Los Angeles — To be sure, the top storyline from Thursday’s Pistons loss to the Los Angeles Clippers was rookie Sekou Doumbouya getting his first career start. Doumbouya posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds and made some rookie mistakes but gave a glimpse of what his game can be.
Beyond that, though, was a look at a young nucleus that could be intriguing if the Pistons decide to venture down the path of rebuilding and playing their young guys. Bruce Brown was patient and effective as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, with a team-high 15 points.
Christian Wood showed an inside-outside game that could be a staple if the Pistons move on from Andre Drummond with trade talks brewing between several teams, notably the Atlanta Hawks.
Brown had been a starter for much of the season, after Reggie Jackson’s back injury sidelined him for the past 33 games. The results were up and down, but he’s settling into a new role as a defensive stopper and offensive option in the second unit.
“He did a much better job of waiting for the screen. Bruce had a habit of taking off before screens were set and the bigs were saying they can’t set a screen,” Casey said. “He did a good job of being patient. Playing with the second unit has relaxed him some and playing with a little more relaxation and not worrying about as much as he did with the first unit.
“Throwing him at point guard is a big move and I love the way he’s improving; every game he’s doing something better and he’s going to be a much better point guard in the future from this experience this year.”
Brown, in his second season, is showing that he was a shrewd pick in the second round last year and although his defensive exploits are getting noticed around the league, the offensive part of his game has lagged.
If he can be an effective pick-and-roll facilitator, it can add a valuable part to his game that can make him more of an asset and make defenses pay more attention to him. He said Thursday that the Clippers were lagging, double-teaming Drummond on pick-and-rolls, which left some of his shots open.
“I was taking my time. They didn’t want Dre to score and they were going to him and leaving me wide open, so it was easy lay-ups,” Brown said. “Usually, the big would hedge. They were literally leaving me and the lane was wide open. Now, I can make the right read.”
Doumbouya was matched against Kawhi Leonard and although there was some initial trepidation, he had his share of good plays, especially on the defensive end. His steal and breakaway dunk was his first basket and seemed to take some of the pressure off in the early minutes.
Casey said he was excited to see Doumbouya make plays but that he isn’t set on starting Doumbouya every game; some of it will be dictated by matchups and gauging how the rookie is picking things up.
“A lot of (rookie mistakes). A lot of guys made a lot of mistakes but one thing they did was compete. They played hard every possession and had attention to detail,” Casey said. “You can live with that with young players, trying to develop, as long as they’re the hardest-playing guys on the floor.
“That’s what (Doumbouya) did. He made a lot of mistakes but at least he was playing hard, competing and that’s what you like to see.”
Casey said one of the questions about Doumbouya during his time in the G-League with the Grand Rapids Drive was whether he possessed the hunger and drive to compete hard on every play.
Doumbouya, who turned 19 last month, made his case Thursday.
“I told him, to stay up here, that’s what you have to do here — compete hard every possession,” Casey said. “To develop young guys, there is always going to be a learning curve and mistakes made. As long as they’re fighting and scratching hard, I can live with the mistakes.”
Pistons at Warriors
Tip-off: 8:30 Saturday, Chase Center, San Francisco
Outlook: The Pistons (12-23) make their first trip to the new home of the Warriors, with both teams struggling. Golden State (9-27) has been ravaged by injuries and has the worst record in the Western Conference.