Van Gundy plots twist in Pistons lineup
Boston — With Brandon Jennings’ return to the lineup, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy got another offensive option.
The bench production has been up and down this season, but Jennings’ 17 points and six assists on Monday night against the Orlando Magic gave a glimpse of what the reserve group can be. Jennings spearheaded a couple of runs, including the decisive 19-0 run in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Behind Jennings, the reserve group ran and played solid defense and had one of the best stretches of the season.
So what’s next?
Van Gundy said he’s working on some plays to have both primary point guards — Reggie Jackson and Jennings — in the same lineup. That would provide better ball-handling and give a different wrinkle for defenses to try to plan against.
The two haven’t played together in the four games since Jennings’ return, but Van Gundy said he’s planning for some stints with both of them together.
“We’re already in the thought process of things we can run playing him and Reggie together at times,” Van Gundy said. “There’s a lot of teams that go small. We just want to be ready if we do and try to build in some stuff that fits the two of them so we can get to multiple pick-and-rolls, and we’ll look at that.”
Although Van Gundy said the plan isn’t to play the two together for significant minutes, it just provides another offensive option to pursue. He pointed to the Atlanta Hawks, who utilize Dennis Schroder and Jeff Teague as a tandem to make other teams match up with their speed. The Miami Heat also use Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade together.
“Having that second playmaker is a good thing. I don’t know when we’ll get to that, but it’s a good option to have,” Van Gundy said. “On the offensive end, it’s really good; it’s then whether you can get the job done on the defensive end. You’re giving up size; can you defend and rebound? Those are the questions.
“Anything that gives you more options and flexibility is good.”
One of the beneficiaries of the new strategy would be Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is third in the league in minutes played (37.6). But Van Gundy said he would look to give Caldwell-Pope some rest during those stints or, against smaller lineups, Caldwell-Pope could play at small forward.
In those cases, the Pistons would be much smaller, but Stanley Johnson also could give Caldwell-Pope a rest at small forward. It’s still a lot of supposition, but it’s closer to being reality than just speculation.
Jackson has struggled at times this year with overdribbling and not getting into a good groove with his shot because he’s distributing the ball, so having Jennings at the point could help.
“Definitely having another ball-handler out there will help him out a whole lot and give him chances to play off the ball,” Jennings said. “That way, he can get into a flow where I can pass to him and he can create and make things happen. I think it will be easier for him.”
The Pistons reserves have helped them pull out a couple of games of late, and the 3-point shooting is one of the main reasons.
In the last 10 games, Anthony Tolliver (46 percent) and Stanley Johnson (44 percent) have improved from beyond the arc, and Aron Baynes has been better, averaging 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the last two games.