Youngsters Mykhailiuk, Doumbouya take advantage of learning opportunities with Pistons

Nolan Bianchi
The Detroit News

Detroit – Everything went right for the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night, kicking off the second half of a season in which seemingly everything has gone wrong.

That’s especially true for second-year Piston Svi Mykhailiuk, who put up career-highs in points (21) and 3-pointers made (five) off the bench on 6-of-9 shooting.

Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward tries to steal the ball from Detroit Pistons guard Svi Mykhailiuk during the second half Wednesday night.

Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said at practice Friday that for both Mykhailiuk, 22, and rookie wing Sekou Doumbouya, 19, who also put up a career-high 24 in the win against the Celtics, Wednesday’s showing is proof that while the Pistons have not had great luck with team health, they’re making the most of the situation.

“Winning’s the most important thing, but even with not winning, it still is a great experience for those guys to grow,” Casey said. “(We would) much rather have Blake (Griffin) and Luke (Kennard) be here, Reggie Jackson be available, but it’s the hand we’re dealt, and we have to utilize that as a learning experience. Most all of the guys have taken advantage of it.”

Mykhailiuk has averaged 7.8 points and 1.7 assists this season, with a majority of his 20.5 minutes per game coming off the bench. He made four consecutive starts before sitting to start the game Wednesday, a role that Casey said he’d like to keep the former Kansas Jayhawk in while he learns the nuances of the NBA game.

“Coming off the bench, he was able to visualize what’s going on, see what’s going on, then go out and play,” Casey said. “That helps you tremendously (when you’re) so used to going against rottweilers and that first unit. Then he goes to second unit, and he’s a little more relaxed.”

Casey also complimented Mykhailiuk’s growth on the defensive end of the floor, a major point of emphasis for the young Ukranian as the season’s gone on.

“The growth he’s made is, busting through screens, moving his feet, using his chest,” Casey said. “He got a charge the other night, offensive foul, because the guy was frustrated, pushed off, because he was there. Two months ago, Svi, that wouldn’t have happened.”

Room to grow 

The development of Mykhailiuk and Doumbouya on defense has been the result of improved anticipation. While plenty of young players have the skill to compete in the NBA, Casey said, studying the film and gaining in-game experience has been paramount to them being in the right spot at the right time.

“You forget (Mykhailiuk) is a second-year guy and some of those guys, some of the speeds he’s seen now, he’s seen nothing like that in Ukraine or Kansas,” Casey said. “Even Sekou, defensively, there’s a learning experience, anticipating, getting to a spot, understanding what’s coming next.

“This guy over here standing in the corner? Guess what: He’s not there for his health. Something bad is about to happen to you. So young guys, it’s hard for them to anticipate when that’s (happening).”

And while there’s enough raw talent from Doumbouya to light up the highlight tapes in limited action this season, he’s still learning many aspects of the NBA game, too — particularly on offense. Casey noted that his decision-making with the ball and understanding of the offense has much room for improvement.

“That’s where Sekou will get better: Understanding there’s nothing in our playbook that isos at the 3-point line, goes one-on-one and jacks it up,” Casey said. “It won’t take Sekou long. He’s a sharp kid from a basketball standpoint.”

‘Huge luxury’

Derrick Rose put up 22 points in his second start of the season to end Detroit’s three-game losing streak at TD Garden, and with Casey telling reporters Wednesday that Jackson (back) could return “any moment now,” the Pistons could soon have a dangerous one-two punch at the position.

Rose, 31, has averaged 18.1 points and 5.8 assists during his first season in Detroit, helping to make up for the lack of offense caused by Jackson’s absence. The ninth-year pro has not played since Oct. 24, so Casey will have to figure out how to distribute minutes once Jackson returns.

“I think all of those situations are going to be fluid,” Casey said. “To me, Derrick is one of the top-six point guards in the league right now, so I’d hate to ruin that by starting him all the time.”

Still, though, Casey said it’s a great problem to have. He pointed to Oklahoma City’s guard rotation of Chris Paul, Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as a primary reason the Thunder have jumped out to a 23-18 record, despite many believing they’d be in rebuild mode.

“Reggie’s a starter in our league, Derrick’s a starter in our league, so that’s a huge luxury for us,” Casey said. “Those two (are) dynamic point guards when they’re both healthy and ready to roll. I think that’s why OKC is playing so well right now — they’ve got three starting point guards.”

Pistons at Hawks

Tip-off: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., State Farm Arena, Atlanta

TV/radio: FSD/950 AM

Outlook: The Hawks, who play at San Antonio on Friday night, ended a four-game losing streak Tuesday with a 123-110 win over Phoenix. … Heading into Friday’s games, the Hawks (9-32, .220) had the second-worst record in the NBA. The Warriors (9-34, .209) were last. … Trae Young is third in the NBA in scoring at 29.1 points per game.