Detroit — Dwane Casey is prepared to play with the players he has. Blake Griffin is not walking through that door — at least not yet — so fretting about which players he doesn’t have available isn’t quite Casey’s style.
Instead, he wonders how he can get more reps for Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown or how to run a play more efficiently, without it blowing up into a live-ball turnover that the opponent is taking the other way for an easy basket.
The rash of injuries has hit hard, with two starts for Reggie Jackson, none for Blake Griffin and sparkplug Derrick Rose has sidelined with hamstring issues.
The Pistons (3-5) hit another long week with a home game against the Knicks on Wednesday, along with a road game Saturday versus the Pacers.
This week’s Mail Satchel looks at how the Pistons can navigate the schedule with their myriad injuries:
►Question: Looking back, did the Pistons make the right move by replacing Stanley with Thon? — @shamshammgod
►Answer: By all accounts, the time with Stanley Johnson had run its course, which led to the trade Feb. 7. Johnson was on the final year of his contract and the writing was on the wall that there wasn’t a future for him in Detroit. Most of the decision was logistical and financial.
They had a need for another big man and with Thon Maker still on his rookie deal, the Pistons had a low-cost opportunity to see if he might be a good fit on the roster this season. Through the first eight games, Maker has scuffled on both ends of the court, averaging just 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds and looking lost on defense.
Johnson hasn’t fared much better, playing in only two games with Toronto, where he signed a two-year deal for $7.4 million. He’s posting 2.5 points and 2 rebounds and has played only 10 minutes total in their first six games. Defensively, I would say that Johnson is better defensively but after four seasons with the Pistons, they had assessed where his ceiling might be and moved in a different direction to gauge Maker’s ceiling.
The only other option would have been to let Johnson’s contract expire and get nothing for him, which would have provided some minimal additional cap space, but would they have been able to find a veteran-minimum salary instead? Maybe. They had no indication that Christian Wood or Joe Johnson would be available — and that might have been a different roster decision at the end of training camp.
►Q: Are you still sound on your belief that Reggie will not be a Piston at the end of the season? — @TimForkinTV
►A: I don’t know what to make of the Reggie Jackson situation. Injuries always complicate situations and with the stress injury in his lumbar area, Jackson is expected to be sidelined for at least four weeks. He’s played in only two games this season and didn’t look like himself in the preseason or in those first two outings.
Jackson’s play at point guard is one of the most important elements to the Pistons’ offense, paired with Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Last season, his production down the stretch was one of the reasons they were able to make the playoffs.
Part of the thought that he would be traded was the front office’s willingness to part with expiring contracts. The only caveat there was that they valued his shooting ability and stability as a point guard and wouldn’t part with that as long as they’re in playoff contention. If not, they could move his salary and look to go in a different direction. After the injury, he has less trade value, so I’ll go with the notion that he’ll stick around.
►Q: Why does Khyri not play and why is Casey so critical of Christian when Thon literally just occupies space on the court? — @JonBarrySZN
►A: From the rotations that we’ve seen, the order among the shooting wings seems to be Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Svi Mykhailiuk and Khyri Thomas. It’s not that Thomas is doing anything wrong, but that’s just the order of things right now. Entering training camp last year, I would guess that Thomas’ injury last season gave Bruce Brown an opportunity to move ahead and Brown has taken full advantage of that chance, parlaying it into a starting role.
Casey has been critical of Christian Wood. And Maker. And almost everyone on that bench. And some starters. There’s doesn’t seem to be much distinguishing when the errors are made. The ones with Wood stick out because Wood is the one Casey is least familiar with. He makes some mistakes, but he makes more solid plays also and that’s where Maker doesn’t shine as much.
►Q: How can I not go crazy this season with all the injuries already? — @maashirma
►A: Just checking — this isn’t Dwane Casey’s burner account, is it? Through the first eight games, the Pistons have had to put together a starting lineup with popsicle sticks and school glue. Without Jackson and Griffin, it’s been a struggle to get offensive continuity and have a hub to run things through.
It’s meant more minutes in the starting group for Markieff Morris and Kennard and more critical minutes for Mykhailiuk, Galloway and others. The results have been mixed but Casey would love to get to the point where he has Griffin and Rose back and see what happens there.
Knicks at Pistons
Tipoff: 7 Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit