Early in his first term, former President James Monroe helped to usher in the "Era of Good Feelings" nearly 200 years ago. Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe is looking to do much of the same for a franchise that hasn't won a single playoff game in the past four seasons.
Although it has only been eight years since the Pistons last won the NBA championship, the franchise's 2004 title run seems like it happened a lifetime ago. After ripping off a streak of six straight conference finals appearances, success has been pretty scarce for the Motor City's finest.
The only thing bad about the team formerly known as the "Bad Boys" is their record: Over the past three seasons, the Pistons have won a total of 82 games.
Monroe will do everything in his power to restore the glory to a once-proud team whose recent fortunes have mimicked those of the very city that it represents. The 6'11" center put up All-Star-caliber numbers in 2011-12 (15.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG), and his player efficiency rating of 22.09 was 15th best in the entire NBA.
Very few players are as active on the glass as Monroe: The 22-year-old had the eighth-best total rebounding percentage in 2011-12 (18.3) and has finished in the top 10 in offensive rebounds in each of the last two seasons.
What doesn't show up in the typical box score is the fact that Monroe is a very adept passer. His assist percentage of 14.0 last season was a remarkable figure for a center, especially for one who played for the NBA's fourth-worst offense (Detroit averaged a mere 90.9 points per game in 2011-12).
Pistons' fans from 8 Mile to Auburn Hills have been enamored with their versatile big man ever since he arrived two years ago, and the rest of the basketball world is slowly beginning to take notice.
Monroe was voted as the league's 49th-best player in ESPN's just-completed NBA Rank project, and the New York Times' Off the Dribble blog named the Pistons' center as one of the five players to watch this season. And by all accounts, Monroe has only scratched the surface of his potential.
"The best is yet to come," said Detroit head coach Lawrence Frank in an interview with Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. "We think he has an extremely high upside."
It's clear that Monroe isn't your typical third-year player who is standing on the precipice of greatness. While many established NBA stars spent the early part of July far away from a basketball court, Monroe practiced with the Pistons' summer league squads in both Orlando and Las Vegas.
Monroe wasn't under any obligation to make either trip, but he chose to do so in order to strengthen a bond with some of his current and future teammates. The only doctrine that the modern-day Monroe lives by is that of being a great teammate and a leader of a young Detroit team eager to make that next step.
"It's about setting an example and talking and just learning from each other and helping each other out to make sure this organization gets back on the right track," said Monroe in an interview with Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press in September.
Part of "setting an example" includes doing whatever is necessary in order to help the Detroit Pistons win basketball games. While Monroe has played solely at the 5-spot in his NBA career, he's more than willing to slide over to power forward to accommodate center (and 2012 No. 9 overall pick) Andre Drummond.
Monroe is typically regarded as being soft-spoken, but he's become more vocal and assertive as he establishes himself as one of the league's premier centers. When Monroe was left off of the Select Team that was chosen to scrimmage against the U.S. men's Olympic team prior to the London Olympics, he put the world on notice that he wouldn't forget about the snub any time soon.
"I don't forget anything—anything," Monroe told Michigan Live in July. "I remember what people said from high school."
If that's truly the case, then the rest of the big men in the Eastern Conference may want to rig the ballot box so that Monroe gets an All-Star nod this year. However, as long as Monroe stays on his current path, he won't need the help of a few hanging chads to get the respect that he rightfully deserves.