Detroit — This is the player Pistons coach Dwane Casey always thought Christian Wood was capable of being. This is why he went to the mat for him in training camp when the final roster spot came down to Wood and aging veteran Joe Johnson.
"Christian is a talent," Casey said Sunday after his backup center went on a career-best 28-point, 10-rebound rampage to lead the Pistons to a wire-to-wire 132-98 rout of the San Antonio Spurs at Little Caesars Arena.
Wood, Casey didn't have to say in so many words, is also an enigma who has drifted through five teams in five years and spent the 2017-2018 season dominating the G-League.
"There are nights when he does things like that and nights when he doesn't," Casey said. "He strung it together defensively. He strung it together offensively. He made good decisions, attacked the paint, attacked the rim and rebounded well.
"He's a talented young man when gets the thinking part of the game down."
The Pistons smartly picked up the 6-foot-10 Wood when he was cast aside by New Orleans last offseason as part of the roster purge following the trade of Anthony Davis to the Lakers last June.
And, since lobbying for him to make the squad, Casey has been on him hard, pushing to bring all that talent to the forefront.
"I'm trying to teach him and coach him," Casey said. "I went to the wall to make sure he was here. It's not about earning trust. It's about doing the right things and playing the right way, carrying himself the right way. If he'd been doing that he wouldn't have been with five different teams.
"He's an extremely talented young man and it's going to pay off for him."
Wood hit 11 of 14 shots, including two of three 3-point tries and was a plus-32 in 22 minutes of work. He and Derrick Rose helped push the Pistons to a 15-point lead in the second quarter, and then Wood's 10-point burst at the end of the third put the Pistons up 25.
"I think I got comfortable in that second quarter and Coach Casey was letting me play a little more," Wood said. "I think that helped me a little bit."
Asked put this performance in perspective, it was suggested that Wood wouldn't be expected to score 28 every night.
"But I can," Wood said. "It's just coming out with energy, knowing the offensive sets, knowing the defensive sets and not having defensive lapses. I think I am starting to do better in areas like that.
"As time goes on and I keep playing, I'll get better."
With Rose pushing the tempo and drawing multiple defenders, the Pistons bench outscored the Spurs' reserves 75-46. Rose finished with 10 points and 10 assists. Svi Mykhailiuk had 13 points and Markieff Morris added 10.
"When D. Rose gets going downhill like that, it's hard to stop him," Wood said. "He brings a lot of attention, especially when he's going downhill like that. He takes the pressure with him and leaves others open.
"And he's going to do a good job finding guys."
Casey called Rose an engine.
"His energy, his juice, the way he attacks the paint — I don't know if anybody since he's been in the league can keep him out of the lane if he wants to go there," he said. "He's still learning his teammates and his teammates are still learning him.
"I'm glad he's on our team. His spirit and heart are in the right place."
Wood, who has moved past Thon Maker as Andre Drummond's backup, was asked the difference between his approach to the game now and the past four years.
"It's a big difference," Wood said. "I would start with maturity and I would start with the different coaches. Everything is different. Coach Casey is hard on me, but it's tough love.
"When I have a good game like this, that's because of him."