DECEMBER 26, 2012 AT 1:00 AM
BY VINCENT GOODWILL THE DETROIT NEWS
Pistons center Greg Monroe has long bristled at the notion that he's having a "down" year, but he's shown signs of advancing his game in recent outings.
Seemingly, it's stemmed from what we all expected to be a staple in his offensive repertoire — his midrange jump shot that's suddenly begun to fall.
"That was the first shot, right? First play," said Monroe after the Pistons' 96-87 win over the Wizards on Saturday night. "Open shot, I made it. It kind of got me going. Today, though, we did a good job setting the tone on defense."
While it's true his defense has improved and the moments where he's left flat-footed haven't been as plentiful — and coach Lawrence Frank hasn't hesitated to publicly give him credit — Monroe is primarily an offensive player and when that shot is falling, everything opens up. His scoring is almost identical from last season (15.6, from 15.4 last season), while his assists are up (2.3 to 3.3).
"I would hope so and I'm going to continue to be aggressive in scoring in spots where I'm comfortable," Monroe said. "I don't get caught up in numbers, especially personally. All I'm worried about is the win column.
"I'm definitely getting better rhythm. My confidence in my shot is way up. Me making that shot is allowing me to get more (opportunities)."
He wasn't hitting that shot early in the season, though, and as teams began to give him that 15-18-foot jumper, he didn't want to take it. It's one thing to shoot that from aggression, but mentally, it can do something to a player when their opponent is daring them to shoot.
"I think I was hesitating," Monroe said. "I was getting the same looks so I think the hesitation was the thing."
He's scored just 28 total in the two games since his career-high 35-point explosion against Toronto a week ago, but he played an average of only 27.5 minutes in wins over the Wizards — and the Pistons will play far better competition in the coming days in the Hawks (tonight) and champion Heat (Friday, The Palace).
With the Pistons near the bottom in scoring, it would behoove them to play through Monroe — although they use him as a primary ballhandler to initiate offense when Brandon Knight struggles, a more frequent occurrence recently — but working through Monroe from the block could be the best option, especially if nobody else has it going.
"I wouldn't say I feel the burden. I feel I'm someone that can score," Monroe said. "Multiple people can score. If the game permits it, then I try to take advantage of it. It's about making sure people are in the right positions and staying aggressive."
He didn't feel he was getting the ball in his sweet spots or when he had a good game going against an opponent he had a natural advantage against. That changed against the Raptors, and considering the Hawks are stout across the frontline defensively, perhaps the Pistons will challenge their strength.
"That night I got into a good rhythm," Monroe said. "In this league anybody can get into a good rhythm on one night and have a good night. Everything was working. Some nights it does, some it doesn't."