Opportunity Knocks

Bynum ready to seize greater role in wake of Gordon’s absence

The Pistons have roster commitments to the NBA’s full complement of 15 players and are bringing in five rookies. But Will Bynum appears to have a clearer path to playing time this season than last.

The June trade that sent Ben Gordon to Charlotte could very well limit the amount of time Rodney Stuckey is available to play point guard behind starter Brandon Knight. With Gordon out of the picture, the first guard off the bench – at least as the roster stands today – comes down to Bynum and second-round rookies Kim English and Khris Middleton.

“I see it as an opportunity,” Bynum said after Tuesday’s scrimmage at the team’s practice facility at which nine of the 15 players with guaranteed contracts participated. “Hopefully, it stays as it is and I’m going to get the chance. I’m definitely going to be ready. I put a lot of work in, a lot of time in with coach Frank, just understanding what he wants out of me.”

Bynum is suddenly fourth on the Pistons in seniority, trailing only Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey. But he’s played for three different head coaches in his first four seasons and, as a point guard, feels it’s a little like a quarterback playing for different offensive coordinators every year.

“After a year relationship with (Frank), I understand what he wants from me, so there’ll be a much smoother transition in doing it,” Bynum said before heading to Frank’s office for a videotape study session. “We communicate all the time. Even when I wasn’t playing, we were communicating.”

The message Bynum hears: “He needs me to change the game. He needs me to defend. My role is pretty much what I’ve been doing my whole career – come in defensively and cause havoc, take teams out of their offense and attack offensively, push the game, make plays offensively for my teammates and myself.”

Bynum, who sees coaching in his future, again spent the bulk of his summer in his native Chicago, but changed up his routine. After the last few years working under Tim Grover, Bynum “went back to my roots” while working with Ryan Thompson, who trained Bynum when he came out of Georgia Tech preparing for the 2005 draft.

“I’ve been doing a lot of resistance, a lot of defensive work, a lot of flexibility stuff,” he said. “I took pilates and am just trying to do a better job of taking care of my body. It’s just so I can recover quicker. Sometimes you can’t prevent an injury – you can’t prevent jumping in the air and coming down on somebody’s foot. But what you can do is try to strengthen your body so that you can recover quicker.”

Bynum has been dogged the past three seasons by a variety of lower-body injuries, including multiple ankle sprains. Perhaps guilty of overtraining in summers past, Bynum said he trained “smarter” this summer – just as frequently and just as intensely, but for shorter durations. He lifted weights, he said, for the first time since college, and had a cold tub and a vitamin D chamber, items designed to help with faster recovery, installed at his Chicago home to duplicate the setup at his Detroit home.

“I feel great,” he said. “I’m ready to play today.”

After enduring the 4-20 start to the lockout-abbreviated 2011-12 season, Bynum felt the Pistons found themselves in their 21-21 finish as Frank’s tenets began to take hold.

“The four and 20 start was a transition for us, taking out the bad habits we had picked up and installing coach Frank’s habits,” he said. “The 21 and 21 showed we were capable of being right there. We know what we need to do. We know that we are a playoff team. This is a great year for us to push for the playoffs. We’ve definitely got the talent.”

Bynum is enthused by the rookie additions. He’s seen 7-footer Slava Kravtsov and feels he’s ready to help. As an ACC alum and someone with knowledge of what it takes to succeed in international play, he believes Kyle Singler will make an impact. He’s been impressed by Khris Middleton’s skill level and the competitive edge Kim English has exhibited. And he thinks the sky is the limit for Andre Drummond.

“I love the foundation – good character guys,” he said. “Andre is a monster. He’s huge, athletic. He gives us something we haven’t had here – I don’t think we’ve ever had here, at least not in my time – a true big, a shot-blocker that’s going to finish everything around the rim. The plays he makes are game changing. Now I can get up and pressure, knowing that if a guy beats me from me pressuring for 14 seconds, he has my back. And Slava – he’s ready to play now.”