Auburn Hills — There’s a lot for Luke Kennard to learn in his rookie season, from the playbook to all the reads and options that come from a multi-faceted offense. Then, there’s learning to guard some of the best players in the players in the world at his position.
Within that steep learning curve, there’s little margin for error. Kennard went from the high of getting his second NBA start to a quick trip to the bench in the first minute of Sunday’s 114-110 victory over the Orlando Magic.
He was pulled from the game after making two errors in the first minute and he got the full wrath of coach Stan Van Gundy in the process. Van Gundy quickly inserted Stanley Johnson but admitted Tuesday — after thinking through the scenario — that he may have acted too rashly.
“Two mental mistakes: one defensively, where we were supposed to be double-teaming and he didn’t and one screwing up a play,” Van Gundy explained. “Two mental mistakes and too quick a hook. It should have been just telling him to get his head in the game and that’s it.”
That’s quintessential Van Gundy: caught up in the heat of the moment and striking the balance between trying to teach the rookie a valuable lesson and making sure he gets his point across.
It’s also a tightrope to walk in potentially damaging a young player’s confidence and ensuring that the Pistons don’t suffer while Avery Bradley is out because of a groin injury.
After the tough lesson, Kennard said he learned what he needed to do and moved on.
“I know coach is going to be hard on me. He told me that and I’m completely fine with that — I want him to be,” Kennard said. “I want to become a really good player and if that’s what it takes, I’m all for it.”
After an off day on Monday, Van Gundy had a follow-up conversation with Kennard to make sure they both were on the same page.
“I’ve told him I’ve been really hard on him but the main thing is he’s got to get used to it. He has a chance to be a really good player and I went too far the other day,” Van Gundy said. “Too often, you to take these young guys and you make excuses for them and baby them and they don’t develop the way they’re supposed to.
“I’ve been hard on him because he has a chance to be very good.”
So far, Kennard has been pretty good, with nine points in the win over the Pacers, but managed just three in the Magic victory. It’s a steep learning curve, especially shifting from the reserve group to the starting lineup and having to be matched against the likes of Victor Oladipo and others.
Bradley’s absence will continue to test the Pistons’ depth, which has been a strength this season. He’ll be sidelined at least a week, as his groin injury and adductor strain haven’t improved, despite getting some rest and missing the last two games.
“He’s going to be shut down for at least a week,” Van Gundy said. “We’ll go at least seven days and then week to week.
“It’s similar to a sports hernia — it’s not that, but the symptoms are the same.”
With that timetable, Bradley, the team’s second-leading scorer (15.7 points) and best perimeter defensive player, would miss the next three games: Wednesday at Dallas and home games Friday against the Knicks and Tuesday versus the Pacers.
“It’s going to take some time,” Van Gundy said, “but he’ll basically do nothing for the next seven days and see where he is and whether we’re starting him back or not.”
The news wasn’t any better for forward Jon Leuer, who has been sidelined because of a sprained left ankle. He’s been trying to ramp up work in his two-week hiatus since getting a fluid injection, but had a setback.
“He’s at 16 days on a two- to four-week timetable to just start to ramp up,” Van Gundy said. “He did some work on the Alter-G (machine) at about 60 percent of his body weight the other day and it didn’t go really well.
“That’s at the two-week point, so it just means we have to slow down and see at another period of time. It’s not great news, but we’re still in the timetable of when he can go.”
The Pistons were looking to bring up Luis Montero from the Grand Rapids Drive, but he’s also injured, so they’ll rely on the current roster, with Kennard, Johnson, Langston Galloway and Reggie Bullock.
PISTONS AT MAVERICKS
Tip-off: 8:30 Wednesday, American Airlines Center, Dallas
Outlook: The Pistons (17-13) are riding a three-game win streak but will be challenged with Avery Bradley (adductor strain) out for at least another week. They’re 8-1 against teams with losing records and the Mavs have lost six of their last seven.