Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. John Loyer‘s debut as interim coach came in a big win over the Spurs. Should we take anything from this?
Dan Feldman: That Loyer is comfortable as head coach. It’s far too early to say whether he has the communication and strategic skills necessary to succeed as a head coach, but he’s no shrinking violet in the head chair. That’s a step in the right direction.
Brady Fredericksen: Not yet. There was going to be a bounce in the Pistons step with a new voice leading them, so I think it’s half Loyer and half just not having to deal with Maurice Cheeks. Beating the Spurs is beating the Spurs though, and while there weren’t any huge, visible differences, it’s still refreshing to see the team rise up against a good (albeit injured) team.
Tim Thielke: Yes, he had a good start in his first game. We should weigh that first game just as heavily as any other one game. That’s to say that it counts, but not for much.
2. What was the biggest difference between Loyer and Cheeks?
Dan Feldman: So far, that Will Bynum re-joined the rotation. The defensive schemes looked the exact same, and the offense was similar enough. But Loyer had only one day to prepare. I wouldn’t be surprised if Loyer makes bigger changes soon.
Brady Fredericksen: LOYER DOESN’T SEEM TO POSSESS AN INSIDE VOICE! It felt like the Pistons’ offensive emphasis was to play through Greg Monroe and not Josh Smith. The offense looked good that way, too. The only other difference was the tempo and subsequent ball movement. This is a group that plays well when they’re on the break, and the amount of running and passing we saw on Monday was probably better than anything they’ve done in the last month or so. They also turned in their best first-half defensive performance — holding the Spurs to 48 points in the first half — since a Jan. 7 loss at New York.
Tim Thielke: The visible difference from that one game was how active he was on the sideline. But most differences in sets, rotations, strategies, philosophies, etc. (you know, things much more important than whether you sit or stand during a game) will have to be revealed over time.
3. What is the one thing that Loyer is going to have to focus on if the Pistons are going to turn a corner and make his impressive debut more than just a one-game flash?
Dan Feldman: Making Monroe a successful defender. Monroe is not a great defender, but his weaknesses are minimized when he’s engaged and the system doesn’t ask too much of him. Monday, he was engaged in a way he hadn’t been under Cheeks since early in the season. The next step is more often putting Monroe in position to succeed. Monroe could be the key piece that swings the Pistons from bad to good defensively.
Brady Fredericksen: Consistency. Wins over the Spurs, Heat and Pacers have shown us that the Pistons are capable of beating anyone on any given night. The problem is losses to the Jazz, Bucks and Magic show they’re also capable of being beaten on any night, too. Loyer needs to find a way to keep up the intensity, and the fact that he’s mentioned effort a ton in his week on the job is good. If the Pistons can find a little consistency, they can make a move starting with five winnable games — the Cavaliers, twice against the Bobcats and one against Atlanta — in the next two weeks.
Tim Thielke: As I’ve been carping on all year, emphasizing each player’s strengths, not weaknesses. There is a lot of talent on the roster, but as we all know, it doesn’t fit together in a traditional manner. To make this set of guys work, Loyer will have to get each of them to do what he is good at instead of what his position typically demands.