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Jenning' shooting solution: Practice, practice

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Atlanta — Brandon Jennings wasn't having an efficient night to begin with, but a bad night turned a little worse when he hyper-extended his left thumb in the third quarter of the Pistons' 99-89 loss to the Hawks Friday night.

He reached for a steal against Hawks point guard Jeff Teague but after his attempted swipe his thumb bent backward too far, causing him to react in pain. He tried to play through it but went to the bench a couple possessions later for D.J. Augustin, and didn't return.

Jennings said it shouldn't cause him to miss any time, but admitted afterward the thumb was throbbing, which usually happens after the adrenaline wears off. But the biggest source of pain for Jennings — who's shooting a career high in field-goal percentage and at the 3-point line — is how bad the Pistons are on offense.

Growing pains should be expected with a new coach, a new system and more structure than last season, but Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy doesn't have the answers yet for why this team is so anemic.

"Every game you look down and it's 37- or 38-percent shooting," he said. "I'm not putting it all on them because part of it is what you do offensively and the shot your offense is creating, but you look at our percentages and we just don't have anybody playing at a really high level."

Jennings, though, offers a simple answer to what seems to be a complex issue: The Pistons don't shoot enough.

"If you ask the question about why we're not making shots, we don't shoot," Jennings said. "We don't shoot in practice. We haven't really had a chance to work on our games or anything. When we do have shoot-arounds, we're not able to get up shots like we should."

When Jennings was asked if the onus is on players or coaches, he said: "Both. I just think if you're going to have shoot-around in the morning, I think it's good that you get loose and you should work on shots that you're going to take in the game.

"Even before, after practice, we've got to start getting in the gym, just working on our game more."

Last season, the Pistons shot under 40 percent 10 times. Friday marked the fifth time the Pistons shot under 40 percent this season, in just 13 games.

If that holds — and if Jodie Meeks' return doesn't help and D.J. Augustin continues at his clip of 22 percent on 3-pointers and 37 percent overall — the Pistons are on pace to shoot less than 40 percent 32 times.

Arguably the worst team in the last 20 years, the 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats, shot under 40 percent in 23 out of 66 games.

The worst shooting teams last season were Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston. The 76ers were under 40 percent 22 times, the Bulls 26 and Celtics 24. But the 76ers were clearly tanking while the Bulls have their rough and rugged defense to rely on, and were without Derrick Rose all season.

The Celtics are rebuilding and went much of the way without shot-creator Rajon Rondo.

The Pistons aren't in a similar situation to either, but if the alarm isn't ringing, it's certainly close.

"We're in a shooting slump right now," Josh Smith said. "We're getting what we need — we're getting open looks and shots at the basket, we just need to slow down and not rush."