Casey coy on plan to round out Pistons rotation
Ann Arbor — Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson. Luke Kennard and Glenn Robinson III. Bullock and Robinson.
The options are many, but figuring out his choice of wing combinations for the starting lineup isn’t a decision that Pistons coach Dwane Casey needs to make now.
The other three starters aren’t much of a question: Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and a potentially-healthy Reggie Jackson are written in ink, but shooting guard and small forward are up in the air.
Casey said he has an idea of which way he’ll go, but he isn’t showing his hand, especially with a few more days until the preseason opener on Oct. 3. The challenge, for now, is trying to install the new offensive and defensive schemes and getting the players comfortable in training camp.
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“Guys are competing and it’s not going to be a quarterback controversy at all. We’re going to put the right people in the right positions, whether it’s the starting group or the second group that fit,” Casey said Wednesday. “That’s something we’re going to be watching over the next couple weeks to see. We have a good idea but nothing is concrete right now.
“There are guys who are defensive-minded and great defensively and guys who can shoot the lights out. We just have to figure it out.”
The early thought is that Casey will stick with Bullock and Johnson, who were the starters last season. With the acquisition of Robinson in free agency and Kennard’s development as a playmaker, there are other good options.
Kennard still is working through a knee injury from the summer and is working in training camp at full speed in contact drills, but he’s still not in complete basketball shape. Robinson is athletic but hasn't yet established the same chemistry with the starters that Johnson and Bullock do.
Things could change, though.
“We have to get healthy first and see what Reggie does with that group and how he fits,” Casey said. “Luke is not 100-percent healthy and we have to fit him in where he gets some significant touches.”
If Jackson isn’t ready to start the regular season on Oct. 17, there could be other wrinkles thrown into the mix, likely with Jose Calderon moving into the starting role, which would allow Ish Smith to stay with the reserves.
“I hadn’t made that decision totally yet. (Calderon) did a great job of starting with Cleveland last year,” Casey said. “If you look at his numbers in the games he started when their point guard went down, it’s a heck of a winning percentage as a starting point guard.
“It helps when you have (LeBron James) there, but we have some good players around here too. That’s a thought process that we’ve talked about because Ish is so valuable in coming in and changing the game with his speed.”
Henry Ellenson got a surprising call this summer to play for Team USA in World Cup qualifying and although many teams are hesitant to send their star players to a qualifying event, the Pistons gave Ellenson the opportunity — with a specific purpose.
“One thing with Henry is he needs to play. (The Pistons) had such a good team last year) and with the people in front of him, he didn’t get a lot of minutes,” Casey said. “We felt as an organization like him getting minutes with Team USA would be very beneficial.”
Ellenson obliged and got some good run, which is something he didn’t get very much with the Pistons in either of his first two seasons. In a pivotal third season, Ellenson is looking to break through and garner some playing time — but the problem again is so many good players in front of him on the depth chart.
Casey has extolled the benefits of playing with the Grand Rapids Drive, where Ellenson has spent quite a bit of his NBA career. Under Stan Van Gundy, Ellenson didn’t get as many opportunities; in the new regime, Ellenson is looking for a turnaround, with the motivation and encouragement from Casey.
“In the first two days of camp, it’s been great. We’ve been learning a lot, but the coach has been helping us out the whole way,” Ellenson said. “It’s been real positive around here so it’s exciting.”