Detroit — After Christian Wood made a big impression on the court, Pistons coach Dwane Casey made a point off the court. Casey wanted to acknowledge the impact of Wood’s performance on Monday night, with 19 points and 12 rebounds in the Pistons’ 96-94 win over the Indiana Pacers.
In the victorious locker room, Wood held up his prize — the game ball, presented by Casey. It’s a new postgame custom that Casey is instituting this season, looking to highlight the difference-maker in each game, beginning with Luke Kennard’s career-best 30-point performance in the season opener.
“We did it first game for Luke. We started that this year, for game balls — when we win,” Casey said. “Wood contributed to winning.”
After a good preseason, Wood played just four minutes in the opener and didn’t play at all in the second game. He rebounded with 11 points in 19 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday and had a breakout game Monday, tying his career-high with 12 rebounds.
“It’s a step in the right direction for him; he has the ability to do that. The key thing is consistency, to not just be satisfied with last night,” Casey said. “What about tomorrow, Friday and Saturday? Building on that step by step — that’s what he’s looking for in his career and us within the organization.”
It’s a valid point. Wood (6-foot-10) bounced around among four teams in three seasons, before the Pistons snagged him off waivers in the offseason. He won the last roster spot heading into the season, but his eight points in the third quarter Monday were a revelation to his inside-outside presence and his ability to be a contributor on both ends of the court.
Although he played just two minutes in the fourth quarter, Wood was happy with the progression he made in earning more consistent minutes through the course of the game.
“It’s all about opportunities and I keep saying once the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to do the best I can to take advantage of that,” Wood said Monday. “Once I started to get in a rhythm and coach got more comfortable with me on the floor, saw how the game was going and how I could help the team pull out the game, he gave me a little more time.”
Wood was 8-of-10 from the field, making all three of his 3-pointers, and added three offensive rebounds and a block. He helped himself earn more minutes, but Casey cautions that Wood is effective in some matchups but others — such as against the Pacers’ Domantas Sabonis — weren’t as favorable.
For Wood, the next step is about establishing a record of consistency and showing that he can carry performances like Monday’s into longer stretches.
“It’s always great when you see someone different have a breakout game for themselves,” guard Langston Galloway said. “It comes down to having a new staff and you have to gain that trust — and it takes time. When you go through that learning curve and find that niche, you try to see where you fit in and go from there.”
Wood had 19 points and tied his career high with 12 rebounds Monday night. The Detroit News
Reggie Jackson has missed the last two games because of lower-back tightness and from all indications, he could be out for a bit longer. After playing all 82 games last season, Jackson again has been slowed by the injury, which has pushed Tim Frazier into the starting lineup while he heals.
“I would say he’s doubtful for (Wednesday) because it’s still sore and his doctors are still trying to figure out the best way of treating it and the amount of rest he needs,” Casey said. “I’m not going into the medical readings, but tests were done and there was nothing over alarming.”
Blake Griffin, who hasn’t played in the regular season, continues to get closer to returning as well. He worked with trainers and did some light shooting work after practice, but he’s still not ready to play during the two-game road trip against the Raptors and Bulls, and likely through next week.
No ill will
Last season, Casey coached his first game back in Toronto since he won coach of the year and was subsequently fired. Wednesday marks his first return since the Raptors won the NBA title, which evoked questions about how Casey feels about many of the players he coached reaching the pinnacle.
“Toronto is always going to be a special place. It’s where we went from the bottom and got to where they were in a position to win a championship,” he said. “They added pieces in (Kawhi) Leonard and (Danny) Green and took off, and I’m excited and proud for the fans, organization, coaching staff.
“Everybody’s making a big deal out of them winning, but I’m excited for the fans and staff. Everybody’s making a deal out of nothing and life goes on. We’re here to do the job in Detroit. Toronto won the championship and accomplished what they wanted to accomplish, but we’re trying to do that here.”
Pistons at Raptors
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
Outlook: The Pistons (2-2) likely will be without two starters, as Blake Griffin (knee/hamstring soreness) and Reggie Jackson (lower-back tightness) continue to recover. The Raptors (3-1) have won two straight.