The injury news isn’t all good — but it isn’t all bad, either.
After playing without four of their rotation players in the win over the San Antonio Spurs, the Detroit Pistons could be getting at least one of them back.
Guard Avery Bradley practiced on Tuesday and after missing seven games because of groin injuries, could be back to face the Heat in Miami on Wednesday.
Coach Stan Van Gundy was optimistic on having Bradley back, but cautioned waiting until Wednesday morning to gauge the impact of a practice on Bradley’s body.
“The test of all those things is the next day,” Van Gundy told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “(Wednesday) morning, we’ll know if it went well. He was good out here and didn’t have to pull himself out (Tuesday).
“You just don’t know how he’s going to feel coming through.”
The Pistons (20-15) have gone 5-2 in the games Bradley has missed, with Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard filling in. They’d love to get their second-leading scorer (15.7 points) back from injury and be able to bolster their wing corps, as well as their perimeter defense, especially with Reggie Jackson also out until at least mid-February.
The news wasn’t as good about forward Stanley Johnson, who has a strained hip flexor. Jackson didn’t go through practice and Van Gundy classified Johnson’s status as doubtful, at best. It’s a small step forward, as the Pistons were down to their last few roster options on the wing, with two-way player Luis Montero getting a call-up from the Grand Rapids Drive of the development league as a backup.
Bradley’s return would be a boost, but given the nature of his injury, he likely wouldn’t be expected to defend at the same level, as his lateral movement could take some time to get back to normal, having not played in almost three weeks.
Van Gundy noted how they’ve had to manage defensively without Bradley, but losing Jackson compounded the issue. A smaller Ish Smith presents some other considerations.
“With Reggie being out, that’s a little different; instead of being able to always stick (Bradley) on a point guard,” he said. “Reggie Jackson is bigger than Avery and we’re able to send him to guard a (shooting guard) or (small forward).
“The best part of Reggie Jackson’s defense is post defense on bigger people. With Ish, that’s a little different. Matchups are different. Even though (Bradley) is back, his defensive impact may not quite be what it was.”
Seize some territory
The Pistons enter a portion of their schedule where they can make up some of the ground they lost in their seven-game losing streak. They are on the road mostly for the next couple weeks, but they face more teams who have struggled through the first half, such as the Heat (19-17), Sixers (17-19), Pelicans (18-18) and the Rockets (26-9), who will be without James Harden (hamstring).
Van Gundy is cautious of looking ahead and of the Pistons’ success against struggling teams, as they’ve dropped two in the past couple weeks to the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks, who had losing records.
“Our challenge is that our guys when they come off bad performances, especially where they could look at the film and say they didn’t play hard, have had to bounce back and give a great effort,” Van Gundy said. “We haven’t had the same sense of urgency after good performances.
“The challenge is to develop some consistency and come out with the same approach every night.”
Before the two recent losses, the Pistons had lost just once this season to a sub-.500 team; they’ve had some good wins, including the one over the Spurs, but that consistency has been the biggest bugaboo.
PISTONS AT HEAT
Tipoff: 7:30 Wednesday, American Airlines Arena, Miami
TV/radio: FSD/950 AM
Outlook: The Heat (19-17) overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Magic and gave the Pistons problems last season. In their last eight road games, the Pistons (20-15) are just 2-6.