Detroit — When Langston Galloway was signed as a free agent this summer, the thought was that he could be a combo guard, playing primarily as the backup shooting guard and also get some minutes as the third point guard.
With Reggie Jackson’s health issues last season, Galloway was something of an insurance policy in the event that Jackson got hurt again this year.
The Pistons got to that point on Dec. 26, when Jackson suffered a severe ankle sprain and is projected to be out until at least mid-February. With Ish Smith moving into the starting role, the inclination was that Galloway would slide into the backup role.
Not so fast. Almost not at all.
Since the injury, Galloway has played sparingly at point guard — and hasn’t played in five of the last 12 games at all.
Instead, coach Stan Van Gundy has taken a longer look at Dwight Buycks, who was on a two-way contract all season, but since has signed a guaranteed contract for the remainder of the season as the third point guard.
Buycks had been steady, scoring in double figures in five of six games, but has since leveled off, averaging just 3.7 points and 2.3 assists in his last three games.
“Dwight hasn’t played well the last couple games,” Van Gundy said after Friday’s home loss to the Wizards. “He’s not taking care of the ball and he had a possession where he made no effort to get back defensively, so that made the decision easy for me.”
Buycks had some careless turnovers and that has put Galloway back into the backup spot — at least temporarily.
It wasn’t even that Galloway had completely worked himself out of the position.
Galloway had one poor outing, but the switch seemed to be more Van Gundy’s preference to try to develop Buycks and to see what the options were. When the top two point guards got in foul trouble, Galloway was the fallback option. In the next stint, Galloway had a tough time in the game at Orlando.
“(Galloway) was good in the Atlanta game and when he had to play the next time, he got pressured and I don’t think he handled it as well,” Van Gundy said. “Over time, he has gotten better.”
Galloway looks to have moved back into the role, at least for the time being. He played backup in the second half on Friday and again on Sunday against the Nets, Galloway was Smith’s backup.
It’s just part of the job for Galloway, who is used to having to work to earn his minutes. It didn’t make the 12-game stretch on uncertain playing time any easier, though.
“It was kind of frustrating. Whatever they have me doing, I just stay ready and wherever they want me to play, I just play,” Galloway said this week. “I struggled. If I would have knocked down shots, it would have been a different story, and if I made more plays.
“When you’re the point guard in this offense, you have to get to the basket and make plays. I’ll get back in the gym, continue to work hard and when my opportunity comes again, to be ready for it.”
The recent stretch appears to show that time is here. Galloway will just need to make the most of it. As rookie Luke Kennard continues to improve, the minutes at backup shooting guard seem to be going there.
That leaves Galloway to try to take advantage while Jackson recovers. It’s a tough shift mentally, balancing the aggression of playing shooting guard and hunting shots versus playing point guard and being a facilitator and distributor.
“It’s tough but at the same time, I know you still have to have that switch of being aggressive,” Galloway said. “When you have that, everything else falls into place. You’re making plays for everybody else opens up. You have to find that medium and I’m still trying to find that.”