By Noah Trister
AP Sports Writer
AUBURN HILLS (AP) — Stan Van Gundy has a reputation for candor, so when he was asked to evaluate the development of star center Andre Drummond, the Detroit coach’s matter-of-fact response was no surprise.
“I think that he needs to have a sense of urgency to elevate his game,” said Van Gundy, who is also the Pistons’ team president. “He’s been in the league five years now. He’s still young. He hasn’t turned 24. So he’s got time. He’s a very talented guy. He’s been one of the elite rebounders in the league. He’s got some great things to work with, but there’s more there. The sky is the limit for him.”
Van Gundy spoke for over a half-hour at a news conference Friday with general manager Jeff Bower. The Pistons just wrapped up a disappointing 37-45 season in which Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson were unable to lead the team back to the playoffs after Detroit made it in 2016. Although Van Gundy is still expressing confidence in his team’s core, it’s clear the Pistons believe some of their top players need to provide more in 2017-18.
Drummond’s scoring slipped this season, and the Pistons weren’t as imposing on the offensive boards as they’d been in the past. Jackson also struggled after a preseason setback involving the health of his knee. Van Gundy says he’s hopeful that Jackson can return to form next season.
Van Gundy sounded content with merely tweaking the roster this offseason instead of making a major move.
“I don’t think we’re broken,” he said. “I think getting our point guard situation back to where it was, or even better, is more than feasible, and I think corrects a great deal of the problems that we’re talking about. And then I think our roster’s pretty good from there. I really do.”
Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a restricted free agent, and Van Gundy called him an important part of the Pistons’ core. Backup big man Aron Baynes can opt out of his contract, and if the Pistons lose him, center Boban Marjanovic could play a bigger role.
Van Gundy was asked about his dual responsibilities as coach and president. He said Bower plays an important role handling front office duties during the season, so Van Gundy can focus on coaching.
“This idea that I’m doing both jobs is in most ways not true,” Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy said one concern with having the same person in charge of coaching and the front office is that a coach can have a tendency to overreact — but he says Bower acts as a check against that.
“After every loss, you want to trade everybody. I’ve felt that way several times. I’ve directed Jeff to do that several times,” Van Gundy joked, drawing a laugh. “But he’s smart enough not to do that.”
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