Auburn Hills — After Thursday’s practice, Luke Kennard put up some extra shots with assistant coach Rex Walters, looking to stay sharp.
Shot after shot, fake after fake and jump after jump.
During one set, Kennard went 10-for-11 on corner 3-pointers.
That hasn’t translated to games, though, as Kennard has missed half of the Pistons eight games, including being inactive for the last three on the West Coast trip.
The practice performance is a tantalizing teaser of Kennard’s potential, the upside to what enticed the Pistons to select him 12th overall in this summer’s draft. He was impressive in summer league and looked to have a role after a strong start to training camp.
Coach Stan Van Gundy said Kennard’s energy waned in the final week or two before the season started and Kennard didn’t play in the opener. In his first game, he posted 11 points, including 1 of 4 on 3-pointers and totaled just eight points in the next three games.
Being deactivated for each of the three games on the trip was a disappointment, but Van Gundy pointed to the logjam of wings in front of Kennard, including Langston Galloway and Reggie Bullock.
“We have a lot of perimeter guys and I don’t honestly think Luke had been playing to his capabilities in terms of being aggressive,” Van Gundy said. “I was eager to see what he would do in practice after three inactives. You would expect a guy to come in and really go after it in practice and I thought he did.
“He was really aggressive at both ends, making plays, and that’s what I had hoped to see. We’ll re-evaluate that as we go into the weekend.”
Van Gundy communicated the desire to have Kennard be more aggressive and it’s a work in progress in trying to improve that part of his game.
He’d shown flashes during the summer and even in the preseason, but carrying that over to the regular season, against veterans isn’t always easily translated.
“I’ve picked up on stuff pretty quick and for this first eight games, being able to play some to not playing, it’s been different, but it’s been fine,” Kennard said Thursday. “I’m in a good spot right now and I’ve really developed as a player and whenever my number is called, I think I’ll be ready.”
Kennard says he’s heeded the coaches’ feedback about being more aggressive and carrying that mentality into practice. With the road trip and a condensed schedule, he hasn’t had many opportunities to show it, but he’s looking for the opportunity to do it more and to show he’s ready for more consistent playing time.
The fluctuating playing time is frustrating but he’s trying to stay sharp so that he can take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself.
“I’m a really competitive guy and I want to play and do whatever I can to help the team and make an impact,” he said. “Being able to watch benefited me in a few ways: always being able to see the entire floor at one time and focusing in on that. Sometimes when you’re on the court, you’re focused on certain action. When I was sitting on the sideline, I was able to see the entire court and it was good.
“I learned from that and you can see it in a different way. I still want to be able to play.”
Bucks at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Bucks (4-4) have lost three of the last four overall but boast a budding superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who leads the team in points (31.3), rebounds (10.6) and assists (5.3) and is the head of a long, lanky lineup.