Detroit — The hits just keep coming.
Already reeling from a spate of injuries this season that have contributed to a disappointing start to the season, the Pistons got another shot of bad news. The team announced Thursday that Luke Kennard will miss at least the next two weeks because of bilateral knee tendinitis.
In the midst of his best season, Kennard is posting career highs of 15.8 points, 4.1 assists and 32.9 minutes per game but has been struggling recently, missing three of the last four games because of the knee issues.
“It’s disappointing but they’re not going to cancel the schedule. We have to respond and that's the key,” coach Dwane Casey said Thursday. “For guys like Langston Galloway, Tony (Snell) and Svi (Mykhailiuk), all those guys, it’s an opportunity.
“The thing is we have had so many (injuries) but again we have to respond, and the opportunities are there for whoever. The next-man-up mentality is going to be a mantra, it seems like this year.”
Kennard has moved into a starting role and has been one of the Pistons’ primary scorers, picking up some of the slack because of lengthy injuries to Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson. The knee injuries are a continuation of issues that Kennard had his rookie season and have been recurring through his three-year career.
With the Pistons’ season trending downward, the latest injury news is a disappointing gut punch as the Pistons were looking to turn around their five-game skid.
“When it was going on, it's like, what am I doing? I feel like I was kind of hurting the team, not being able to be myself, so it’s frustrating to sit out to not be out there,” Kennard said. “So, that's the frustrating part but, again, I'm looking forward to just getting get my body right making sure I'm 100 percent ready to go.”
Kennard said the pain is in both knees and it’s worsened with each cut or when he jumps and lands. The plan is for Kennard to continue treatment and to be re-evaluated on Jan. 7, meaning he’ll miss all of the six-game swing that begins on Saturday in San Antonio and continues with the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers before finishing at the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With Kennard’s absence, there will be some extra playing time to go around. That could mean more opportunity for Mykhailiuk, who has stepped into the role and played well.
Mykhailiuk, specifically, who had 13 points against the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, has shown some improvement as he’s gotten more minutes. The offensive development is coming but defensively, Mykhailiuk also is making some strides.
“He’s more conscientious of the little things, like staying connected, staying into his man, being more physical using the size as much as anything,” Casey said. “He’s being more conscious on the defensive end, just understanding where he’s supposed to be, who he’s guarding and what his tendencies are.
“I think before he was just more concerned about his shooting, but now he’s really improved in his attention to detail and how physical he can be with his size and strength.”
Casey didn’t commit to a full-time replacement but suggested that they’ll spread the minutes around to several players and lean more on whichever player is excelling during those stretches.
“Whoever’s getting the job done — it doesn't matter who it is. That's where we are right now," Casey said. "When you lose five games in a row, it’s who's playing hard, who’s producing and who’s getting the job done."