SVG Part III: On another year of roster churning and the need for better Pistons D this season

Andre Drummond is one of just two players on the current roster who went through all of training camp last season and starts this one healthy.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

(Editor’s note: Stan Van Gundy talked to editor Keith Langlois about what’s new, what’s next and his expectations for his second season as Pistons head coach. Here’s Part III of their Q& A.)

Keith Langlois: Last year you said your goal on the first day of training camp was to get back on defense. With so much turnover in personnel, do you start from that same base this season?

Stan Van Gundy: I think pretty much, yeah. Again, we have a lot of new guys. I will admit, I will look forward to the day where we do not have as many new guys and I think, hopefully, we’re getting to that point now where there’s not going to be the number of moves. There may still be moves, but not the number of them and you can start to build some continuity. But with so many new guys, you sort of start at zero and work your way up. I think our guys have already established a work ethic, which I think is great. They’ve been here together, they were in Vegas together (at a player-organized week of team bonding, where they were schooled by UFC trainers), so there’s a pretty good cohesion already. I think we’ve made some steps, but from a basketball standpoint it’s step by step getting your philosophy in and I think last year it may have been one of the things that led to a bad start. We probably tried to go too fast and get a lot of stuff in, but were never really good enough at anything. I think we will take a little slower approach here, at least initially, and see if we can get a good, solid foundation, do a few things well and then that’s not going to be enough, but broaden it as you go on.

KL: It’s pretty common knowledge that there are only three players still here from the roster you inherited, but I was looking at the camp roster this morning and there are only six players who started camp with you last year.

SVG: And Brandon (Jennings) won’t be in camp this year, Spencer (Dinwiddie) wasn’t in camp last year, then Jodie (Meeks) missed virtually all of camp last year and Cartier (Martin) missed a lot of camp. So really only (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and Andre (Drummond) are the only guys coming back we have that really went through training camp last year. So it was a very difficult thing. We got Joel (Anthony) at the end of camp. It’s starting over again, there’s no question. But I like our group. We’ll just have to see how quickly it all comes together.

KL: It probably wouldn’t have come as a big surprise to you that there would again be some significant turnover this off-season. The free agents you signed last summer, only Jodie Meeks had a contract of longer than two years. But a year from now, we would probably expect a little more carryover from year to year?

SVG: I hope. I think we’re not feeling right now like there’s a big hole in our roster or something we have to do immediately, so we’re in a little better spot there. Now it’s just looking for chances to upgrade and add maybe one more guy – a significant guy – somewhere, whether it’s in the season or next summer. You feel like you’ve got a little more of a foundation going in. We know who we have. We’re always going to be looking until you have the team that’s capable of being a contender, but I don’t anticipate the wholesale changes that we’ve been in for the last year.

KL: Back to getting back on defense for a minute, last year you went from 22nd the year before in points allowed per game in transition to fifth. That was going from 14 points a game given up to 11, essentially one transition 3-pointer a game. When you consider that your point differential for the season was minus-1.0 per game, that’s pretty significant, isn’t it?

SVG: And when you look at that point differential, and especially look at where we played over the last two-thirds of the year, you understand the development that we had and we became a competitive to pretty good team. And a lot of those things were getting back on defense. But our half-court defense was not nearly what it needs to be. It’s been an emphasis. We’ve got to defend better individually. We’ve got to defend better on pick and rolls, which have become a huge part of the game. And we’ve just got to be a much, much more active defensive team off the ball. So there’s a lot to improve at both ends of the floor. But it starts with us trying to become a solid defensive team. The goal will be to try to be a top-10 defensive team. That would take a huge jump, but that’s the goal. And if we can do that, then I think we have a chance to be a playoff team and to get better. It’s always a challenge with young guys to really buy into what you’re doing at that end of the floor, but that’s a necessity for us.

KL: What about transition the other way. With Drummond grabbing rebounds, Jackson’s ability to push and guys like KCP and Stanley Johnson filling the lanes, do you have the makeup to be a more potent running team?

SVG: I’d like to run more. That’s really one where our coaching staff has gone back and forth for a lot of the fall here, sort of undecided on what pace is going to be best for us. I think there’s a couple of concerns in that Reggie’s going to be expected to do a lot, particularly until Brandon gets back, of having the ball in his hands and creating offense and can he do it for big minutes at that pace – and defend and everything else. That’ll be a big part of it. And do we have enough guys who can make plays and things like that. We will, as we always do, start on really trying to push the ball and then we’ll settle in, I think, to what our best pace is as the season goes on.

(Ed. note: check back on later today for Van Gundy's thoughts on how the Pistons replace Greg Monroe and how their playbook will change this season.)