Greg Monroe Admits Trade Rumors Weigh On Him
By David Mayo | firstname.lastname@example.org
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MILWAUKEE -- Greg Monroe hears the trade whispers and while the Detroit Pistons' big man understands it's part of the business side as he braces for the first major negotiation of his NBA career, he admits the chatter weighs on him.
"It does, to be honest, especially when we're still trying to get things right here, and then to kind of see that stuff. ... I just try to focus on what we're doing here. I'm here. If that changes, then I'll move forward. But up until then, or if it never does, I'm just going to focus on playing these games and trying to win these games," Monroe said Wednesday.
The Feb. 20 trade deadline is approaching and there has been speculation all season that Monroe, who can test the market as a restricted free agent this summer, could be dealt by then.
His rookie contract expires after this season and while the Pistons never have indicated that they might let him go or trade him rather than pay his next salary, losses like Wednesday's to the NBA-worst Milwaukee Bucks, 104-101, could spur that decision.
Monroe is part of the 17-25 Pistons' big-three experiment which has met lukewarm results, and is the most affected player by it.
He splits time between center, his natural position where Andre Drummond starts, and power forward, his starting position where Josh Smith also plays extensively.
The difficulties at power forward have been clear on the defensive end, where Monroe guards different types of players.
A bigger surprise is offense, where Monroe's role has been diminished.
In four out of five games before Wednesday, Monroe attempted seven or fewer field goals.
Before that stretch, Monroe had attempted seven or fewer field goals in a game just three times this year. It happened four times all of last season.
He attempted just three field goals in Monday's loss to the Clippers, his fewest since his rookie season, as Smith and Rodney Stuckey combined for 42 attempts.
"I kind of do need the ball to get a rhythm. That's how I've always been," said Monroe, who had 18 points and nine rebounds against the Bucks. "So it is a little tough, especially when guys have it going. You don't want to interrupt that. So it's kind of a rough area for me, really."
Monroe's game centers on post offense and rebounding, and playing out of position has cost him in both. His averages of 14.3 points and 8.7 rebounds are his lowest since his rookie year, though the latter is largely attributable to the Smith acquisition putting another rebounder on the floor.
"It's definitely been a change," Monroe said. "It's still a little bit of an adjustment. Like I've said, it was always more of an adjustment on the defensive end, guarding different kinds of players. But offensively, it is kind of a new system we're running, obviously, with new players and coaching staff. So it has been a little transition for me."
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks, who was a point guard on the 1983 NBA champion Philadelphia 76ers, said Monroe can increase his offensive touches just with some vocal assertion.
"All you've got to do is tell the point guard, 'Run a play for me.' That's easy," Cheeks said.
Monroe said he never has asked Brandon Jennings for the ball, and it's probably out of character for the soft-spoken 23-year-old anyway.
"It's tough because they're calling plays," he said. "I don't want to sound like that selfish guy or anything like that. So it's tough to just go there and say that, you know what I mean?"
Even when he does receive the ball in the post, Monroe is finding that "teams are packing it in a little bit more," and the reduced operating room causes its own problems. Double-teams essentially already are there. Guards don't have as far to sag because of the Pistons' dearth of 3-point shooting.
That's why Clippers point guard Darren Collison dug the post against Monroe for a key steal and fast break in Monday's game.
It also might have contributed to another key post steal Wednesday here, when Monroe passed up an open baseline 15-footer to attack the paint and got stripped in a crowded lane by Miroslav Raduljica, who then beat him down the floor for a layup early in the decisive fourth quarter.
The big-three alignment has produced diminishing returns as the season progressed and Monroe has to be contemplating the possibilities of landing with a team which can use him at his natural position.
"To be honest with you, I've never had this problem -- growing up, in high school, in college, and even the past few years here," Monroe said. "So it is kind of a different area for me."