Small lineup gets mixed results, Van Gundy says

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has wanted to have mix-and-match lineups during exhibitions, with the flexibility to provide a variety of looks for opposing defenses while being able to guard the same.

In early exhibitions, the Pistons had a bigger starting lineup with Andre Drummond at center and 6-foot-10 Ersan Ilyasova at power forward. But the past two road games, Van Gundy has shifted 6-foot-9 Marcus Morris to power forward.

Because Morris can play both forward spots, the move enables rookie Stanley Johnson to start at small forward and provide a more athletic group.

The combination has yielded some mixed results, but Van Gundy has seen some flashes of what he wants from the pair, especially in the victory over the Bulls on Wednesday.

"The start of the game was good and they had some good minutes at the end of the third quarter," Van Gundy said. "But the start of the third quarter wasn't good, so it was mixed."

Morris finished with 17 points in 18 minutes and Johnson added seven points in 24 minutes — his lowest production in the exhibition season. But coming off back-to-back games, Van Gundy didn't put too much stock in the outing.

"The main positive is he went back-to-back nights where he had to play against All-Stars," Van Gundy said. "It's fair to say both Paul George and Jimmy Butler outplayed him, but they didn't dominate him and he never backed down — they were in a battle."

Johnson is leading the Pistons in scoring, but struggled with achieving balance between looking for his shot, passing and avoiding turnovers. He'll look to work out the kinks in time for the opener in Atlanta on Oct. 27.

"That'll come in time," Van Gundy said. "He's going to have his ups and downs like every rookie, but we're really happy with what he's doing."

Drummond dominating

Drummond had a slow start the first two exhibition losses, but has turned things up since, with 17 points and 21 rebounds against the Pacers and 14 points and 10 rebounds against the Bulls.

"(Against the Bulls), he was much more efficient, but in both games his energy level was extremely high," Van Gundy said. "(He had) 31 points and 31 rebounds in the two games — and not playing normal starter's minutes to get those is pretty impressive."