Auburn Hills — In his two seasons with the Pistons, Reggie Bullock has had short flashes of brilliance, where he’s looked like he could garner significant playing time.
Then it’s often followed by a setback.
A step forward, then a step back.
Minor nagging injuries have been the biggest culprit, but the latest was a suspension for violating the NBA’s drug policy, which will have him miss a chunk of the beginning of the season. It’s a bit of a reunion for Bullock, who was a restricted free agent, but when the Pistons didn’t extend a qualifying offer before July 1, he became unrestricted.
He had other options but decided to return to the Pistons, looking to move forward from the pattern of steps backward, addressing the media at the team’s practice facility for the first time since he re-signed.
“I will be starting the season off with a five-game suspension,” Bullock said. “It was a regrettable situation for me to be in but I will continue to learn and build on that as a player and not let those distractions or anything hinder my career anymore.
“Just continuing to look forward and trying to bring whatever I can to help this team perform well this year — that’s where my focus is.”
Bullock, 26, posted a career best of 4.5 points and 2.1 rebounds and shot 38 percent on 3-pointers last season, but only played 31 games. Some of the fluctuation was due to changes in the playing rotation, but also to injuries.
When he played, Bullock’s importance wasn’t just in his shooting, though. He also played good defense and helped with other areas on offense.
“A lot of people focus on Reggie’s shooting, which is very good, but to me it’s even more the way he plays the game. The ball moves when he’s out there, he makes quick decisions, he moves very well without the ball, he helps other people play well,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “At the other end, he defends, so he’s a two-way player who helps your team function at both ends of the floor.
“We’re looking forward to having Reggie back and having him healthier than he’s been and available for a lot more action, because he has helped us play really well.”
Bullock says he’s been training in the offseason and will be ready to play after his suspension. He went to the Peak Performance Project center in Santa Barbara, Calif. to have tests done to see how he could optimize his training and work on his flexibility.
He’s hoping the extra work can help his stay in the playing rotation and off the injury report more next season.
“This offseason I’ve been training and being healthy and working on my body and all the aches and bruises I had during the season to shut me down for five or 10 games were small injuries that led to bigger problems,” he said. “I got reports from when I went to P3 after they did scans on my body to see exactly what I need to work on to be able to perform at a higher level.”
The next step is working his way back into a regular spot in Van Gundy’s playing rotation. With Marcus Morris’ trade to Boston, there seem to be more minutes available for Stanley Johnson and Bullock at small forward, where he could mix with two smaller guards.
It’s the shooting that will keep Bullock there, but for all the Pistons, including new acquisitions Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard, it’s a shot to get the team back to the playoffs, which would be a big step forward.
Deadline for Gbinije
Second-year guard Michael Gbinije has had a tough couple weeks waiting, but he’ll find out his fate on Saturday, which is the deadline for the Pistons to guarantee his full salary of $1.3 million.
“We have an idea, but nothing’s finalized at this point,” Van Gundy said Thursday. “Two days is a long time, the way things go here.”
It’s unlikely the Pistons will keep Gbinije on the main roster, which is already at the NBA’s minimum of 14 with the signings of Bullock and Anthony Tolliver. Gbinije could be a candidate for one of the two-way contracts with the Grand Rapids Drive.
Gbinije played for the Pistons on the Orlando Summer League team but didn’t distinguish himself; that might have been the final nail.
“He had moments where he was really good,” Van Gundy said. “He didn’t shoot the ball well, but he had moments where he was good and times he didn’t do much. He was up and down.”