Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Pistons beat writer Rod Beard talk midseason grades, where they're headed and Stan Van Gundy's future. Detroit News
Auburn Hills — Inconsistency has been a problem for the Pistons for a few years now, but the injury issues plaguing them this season have stunted a squad that looked like it was ready to take the next step after a torrid start.
Add Luke Kennard to the Pistons’ injury list. The rookie missed Tuesday’s practice with a left thumb injury he suffered against the Hornets on Monday. He was seen in the Pistons’ practice facility with his thumb taped, and coach Stan Van Gundy said he wasn’t able to do any shooting on Tuesday.
Van Gundy reported that nothing is broken and Kennard won’t require surgery, saying that it’s just some swelling he’s going to have to deal with.
That news comes on top of the groin injury still slowing Avery Bradley, who also sat out Tuesday’s practice. Stanley Johnson was back at practice after dealing with a hip injury that’s sidelined him for seven of the last eight games, but the Pistons aren’t sure they’ll have any of their three wing players on the floor Wednesday night in Toronto.
“I’m not sure about (Johnson), (Kennard) or (Bradley) for tomorrow,” Van Gundy said. “The wing position is thin.”
That could force the Pistons to add Reggie Hearn, who signed Sunday to a two-way contract, to the active roster for Wednesday’s game, something Van Gundy didn’t want to have to do this early.
The two-way contracts the Pistons signed Hearn and Kay Felder to this last week have left them in a tight spot. Van Gundy said that the Pistons only have 22 days where Hearn and Felder can be with the team until the G-League season nears its end in late March.
“He’s a mature, intelligent guy. Somebody that we think can step in in a pinch,” Van Gundy said of Hearn. “With the injury problems we’ve had, that was more the issue (in signing him). We don’t really want to use him right now, but he’s here for an emergency and this is it.”
Despite dealing with what has seems like an inordinate amount of injuries this season, Van Gundy wasn’t one to make excuses.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “Jon (Leuer) and Reggie (Jackson) have been the two big ones, but (Johnson) has been down a lot longer than we thought, and Avery’s been out of the lineup. But I wouldn’t say it’s like we’re the only ones that have ever gone through this.”
Failure to communicate
For all the talk about the Pistons and their perceived lack of effort being the biggest problem on the defensive side of the ball, there’s one thing that’s often overlooked: communication.
When offenses go into their sets and things start moving fast, the Pistons don’t seem to be as vocal on the defensive end as some of the better teams in the league.
Van Gundy says that needs to change.
“I think our communication’s a problem,” he said. “It’s something that we harp on constantly. You get confusion between guys when you’re not communicating and you’re not right on it. There’s no question our talk has to be a lot better.”
As one of the leaders of the team but not necessarily the loudest guy in the room, Tobias Harris knows that if the Pistons don’t shore up things on the defensive end, they’re not going to get to where they want to be at the end of the season.
“The biggest thing is getting locked in from the start of games,” he said. “Just getting back to some basic things. When we’re really good defensively, everybody’s locked in. We're not going to hang our heads like the season's over.”
Harris was burned by Charlotte’s Marvin Williams on Monday, as the power forward hit 5-for-6 from beyond the arc on his way to 21 points.
Guarding the 3-point line is something Harris points to as one of the biggest things he needs to work on going forward.
“You got guys that can shoot the ball and guys that can play off the bounce,” he said. “At the (power forward) position, a lot of the offense is predicated on guys being able to shoot. It’s adjustments that have to be made. Closing out on guys harder, getting them off the line. It’s a tough task, but it’s something that we’ve proven we can do.”
Pistons at Raptors
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Outlook: The Pistons and Raptors will meet for the first time this season. Both teams have lost three of four, but Toronto (29-13) still holds the second-best record in the East...The Raptors went 3-1 against the Pistons last season.
Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.