Detroit — Imagine getting a new video game but only being able to play with it for less than 30 minutes per day. It’s a tough restriction, but most people would be able to find a way. Some of the joy might be taken away because mentally, after about 20 minutes, the realization would hit that the time is almost up.
That’s similar to what Pistons coach Dwane Casey has been dealing with all season, knowing that Derrick Rose was on a minutes restriction and that Casey could play him — but only for a limited amount of time.
Maybe that time limit is being extended a bit, as Rose has exceeded the 30-minute plateau four times in the last seven games, including 34 minutes in Monday’s loss at Washington. He’s started the last three games and is averaging 23.3 points and 5.7 assists in those games, after asking for a more prominent role and more playing time, according to a report by Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.
Rose, 31, had been primarily the bench spark-plug, providing scoring and leadership with the second unit, but when the team needed a boost to start third quarters, Casey inserted him there, then eventually it became a more traditional role as starter.
“We were struggling in the third and we put him in a third and we got off to good starts so common sense, told me — and I don't have a lot of it — but he goes to the first quarter and he did the same thing,” Casey joked on Monday. “He just shows his talent. Talent wins in the NBA and he’s one of our most talented players.”
Rose’s numbers have been surprising: 18.4 points and 5.8 assists in 38 games, which has gotten him some consideration for the All-Star Game this season. He likely won’t win the initial vote of fans, media and players to get a starting role, but he’ll be in the mix when the coaches select the reserve groups.
He’s already accepted an invitation to participate in the Skills Challenge during All-Star Saturday in his hometown of Chicago.
“He deserves to be in it and I'm telling every coach that will listen and every fan — I don't know if he’ll win the fan vote, but he should,” Casey said. “Every coach I've talked to understands basketball and how important what he's done for our team, even though we're not in a playoff (position) right now, he's kept us in the conversation.”
Since he joined the starting unit, Rose has brought immediate scoring help and the Pistons have gotten off to better starts to games. They won the first two games of his starting string before falling on Monday.
Casey isn’t committing to keeping Rose as the starter, especially as Reggie Jackson readies for a return, potentially this week, Casey said. Jackson’s back injuries have kept him out since the second game of the season and having another point guard available could lead to another restructuring of Rose’s minutes as Jackson tries to find a rhythm.
“We had (Rose) off the bench just to control his minutes and that's on me and it's on us (coaches). He's been great; he's been like the Derrick Rose of his MVP years,” Casey said. “We still have to be smart and watch his minutes because we have to help him from itself, because we can't ramp his minutes up; we got to make sure we watch them.”
What adds more intrigue is the trade talk swirling around Rose, with teams such as the Lakers, 76ers and Clippers interesting in acquiring Rose ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline. The Pistons also could be looking to deal Jackson, who is in the final year of his five-year contract, if there is a team willing to take his salary of $18.1 million.
Where that leaves the Pistons is unclear, but they likely would have to get a point guard back in any trade, or they could look to elevate two-way player Jordan Bone from the Grand Rapids Drive and give him some minutes in the second half of the season.
Kings at Pistons
Tipoff: 7 Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Kings (15-28) have lost five straight, including the first two of their five-game trip. Buddy Hield (20.1 points) and De’Aaron Fox (19.1) lead the young squad. Pistons guard Reggie Jackson could return to action this week.