AUBURN HILLS – The two lists of commandments – offensive musts on one side of mid-court, defensive musts on the other – still hang on the north wall of the Pistons practice facility. They’ve been modestly amended, but the essence remains intact. Prominently displayed between them is a new wrinkle on an elongated red banner-like sign: Communication Eliminates Confusion.
“That’s Bob. Bob precipitated that. He uses that a lot and I just think it’s great,” Stan Van Gundy said, crediting associate head coach Bob Beyer for the décor addition.
It was a season-long emphasis – and a season-long source of distress – last year to be more mindful and forceful with defensive communication. But the message isn’t limited only to that aspect of communication, Van Gundy said.
“So on the court, pick-and-roll coverages and things like that, we don’t have confusion,” he said. “But guys who have confusion about what they should be doing, why they’re not playing, whatever, need to come talk to me.”
If there’s ever an issue with a communication breakdown on a Van Gundy team, Van Gundy isn’t likely to be the source of the problem. He’s as direct and honest without beating confrontational or a browbeater as it gets in the coaching profession.
When training camp ends and before the regular season starts, he’ll meet with each player on the roster to tell him what he expects their role to be. Training camp’s first practice Tuesday was precipitated by Monday evening’s team dinner, at which Van Gundy set the course for the season with a simple message.
“It was really just about team,” he said. “On the court, a lot of it was getting guys to play to their strengths. We went through every guy and they talked, too. This is a guy’s greatest strength and how do we, as teammates, help him get to that. I’ve got to play to my greatness but I’ve got to help my teammates get to theirs, too. That was really the overarching thing was we’ve just got to be a better team” – emphasis on “team” – “in a lot of ways.”
Getting there in time for the Oct. 18 opener will be a little more challenging given the NBA’s condensed preseason. The Pistons, who in past preseasons typically played eight games, will play five this year. They’ll have one full week less of camp this year; last year’s regular season tipped off on Oct. 26.
“We’ll try to get in a lot,” he said. “You go as far as you can. You get the stuff you know you have to have in. You try to have some things you can execute and you add as you can. I didn’t get to everything I wanted today, but we got in a lot.”
Guards Reggie Jackson and Langston Galloway, the two players dealing with knee injuries, went through all of the morning session but will be held out of Tuesday’s night practice. In a reversal from Van Gundy’s past camp routine, the second practice of two-a-day sessions will be the more rigorous “contact” practice with live scrimmage situations.
And that, too, is a Beyer-inspired idea.
“Bob’s done it this way in the Summer League and I just liked it,” Van Gundy said. “You get your stuff in in the morning, you come right back to it live at night. We decided to do it this way.”
Van Gundy said the plan for Jackson and Galloway is to keep up the same routine – participate in limited contact during morning practices, condition only during the nighttime sessions – through Thursday, then go through the contact practice on Friday and, if no setbacks, go through Saturday’s planned scrimmage.