The Detroit Pistons need to get their mojo back


It’s pretty obvious that the Detroit Pistons aren’t having a whole lot of fun on and off the court at the moment.

This was meant to be the season where the Detroit Pistons took the next step and established themselves as one of the better teams in the East.

Even the most conservative predictors generally had the Pistons improving on their drought-breaking playoff berth from last season.

However, after an optimistic beginning to the season without their starting point guard things have gone south.

Quite possibly the biggest negative about this team at the moment is that it’s not a whole lot of fun to watch, and as an observer it doesn’t seem like a whole lot of fun to play on either.

Even when they record wins, it can hardly be described as satisfying when they generally have at least one extended period that leaves fans shaking their heads.

Whether it’s a sluggish start or a second half fadeout that brings an opposing team back in the game, there’s always something distracting from a Detroit Pistons win.

Related Story: The Detroit Pistons must practice patience

Flashback to only a season ago and the team atmosphere seems to be night and day.

The Pistons were playing with an air of swagger and a chip on their shoulder, and while they still lost their fair share of games things never felt like they were spiralling out of control.

Remember how Stanley Johnson was radiating confidence despite being a 19-year-old rookie?

Remember how he had the audacity to talk trash to LeBron James in his first ever playoff series and then claim that he was in his head?

While many weren’t happy with Johnson’s attempts to seemingly rile up one of the greatest players in NBA history, it did show he wasn’t scared of anything.

Fast forward to this season and all of a sudden Johnson is barely being utilised by Stan Van Gundy and he now looks like he’s scared of the ball.

There has been a lot of talk about Van Gundy not liking Johnson’s attitude and work ethic as well as Van Gundy’s apparent want for Johnson to solely focus on defending.

Maybe it’s just a case of second-year blues.

Whatever the reason though, it’s clear as day that Johnson has lost most of the mindset that made him so promising in his rookie season.

Similarly, last season Marcus Morris seemed like a locker room leader, but this season the Pistons have completely lacked any leadership whatsoever.

Less than a year ago Morris was the heart and soul of the team and had a knack of being able to fire the squad up when things weren’t going their way.

This kind of leadership is crucial to a team like the Pistons who have an average age of just over 25 and only one player 30 or older in the form of Beno Udrih.

There was an attempt to show leadership with the players-only meeting that was called by Aron Baynes but ultimately lead by Morris, however reports made the meeting sound like a competition to see who could sling as much mud as possible at Reggie Jackson.

The meeting came while the Detroit Pistons were in the middle of a five-game losing streak, and while Jackson had played just a handful of games after returning from injury.

The Pistons went on a similar losing streak last season during a west-coast road trip, which saw their record go from 5-1 to 5-5 by the time they returned to The Palace.

The team showed poise and maturity through this losing streak and bounced back with a huge win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When faced with a similar situation this season the team seemed to hit the panic button, despite only being a game or two out of the playoffs in the East and having a comparable record to the eighth seed in the West at the time.

There are many reasons directly related to basketball that explain why the Pistons haven’t been as good as they were last season, but the attitude and mentality of the squad can’t be overlooked.

Perhaps Stan Van Gundy needs to take some of the blame.

Van Gundy is a hard task master, which is evident during games where he spends most of his time screaming at the players.

Maybe this is the wrong style of coaching for these players, or maybe they’re just sick of being screamed at.

I’m not advocating for Van Gundy to start treating the players like children, but perhaps he could turn his intensity down slightly.

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How much good does yelling at the team on every play do, especially when the team is trying to find its way out of a funk?

We saw a lighter side of Van Gundy when the game against the Portland Trail Blazers was postponed.

He joined the team as they spent a night shooting pool, and the next night the team pulled out an incredible double-overtime victory.

Maybe it was pure coincidence, but there certainly seemed to be a breath of fresh air around the team.

This was no more evident than in Andre Drummond‘s performance that night.

He had 28 points, 14 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks in an insane 51 minutes of playing time.

Even crazier is that Drummond played the entirety of the second half as well as overtime, while never looking tired or sulking and dropping his head once.

Additionally, Reggie Jackson (31 points) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (26 points, 4 steals) turned in incredible games.

Unfortunately the very next game they coughed up an 18-point third quarter lead and fell to the Sacramento Kings by six points.

Next: Pistons midseason grades: Shooting guards edition

There’s no clear solution for how the Detroit Pistons can rediscover their mojo from last season.

However, it’s clear something needs to be done about it quickly, before the season gets completely out of control.