Detroit — Reducing the number of back-to-back games in the regular-season schedule has been a focal point for the NBA in recent years, realizing the strain that it puts on players, with travel and physical recovery.
It affects the players and also leads to more instances of load management, which is a newer term in the NBA vernacular, with teams looking to rest some of their top veterans, saving them for later in the season.
How the schedule makers decided to put back-to-backs in the preseason still is a head-scratcher, but it’s how the Pistons will finish the five-game preseason slate this week, on Tuesday at Philadelphia and Wednesday at Charlotte.
On the bright side, they will have a full week off before opening the regular season Oct. 23 at Indiana but getting through the week still will present some questions, such as the last roster spot, likely a decision between Joe Johnson and Christian Wood. There are still some questions about how coach Dwane Casey will stack his rotation, but the two games this week are a final opportunity to make a good impression before things get real.
The main ones to watch are at the backup wing, with Langston Galloway, Svi Mykhailiuk and Johnson likely vying for minutes. At backup center, it looks to be a decision between Wood and Thon Maker — and Maker is getting every opportunity to show that he can play those minutes behind Andre Drummond.
The last two games won’t hold as much intrigue as those final two decisions but there are some other takeaways from the first week of the preseason. The Drive takes a look at some of the bright spots as the Pistons get set to finish the exhibition season.
► One way to get beyond the Johnson-Wood dilemma is to open a roster spot through a trade. The problem is that unlike various pumpkin spice products, trades are not plentiful in the fall. In the past decade, there have been about a dozen October deals, which makes a Pistons deal to open an extra spot on the roster tough, at best. A league source confirms that the Pistons have reached out to gauge interest, but it could just be general probing.
► The bench is much different than last season. Of course, it’ll have a steady dose of Luke Kennard, but it’ll also feature the big injection of Derrick Rose, who is leading the Pistons in scoring (14.3) in the preseason. Rose has heard “MVP!” chants but has deflected that hyperbolic welcome, citing his desire to win. That’ll be important for the reserves — and for the locker room as a whole — as they look to find a second gear with the second group.
► Andre Drummond and the rest of the Pistons took advantage of the team’s Tent Sale on Friday to find some gems among the storage in the warehouse. Some of the items included player-worn teal jerseys and shorts and warm-up jackets. Drummond decided to wear his out of the sale and throughout the day.
There’s a love-hate relationship between fans and those team jerseys, with the flaming “chess piece” horse head. Some would have them go away forever, a reminder of a time that many would like to forget. Drummond and Galloway — who found a Michael Curry No. 12 jersey — want to bring it back.
► While Reggie Jackson and Rose will have most of the minutes locked down at point guard, there still is a spot for Tim Frazier, who was added in the summer for depth. Frazier hit a couple of baskets in a critical stretch of Friday’s win over the Cavaliers that helped the decisive push. Casey said that it wasn’t a tough sell to get Frazier, who had been a starter and solid backup, in the past couple of years, but will be the Pistons’ third option.
► The early read on rookie Sekou Doumbouya is that he might not play a significant role in the rotation this season. The No. 15 pick was seen as a value after he slipped from his original lottery-projected slot to the Pistons. He doesn’t appear ready for big minutes just yet, but most in the organization are excited about his future as a versatile prospect who can play both forward positions.
Doumbouya has played sparingly in the preseason and as he learns to play a more rugged NBA style, he will get more comfortable and be able to take the ball with more power in the paint.