Pistons' Van Gundy mulls options for reserve wings
Dallas — It’s turning into a game-by-game quandary for Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy.
For about 33 minutes, he feels very good about what he has in shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. But after that, it’s frequently turning into a wait-and-see approach for what he’s going to get for the remaining 15 minutes of each game.
Caldwell-Pope, 23, is having the best season of his four-year career, finding his outside shooting touch and hitting a career-best 37 percent on 3-pointers. His shooting inside the arc is slightly lower, but he’s balancing that with a sharp increase of 1.3 assists per game.
The Pistons saw a little of what life potentially would be like without Caldwell-Pope on Sunday, in what they deemed an embarrassing 18-point loss to the Sixers at The Palace.
But with the inconsistent play of reserve wings Darrun Hilliard and Stanley Johnson, there aren’t many other options off the bench besides rookie Michael Gbinije, who didn’t make the current road trip to face the Mavericks and Wizards in order to get some playing time with the Grand Rapids Drive of the Development League.
That has Van Gundy mulling his options.
One of those choices would be to play Caldwell-Pope more minutes, as he’s down 3.4 minutes per game from what he played (36.7) last season.
But Van Gundy isn’t eager to just keep Caldwell-Pope out on the court for longer stretches, despite what the advanced statistics suggest. The numbers are a bit skewed, mainly because of the nature of the lopsided games the Pistons have been involved in in the first quarter of the season.
“His playing time is down. He didn’t play Sunday but it was another blowout. We’ve been on both sides of huge disparities and in a lot of those games, that’s cutting four or five minutes off his time because he doesn’t have to be in there at the end,” Van Gundy said.
“We’ve cut his minutes some, but not as much as it looks just by the stats; it’s just the way the game has gone. I fully expect on most nights to be playing him 36 minutes.”
In Sunday’s loss, some of those minutes included playing a lineup with two point guards, Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith, instead of one of the shooting guards.
Van Gundy admitted that combination didn’t perform well in its first test this season, on Sunday. He’s open, though, to giving it some more run, especially after Jackson — who is still getting his stamina and shooting touch back after missing the first 21 games — rounds into his regular playing shape and routine.
“Right now, it’s a night-to-night thing with matchups and everything else. We’ll just have to see how it goes,” Van Gundy said Wednesday. “There’s a possibility over the next few games of playing the two point guard some, to take care of some of those minutes. We do have options.”
Matching Jackson with Smith could take some time before its effective, because Jackson still isn’t effective enough at point guard and just adding more responsibility — while it could help in some matchups against smaller backcourts — isn’t sustainable for longer stints.
When Jackson gets back to his regular routine, playing about 30 minutes, Van Gundy said he’ll be more likely to mix and match and look at the other options.
“Looking at him on the court, we’re still probably at 28 minutes being about what he can do. Night to night, everything changes,” said Van Gundy, adding the tempo could be a factor. “That’s the ballpark right now. He played about 30-plus last year. It’s not like he played 36 (minutes).
“As much as we put the ball in his hands, I don’t think we’ll look at him as a 36-minute per game guy. Where we’d normally want him to play 30 to 32, we’re now looking at 26 to 28.”
Bullock begins rehab
Reggie Bullock, who had surgery to repair his meniscus, began rehabbing the knee and is looking at a timeline of four to six weeks before he’s able to return.
Bullock didn’t make the trip in order to work with Pistons performance rehab specialist Mark Cranston. He’s on a timeline that could have him return around mid-January if everything stays on schedule.
“He and Mark Cranston stayed home because he can get a little bit better rehab at home. He’s started fairly aggressive rehab,” Van Gundy said. “That would put us right about six weeks, and that’s about what we’re looking at. I’d love it if it could be quicker, but our expectation is around that six-week mark.”
The NBA and the players association announced they have reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement, which needs to be ratified by the players and team owners.