Pistons Ready to Build Around Monroe
After a good rookie season for the Detroit Pistons last year, Greg Monroe has built a solid base of his NBA career. Nearly averaging a double-double for the season, Monroe is turning heads of media, opponents and his own teammates.
“For one, he came in in shape, came in focused and ready to go,” Ben Wallace told HOOPSWORLD. “At the end of last season, he had the opportunity to go out and start for us and gained some experience coming into this season. That helped a lot.”
Keeping himself in great shape during the lockout after the experience gained last season was a key to Monroe’s fine start to the 2011-12 season. He is showing the work ethic from a young, talented player that should make Pistons fans excited for what the future holds.
“I think the preparation this year has been good,” Monroe said. “My body has been feeling fine, so that’s a big part of it. The preparation has been a little better, but I think that I just tried to make sure that during the lockout I was ready to come in and be productive. Just the normal stuff, but I did work on some things that I need to improve on. I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.”
His teammates appreciate the hard work he put in on his individual game and see the progression. They also gained even more respect for the 6’11, 250-pound center because of his ability to push himself to improve each and every day.
“So far he’s done a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities he’s had with this team,” Ben Gordon said. “He’s a second-year player and has kind of avoided that sophomore slump that most guys slide into. He’s done a great job so far and I think that if he continues to play the way he’s been playing, he’s right up there with some of the young, talented bigs in the league. If he continues to work and develop his game, he’ll be right there.”
In order to improve, you have to be honest and assess both your strengths and weaknesses. Monroe did exactly that after his rookie season, put in the time, and is happy with the early results of his hard work. One area has really stood out to him when determining the areas in which he has improved the most.
“My mid-range shot,” said Monroe. “That’s definitely helped my game out and where I’ve made the most progress so far. I’m just trying to continue to better my game in all aspects. I have to get better defensively. I mean, I’ve gotten better this year, but I still have to get better. I’ve been working, watching a lot more tape and working on different techniques and all that.”
Fortunately for Monroe, as a player who wants to improve his defense, he has a teammate who knows quite a lot about the topic in four-time Defensive Player of the Year winner Ben Wallace. While Wallace’s own career may be winding down, he likes what he sees in his young teammate.
“He’s a very intelligent basketball player,” said Wallace. “He knows the game, can score in the post, create plays for his teammates in the post, can step out on the floor and guard smaller guys, can run and finish on the break. He’s just a guy who has a high basketball IQ.”
Monroe appreciates the respect from Wallace and knows it wouldn’t be wise of him to not take advantage of the knowledge Wallace can teach him. Monroe was essentially born a superior offensive player to his pseudo-mentor, but he still has a lot to learn on the defensive end.
“Obviously, his record speaks for itself and it’s definitely a big help to have a guy who has been in the league for a long time that was such a good defender giving you tips,” said Monroe. “He helps me any way he can.”
His teammates see the intelligence, notice the hard work and respect the second-year Monroe. While the Pistons are starting off the season with few wins, they know the future is bright. Piston executives have already labeled Monroe as one of the players they plan to build around and they are making the right choice.
“He has a good feel for the game,” said Gordon. “He’s a pretty skilled big, but of course he still has areas of improvement. Like I said, he’s taken advantage of his opportunities, his playing time and he’s been making the best of it. Any time guys do that, they have a good shot to be great. As long as he continues to work on his game, continue to learn what bigs around the league are doing and how to stop them, he’ll be great.”
While his size may scream for Monroe to play the center position, he really doesn’t think it matters. He is confident in the abilities he already has, confident he will continue to put in the work to improve, and doesn’t believe the conventional position labels are relevant in today’s NBA.
“People get into that position stuff, but I don’t really get into that,” said Monroe. “It doesn’t matter because when you’re on the court, you have to just play basketball. That’s what I believe and that’s what I focus on. I think you can put me up there in that next wave. I’m working to continue to get better, working to be the best player I can be and when I get into that six or seven year range, hopefully I’ll be in that group of the elite big men in the league.”
His Piston teammates agree with him, knowing that putting a label on anyone and putting restrictions on what you perceive they can and should do is not beneficial. The NBA game has changed in recent years and players are able to show a fuller wealth of skills on the court, regardless of position.
“People have a lot of definitions of a true center, but he can definitely compete with pretty much any center in this league,” said Wallace. “As far as being a true center, there are very few of them and I don’t consider him one because he can play the four, he can step out on the floor and can spread the floor more than a true center can. I would feel comfortable with him matching up with any center in this league.
“Right now, guys are not really trying to make themselves one-dimensional. They’re trying to prove and show everybody that they can do everything. That takes away from the true center, just like we take away from the true point guard because we have point guards coming into this league who can score just as well, if not better than a two-guard. Nowadays in our game, we get classified into positions by size. We have so many different guys in the league who can do so many different things, so it’s hard to say what a guy’s position is. I like the term ‘basketball player.’”
In the end, the Pistons may realize Greg Monroe has a ways to go to become the player they eventually envision him to be, but they also have no doubt that he will get there.
“At this stage of his career, he has a good basketball IQ,” said Gordon. “Obviously, he still has a lot to learn, but at this stage, his IQ is pretty good. He comes from good pedigree and I think you’ll continue to see him get smarter and smarter as the season goes on, as teams adjust to the way he’s been playing, but right now he does a great job of thinking the game.”
If they don’t already, the Detroit Pistons will soon have one of the NBA’s best young post players to rebuild their franchise around.