Climbing in Rank

At 22, Monroe already an important voice in Pistons locker room

Greg Monroe turned 22 just two months ago, but in terms of service time with the Pistons he’s now smack in the middle of the roster. He holds seniority on Brandon Knight, Corey Maggette and the five rookies – Andre Drummond, Slava Kravtsov, Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton and Kim English – though Monroe is younger than Kravtsov, Singler and English.

Among the players who hold rank over Monroe, only Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey are virtually assured spots in the starting lineup at his side. Jonas Jerebko almost certainly will be a big part of the rotation and Jason Maxiell is the incumbent starter at power forward, while Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and Will Bynum will come to camp looking to win roles.

By virtue of his two years of experience, his place at the center of the franchise’s future and the respect he’s earned by the way he goes about his business, Monroe’s voice is becoming one of the most important on the team.

He further cemented that role when he embraced Lawrence Frank’s invitation to come to Orlando last month and participate in the practices that led to Orlando Pro Summer League games. The idea was not merely to kick start the bonding process with the host of newcomers but also to help establish a tone in practices to let them see the level of intensity expected of role players and stars alike.

“Just getting after it for a week,” said Monroe, now back in Auburn Hills for the duration of the off-season after working out in his native Louisiana, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and on campus at Georgetown. “You always need that, where you’re working out with your teammates, you’re playing a little bit, getting that NBA feel.”

The week also gave Monroe the chance to gain a little insight into his new teammates. He and Knight also joined Drummond last week at longtime NBA assistant coach Tim Grgurich’s camp in Las Vegas, where Monroe and Drummond wound up as teammates for the nightly scrimmages.

“We got to work together a lot – it was really good,” Monroe said. “He had a great week out there. He was definitely a beast on the boards. He was working hard, getting a lot of second shots for our team, separating himself from other guys. He worked hard the whole week. I think we all got better last week.”

What makes the Grgurich camp so unique, a place NBA teams are eager for their young players to visit?

“It’s all NBA coaches, all NBA players,” Monroe said. “The spirit in there is great. Those coaches, they come in and they’re ready to work. They bring a lot of energy, a lot of knowledge, and you learn a whole lot. Especially for a new guy like Andre, just got drafted, to get an early start on some of the terminology and some of the schemes in the NBA that are a little bit different, it really helped those guys out.

“It’s mostly NBA assistant coaches – a few head coaches – and those guys are just getting after it. As much as there is competition around the league, everybody was there for one common goal – to get better. Every coach is helping any player, every player is listening to any coach. That’s what makes it special.”

Through Orlando and Las Vegas, Monroe saw growth from his point guard as well.

“He definitely ran his team well, made a lot of great plays,” Monroe said of Knight, who spent part of this week in Calgary and Winnipeg, promoting the Pistons’ preseason game with the Timberwolves in Manitoba and conducting a basketball camp. “This summer, you can tell he learned a lot more about the pro game and about situations. He got a lot better at managing the game and getting people great shots. He did really well out there.”

Monroe had played against Singler twice in college, so the athleticism Singler flashed in Orlando was more a surprise to his teammates than to Monroe.

“Kyle is going to help us out a whole lot,” he said. “He brings that toughness. He defends multiple positions. He’s obviously a very crafty scorer. He just knows how to play basketball. He’s always been athletic. He’s one of those guys who knows how to play. Sometimes when guys are so cerebral, they rely on their skills and they don’t show all of that athletic ability. But he does have that ability to come down the lane and put one down. I’m excited he’s back (from Spain) and I’m looking forward to working with him.”

Monroe was less familiar with the two 2012 second-round picks, Middleton and English, but saw the ways each of them can help the Pistons, whether immediately or down the road.

“We needed some help at that two spot and I think (English) is going to come in and help,” he said. “Hopefully, he adapts really fast. He brings some size at that position, a shooter, a defender. He just always has that energy and that’s something we need. Khris, he’s obviously a good shooter. With his size and being able to shoot, that’s always a big help.”

Monroe is eager to play alongside Kravtsov, a player he’s only seen on DVD from a compilation of clips assembled by Pistons video coordinator Ryan Winters.

“You never really know about a guy until you’re with him every day, but he looks athletic,” Monroe said. “You can always use size in the NBA, so I’m looking forward to getting him here and getting him working. Hopefully, he’s ready to play.”

The size Drummond and Kravtsov bring could transform the Pistons from an undersized team to one capable of matching up with pretty much anyone.

“That’s one of the beauties of this season,” Monroe said. “We’ve changed a little bit. We’re a little more diverse. We have different matchups now. It’s just about us gelling and continuing to get better.”