Detroit — Despite the temptation, Pistons coach Dwane Casey has to resist the temptation of trying to do too much. With just a week remaining in the preseason, Casey wants to see what he has with his roster, with everyone finally healthy.
That includes Jon Leuer, who was medically cleared to do full-contact workouts on Sunday. Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson returned to the lineup with minutes restrictions in Monday’s preseason matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.
There’s a delicate balance in seeing what everyone can do and monitoring their minutes, which is the priority this week.
“It’s real. The numbers don’t lie — the number of games Reggie missed last year and Blake has been in the league a while so he knows his body,” Casey said Monday. “One thing we don’t want to do is put unnecessary wear and tear on their bodies.
“The game has changed tremendously. Back in the old days, you could have two-a-days for the whole month of October; you can’t do that anymore. That’s too much wear and tear.”
Missing three players, Casey had to push Andre Drummond and Stanley Johnson more than he wanted in the first two preseason games but can take a more judicious approach to playing time with a full complement of starters.
The situation with Leuer (knee surgery rehab) is the best it’s been in almost a year, but Leuer didn’t play Monday. Casey is looking to get a look at the 6-foot-10 forward in Wednesday’s game against the Wizards or the preseason finale against the Cavaliers on Friday. There are some other lineups that he’d like to utilize but having more active bodies is a good step.
“It’s important that (Leuer) get in and gets bumped and knocked down a little bit,” Casey said.
“We’re still going to have some situations where we want to look at different people. You can look at Andre and Blake and their roles are not going to change.”
Casey said he would self-impose a minutes restriction on Griffin, so there doesn’t seem to be anything physically wrong that needs to be monitored, but just minimizing the wear and tear seems to be the philosophy. Griffin has been injury-prone in his career but there’s no need to extend him in the preseason.
Zaza Pachulia was their offseason signings to strengthen the bench group and he had a good showing in the first preseason game, but missed the Friday’s loss at San Antonio because of personal reasons.
Casey sees the value in adding Pachulia, even though the NBA trend is going toward smaller lineups and hybrid, more mobile big men. He’ll be a big part of their plans, with plenty of lineups.
“He brings a physicality that we could have used in San Antonio. Sometimes that physicality mixes things up. One of the big things we missed was his screening,” Casey said. “Screening is such a lost art. The way we want to play, screening is important. Our guys are doing a much better job.
“Blake is an excellent screener and we missed his screening in our play and that frees guys up for open threes.”
Another thing to watch in the Pistons’ position battles will be the wings. Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock have been the starters but Casey has cautioned against taking too much from what he’s showing in the preseason.
“The league is going smaller and smaller and it’s important for our bigs to play smaller or somebody has to play the (small forward) position,” he said. “Kennard or (Galloway) can play the 3. Those are different positions but last year I played a lot of three point guards. The league is going smaller and smaller. We can go Blake or Henry (Ellenson) at the (center), in certain matchups.”