Greg Monroe’s Bench Role Shows Stan Van Gundy Pulling Right Strings for Pistons

Perception about starting roles seems to vary around the NBA, and we have yet to figure out exactly how Greg Monroe feels about coming off the bench. 

That will come in due time, but for now, Detroit Pistons fans can take solace in the fact that Stan Van Gundy is continuing to pull all of the right strings for his new organization. 

After Kentavious Caldwell-Pope practiced for the first time since his knee injury two weeks ago, it appears it’ll take something unlikely to keep him from the first five, along with Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Kyle Singler,” reports Vincent Goodwill Jr. for The Detroit News

Monroe will be out of the lineup entirely due to a two-game suspension at the start of the year, but there’s no guarantee he breaks back into the starting lineup when he returns. In fact, it seems rather unlikely, especially with Goodwill explaining that Van Gundy will largely use the Monroe-Josh Smith-Andre Drummond troika for situational matchup advantages. 

Though it’s worth noting that nothing is guaranteed, and Monroe could very well assume the spot in the starting five he occupied last season as soon as he’s eligible to play, this early leaning is the right one. 

Last year, the Pistons were a mess. A talented mess, but a mess nonetheless, as the roster had so many non-complementary pieces and ended up failing to meet even the most modest expectations. Players who shouldn’t be shooting lofted up perimeter jumpers, while the frontcourt trio of Monroe, Drummond and Smith was rarely put into a position that would lead toward success. 

But that no longer seems to be the case. 

Already, we’ve seen three huge signs that Van Gundy is making the proper moves and steering the Pistons back into strong positioning for postseason contention. 

First, the man with two roles—head coach and president of basketball operations—used the money he had at his disposal to completely alter the team’s shooting ability. According to Basketball-Reference.com, the Pistons took 1,580 shots from behind the three-point arc during the 2013-14 campaign, which left them ahead of only eight teams throughout the Association. At the same time, they shot just 32.1 percent from downtown, a mark better than the overmatched Philadelphia 76ers but absolutely no one else. 

But during the summer, in came a host of players capable of stretching out a defense: Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin, Caron Butler, Cartier Martin and an improved Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (if you want to count him as a new addition). Meeks‘ stress fracture in his back dampens a bit of the enthusiasm, but it remains clear this team has improved on the perimeter. 

Next up was getting everyone to play to their strengths. Yes, we’re largely talking about Josh Smith here. 

After putting up putrid shooting numbers throughout the 2013-14 season, Smith actually played intelligent basketball under Van Gundy’s supervision during the exhibition season. Per RealGm.com, the forward took only seven triples in just as many preseason games, and he made three of them, good for a 42.9 percent clip that helped create some positive production. 

Thus far, Van Gundy’s track record at the helm is quite stellar, not that there should have been negative expectations after the work he did earlier in his coaching career with the Orlando Magic. But now comes the most controversial move of all—potentially bringing Monroe off the pine, something the man Pistons fans call “Moose” has done only 32 times in his 309 professional appearances. And each of those came during his rookie season. 

It’s always a risky endeavor, simply because such a move can so often be viewed as a demotion. Opinions tend to vary, with some players accepting the role and viewing it as a chance to be more important to their teams while others can’t allow their egos to take such a blow. 

To me, it really don’t even matter,” the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s Kendrick Perkins said of the uncertainty about his position in the starting lineup, via NewsOK.com’s Anthony Slater. “I just want an opportunity to play, that’s it. Since I’ve been here, the only thing I’ve been trying to embrace on the whole organization and the young guys is just how to win. Since I’ve been here, that’s all I’ve been doing.”

Dion Waiters does not agree. 

I want to start and I believe that I should at the two,” the Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard told Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. Even though he’d be able to shoot more and lead the second unit’s offensive exploits rather than sharing the rock with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and LeBron James, there’s too much of a stigma associated with coming off the bench and not being on the court for the opening tip. 

To his credit, Monroe seems to come down on the Perkins side of the spectrum thus far, based on what he told reporters early in the preseason: 

I don’t have to handle it, I just have to play. That’s not going to change, whether I start or whether I come off the bench, that’s not going to change the way I play. So, you guys might worry about it, but all I’m focused on is being on the court. If you have questions about that, you’re going to have to ask [Van Gundy], he makes the decisions. But other than that, I’m just going to play.

That’s how he should feel. 

If he starts, he can contribute. But he can do so off the bench as well, and he’d be even more important as the leader of the second unit, one that’s in need of some offensive production. 

“There’s something to be said for having a talented sixth man who could put up those kind of numbers this season,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Stephen Babb while arguing that this particular big man should be the one coming off the bench. “It’s not a matter of punishing Monroe for taking that qualifying offer. It’s about doing what’s best for the franchise—both now and in the near future.”

During the preseason, Monroe has found success both off the pine and when starting, though it’s not about what he’s done in such a small sample. It’s about making the best of a situation that has the potential to make a team better. 

Smith, Monroe and Drummond cannot all play together except in certain situations when excessive size is advantageous. Putting the whole trio on the floor forces Smith to play from the perimeter, and few players are able to work with their biggest strengths.

In fact, Basketball-Reference.com shows that this three-man pairing was outscored by seven points per 100 possessions, which was an absolutely putrid mark. You can see that by looking at where it ranks for each player among their 10 most-used lineups in 2013-14, as well as how it compares to their overall average point differential during the same span: 

  • Greg Monroe (minus-3.5 average): 10th out of 10 lineups
  • Josh Smith (minus-3.8 average): 10th out of 10 lineups
  • Andre Drummond (minus-4.2 average): 10th out of 10 lineups

There’s basically no justification for letting that group keep stepping onto the court together. Something has to change, as each member was at his worst when surrounded by the other two players. 

While Smith needs to be at the 4 and Drummond is solely a 5, Monroe has the ability to switch between frontcourt positions. That versatility allows him to suit up alongside either of the other two bigs, and he can do exactly that while leading the second unit from center when both starters need a rest. He’s the obvious choice if Van Gundy truly wants to make a change, which he should. 

It just makes sense. That’s all there is to it. 

Van Gundy could easily backtrack on this plan and start all three of the aforementioned players for the majority of the season, but his willingness to switch things up and play the personnel at his disposal in the best manner possible speaks volumes about his potential effectiveness with the Pistons. 

Thus far, he’s made one positive decision after another. Monroe coming off the bench would just add to the growing list. 

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Paul George Shows Mobility in 1-on-1 Game with His Dog

Just a few months after suffering a gruesome leg injury during a Team USA scrimmage, Indiana Pacers star Paul George is already working on getting back on the court. 

On Monday, we saw a video of George shooting jumpers after practice. One day later, the Pacers forward shared a video of himself playing a game of one-on-one.

George’s opponent? His dog, King.

King proved to be a strong ball-hound, but George was just too much for the dog to handle. 

[Paul George]

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Lance Stephenson Shows His Flopping Game Is Already in Midseason Form vs. Bulls

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich made contact with Charlotte Hornets star Lance Stephenson on this play in Sunday’s preseason game. However, nobody is buying that Hinrich made that much contact, Lance.

It’s only the preseason, but Stephenson’s flopping game is clearly in midseason form. With his level of theatrics, the former Pacer better have plenty of money set aside for fines this season. 

[cjzero]

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Love shows he can carry the load for Cleveland

With LeBron quiet and Irving out, Love shows he can carry the load for Cleveland

      
 

 

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NBA 2K15 ‘What If?’ Trailer Shows Jordan, Bird & Chamberlain on Same Team

Have you ever wanted to build the ultimate NBA team? You can with NBA 2K15MyTEAM” mode.

In a new trailer narrated by Shaquille O’Neal, 2K Sports shows off the game mode with a series of hypothetical situations, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Wilt Chamberlain all on the same team.

[NBA 2K, h/t Dime Mag]

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Philippines’ FIBA showing shows basketball growth

Philippines’ encouraging showing at basketball worlds reflects sport on the move

      
 

 

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Lance Stephenson Shows off Rapping Skills in New Freestyle

Lance Stephenson took care of business by signing a contract with the Charlotte Hornets earlier this offseason. With his immediate basketball future settled, he’s now demonstrating some of his off-the-court talents with a basketball-themed freestyle rap. 

The 23-year-old gave some love to Indiana in the song and shouted out his new teammate Kemba Walker. Unfortunately, Stephenson failed to mention LeBron James or the ear-blowing incident.

Warning: Song is NSFW.

Looks like the Hornets can always draw upon their new 2-guard if they’re in need of halftime entertainment.

[audiomack]

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John Wall Shows Off His Dance Moves in China

It appears Washington Wizards point guard John Wall has learned some new dance steps.

Wall, who is in China for a promotional tour with Adidas, did a little dancing to the bizarre viral song “Little Apple” by Chinese band Chopstick Brothers.

He also took the time to demonstrate some of his favorite moves.

[Instagram, h/t reddit, CSN Washington]

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Kevin Durant Shows What It Takes to ‘Be the Baddest’ in New Foot Locker Ad

Kevin Durant‘s shoe endorsement future is currently up in the air, but for now, he is still with Nike. That means that he is still “The Baddest.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder superstar showed what it takes to be “The Baddest” in this new Foot Locker ad.

As ESPN’s Royce Young tweeted earlier this month, Durant is currently negotiating with both Nike and Under Armour. If he ends up switching companies, this commercial could be his last with Nike.

[Foot Locker, h/t That NBA Lottery Pick]

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Schedule shows LeBron’s huge impact on his teams

LeBron James is impacting the TV schedule in a major way.

      
 

 

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