova eager to play in SVG’s offense – and for the coach who traded to get him

Ersan Ilyasova played for six head coaches over his seven seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks. The general manager who drafted him in 2005 was gone by the time he returned from a two-year NBA sabbatical while playing in Spain.

So you can understand why he’s looking forward to a fresh start with the Pistons – not only playing for a team that wanted him enough to trade for him but for the very coach who also runs the front office, Stan Van Gundy.

“Me and Stan had this conversation by phone,” Ilyasova said Thursday, his first day joining his new teammates, all of whom have been in Auburn Hills for at least the past two weeks and in most cases longer than that while he was finishing up his Turkish national team obligations in EuroBasket competition. “It’s a really good thing. I played for a lot of coaches; I never see a coach like this who really cares about you and when you see something like that, you want to give even more.

“On some level, coach and player, is going to be always issues. The communication is a key all the time and it’s really important. If you have a coach like this, Stan, who is going to explain to you, it helps.”

Ilyasova admired from afar the way Van Gundy’s offenses operated in Orlando – floor spread, opportunities for shooters and penetrators alike – and sees himself sliding right into the mix as scoring outlet off of the Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond pick and roll.

“I really liked the system, really spread out and create on the pick and roll. At the end of the day, I think basketball is all about pick and roll,” he said. “Just move the ball, kind of see where the defensive positions will end up. We have, in Reggie Jackson, really good at penetration and kicking out. I’m really going to work and the most important thing is going to be training camp. We get a feel for each other and see what we can do and how we can help each other.”

Van Gundy has talked to Ilyasova about returning to his roots as a top-notch offensive rebounder. Ilyasova peaked as on offensive rebounder in the 2011-12 season when he averaged 4.3 per 36 minutes; last year that number was 2.2. Van Gundy can think of only a few other power forwards in the league – Kevin Love and Ryan Anderson – who are both good 3-point shooters and offensive rebounders. It will be especially important if, as Van Gundy expects, opposing teams freely switch smaller players onto Ilyasova off screens or guard him straight up with their small forward while putting their power forward on Marcus Morris or Stanley Johnson.

“Those things are like really recent,” Ilyasova said, a reference to teams being more daring on switching pick and rolls regardless of position. “When we play with Milwaukee, when I play in pick and rolls, they always try to switch and keep small guy on me. This was one of my biggest things this summer – just work on my post-up game against mismatches. And the other thing, I always use that as far as just go crash the board. I have a height advantage – just go to the offensive glass and sometimes that’s more productive.”

Ilyasova is a career 37 percent 3-point shooter who got there unconventionally, twice shooting better than 44 percent for a season from the arc and on two other occasions shooting under 30 percent. He’s coming off a .389 season with the Bucks when he averaged 11.5 points in 23 minutes a game. Ilyasova says the instability around him – not just the six different head coaches, but the revolving door for players – made it tough to settle into the type of consistent role he foresees himself carving out with the Pistons.

“When I was in Milwaukee, we never have the same thing for a long period of time,” he said. “When the coaches came in, it was just for one year and you can’t adjust to the system. The next year they change whole squad, bring new players and coaches and you have to adjust yourself to those players, as well. Never have the consistency. I think this is my biggest problem with Milwaukee. For a long time, I never be consistent with it, not just myself but the team. We are not playing independently – everybody depends on each other.”

Ilyasova’s best days in Milwaukee, he said, came when Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis were backcourt mates and he played off of their penetration and creativity.

“We were building chemistry,” he said. “But afterwards, it was change everything and bring in new coaches and new players. You have to kind of start from the bottom again and adjust. It was really tough. Hopefully, being here, I’m looking for consistency and communicating with the coaches. I think we have a really nice group of guys who really want to be here and want to be successful.”

Ilyasova’s family, his wife Julia and their three children, are staying in Milwaukee for the next few months while he settles in Detroit and finds the most suitable home base and school system. The plan is for the family to move here and get the kids settled in school in a few months.

By then, he hopes to be comfortable not only with the city but with his role on a team he sees as an ideal fit for what he can offer. Other than a little jet lag and general fatigue from the hectic EuroBasket schedule, he’s eager for training camp and helping foster just the right team chemistry that leads to a successful start.

“I’m 100 percent healthy, really good,” he said. “I’m 100 percent ready. I have no issues and looking forward to a good season. I will try to help in any way I can.”