Auburn Hills — After their first day off of training camp, the Pistons needed a day to get back into the swing of things. They returned to practice on Monday with some rust, not quite to the sharpness that coach Dwane Casey would have liked.
With only two more days until their preseason opener, there were some good and bad things, but there’s still work to do.
The big area of emphasis is on the offensive end, where Casey is trying to implement a system that prioritizes ball movement and finding higher-percentage shots instead of taking the first available one. There were glimpses in Saturday’s scrimmage at the University of Michigan’s Crisler Center, but there also some things that Casey wants to clean up.
The first week of workouts showed some glimmers on the offensive end, but defense wasn't far behind.
“You want to get your offense in and keep it simple. We have an identity and philosophy of how we want to play,” Casey said. “With putting it in, you don’t want to forget about defense. Our work in training camp was good from a drills perspective.
“We had a loose scrimmage after watching tape and we lost some intensity and toughness and went to more fancy plays than anything else. It’s a balance in that situation and we’ll get back to it.”
Casey noted some quick shots in transition that were inefficient and weren’t the high-percentage ones that he’d prefer in the shot spectrum. It’s a focus on getting preferred looks on 3-pointers and trying to get easier looks, closer to the basket, and working from there.
The ball movement and spacing will create other opportunities, as the opponent will have to adjust to players finding the open shots. During voluntary workouts and summer work, most of the players on the roster have had adequate exposure to it and it’s a little more comfortable.
For Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard, who had been limited by injuries and are just getting to full 5-on-5 workout status, it’s taking more time to adjust.
“We’ve been doing it for a week now and it’s coming. It’s different for certain players and harder for Reggie and Luke because they’ve been out all summer,” Casey said. “They’re an important part of it; it’s a learning process to understand when to pass or drive.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is hold it or bounce it four or five times in a spot, where the defense can recover and get back to their position. It’s going to be an ongoing process with that mentality.”
During Saturday’s scrimmage, the communication was better and players yelling out assignments and instructions was easily heard. Casey said that’s the biggest part of improving on that end of the court, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.
Casey said he’s still working on establishing a playing rotation, but indicated that it could be nine or 10 players in the initial rotation. With that, he’d like to go pretty deep into the bench, with interchangeable parts at some positions.
“The guys will determine (the rotation), but I’d like to have a definitive second unit. We’ll hold that trump card to change our minds but we’d love to establish that energy group with toughness that comes in and changes the game, not lose the lead,” Casey said. “Nine or 10, I’d like to stay with that but we’ll see how that goes through exhibition and we’ll cut that down if we have to.”
There would be some mixing of starters and reserves, as in previous years, with Andre Drummond or Blake Griffin getting a break late in the first quarter, then returning to play with the reserves before the starting unit returns to finish the half.
With the versatile skill sets that Griffin and Drummond have, it’s a good mix that keeps one of the best big men on the court during most junctures.
“Blake and Andre are good passers and we want to make sure we utilize their skill sets, whether it’s first group or second group,” he said. “Blake’s with the second group as the center and can QB out of (that spot).
“There’s a lot of decisions you make when you catch the ball in the short-roll area; it’s a very important decision. Blake and Andre have done a good job with that so far.”
Reggie Jackson is participating in full 5-on-5 workouts but whether he’ll play in the first two preseason games — at Oklahoma City on Wednesday and at San Antonio on Friday — is unclear. The focus has been on having him ready for the regular-season opener, but if he progresses, he might see some time in the exhibitions before the Oct. 17 opener.
“We’ll talk and see. We haven’t made a decision yet; he had a good practice today. He hadn’t put his shoes on and didn’t do 5-on-5 until training camp,” Casey said. “We don’t want to rush it; if he feels like his body can let him go, we’ll go with it. If not; it’s no big deal.”