Pistons juggle lineup, Harris starts ahead of Morris
Atlanta — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Thursday that he was committed to sticking with the current roster of players and isn’t looking at the trade route as a way to try to get out of the current nosedive, with six losses in the last seven games.
That doesn’t mean that he won’t try some different lineups, as he showed last week, sliding Jon Leuer into the starting five for the past three games.
He did a little more tinkering Friday night against the Hawks, going with another starting group of Reggie Jackson, Jon Leuer, Andre Drummond, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tobias Harris. That left Marcus Morris on the bench.
Van Gundy said following Friday morning’s shoot-around that he would not use the same starting five he’s used for the past three games: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Morris, Leuer and Drummond.
But Van Gundy didn’t reveal what the change will be.
“I don’t change a lot but it’s not as big a deal to me, either,” Van Gundy said. “It’s just more going into this game and where we think we are. You’ll figure it out when it happens.”
The Pistons (15-19) entered the game with inconsistency on both the offensive and defensive ends, going 4-9 since Jackson returned to the starting lineup.
The changes might not stop there, though. Van Gundy also hinted that he could utilize a small lineup more often, with two point guards — Jackson and Ish Smith — possibly paired with Caldwell-Pope, depending on the situation. That combination could yield better ball handling and provide speed and the idea is to get more speed and pace in the backcourt.
“There are times against teams you could play all three of them together,” Van Gundy said. “That’s been suggested by people on my staff. I don’t know often we’d do that, but if somebody else is going three guards, we could do that.”
The Pistons used Smith and Jackson together in Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at The Palace, with mixed results. It was part of the plan entering the game for Van Gundy, but given their myriad issues, trying something different wasn’t all bad.
Van Gundy said the pairing of Jackson and Smith has been working together frequently in practice and there’s a comfort level with it, but given the minutes distribution, there won’t be a significant amount of time with all three guards together.
“We’ve been concerned about our energy overall and to get more speed and quickness into the game at times,” Van Gundy said. “It would have to be the right lineup (from the opponent too). I really don’t want to play KCP against LeBron and Carmelo. There are matchups where you could do it.”
Smith started the first 21 games while Jackson recovered from knee tendinitis. The Pistons were 11-10 in that stretch and while the record isn’t good since Jackson’s return, the blame doesn’t fall to his performance in the 13 games since.
Overall, the Pistons have struggled, but having Harris in the sixth-man role has worked out so far, as he’s averaging 23.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the last three games, including 56 percent from the field and 53 percent on 3-pointers.
Reggie Bullock (torn meniscus) is continuing with his rehabilitation and is on track to return to the lineup in a couple weeks. He’s doing some light shooting drills but hasn’t resumed team drills yet.
His original timeline was four to six weeks, so Van Gundy is optimistic about having another wing option off the bench if he’s able to return soon.
“It’s been weeks now, so I’m hoping two (more) weeks, but we’ll see,” he said. “He’s ready to progress into being able to do some non-contact, five-man stuff, so that’s a good sign. He’ll be able to get some of that in (Saturday).”
Michael Gbinije was inactive on Friday because of a deep bone bruise in his forearm.