Media Day roundup: Pistons start camp minus a big man

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We’re going to hit all of these things in greater detail over the next few weeks, but here’s a roundup of newsworthy items and observations from Monday’s Pistons media day with Tuesday launching two-a-day practice sessions and the start of training camp:

  • Aaron Gray wasn’t expected to have a huge role with the Pistons this year – unless injury or something else keeps one of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe from playing time. Something else – Monroe’s two-game suspension to start the regular season – means Gray would have been called upon for at least a dozen or so minutes in each of those games and now … well, what?

    Gray will miss all of training camp after experiencing a “cardiac episode” about a month ago. He said he underwent a battery of tests and now they’ll wait a few weeks, undergo the same tests and gauge his condition. But with the 7-footer missing all of camp, it’s unlikely he’ll be ready to play early in the regular season.

    “That’s why we went out after Aaron’s episode and pursued Hasheem Thabeet, to give us more depth at that position,” Van Gundy said.

    But the Pistons already have 16 players with guaranteed contracts, one over the NBA regular-season limit. To keep the 7-foot-3 Thabeet around, they’d have to move two players – either by trading them or cutting them outright.

  • A number of players – Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler among them – used the same phrase to describe the atmosphere over the past month, when the entire team was in Auburn Hills for group workouts. “The energy is different,” was how they put it. Even owner Tom Gores picked up on it.

    “I’m seeing things I haven’t seen in the past,” he said. “The tenacity is up, the sense of urgency is up, the togetherness with the team is up. The detail is being covered. Winning is the end result of all of those things. I’m seeing all of those boxes checked.”

  • Greg Monroe said he would talk about his decision to sign the one-year qualifying offer rather than accept a long-term offer the Pistons made to him on media day but would not do so again. He said there were a lot of things that went into it without going into specifics, but was more expansive when he talked about the possibility of returning to the Pistons as an unrestricted free agent next summer.

    “The automatic assumption for most people if you do something like this is that you don’t want to be somewhere … but that’s not the case,” he said. “I’ve loved it here since I’ve been here. We might not have been as successful as I wanted to be or as people wanted us to be, but I love it here. I love the city. The people that work for this organization have been great. It’s a totally new regime. I’m excited to work with these guys and see what they have to offer.”

    Gores, for his part, said he still has confidence the Pistons and Monroe will be longtime partners.

    “He’s got a long future and we’ll find a way to be together in that future,” he said. “Just because we didn’t make the deal, it’s not the end-all.”

  • Van Gundy said mostly what he’s said since being hired in May about playing all three of Josh Smith, Monroe and Drummond simultaneously. But he did say he wanted to see if they could make it work.

    “We’ve got to figure out what is best. That’s clearly three of our best players, and yet when they all played together last year they clearly weren’t very effective. Can we make that lineup more effective? That’s one of the things we’ll try to find out. Are we better only playing two of them at a time? There’s certainly enough minutes to go around doing that. Going into camp tomorrow, for the first few days at least, Josh will play strictly at the four. But at some point in the near future we’ll start giving Josh some minutes at the three and see what happens.”

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