Keeping the faith: Robinson III out to show he's a good fit for Pistons despite slow start

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Glenn Robinson III

Auburn Hills – Getting there.

Slowly but surely, Glenn Robinson III, the former Michigan star whom the Pistons signed to a two-year, $8.3 million contract over the summer, is finding his footing in Dwane Casey’s offensive system.

“It has taken some time to get back and get adjusted to everything – the speed of the game,” Robinson said after the Pistons' shoot-around Monday. “Guys are coming off a full season and I missed a lot of time. I know there are some shots that aren’t falling right now that I normally knock down – especially those corner threes.

“Just got to keep the faith.”

It’s been 13 months since two torn ligaments in his left ankle and subsequent surgery stalled Robinson’s budding NBA career.

More: Former Detroit mayor Dave Bing talks big picture with Pistons

His supposed breakout season – and a contract drive with the Pacers last year – was reduced to 23 regular-season games and two mop-up appearances in the postseason. He didn’t exactly hit the ground running with the Pistons, either.

It took him eight games to break into the starting lineup and he’s still searching for his niche. Though he starts, he’s averaging just 17 minutes and five shots a game. Stanley Johnson is still playing a larger role at the small forward spot, coming off the bench.

“It’s different,” said Robinson, who helped the Wolverines get to the NCAA title game as a freshman in 2013. “Blake (Griffin) and Dre (Andre Drummond) are getting most of the post touches and post reads. My cutting and running are the things that I have to excel at with this group.

“Kick-out threes, that’s where my points are going to come from. I am starting to get a feel for that. I am just excited for when I really get rolling and start knocking those shots down, to see how much fun that starting unit can be.”

Shooting guard Reggie Bullock has had a taste of that. He’s recently started to get and hit open 3-pointers, created by opposing defenses sending help on Griffin, Drummond and Reggie Jackson. That triumvirate has produced more than half the Pistons’ offense through 13 games.

Casey believes Robinson, as soon as he fully launches, could add another dimension to an offense that ranks 16th in the NBA in points (109.8) and last in field-goal percentage (42.8) and 3-point shooting (31.3 percent).

“He’s a good fit for that starting unit,” Casey said. “He’s kind of a glue guy, does a little bit of everything. He defends. He spaces the floor. He’s a better fit. I’m not saying Stanley didn’t do a good job starting. It’s just Glenn is a better fit.

“I’ve been very pleased with the way Glenn has played, defensively and offensively.”

Johnson has meshed well with point guard Ish Smith on the second unit – with its faster-pace and more open-floor style of play.

“I know we have two All-Stars on that starting unit, with Reggie Jackson,” Robinson said. “Once we all get rolling, it’s going to be fun. Right now, it seems like when the first unit is doing OK, the second unit drags. And when the second unit is rolling, the first unit drags.

“When we both get going, it’s going to be something to watch. That’s the exciting part of this season. We have so many parts – just have to continue to grow.”

Robinson has put the ankle injury in the archives. He said he has no physical limitations and it’s no longer something he even thinks about when he’s on the court. He knows his game isn’t where it was before the injury, but he’s patient enough to understand that he can’t make up for a lost year in two months.

“I’ve been in the gym like crazy, getting up reps,” he said. “That’s all it is. Timing, rhythm, speed of the game. I’m not too worried about that. But I do understand, I am still searching for me and doing everything I can.

“I think they have faith and confidence in me enough to start me. I just want to continue to build, get more minutes, more playing time, more reps. I am excited for that. Just coming into practice every day and competing, that’s the biggest thing.”

No pitch count

Griffin was averaging 35.6 minutes per game coming into play Monday, eighth most in the NBA. Casey made it clear he was paying close attention to Griffin's work load, but in no way was he putting him on a pitch count.

"I don't want to say there is a certain number of minutes we're looking at per game or anything like that," Casey said. "I am very aware and cognizant of his usage and his workload. We just want to make sure we are as responsible as possible.

"But at the same time, you can't go into a game thinking you are only going to play Blake a certain number of minutes."

Slam dunks

Forward Henry Ellenson was on the court before the game getting accustomed to his new facial mask. Ellenson broke his nose on Saturday, playing a G-League game in Grand Rapids. "He's going to have to see a specialist," Casey said. "Then we will decide which way we to go. But he's going to be down for a bit."

... Shooting guard Luke Kennard (right shoulder sprain) still hasn't been cleared for contact or full basketball workouts. "He's coming along," Casey said. "He's taking shots and running a little bit. He's still having fun hanging out with the coaches."

... Rookie point guard Khyri Thomas played a career-high 7 minutes, 40 seconds Monday. It was just the second game he's played in this season. "Just trying to get a look at him," Casey said. "These young kids are going to be the future of this team." Thomas had a rebound and an assist and was a minus-9.

Twitter: @cmccosky