VINCENT GOODWILL

Goodwill: Pistons injuries could force lineup juggling

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — The Pistons defeated the Charlotte Hornets, 104-84, in the first of a three-game road swing early Wednesday afternoon to improve to 3-1 in the exhibition season.

News: The announcement of Jodie Meeks' back injury came right on the heels of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's relative good news with his left knee injury

Views: Offensively, Meeks is more proven than Caldwell-Pope, even though the latter has been improving since late last season. Meeks consistently put up numbers last year for a Lakers team that was without Kobe Bryant, and has improved at creating his own shots, which was a problem for the Pistons last season.

It could be argued that in his second season Caldwell-Pope has greater potential, and thus greater value in the long run. His energy level at both ends is a major asset, and that's why the team was heaving a sigh if relief when his MRI revealed no structural damage.

Neither player has developed into an elite shooting guard, but the loss of either is a tough blow to the team.

For now, Caldwell-Pope will get the extra minutes, and with a back injury it's difficult to say how long Meeks will be out, or how long it will take him to get his rhythm back when he returns.

News: Van Gundy said that during Meeks' absence, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond will be used together in stretches.

Views: You could hear the collective shrieks through the Twitter-sphere Tuesday, but the view from here was that those three were bound to spend time on the floor together, anyway. They started Wednesday's game together and judging from the numbers it wasn't a disaster.

At most, Van Gundy said he'll use the group no more than 6-9 minutes in a half, and although last year was forgettable for numerous reasons, the Pistons had success against certain teams for stretches. Van Gundy is too smart to completely rule it out, and must prepare his team for any contingency.

Van Gundy can use those three together without placing Smith on the perimeter as a safety valve, which should cut down on the deperation heaves Smith became known for last season.

News: Andre Drummond was 9-for-9 from the field in Sunday's win over Washington.

Views: Drummond can't be ignored in the post anymore.

It looked awkward but Drummond's jump hooks from both sides of the block went in, including one to tie the score with 16 seconds left. Beauty doesn't matter, effectiveness does. Teams won't be rushing to send a second defender on the block until Drummond shows he can beat them with regularity, but again, the mere threat of him scoring without having to get an offensive rebound or lob represents progress for someone who just turned 21.

It will be interesting to see whether Drummond's unexpected growth will factor into how Van Gundy configures his starting lineup.

Monroe is definitely the best scorer on the block and most consistent Piston, but will Van Gundy conclude two post scorers is one too many?

News: The NBA is trying a 44-minute game experiment between the Celtics and Nets next week.

Views: An NBA game is 48 minutes, and the season is and should remain 82 games. Some things don't need tinkering with. Period.

vgoodwill@detroitnews.com

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