Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy talked this week about Avery Bradley and his recent slump. Rod Beard, Detroit News
Milwaukee — The sky is not falling. Really, it’s not.
The Pistons have lost three straight games, their longest skid of the season, but the forecast still is only partly cloudy with a good chance of the playoffs.
Through the first quarter of the season, Pistons fans have gotten distressed with every loss. At 14-9, the Pistons rank fourth in the Eastern Conference, behind the Celtics, Cavaliers and Raptors. Three of those teams were projected to be near the top; the Pistons were not.
There’s a difference between expectations and outlook. Most expected the Pistons to finish in the 6-8 range. After their good start, the outlook is for them to finish in the top five. Expectations shouldn’t change; the fact that the Pistons have some good wins only means the outlook can be increased.
Without a good string of wins, they’ll likely be looking up at those three teams. But when they look up, the sky will still be there — and not falling.
In this week’s Mail Satchel, we’ll focus on the bench, going to a Pistons game and the outlook moving forward.
Question: Has Luke Kennard cemented a spot in the rotation for at least the near future? What is your take on Stanley Johnson's play? — @DetroitttPiston
Answer: That’s two questions, but this isn’t the Express-Lane Mail Satchel, so I’ll allow it. Kennard is playing better, but I wouldn’t use the word “cemented” and neither does coach Stan Van Gundy. He’s alluded to the fact that they would use Reggie Bullock if Kennard’s play slipped. It’s the right play, though, because Kennard is ready to play at this level — certainly at the offensive end — and is developing defensively.
Johnson still is growing into the starting role, but it’s a good spot for him, not having to be a primary scorer. Even his one-game stint off the bench was positive, with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He’s a good rebounder but doesn’t get as many with Drummond gobbling all of them among the starters.
I asked Van Gundy about the possibility of Johnson splitting time with the reserves (Ish Smith and the other 3-point shooters) and he said that the performance against the Spurs didn’t make the case that it was a group that needed more minutes together.
Q. When Leuer returns what will be his role in the rotation? — @CiuDaDaNoPain
A. Jon Leuer got a fluid injection into his sprained left ankle and will be out for at least another 4-6 weeks, so we’re a ways off from even pondering this one. At his best, Leuer is an option both at backup center and power forward, with a good touch on his 3-point shot. The problem is that he hasn’t been available, playing in only eight of 23 games — and in those games, went just 0-of-3 beyond the arc.
Leuer likely would be a good choice over Eric Moreland in certain matchups, but if he’s not shooting, he’s not as good an option.
Q. Thinking about going to a game. Should I? — @daveholz
A. The easy answer is yes, but I’ll qualify the question: are you going alone or are you taking a family? One ticket for one night likely isn’t an issue, but going as a group starts to prove more costly, depending on where the seats are.
For the experience at Little Caesars Arena, absolutely, you should go. With the wins, the bandwagon seems to be increasing, as it did in the Phoenix game last week, with the upper level a little more packed and the lower level more dense. They’re a good team to watch and this weekend has some good matchups: the defending-champion Warriors (without the injured Steph Curry) on Friday and the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Q. Is an Eastern Conference finals appearance possible? — @JDSnaidauf
A. I’ll let Kevin Garnett answer this one:
Of course, it’s possible, but not likely. They’d likely have to get through the Cavaliers or Celtics — or both — to get there, so that’s asking a lot of a team that hasn’t won a playoff game in a decade. Just let them get to the playoffs first, then we’ll reassess.
Q. Who is more pleased with the (good) start.....#SVG the GM or #SVG the coach? — @TomParrelly
A. I’ll say SVG the general manager, because he’s been validated on many of his tough decisions. While the trade rumors were swirling around Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, he held firm and kept his two stars — and they’ve been very good.
SVG the coach isn’t frowning, either, because his decision to diversify the offense with more motion and less isolation and post-ups has paid off as well. Both are wondering what tweaks they need to make to sustain the success, though.