The Pistons fell to 1-3 in the preseason but they're concerned with an injury to Reggie Jackson. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Detroit — Little by little, it’s all starting to come together. In Monday’s preseason game, Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin returned to the lineup. On Wednesday, it was Jon Leuer who got his first taste of game action, playing for the first time since Oct. 31 against the Lakers.
It’s been a tough road back for Leuer, who missed 74 games last season because of a foot injury, which led to season-ending surgery. He sustained a knee injury in the summer and had to have another surgery, but looks to be ready to return, as he tries to get back into full basketball shape.
“We’ll get (Leuer) some minutes but he’s not 100 percent; Reggie still is not back to himself yet, so we’re trying to ease them both back,” coach Dwane Casey said. “One thing we don’t want to do is rush them back and have a relapse. A few more minutes for Reggie but we’ll watch Jon very closely.”
The plan is to gradually ramp up Griffin’s and Jackson’s minutes to get them ready for the regular-season opener on Wednesday against the Nets. With only one more preseason game — Friday against the Cavaliers at Breslin Center in East Lansing — there isn’t much more full-speed action the Pistons can provide.
Griffin played 21 minutes and Jackson 17 on Monday and they’ll be counted on once the season begins, but Casey will remain cautious, looking at the long-term impact instead of seeking instant gratification.
“We’ll see how it goes. We need to (increase) but their bodies will tell them what’s going on,” he said. “At some point, we all have to get fully healthy to get ready to go.”
Working the two back into the starting lineup and juggling minutes will be the task next week. Stanley Johnson (toe) missed Monday’s game but was back in the starting lineup Wednesday.
It appears that Casey has settled on a starting lineup, with Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Johnson, Griffin and Andre Drummond. It’s the same group as the end of last season but there was some competition around the wing positions, with Bullock and Johnson apparently getting the nods.
Although Casey cautioned against taking anything form the starting lineups or rotations in the preseason, he seemed to tip his hand a bit on Wednesday.
“You can read something into that group: it’s no mystery on that,” he said. “We’ll start Reggie, Bullock, Stanley, Blake and Andre tonight — that’s not a mystery.”
Whether that extends into the regular season will bear some watching.
Kennard on back burner
Prior to Summer League, there was some talk that Luke Kennard would handle the ball more and play some point guard, expanding his skill set to potentially play more positions when the season started.
That plan fizzled when Kennard sustained a knee strain before the first game and missed all of Summer League. With the start of training camp and Kennard still not at full strength, those plans didn’t continue.
“We’ve talked about it but that experiment hasn’t gone anywhere yet,” Casey said. “He was hurt all summer and that slowed him down a little bit. That put that experiment on the back burner. Now, we’re concentrating on the (wing positions).”
Kennard seems to be slated to be the backup shooting guard and he could play some additional minutes in three-guard smaller lineups, as he did on Monday.
Bullock was second in the NBA in 3-point shooting (45 percent) last season but isn’t off to the same start in the preseason, going 5-of-14 and just 10-of-27 from the field.
Casey isn’t concerned about Bullock’s production.
“Not at all. I’m always concerned but I’m not going to go overly crazy,” Casey said. “Everybody thought we were crazy jacking up 3s in Toronto because they weren’t going in at first. It’s patience; guys have to have confidence in those shots.
“We have a number as far as 3s we want to get up. It’s just reading now what’s a good 3 and not a good 3. A dribble-in 3 in full-court is not a good 3. You’d better be white-hot to pull that. We have a good understanding of what our good 3s are and our bad 3s. We have to adjust to that — and we’re going to.”