Washington, D.C. — The Pistons didn’t get any better news on the injury front Monday. Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose and Reggie Jackson didn’t travel with the team and the outlook on Tim Frazier, who missed Saturday’s game because of a right shoulder strain, didn’t improve either.
That limited that Pistons’ reserve group and pushed Bruce Brown back into duty as the starting point guard. After a successful first outing against the Nets’ Kyrie Irving, Brown had another tough task, guarding the Wizards’ Bradley Beal and Isaiah Thomas, who present completely different skill sets for him to defend.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey was impressed with Brown’s debut at point guard and though it was out of necessity, there was some foresight that it might be a good fit for him if the need ever arose because of injuries.
“He’s a smart player, he handles the ball well and passes well. He has those instincts,” Casey said before Monday’s game at Capital One Center. “That’s one reason we had him in Summer League, not knowing this year would be the year we would need him because we have three point guards, but that was a good experience and foresight for our group to have him play in Summer League to get that experience.
“He’s such an instinctual player and knows the game; he’s smart and knows the other teams and all our sets and he has the ability to transfer that to point guard.”
With the ball in his hands, Brown can attack the defense and not have to settle for jump shots because that’s where the ball goes to him in certain situations. At 6-foot-5, Brown can use his size and strength against smaller defending point guards.
Adding Brown back to the starting lineup allows the Pistons to have their best perimeter defender back on the floor against the opposing team’s best perimeter option, as Brown was Saturday against the Nets and Monday against Beal and Thomas.
Griffin is set to be re-examined this week and could return if all of his tests are clear and he’s not experiencing pain.
Rookie Jordan Bone, a second-round pick from Tennessee on a two-way contract, is with the team for the short term, just giving them another option at point guard, if needed.
Bone played well in Summer League and is likely slated for more time in the G-League than with the Pistons this season, but Casey cautions that Bone has to be prepared to play, just as Brown was.
“It’s everybody be ready, whether it’s Khyri (Thomas) or Jordan (Bone), they have to be ready to play. We’re three or four guys down and no matter what position it is, everybody has to be ready to play,” Casey said. “Those other guys are ahead of him at being a point guard. That’s his next step: learning how to set people up.
“One-on-one, his speed and quickness are off the charts, but he has to learn how to bring it down against pressure, initiate the offense and that’s where they’re ahead of him. He’ll get that in time and learn how to utilize his speed.”
Morris fills in
While Griffin has been out, Markieff Morris has held down the starting spot at power forward well, with 11.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. That’s the boost they’ve needed to bide time until Griffin can bring back some more of the scoring punch.
“It’s huge. Kieff has done a heck of a job filing in for Blake. You’re not going to replace a guy like Blake, but doing some of the similar things like screening, handling the ball, making decisions and passing,” Casey said. “All those things are things he’s done well and he just knows how to play. He’s very smart, savvy and one of our toughest guys. That won’t change when Blake comes back.”