Auburn Hills — Luke Kennard is ready for action — in Grand Rapids.
The Pistons assigned the second-year guard on Thursday for a rehab start with the Drive in the G-League on Friday, which is a sign that Kennard is closer to getting back in playing shape. Kennard has missed the last 15 games because of a right-shoulder strain and last played on Oct. 25 against the Cavaliers.
“That’s the great thing about our G-League affiliate in Grand Rapids, that we can send guys there,” coach Dwane Casey said Friday.
“It’s not a putdown; it’s a great place to go work on your craft, your conditioning, your defense and the overall speed of the game.
“When you’ve been off as long as he has, the No. 1 thing you have to be ready for is the speed of the game.
“Going down there, that’s what we expect him to get a feel for: get bumped, get hit and the speed of how guys are running down the floor, versus a rehab workout here.”
Casey compared a rehab game with the Drive to a baseball player going to the minor leagues for a short stint, to get back into playing shape, instead of just diving back in and trying to play at an optimal level immediately.
It’s unclear how long Kennard might remain with the Drive, but Friday’s game against Lakeland was the first foray, with the potential for another on Sunday against the Raptors 905 in Toronto.
“I don’t think it’s going to be for a long period of time, maybe one or two games,” Casey said early Friday.
“It depends on how he comes out (Friday).”
Casey later hinted that Kennard could be ready to return for Saturday’s showdown with the Pistons against the Golden State Warriors in Detroit.
Kennard had an encouraging showing: 27 points, five rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes in the Drive’s 119-95 loss.
He shot 5-of-8 on 3-pointers and that could mean a return trip, at least to be on the bench and active to play on Saturday.
Kennard’s pending return is a relief for the Pistons, who have struggled with their 3-point shooting, ranking 26th in the league, at 32.6 percent.
Kennard’s absence has given way to more playing time for rookie Bruce Brown and Langston Galloway, allowing Casey to expand the rotation and get more playing time for others.
Ahead of tonight’s big game against the Warriors, the Pistons had the front end of their back-to-back with the Bulls, in what looked to be a trap game. The Pistons let their big lead wither to single digits but pulled out the victory.
Casey wasn’t going to allow his players to look past the struggling Bulls and potentially give a poor effort.
It’s a one-game-at-a-time mentality.
“(Friday) is the big game. I haven’t even thought about Golden State,” Casey said Friday. “I know it’s hard and I watched them on television.
“The most important game is the game in front of us.”
It’s a winning mentality that Casey is trying to build with his own identity stamp and gearing the Pistons to change their culture, just as Casey did in Toronto with the Raptors, in surging from a fringe team to one of the top franchises in the Eastern Conference.
“We have no right to overlook anybody. (The Bulls game) is the most important game on our schedule — then you think about the next game,” Casey said. “We have to establish that mindset and not look past the next quarter or next possession.”
Warriors at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Pistons (12-7) are on the second game of a back-to-back after beating the Bulls on Friday night. ... The Warriors (15-8) make their only appearance in Detroit this season, with Steph Curry (left groin strain) returning after missing the last 11 games.