Caldwell-Pope puts Pistons at full strength for opener
Auburn Hills — When Kentavious Caldwell-Pope landed on his foot, he knew immediately that something wasn't right. During Wednesday's preseason game against the Charlotte Hornets, Caldwell-Pope had to leave in the first quarter, and hoped the injury wasn't serious.
It turned out to be only a foot strain, and in the days since, Caldwell-Pope has bounced back and is ready to be in the starting lineup as the Pistons open the season at Atlanta on Tuesday night.
"It was hurting pretty bad; I couldn't even come back to start the second half or think about playing," he said Monday. "Just by getting my rest and treatment and taking my time, it got better."
Caldwell-Pope missed Friday's preseason finale against the Hawks, but practiced Monday and will be ready to return. The thought of a more serious injury crossed his mind, but he wasn't sure whether he suffered the injury when he jumped or when he landed.
"I really didn't know how I hurt it — the pain just starting shooting up my foot, so I called the timeout to see what was going on," he said. "The pain is gone and I can feel it on certain movements but it's not really there. Today in practice, I felt good."
It's another potential hurdle that the Pistons dodged with injuries, as they haven't had their entire rotation healthy through the preseason. Steve Blake (concussion) missed most of the preseason and Reggie Jackson (Achilles) was out for the preseason opener.
But the Pistons should be at full strength to face the Hawks, who will be one of the contenders to win the East. Hawks guard Kyle Korver will give Caldwell-Pope an early test as he is one of the best shooters in the league.
"I was telling one of my teammates that the two people I hate chasing around are Kyle Korver and (the Clippers') J.J. Redick," Caldwell-Pope said. "They're the best at coming off screens and getting open, so it's a challenge for me to stay with them."
Entering his third season, Caldwell-Pope has high expectations for 2015-16, after averaging 12.7 points and 3.1 rebounds last year. He worked over the summer to hone all his skills, but just wants to be steady all season.
"Just keep improving every aspect of my game; there's always room to improve on defense, offense and being consistent," he said. "Focusing on my ball-handling and creating a dribble move and pulling up. I focused on doing that and it helped me prepare myself for training camp and preseason."
The Pistons got down to the maximum of 15 players on Monday by cutting veteran forward Danny Granger. He was obtained in the trade with the Phoenix Suns that brought Marcus Morris and Reggie Bullock to Detroit for a second-round draft pick.
Granger, 32, a 10-year veteran, was rehabbing in Arizona and never got to training camp or played in the preseason.
Center Aron Baynes, who had been limited in practice in his rehab from ankle surgery, is progressing well and has been cleared to play fully. The medical staff didn't want Baynes playing more than 15 minutes in preseason, but Van Gundy said those restrictions are gone.
"They've lifted the limits restriction. They don't want him playing 48 minutes, but that's not going to happen (anyway)," Van Gundy said.
Baynes still will be monitored for back-to-back games, as the Pistons have their home opener against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday at The Palace. If Baynes doesn't have significant pain, he'll play in both games.
Pistons at Hawks
Tipoff: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Philips Arena, Atlanta
TV / radio: FSD / 105.1 FM
Outlook: The Pistons open the season with a revamped roster, including new forwards Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova. Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond will join them in the starting lineup.