Tobias Harris will be eased into Pistons lineup

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Tobias Harris

Auburn Hills — The new-look Pistons could feature a starting lineup with all five players under 27 years old, not just this year, but in the future.

The addition of Tobias Harris on Tuesday gave the Pistons a new foundational piece, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to rush into anything in an attempt to make the playoffs this season.

Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy said he plans to start Anthony Tolliver the next couple games, giving Harris an opportunity to get acclimated and learn the offensive and defensive systems.

The Pistons resume play Friday on the road against the Wizards, the first of three games in a four-day stretch.

“I’m not going to start (Harris) right away, I don’t think — probably not these first three games and then we’ll go from there and see,” Van Gundy said Wednesday.

“It wasn’t so much him and his readiness; I just thought there would be less disruption for our starters to just slide (Tolliver) in there, who they’ve all played with and let Marcus (Morris) start at (small forward).”

New Piston Tobias Harris 'a potential All-Star'

Van Gundy coveted Harris, who was a restricted free agent last summer, but couldn’t make a deal work, opting for Morris. Now, he has another piece to the puzzle. Van Gundy couldn’t believe Harris was available, but was happy they were able to deal for him.

“We liked him and he was really high on our list,” Van Gundy said. “For a 23-year-old guy with his talent to become available is rare. You just don’t get those guys from other teams very often.”

Harris arrived Wednesday morning in Detroit and watched practice, but won’t be able to participate until Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, whoe were sent to the Magic in the trade, complete their physicals and are cleared by the NBA.

Van Gundy will ease Harris into the lineup, where he almost will be interchangeable with Morris at the forward spots.

“I don’t know when he and Marcus play together, who’s the (small forward) and who’s the (power forward),” Van Gundy said. “He’s going to have to learn both spots and he’ll have to do it on the fly. It’s not easy, but we’ll get through it.”

Finding the right fit for Harris, as well as the rest of the lineup, will be the biggest factor for the Pistons and their playoff prospects in their final 28 games.

“It will be (a change),” Harris shot “One of the biggest things is I’m able to adapt to what’s going on and I’m a real student of the game. Ersan shot a lot of threes and I like to slash and cut backdoor and that opens it a little more for other guys in different ways. It can only help us.”

Harris missed the last three games before the All-Star break because of an ankle injury, but said he’s ready.

“The biggest thing is to come in and soak everything in and play my way through, really get a rhythm and do the little things to help the team,” Harris said. “With coach’s system and the guys here have been pretty embracing so far, that’s been a good sign.

“Any time you come into a new situation, that feel is vital and that only helps the confidence and the player. A day or two of practice and continuing to learn the system and just continuing to be a student of the game is the biggest thing.”

While the Pistons made one of the biggest splashes in the trade market, they may not be done.

Several reports had the Pistons pursuing backup point guards, including Jameer Nelson (Nuggets), D.J. Augustin (Thunder) and Trey Burke (Jazz).

Van Gundy, though, said he was happy with backup Steve Blake, who has shown flashes of strong play.

The Pistons also will get a boost from the return of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (core muscle), who missed the last three games before the All-Star break, and a healthy Reggie Jackson.