Detroit — Any potential second-half playoff surge the Pistons could possibly muster this winter is looking more and more unlikely.
The limping Pistons lost season took another blow as Luke Kennard could be out another month because of knee tendinitis, coach Dwane Casey said.
“They said somewhere around All-Star break, I’m not sure,” Casey said of the break, which starts Feb. 12. “We’ve had so many injuries. I get this guy’s injury mixed up with that guy’s injury. Just hope that you have (Kennard) because he’s a big piece if what we’re trying to do.”
After Monday night's halfway point of the season, the Pistons still had 16 games to go until the mid-February break in the schedule.
Even worse, many of the winnable games left on the slate come during the stretch before things get really tough after that. Of the 25 games after the break, 16 are against teams currently in the playoffs portion of the NBA standings, and 14 games are on the road.
Kennard has been out since Dec. 21 and was set to miss his 11th straight game on Monday. Shortly after Christmas, the team announced Kennard would miss two weeks.
Three weeks later, Casey said Monday it could be another month.
Add Kennard’s extended absence to Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson, the pair that has combined to play 20 games this season. The injured trio represent three of Detroit’s top four returning scorers from last year’s roster. Their absences has helped push the fourth, Andre Drummond, to the trade block.
Casey admitted it’s been tough to face down another apparent rebuild after coming to Detroit last season hoping to win right away.
“It’s tough because I went through this about six or seven years in Toronto, the rebuild we did there,” Casey said. “I thought I graduated from that, but we’re back here again. Which is fine, I enjoy coaching, I enjoy teaching.
“There was no parameters put on what type of team was going to be here. I expected to be a playoff-considered team, but you still want to win. Because that doesn’t get out of your locker room.”
Kennard is averaging a career high 15.8 points per game in 28 games this season. In his third season, he’s just a tick below 40 percent on 3-pointers. The Pistons were the league’s best 3-point shooting team early on, but have struggled since.
Entering Monday, in the 10 games since Kennard last played, the Pistons were shooting 34.6 percent on 3-pointers and made less than 10 3-pointers four times to bring the season total to nine. The Pistons entered Kennard’s latest absence shooting 37.6 percent from deep.
“It would be valuable time for him, and for us, if he was able to go,” Casey said.
Before Christian Wood cashed in on a numbers game this season, he was a victim of one this past offseason.
Wood’s play had made it a mere formality this season, but the Pistons made it official this weekend — by remaining on the roster through Friday afternoon, Wood will collect his full $1.6 million salary this year.
This comes just a few months after his NBA career was at a crossroads, waived by New Orleans after putting up nice numbers there to close last season, then competing for a roster spot in Detroit with Joe Johnson in training camp.
Despite averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds in eight games for the Pelicans last season, Wood was made available because of dwindling roster spots in the Big Easy.
“More so than anything, we made trades and it became a numbers game,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said Monday. “We liked what he brought to the table.”
The problem was, Gentry already had a full deck. After trading Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pelicans acquired a haul of young players who needed minutes in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. They also added veterans Derrick Favors, in a trade from Utah, and signed JJ Redick.
Pistons coach Dwane Casey has praised the 6-foot-10 Wood’s maturity this season and his production has been undeniable. In 36 games entering Monday, Wood netted 9.5 points per game and 5.2 rebounds.
Gentry said there were no issues with Wood in his brief New Orleans stint, but was squeezed out and saw a better opportunity with the Pistons.
“We had no concerns really,” said Gentry, the former Pistons coach. “What it was with him is he realized he has an opportunity. I thought he took great advantage of it after we picked him up. Then he worked extremely hard in the summer.
“I can see even now that he has matured in a lot of ways, and I think he’s been productive when he’s gotten minutes on the floor.”
Not to be outdone with injuries, the Pelicans were missing even more production than the Pistons on Monday night.
With Jrue Holiday, Ingram, Redick and Favors unavailable because of injuries, New Orleans was missing 69.1 points per game. That’s without factoring in first overall pick Zion Williamson, who has yet to make his NBA debut.
In Griffin, Kennard and Jackson, the Pistons were without 36.3 points per game of production.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.