SVG Part V: Until Jennings’ return, Jackson and a mixed cast will bear brunt of carrying Pistons offense
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(Editor’s note: Stan Van Gundy talked to Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois about what’s new, what’s next and his expectations for his second season as Pistons head coach. Here’s Part V of their Q& A.)
Keith Langlois: Until Brandon Jennings gets back, who else besides Reggie Jackson helps you create shots and make plays?
Stan Van Gundy: I think that when we go to the bench, we will really rely on our two-guards, Jodie (Meeks) in particular, as a guy who can give us scoring off the bench. He’s healthy; he’s looking good. He knows how to score the ball. And then I think Marcus (Morris) or Stanley (Johnson), whoever is in there at the time, are guys that can get shots on their own. And then Aron Baynes is a skilled offensive guy that you can really do some things with. He can score inside and he can hit the jump shot. So I would say those three positions – the two spot and whoever’s playing at small forward and Aron – will probably be where more of our offense is created.
KL: Reggie told me recently that you discovered a flaw in his perimeter shot. How did that come about?
SVG: I don’t remember exactly who detected it first but we noticed he was actually a little knock-kneed on his shot. So as he went into his stance and gather, his knees came together, which was really taking a lot of the power out of his shot. So to generate power, he had to create a lot of motion in his shot and anybody will tell you the more motion you have, the harder it is to be consistent. He worked very, very hard on it and he’s got a great-looking shot. So the fact he’s been able to get more from his legs and shorten up his delivery, if you look – his release, his follow-through, his rotation on the ball are great. I think he’s going to shoot the ball very, very well.
KL: Andre said that this off-season was the earliest he’d gotten to his workout routine. He also spent the six weeks at the P3 facility in California. What have you seen from him so far?
SVG: It’s only my second summer with him, but it was night and day from last summer in terms of the consistency of his work. He was four or five days a week, pretty much all summer long. Wherever he went, we went with him. (Assistant coach) Malik (Allen) and (assistant strength coach) Jordan Sabourin more than anybody, but other people took their turns, too. When Malik couldn’t be there, Aaron Gray did a lot. (Assistant coach) Charles (Klask) went out a little bit. But from the three weeks in Connecticut when he was going to school and they were there to coming back here to going six weeks in Santa Barbara, yeah, he worked hard and guys worked hard with him. And it was a productive summer for him. He’s coming back in a lot better shape than he did a year ago and I think he’s worked more and so that’s got to add a confidence thing.
KL: Do you expect his minutes to go up with Monroe gone?
SVG: I would think they would go up some and I think that’s a good thing for him in terms of his development. He’ll have to play through some situations that he didn’t have to play through for his first few years in the league, so I think that’ll be good for him. And hopefully he grows into a more consistent guy that you can count on from night to night.
KL: With Ersan Ilyasova having just come off playing for the Turkish national team, will you back him off in camp or just throw him in there and monitor it closely?
SVG: I think you’re always monitoring guys as you go. It’s a little harder in this situation because he’s coming to a new team and he’s got a lot to learn, so it’s not like he knows everything. But, yeah, we’ll definitely keep an eye on what’s going on. I think, honestly, my experience – I’ve had a lot of guys do it – if you’re playing a lot, like he was, and the way they train, I think it helps. He’ll be in great shape and he’ll be ready to go. But if we notice any signs of him being worn down, we’ll certainly take care of that.
KL: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a guy who seemed to attack the summer aggressively. He said he put a major focus on ballhandling. Have you seen the evidence of his improvement there yet?
SVG: I just know he’s working on it real hard, he and Jodie (Meeks). When we’d go down to Atlanta, Dion Glover – one of our D-League assistant coaches who worked with those guys, probably more so with KCP but worked with Jodie quite a bit, too – really did a good job with those guys. Then (assistant coach) Bob (Beyer) went down several times. I went down. We saw them a lot and they both put a lot of time in on ballhandling. They’ve both in really, really good shape, so, yeah, I was happy with the work they did.
KL: There were some mixed messages this week on Brandon Jennings. What’s his status?
SVG: We got the update on what his progression is going to be. He won’t start, at least as it stands now, full-fledged five on five – even on a limited basis – until mid-November. But it might still be several weeks before he’s really ready to play after that. We’ll just have to see how it goes. What he’s basically doing now is still shooting, strengthening, gradually increasing his activity. We hope by middle to late October he can start doing some drill work, some more realistic basketball stuff and get in and then we hope by mid-November he can start trying to work back to playing. But even from there, you’re talking a fairly lengthy process.
KL: Did the rehab process go as anticipated?
SVG: Nothing was ever termed a setback. I think what (director of sports medicine) Jon (Ishop) would say is every recovery is different. You probably hit times in it where you are recovering rapidly and I don’t think he ever went backwards, but sometimes it levels off for a bit. I think we’re pretty well where we thought we would be with him. At the same time, as much as we want him back, you want to make sure. Right now, you can tell when he’s shooting – and he’s months away – that he’s favoring the one leg when he lands. You send a guy out there still doing that, you’re going to get into the next injury and we’ve seen that with so many guys. It’s not just getting him to where he feels like he can play, it’s getting him to where his strength is pretty even and he’s not favoring the leg, he’s not compensating and he’s got a chance to go out and play and stay healthy. That part of the process takes a little bit longer.
KL: The acquisition of Steve Blake at least gives you some breathing room where there wouldn’t even be a temptation to rush Brandon’s return, doesn’t it?
SVG: We like Spencer (Dinwiddie) and we think he’s got a chance to be a really good, young player. But we just needed a third guard, anyway, early in the year and wanted to make sure, with as many new guys as we have, that we had a veteran guy who’s been through it and knows what’s going on and can help you through those times. I’ve admired Steve for a long, long time, since he came into the league. I was in Miami and he did a draft workout with us and since then he’s been a guy I’ve wanted on my team. He’s a great worker and a great competitor who really knows what it takes to win. I think not only will he help us, playing wise, but I think he’ll be a good guy for the other point guards, in particular. The other players, really, but especially the other point guards to talk to and everything else. I think he’s got great character and great leadership characteristics and we were thrilled that he was available.
(Ed. note: check back Sunday for Van Gundy's thoughts on leadership, Stanley Johnson and Marcus Morris.)