East Lansing — The Pistons punctuated their week of training camp at Breslin Center with an intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.
While it wasn’t a high-stakes, winner-take-all atmosphere in the scrimmage — Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond played in sweatpants — it was the first glimpse at the revamped roster and how some of the rotation could piece together.
Coach Dwane Casey cautioned Friday not to take too much of anything from the starting lineups or rotation, but it was a predictable starting unit based on last season: Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Tony Snell, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond for the Blue Team and Tim Frazier, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard, Markieff Morris and Thon Maker for the White Team.
The White team won, 58-54, led by Svi Mykhailiuk’s 14 points off the bench and 11 points from Morris. Reggie Jackson had 14 points for the Blue Team.
There were plenty of turnovers and sloppy play, indicative of a scrimmage and the fear of injuries or overworking. Here are some observations from the scrimmage, which had 15-minute halves with a running clock — and yes, keep in mind it was only a scrimmage:
► Derrick Rose likely will provide a big boost for the roster, not just the second unit. He still has the explosiveness to impact a game and he could be one of the closers in the fourth quarter when the season starts. He only had a couple of baskets in the scrimmage — notably, a nice drive and lefty finish, plus a floater in the lane — that shows how effective he can be. What was clear was that he attacks the basket differently than Ish Smith, and having another pick-and-roll threat, combined with Rose’s passing ability, will make defenses react differently.
► Markieff Morris might end up being the Pistons’ most underrated pickup. After some injury issues last season, Morris is back to good health. He had three 3-pointers, and if he provides the inside-outside threat that he showed on Saturday, he could be a boost to the second group.
“Markieff played very well today and he’s a security blanket in that he can play with Blake or behind Blake,” Casey said. “He’s shooting the ball very well and that’s something that has come around for him.”
Casey has lauded Morris’ ability to play either backup center or as a power forward. The Pistons haven’t had a 3-point threat like Morris in the center spot and his toughness around the rim could make him a formidable big man to defend and a go-to-guy in the second group.
► Bruce Brown was in the starting lineup, which seems to be the direction that things will go when the regular season begins on Oct. 23. He provides another defensive stalwart alongside Snell, and if he can be a league-average 3-point shooter, Brown will be fine with the first unit. He had some good matchups defending Kennard, and on offense he had a couple baskets. He looks to be more comfortable with the first group, and if he can facilitate and create shots for others, he’ll get to increase his playing time.
► Drummond had 10 points Saturday, including a highlight-reel dunk off a lob feed from Griffin for an alley-oop. He also had a dunk in transition off a pass from Rose and added a 3-pointer, which is a part of his game he’d like to extend. The Pistons have said they want to utilize Drummond more on the perimeter as a passer and creator, which could be a benefit. Drummond likely is going to have a similar statistical season as his past few have been, but the more efficient he can be with his shot selection, the more likely he is to float up to become a possible All-Star again.
► Mykhailiuk will vie for some playing time. He’s been mired in the same group with Galloway, Khyri Thomas and others in the second group. But his size, athleticism and playmaking could vault him to more minutes. He’s diversified his game, hitting a few 3-pointers on Saturday, including a long heave before halftime. It’s showing how much he’s worked in the summer to become a better scorer and facilitator. Defense could be another differentiating factor.
“He’s handling the ball and defending his position and using his body and making shots,” Casey said. “That’s who he is and wants to hang his hat on that. That’s most important thing and getting his confidence.”
Pistons vs. Magic
Tipoff: 7 Monday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Pistons open the preseason with the first of three straight home games this week. Coach Dwane Casey said the starters will play limited minutes and he wants to get a good look at the young players to assess how he’ll structure the playing groups and rotations.