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Reggie Bullock’s patience has paid off for Pistons

Geoff Robinson
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Reggie Bullock’s story isn’t a common one in today’s NBA. It’s the story of a guy who sat on the bench, learned the ropes and then pounced when given the chance.

More than anything, Bullock’s ascension is a story of patience, something that isn’t very common in this league, where guys can see there dreams go up in smoke before they’re ever given a real opportunity to prove their worth.

“A player with my story probably would have been out of the league or trying to find his way back in the league,” Bullock said when asked if the NBA gives up on guys too quickly. “But I landed in the right position. It was God’s plan for me to be able to watch and learn, and now I’ve got an opportunity to play and to just keep moving forward.”

After being taken 25th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, Bullock appeared in 43 games as a rookie for the Clippers. It wasn’t until this season with the Pistons that he’d top that number. With eight games remaining in the season, Bullock’s played in 58 games, starting 48 since Stan Van Gundy made the call to give him his shot in mid-December.

And for all of Van Gundy’s misfires since taking over the Pistons in 2014, Bullock has been a diamond in the rough, averaging nearly 13 points per game as a starter.

“It’s not easy,” Van Gundy said at Wednesday’s practice. “It’s really crazy. It goes to the point of opportunity. People just develop at different rates.”

To make his point, Van Gundy pointed to the 2013-14 All-NBA Rookie first team, the year Bullock entered the league. That was a squad that consisted of Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr.

“I think you’d take (some) other guys over those first-team rookies,” Van Gundy said. “It just shows that people are in a rush to judge you, and it doesn’t always work that way. Now we’re five years in and it’s a different group of guys you’d rather have.”

As well as Bullock was playing before the Pistons traded for Blake Griffin, he’s taken his game to another level since the arrival of his former teammate with the Clippers. Bullock was averaging 11.2 points per game in January. In February, when the Pistons acquired Griffin, his average shot up to 14.2. In March, it’s at 15.5

“I saw how he played with J.J. (Redick) with the Clippers and the dribble-handoffs,” Bullock said. “The chemistry just kind of came when he got here and we’ve just kept doing it. The two-man game that we have has been working out.”

With the Pistons entering an offseason of unknown circumstances, Bullock says he’d like to keep this group together to see what they can accomplish next year. Given his amount of personal success this season, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

“It would definitely be exciting,” he said. “We’d have to continue to jell and keep in contact over the summer so we can come back in September and keep building. As long as everyone’s healthy, I feel like we’ll be a tough five to stop.”

Ellenson’s wait

Bullock says his story could resonate with a guy like Henry Ellenson, someone who rarely sees minutes off the bench after being taken in the first round by the Pistons in 2016.

Ellenson is a guy that has a unique skill set for a 6-11 forward. He can really shoot the ball from beyond the arc, and at some point, he’s going to get his shot to play.

“Players like (Ellenson) that I see come in here and work daily just haven’t been able to get a true opportunity yet,” Bullock said. “But he’s got talent, and there’s going to be an opportunity for him to show it. He’s just got to be ready when that time comes.”

Wizards at Pistons

Tipoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/950 AM

Outlook: Despite holding down the ninth-seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons are still sitting on the fringe of playoff contention. They trail Milwaukee by five games with eight remaining. The Wizards (41-33), who are 3-0 against the Pistons this season, are No. 6 in the East and trail the fifth-place Pacers by 2.5 games.

Geoff Robinson is a freelance writer.