Detroit — During a timeout in the third quarter of the Pistons’ blowout win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, rookie Sekou Doumbouya stood on the edge of the huddle, watching and waiting.
The Pistons were comfortably ahead by double digits and coach Dwane Casey was addressing the team. The rookie still had his warm-ups on but there wasn’t a signal from Casey or one of the assistant coaches that it was time for Doumbouya to enter the game yet.
The basketball game has turned into a waiting game for the 18-year-old rookie, the Pistons’ first-round draft pick. He’s shown his game with the Grand Rapids Drive in the Gatorade League, to the tune of 16.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and a noteworthy 39% on 3-pointers.
The NBA game is different from the G-League.
The French would say, “Il n’est pas prêt.”
The impatient Pistons fans are bellowing, “Play the rookie!”
After scoring his first NBA points on Sunday against the Spurs, Doumbouya went 1-of-3 in four minutes against the Cavaliers. It’s a patient approach that Casey used with Raptors All-Star Pascal Siakam and others in Toronto and one that will take some time with the Pistons.
Doumbouya, a 6-foot-8 rookie from Guinea, has played professionally in France, but he’s not ready for big minutes in the NBA. He’s played in bite-sized stints of three or four minutes, just to get his feet wet in the shallow end of the pool, acclimating to the speed and strength of his opponents.
Casey didn’t throw second-year wing Svi Mykhailiuk into the deep end last season and now, with some seasoning, that patience is paying off with some consistent and steady play.
After almost a week with the Pistons, Doumbouya was reassigned to the Drive on Thursday.
News & Views takes a look at some other developments with the Pistons in the first quarter of the season.
News: Guard Langston Galloway is averaging a career-high 12.6 points, four points above his career average.
Views: Galloway has been one of the Pistons’ best players this season. That’s not a misprint. Galloway, who was almost a forgotten entity, has emerged as one of their best shooters — hitting 44 percent on 3-pointers — and a solid defender. He’s even started six games and averaged 28 minutes, the second-highest mark of his career.
Although Galloway, who turns 28 on Monday, is in the final year of his three-year contract, worth $21 million, he’s proven valuable in Casey’s offense. He’s a positive locker-room presence and would be an asset in a potential rebuild.
The balance to that is that the better he plays, the bigger an asset he becomes in a potential trade before the February deadline. The current Pistons front office has shown an inclination toward cashing in its expiring contracts, but Galloway could be a different case, unless he can bring a late-first-round pick or better.
If the Pistons choose to re-sign Galloway, is it out of the question to consider three years and $15 million? On the open market, a knock-down shooter with Galloway’s skill set could be much more expensive. It’s not a burning question right now, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
News: The Pistons lead the league in 3-point shooting, at 39.5 percent.
Views: After some initial hiccups, they’re realizing the impact of Casey’s offensive system that accentuates space and open shots. Last season, those shots weren’t falling, but this year — even without Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose for extended periods, they’ve been able to find ways to get shots. The problem is that those 3-point makes haven’t directly led to wins.
They have to play smarter and more cohesively. They’re not going to beat the Bucks regularly, but the three losses to the Charlotte Hornets and two to the Chicago Bulls could come back to haunt them later in the season.
The Pistons have three players in the top 16 in the NBA in 3-point shooting: Mykhailiuk (10th, 44.8 percent), Tony Snell (14th, 44.3 percent) and Galloway (16th, 44.1 percent). With Griffin back closer to full strength, those numbers could go up for those who benefit from his being double-teamed.
Pacers at Pistons
Tip-off: 7 Friday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The head-to-head season series wraps up, as the Pistons (8-14) try to win for the third time in four meetings. After a slow start, the Pacers (14-7) have won seven of their last eight.