Christian Wood makes his case for spot on Pistons' roster: 'I played for keeps'

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — Going by the eye test, there isn’t much debate. Looking at the box scores, there isn’t a comparison.

Roster decisions don’t always come down to the tangible results; sometimes, it’s about financial implications or veterans versus young players. Those who have control over player personnel have myriad reasons for why the final roster of 15 is what it is.

Christian Wood, 24, averaged 17 minutes and posted 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds and was 2-of-5 on 3-pointers in the preseason for the Pistons.

By most accounts, Christian Wood should be part of the Pistons’ opening-night roster. It’s as apparent as anything through the training camp and the five-game preseason and could prove to be one of their most shrewd pickups, grabbing him off the waiver wire to fill needed frontcourt depth.

Wood, 24, averaged 17 minutes and posted 13.2 points and 7.2 rebounds and was 2-of-5 on 3-pointers in the preseason. He was noticeably active around the rim in each game and showcased his perimeter skill set that fits well behind Andre Drummond as a versatile option at backup center.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported Sunday that the Pistons were planning to retain Wood on the roster, but there are still some loose ends to tie up before that can happen.

“Detroit Pistons intend to award forward Christian Wood with a regular-season roster spot for his strong preseason play, but the organization has some roster maneuvering to do,” Haynes posted on Twitter, citing unnamed league sources.

It’s been a whirlwind preseason for Wood, who was vying with Joe Johnson for the final roster spot, but the desire to have Johnson’s veteran presence on the roster could mean a trade ahead of finalizing the season-opening roster on Tuesday.

In the final days before the final decision, Wood was relaxed, not worrying about whether he’d make the Pistons roster; rather, he was confident that he had done all that he could to showcase himself for coach Dwane Casey.

“I wouldn’t say nervous — well, a little (bit of) nerves. I feel like I played for keeps,” Wood said. “I felt like I showed Casey everything he needed to see — and then some more. I did everything at 110 percent and whatever decision they make, I’m going to be happy with it, because I know I played hard.

“I showed my versatility and the way I play defense. I can put the ball on the floor, be a stretch (center) for any team and I did a great job.”

At 6-foot-10, 215 pounds, Wood fills a need for the Pistons, as a potential full-time backup center. He’s never had as big an opportunity, never having played more than 21 games in his three previous NBA seasons.

What looked to be a one-on-one competition between Wood and Johnson now seems to be a quandary for the Pistons’ front office. They like what Johnson brings, but with 14 guaranteed contracts and only Johnson and Wood on nonguaranteed deals, it appears that the Pistons are pursuing a trade to open another roster spot, looking to retain both of them.

“It’s a group decision. Our front office is here every day in practice. Everybody gives their opinions of what they want,” Casey said. “There are finances involved in some situations, and I don’t want control of that. It’s a collaborative decision when we decide who we’re going to keep and let go. It’s a tough decision because we have so many players who have played well.”

Casey said the final deliberations aren’t coming down to performance on the court during the preseason, because of the minutes restrictions and deeper benches. He saw enough from Wood, though and was impressed with the versatile skill set he brings.

Wood said he was happy with his showing and gave the Pistons something they didn’t expect in the preseason. Casey has exhorted Wood to shoot whenever he’s open, something that’s been a bit unique for a younger player on a veteran roster.

“It was a little weird for me, coming in here and being undrafted, having a guy like Coach Casey, who’s been to the playoffs numerous times — and him telling me as a young guy to be ready to shoot and getting the green light is a great opportunity and I’m going to keep shooting,” Wood said.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard