Pistons' Bullock looks to provide consistent spark
Detroit — It’s been a preseason of relative anonymity for Pistons wing Reggie Bullock. Finishing the season with the Pistons last season, he was a free agent and could have signed with another team, but ended up returning to the Pistons.
The NBA suspended Bullock five games for violating the substance-abuse policy, an indiscretion that Bullock took full accountability for.
After that, he went dark again.
It’s kind of the way things go for Bullock, a few good games off coach Stan Van Gundy’s bench and then back into obscurity for another period.
It happened again Monday, after Bullock missed the first two preseason games, but re-emerged with 13 points, four assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes in the victory over the Indiana Pacers.
“I thought he was great. He really changed the game,” Van Gundy said. “His ball pressure defensively was great. He made shots and ran the floor. I thought he was terrific.”
Bullock provided a spark, with three 3-pointers — going 5 of 10 from the field — and some pesky defense on the Pacers’ wings. His energy in the third quarter helped spark a 36-24 scoring surge and spurred the win.
It’s just a glimpse of what Bullock could provide if he’s an integral part of the rotation this year. It’s a likely outcome, as Bullock appears to be the best option to back up Stanley Johnson at small forward, aside from Tobias Harris moonlighting in both forward spots.
With the Pistons’ revamped reserve group, Bullock is looking to bring energy and a spark. While there will be a crunch to get playing time among that group, Bullock has a skill set that not many of the other options — Henry Ellenson, Anthony Tolliver, Luke Kennard and Jon Leuer — can provide.
“It’s going to be something that we obviously need coming off the bench this year, somebody to bring us energy when our first five go out,” Bullock said. “If it’s not me scoring or shooting the ball — that’s something coach is stressing this year — it’s us getting up into people and making them play uncomfortable.
“I don’t like people getting into me defensively so I try to do something to stir up commotion on the court. We started doing that in second half and we started to get turnovers and started running.”
Bullock, 26, is better known for his cuts to the basket than his solid defense or outside shooting. In 31 games last season, he shot 38 percent on 3-pointers, down a tick from his 42 percent in 2015-16.
With more usage this season, those numbers could increase a bit — part of Van Gundy’s impetus for bringing Bullock back this season — seeing how he operates with the main rotation players and if he can find a niche.
The defensive boost comes somewhat as a surprise, but Bullock generally has been a solid contributor on both ends of the court. It goes with Van Gundy’s mantra for the team this season of each player finding his own greatness.
“He’s trying to make it our identity as a team. It’s what he’s been talking about since early September, building our identity as a defensive team,” Bullock said. “Having teams not wanting to play Detroit, but we’ll be tough, gritty and up into people. We can’t control whether the ball goes in, but we can control the defensive pressure we put on people.”