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Van Gundy wants Pistons’ Leuer to keep shooting

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Early in Sunday’s matchup against the Boston Celtics at The Palace, Pistons forward Jon Leuer to a good look at a 3-pointer off a pass from Reggie Jackson and knocked it down.

About two minutes later, he put up another attempt. It missed, but even still, it was a good sign — Leuer wasn’t shying away from shots beyond the arc and was trying to regain his confidence from long range.

Leuer, a career 35 percent shooter on 3-pointers, has seen his numbers dip a bit, down to 32 percent in his first season with the Pistons. He’s averaging 2.5 attempts — a career high — from beyond the arc this season and although he’s at his career best for scoring (11.2 points) and near his best for overall field-goal percentage (50.4 percent), coach Stan Van Gundy believes Leuer is overthinking.

But Leuer seemed to look for his shot a little more on Sunday night, going 2-of-7 and looking somewhat more comfortable, after some struggles this season.

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“Jon’s a guy whose confidence goes up and down — we just want him shooting them. Shooting seven of them the other night was good,” Van Gundy said. “I want him shooting them without hesitation. He’s a good shooter and the percentage is not reflective of what he’s capable of doing.

“If he’ll shoot the ball in rhythm on a consistent basis, he’ll shoot 36 to 38 percent and be a real threat out there.”

Leuer is at 50 percent from the field but has struggled from 3-point range in the last 10 games, hitting just 29 percent, but his scoring has become more consistent. He’s scored in double figures nine times in this stretch, including a career-high 24 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 3.

At 6-foot-10, Leuer was seen as an upgrade as a shooting big man, but his skill set inside the 3-point line has been impressive as well.

“He’s a stretch (forward) and I didn’t know he’s as skilled as he is inside,” Jackson said. “He’s a mismatch, so any time we can exploit that, and any time he can give us offensive production, he can make our lives easier, we like to take advantage of that. He’s been playing well throughout the season.”

For the first time in his career, Leuer is getting significant playing time. Since moving into the starting lineup on Dec. 23, Leuer has tried to find a way to fit in with the first unit. It hasn’t been easy, but he’s adjusting to the new role and the new players around him.

“Jon’s career to this point has been play 18 minutes (most last year) then go and play 10 or 12 games and if you had a couple tough ones, you sit on the bench for a long period of time,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think Jon has fully adjusted to knowing he’s going to be out there and we want him to shoot the ball and just go out and play.

“He’s still a little too worried about missing shots and making mistakes because in the past, those things have cost him playing time and maybe taken him out of the rotation. He’s in a different situation now; he should be able to play a little freer and a little looser.”

rod.beard@detroitnews.com

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