Auburn Hills — It’s not time to sound the alarm just yet, but the Pistons’ inability to treat the basketball with any type of care is turning into a cause of concern for the players and the coaching staff.
It began in the preseason, and has managed to trickle into the games that count, as the Pistons’ 20 turnovers per game tie for second-worst in the NBA with Houston and Indiana.
“I am very concerned about the turnovers,” said Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks after Sunday’s 87-77 win over the Celtics. “It’s something we’ve been discussing. You can’t recover with so many turnovers we make; (our defense) can’t recover.”
At 2-1, it hasn’t caught up to bite them too much yet, and turnovers weren’t the chief reason they lost in overtime to Memphis on Friday night.
“Some of them were careless, and we have to correct them,” Cheeks said. “There’s good turnovers and bad turnovers. A lot of them were ‘bad’ turnovers.”
“Bad” turnovers in coachspeak means unforced, which are easily correctable, if you’re looking on the positive side. Playing with talented players can turn into trying to do too much as opposed to making the simple play.
“We put ourselves in positions where we have to get singles,” said Chauncey Billups, who had two turnovers Sunday. “Quit going for the home runs, move the ball around as opposed to making the assist pass. Once we get better at that, we’ll be able to put teams away.”
Brandon Jennings’ return will surely help that, considering he’s one of the best in taking care of the ball, especially when he plays pick-and-roll so much. Josh Smith (15) and Greg Monroe (13) are the leaders in the clubhouse — which the Pistons will live with to an extent because both are such able and willing passers.
“We’re still trying to get our chemistry together,” Jennings said.
Jennings said before the game he didn’t like playing with the mask and sure enough, it came off in the fourth quarter.
“It’s just uncomfortable, I’m not used to playing with something on my face so it was my decision to take it off,” he said.
Before the game, he sounded resigned to wearing it.
“When you have mouth problems, you can’t just come out there and think you’re gonna play right away,” Jennings said. “This is the only way I can play in a game right now. If I’m not wearing this, I’m not playing. It’s a must.”
Loaded at guard
Jennings’ comeback creates a bit of an issue for Cheeks. He’s routinely said he doesn’t want to play five guards, so counting Jennings, Billups, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, someone will have to sit.
Caldwell-Pope looks to be the odd man out, but Cheeks wanted to leave the door open to the first-round pick playing small forward at times. Caldwell-Pope had 13 points in 18 minutes Friday night against the Grizzlies.
“Maybe (playing him at) other positions, I don’t know,” Cheeks said. “He has played well, we just have to find a way to get him out there.”
Caldwell-Pope didn’t play Sunday night.