News & Views: Pistons' Griffin will need some time to get back to form
Miami — The Pistons have been beset by injuries this season but got a boost with the return of Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose on Monday night. They’re still below .500 this season, but working two of their key players back into the lineup is a big development and will let some of the short-term starters get back to their more comfortable roles off the bench.
As they navigate the early part of their schedule, they’ll look to turn things around and fit the new pieces into the rotation and sort things out.
News & Views takes a look at some of the developments from the returns:
News: Blake Griffin made his season debut after missing the first 10 games because of knee and hamstring injuries.
Views: It’s going to be a process before Griffin is back in his regular playing routine and generating the same production. He had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday but naturally, he didn’t look anything like his All-NBA form from last season.
Coach Dwane Casey said that it will take some time before Griffin fits back into the scheme with his teammates, who played a different style in the games he missed. Griffin sat out Tuesday’s game at Miami, partly because of rest on a back-to-back and to get a gauge of how he’s going to handle ramping up his minutes.
It may take a few weeks to get his rhythm back and to catch up physically to where his teammates are on a conditioning scale. From a skills perspective, Griffin looked to know what he wanted to do, but was a step slow in executing a pass or getting to a spot. That will come, but the bigger concern is the players around him, such as Luke Kennard and Andre Drummond, who have to adjust the way they’ve been playing to get Griffin more comfortable with the ball in his hands.
For what it’s worth, Griffin said that last season, he was used in more of a scoring role and he might welcome having more of a facilitator role, but that would entail other players taking on bigger pieces of the scoring load themselves.
News: Derrick Rose and Griffin are on load-management routines that will keep them out of some games and on reduced minutes in others.
Views: In some ways, this isn’t news. This was the plan throughout the summer and entering the preseason. Griffin wasn’t playing like himself in the preseason, but Rose was playing at an All-Star level in the first few games of the regular season.
The Pistons’ training and medical staffs seem to be ultra-conservative in trying to ensure that both are near 100 percent for a potential playoff run. The problem is that there might not be a playoff run if the Pistons fall too far below .500. With their 4-7 start, they were somewhat fortunate without Griffin and a few more games without Rose and Reggie Jackson.
Rose has a hamstring injury, which can be a nagging injury throughout the season if it’s not cared for properly. It seems that the Pistons are being very careful to give it plenty of rest and to manage Rose’s minutes aggressively early in the season, to provide some relief and not have it extend too far into the season. The timing of Rose’s and Griffin’s injuries is less than ideal, but it’s better to happen now than in February or March.
News: Luke Kennard is almost doubling his career scoring average, with more than 18 points per game.
Views: It’s a big step forward for Kennard, who has moved into the starting lineup out of necessity because of injuries to Griffin, Rose and Jackson. It’s a higher usage for Kennard, against starting-level players, which is something of an adjustment for him, but he’s making the adjustment.
Kennard is shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers, with a variety of step-backs and catch-and-shoot shots that show the work he did to improve his game. From the eye test, Kennard looks better suited to play with the second unit alongside Rose, but until the rotation gets back to full strength, Casey has to lean on Kennard.
“Luke right now is playing at a very high level. He’s shooting the ball as well as anyone, off the dribble and spot-up,” Casey said. “He’s even put out there as a point guard, handling blitzes and handling pressure, which is good experience for him.”