Caldwell-Pope's availability for opener uncertain

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Losing Jodie Meeks for an extended period of time was supposedly cushioned by having Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ready from his minor injury by opening night.

Stan Van Gundy is losing faith in the prospect of Caldwell-Pope being in the lineup come Wednesday in Denver, as the second-year guard didn't practice Saturday afternoon.

Van Gundy's body language seemed to belie the unexpected development, as the shooting guard position has gone from one of comfort to uncertainty.

"I thought he would do more today, though, from what they (trainers) said and he didn't so I don't know," Van Gundy said. "The original (plan) is to do a little today, then go through practice tomorrow. He didn't do as much as they thought he'd do. So my guess is he may not do as much tomorrow. We'll be prepared to go either way."

Caldwell-Pope's left knee was strained two weeks ago in Washington. An MRI revealed no structural damage, which gave the Pistons hope Caldwell-Pope would be able to take on the extra workload created from Meeks' absence, when it was revealed a stress reaction would cause him to miss eight weeks.

Van Gundy is still holding out hope for Caldwell-Pope to get a few practices in before Wednesday but if he's unavailable for the opener, reserve swingman Cartier Martin will start in his place, with either Kyle Singler or Caron Butler at small forward.

"We'll see," Van Gundy said. "We don't really know right now, so It's hard to make a determination until you know who you have available."

Martin only averaged 5.6 points but hasn't been shy about getting shots up this preseason, scoring 17 in 32 minutes against Philadelphia Thursday night. Van Gundy likes Martin's aggressiveness on the perimeter, in part because the team is making the extra pass, leading to open shots.

"We played extremely unselfishly. Not just the other night," Van Gundy said. "The ball is moving, nobody's holding it, There's not a lot of forcing it and one on one. Guys have been willing to move the ball. We get a chance to get good shots."

It's preseason but their assist numbers can't be ignored. In their last four preseason games, they finished with 28 assists in three of them, and 19 in a sluggish loss to Orlando. With Caldwell-Pope and Meeks out, ball movement is paramount because Martin, Butler and Singler don't specialize in creating shots.

Pistons' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a strained knee.

But they can make them, particularly in the corners. The trio combined for 54 points Thursday, albeit against a 76ers team that looked more suited for the D-League than Big Boy basketball.

"It's lineup related," Van Gundy said. "Having three perimeter guys out there and having more shooting on the perimeter, it helps. You look at the assists and assist to turnover ratio of our point guards, it been outstanding."

D.J. Augustin started in place of Brandon Jennings and had 11 assists Thursday. Jennings had 11 dimes himself in the previous game against Atlanta.

Many times last season if the ball was kicked out to a shooter or someone in a shooting position, it was going up, no matter if there was a better shot to be had with a swing pass. The first step to chemistry, Van Gundy believes.

"It s contagious either way. Selfishness or unselfishness becomes contagious," he said. "If the ball is moving you don't mind because you know you'll get it back."