Orlando, Fla. — Soon after Glenn Robinson III signed with the Pistons as a free agent, the speculation began as to whether he’d contend for the starting role that Stanley Johnson seemed to have cemented.
A sluggish start and some poor shooting have hastened the change, with Robinson getting his first start on Monday against the Heat. He responded with 16 points and gave the starting group a new look with his athleticism and knack for attacking the basket.
Robinson said it wasn’t a big adjustment to go from playing with the second group to getting more minutes with Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, who get the majority of the touches when they’re in the game.
“It’s most important to me in that starting group to know we want to get the ball in to Andre and Blake — they’ve been doing a great job all season with that,” Robinson said Wednesday. “The most important thing is my ability to run and help them out on the defensive end and be able to shoot.
“Gaining that chemistry with that first unit will work out.”
The switch didn’t result in a victory against the Heat, but the eye test showed some improvement in the offensive flow and the defense had to pay more attention to Robinson, who is more of an offensive threat than Johnson.
The Pistons got another boost, with the return of shooting guard Reggie Bullock, who missed the previous two games because of a sprained ankle. With Bullock and Robinson, the Pistons might have their most balanced wing group, with the ability to hit 40 percent on 3-pointers, attack the rim with off-ball cuts and steady defense.
“They’re two mature, veteran players who understand what we’re doing,” coach Dwane Casey said.
Casey maintained that the change wasn’t as much about anything that Johnson did wrong. Rather, Casey was looking to shake up the starting group and get out of the scoring lulls that have plagued them in the early part of the season.
With both Bullock and Robinson, the Pistons may have their best offensive combination.
“Glenn is one of those guys who doesn’t hurt you in any way. His ceiling is high when he’s on the basketball court,” Griffin said. “He can be scoring in a lot of different ways. His mid-range game is probably his most comfortable shot, just playing with him for the last couple months.
“He can knock down a 3 and get to the rim. Any time you have a guy who’s a threat like that, it keeps defenses guessing a little bit.”
Rookie Bruce Brown Jr. had started a couple games but also struggled to get into any offensive groove. Going back with the reserves, he can focus on improving gradually and taking on smaller spurts of minutes.
“It’s tough on a guy like Bruce Brown to come in and make an impact,” Casey said. “What he does is great for us. His defense is very solid, but our slow starts are something we have to really keep an eye on because we’re digging ourselves a hole.
“I watched all the games from last year and it’s a playing personality we have to break because it puts too much pressure on us to dig out of a hole every game.”
The Pistons have had notable struggles in their 3-point shooting to start the season. Opponents are noticing as well, working to double-team Griffin, get the ball out of his hands and almost daring the other Pistons to take the longer shots.
They rank 29th in the league, at 30.6 percent from beyond the arc, but Casey remains confident that they’ll make the shots if they stay committed to their principles.
“If I’m them, I would too. At some point, they’re going to start falling. We have to continue to concentrate on them and take them when they’re there,” Casey said. “Teams are already doing it; they’re already packing it in. Blake has two or three guys in his lap and we have to make sure we space the floor, get to our spots and make sure we’re ready to shoot when the ball does come out.”