No longer rebuilding, Pistons hope to improve in offseason
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Pistons have finally moved beyond the rebuilding stage.
After their first playoff appearance since 2009, Stan Van Gundy's Pistons can look ahead to the offseason knowing that if they simply keep their current starting lineup intact, the future could be fairly bright. That's not to say that Detroit will stand pat, but the team's key players are young enough that the Pistons can envision more success if this group stays together.
''We're now not at the time of wholesale change anymore. We went through that,'' said Van Gundy, who just wrapped up his second season as Detroit's coach and team president. ''We're not making deals just to make deals. We like the guys we have, but we've got to add to it, and if there's ever a chance to make a significant upgrade - yeah.''
The Pistons went 44-38, their best record since 2008, before being swept in the first round of the playoffs by top-seeded Cleveland. When Van Gundy met with reporters Thursday, he talked about a lot of potential improvements that can come from within - such as Andre Drummond's free throw shooting, Stanley Johnson's skill set and the team's overall defensive approach.
The 22-year-old Drummond remains the Pistons' biggest star. As he enters restricted free agency, the team has not expressed any reservations about trying to sign him long term - despite his sub-40 percent free throw shooting, an issue which occasionally relegated him to the bench during crunch time.
''He's a 22-year-old All-Star center. There aren't very many guys in the league who have the abilities that he has,'' Van Gundy said. ''We'll move forward and obviously do everything we possibly can to try to get him re-signed.''
Detroit's starting lineup of Drummond, Reggie Jackson (26 years old), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (23), Tobias Harris (23) and Marcus Morris (26) was good enough to lift the Pistons into the postseason, and the team also has the 19-year-old Johnson, a lottery pick last year. Van Gundy says he wants Johnson to work on developing his individual skills in the offseason, which isn't always easy for players in the years before they reach the NBA.
''They don't really get, or haven't had summers where they could take an extended period of time and really focus on skill development,'' Van Gundy said. ''They're always playing AAU, then with Stanley, USA Basketball, then they have a summer where they're going to draft workout after draft workout after draft workout, and then right after that, they're just going into summer league.''
As for Drummond's woeful foul shooting, Van Gundy says it's wrong to view it purely as a mechanics problem. Drummond shot 35.5 percent this season from the line and was 11 of 34 in the playoffs.
Van Gundy was asked if having Drummond try to shoot underhanded could be an option.
''I think right now everything's on the table,'' Van Gundy said. ''We all know it's an important thing, Andre more than any of us. I think he's pretty open to anything, but there's a lot of ways to attack this problem, and we'll all have a hand in it.''
Although the Pistons don't have to worry much about losing Drummond before next season, Anthony Tolliver and Steve Blake are both unrestricted free agents. They combined for only 69 minutes in the playoff series, and Van Gundy was somewhat noncommittal about their future.
''In just a very general sense, I like the idea of having both of them back,'' he said. ''But - and I was honest with them - there's priorities ahead of re-signing them.''
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