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Pistons Digest:  ‘All of this is going to pay off for us’ – Monty Williams still buoyed by Pistons spirit - and more

If you ever see Monty Williams standing stoically by the Pistons bench, face not betraying his emotions, holding his hand, palm down, at chest level, he’s not signaling a play to be run or a defensive scheme to employ.

It’s Williams reinforcing the mantra he espouses to his young team on a daily basis to stay on an even emotional keel. Don’t celebrate successes as if you didn’t expect them to come, don’t bemoan setbacks as if they were your fate.

But Williams doesn’t try to shield his players from the sting he feels amid the current 17-game losing streak as the Pistons have been buffeted by a brutal injury situation and a challenging schedule.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them seeing the frustration. I think that allows for them to be vulnerable and frustrated,” Williams said. “The one thing I don’t want to do is what I typically do when I’m going through something – become stoic and do my own thing and go off on my own. When you’re coaching, I think it’s OK to let your players see how much you care about it.”

The Pistons go into the week off of games at New York and against Cleveland where an end to the losing streak seemed within reach at various points. They followed a pair of games where there were signs the mounting losses had demoralized Williams’ young players. Williams was visibly upset after last week’s loss to a struggling Washington team when he admitted disappointment with the resolve the Pistons had showed that night.

But the next morning, Williams wasn’t met by a group of players feeling sorry for themselves.

“The one thing about our building, it hasn’t changed,” he said. “Our guys came in the other day – we had a tough loss – we had a number of guys on the floor almost an hour and a half before practice started, getting up shots and getting ready to practice. I’m sure everybody’s tired of me saying it, but I love that about our team. As far as allowing them to see me, they know how much I care about them. And I’m going to keep pushing them to be better players and a better team. I know all of this is going to pay off for us.”

A good coach learns much about his players and about his collective group in how it responds to adversity – and 17 straight losses is about as much adversity as the Pistons have ever encountered. There is great risk for teams to splinter under the stress losing imposes. Williams hasn’t seen a shred of evidence that the Pistons aren’t the same tight group he took into training camp. After a loss late last month at Indiana, Isaiah Stewart led a players-only meeting in the locker room.

“(It) was important because there was a level of team accountability,” said Williams after hearing of its tenor. “There wasn’t any finger-pointing. When I got word of it, it wasn’t like anybody was saying, ‘you, you, you.’ It was like, ‘I have to do better’ to a man. That’s why I tell people all the time how much I love this group. They don’t spend a lot of time blaming. They come to the gym every practice, every video session wanting to grow and get better.”

PISTONS TRIVIA

Name the two players in Pistons history to lead the NBA in total points scored for a single season

A: Jimmy Walker and Bob Lanier

B: Jerry Stackhouse and Kelly Tripucka

C: George Yardley and Dave Bing

D: John Long and Rip Hamilton

BOGEY’S BACK

The Pistons just last week got passed for No. 1 on a list nobody wants to head – number of man-games lost to injury. Memphis, which won 107 games in the previous two seasons, has now surged ahead of Detroit on that list. The Grizzlies were widely expected to be a playoff team again this season, favored by many to be a top-four seed.

But the Grizzlies start the week with a record of 5-14, ahead of only San Antonio – riding a 14-game losing streak – in the Western Conference. Next up for the Pistons and Grizzlies: a Wednesday date at Little Caesars Arena.

The good news for the Pistons is that Bojan Bogdanovic, who led them in scoring last season at 21.6 points a game while shooting 41 percent from the 3-point arc, returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing all of training camp and the first month-plus of the regular season. In 27 minutes off the bench against Cleveland, Bogdanovic scored 22 points and got up 10 3-point attempts and six free throws, both areas where the Pistons need volume and efficiency.

“I just love having him out there on the floor,” Williams said. “His energy, his feel for the game, his ability to draw fouls, talking on the floor – that’s something we certainly need.”

THE WEEK AHEAD

  • WEDNESDAY – Memphis comes to town off a narrow loss to Phoenix that snapped a two-game winning streak after a dire injury situation that led to a 3-13 start to its season. Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke are out for the season and Memphis is still without the suspended Ja Morant. Others who’ve missed time include Luke Kennard, Zaire Williams, Marcus Smart and Derrick Rose. This was a game scheduled after the pairings for the In-Season Tournament were determined last week.

7 PM on BALLY SPORTS DETROIT and 97.1 FM THE TICKET

  • FRIDAY – The Pistons travel to Orlando to take on the surging Magic in the other addition to the schedule based on In-Season Tournament results. Orlando got hammered 129-101 on Saturday by Brooklyn to snap a franchise-tying winning streak of nine games. Orlando starts the week in the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference at 14-6, two games back of Boston in the loss column. Third-year pro Franz Wagner, who played at Michigan, leads Orlando’s scoring at 20.7 points a game followed by reigning Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero at 19.5.

7 PM on BALLY SPORTS DETROIT and 97.1 FM THE TICKET

THIS WEEK IN PISTONS HISTORY

Terry Mills tied at NBA record over the course of three games against Atlanta, Cleveland and New Jersey when he sunk 13 consecutive 3-point attempts from Dec. 4-7, 1996. Amid a 25-point performance in a Dec. 4 win against the Hawks, Mills hit 7 of 8 triples, making his first and missing his second before draining six in a row. In his sixth NBA season, his second with the Pistons, the Romulus native – nephew of Pistons guard John Long and cousin to Grant Long, who played for five NBA teams including the Pistons – hit all six of his triple tries two nights later to lead another win over Cleveland with 23 points and nine rebounds. Mills hit his first triple the next night to lead a 26-point blowout win over the Nets before finally missing. He still finished 4 of 8 from long distance that night. The record still stands, Mills sharing it with Brent Prince (1995-96) and Shake Milton (2019-20).

TRIVIA ANSWER

George Yardley led the NBA in scoring in the 1957-58 season, the first for the Pistons in Detroit since moving from Fort Wayne, Ind. Dave Bing led the league in scoring a decade later in 1968. Yardley averaged 27.8 points a game to lead by a wide margin over runner-up Dolph Schayes of Syracuse, who averaged 24.9. He scored 2,001 points in the 72-game schedule of the time, the first player in history to top 2,000 points. Bing scored 2,142 points in the 82-game schedule in practice for the 1967-68 season, though Oscar Robertson won the title for scoring average at 29.2, ahead of Bing at 27.1 and Elgin Baylor at 26.0.