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Pistons' Sekou Doumbouya in big slump, 'has lost that zest'

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Brooklyn, N.Y. — That fascination with Pistons rookie Sekou Doumbouya turned very quickly.

Doumbouya, the Pistons’ first-round pick, had a compelling eight-game stretch, from Jan. 2-15, when he averaged 14 points and 5.3 rebounds and shot 41 percent on 3-pointers and looked to be the Pistons’ brightest young star.

That production has tailed off in the last six games: 3.9 points, 3.3 rebounds and 11% from beyond the arc, in what has become one of the biggest head-scratchers of the season.

Sekou Doumbouya

What’s going on with the rookie — who had his first career starts against the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green and LeBron James and excelled just a few weeks ago?

In Wednesday's loss to the Brooklyn Nets he was scoreless in just eight minutes and had a minus-20 rating after missing his only two shots, both 3-pointers.

It was a cause for concern for Pistons coach Dwane Casey, who wondered whether Doumbouya could use a confidence boost to help bring him out of his doldrums.

“Our rookie had seven minutes and was minus-20. I don't know how bad you have to play to get that many,” Casey said Wednesday. “We have to get that fire lit under him a little bit more because he's lost that zest and fire he had going against (LeBron) James in the first couple weeks. We'll get it back. He's a young kid and we'll get that fire back.”

Doumbouya, 19, has remained in the starting lineup since Jan. 2, except for the Jan. 22 game against the Sacramento Kings, when he was benched after being late for shoot-around. His minutes have decreased, though, as he’s gone from 30-plus to his previous low during the stretch, 17 minutes against Brooklyn on Jan. 25, then eight minutes on Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of things that are going on; it’s about being a pro,” Casey added. “When he’s 18 or 19 years old, it isn’t easy. He has to grow up. He’s got the talent; it’s there. It’s in there and we just have to continue to develop him, not only as a basketball player, but as a young man.

“There’s a lot of things he needs to understand about what it means to be a pro.”

Doumbouya was the 15th overall pick last summer, the youngest player in the draft and didn’t turn 18 until Dec. 23. He had breakout games against the Celtics, and 24 points and 16 points each against the Warriors and Pelicans.

He had his biggest moment with an iconic, highlight-reel dunk over Tristan Thompson, against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 7. During his best stretch, he scored in double figures in seven of eight games and was an integral part of the offense.

Since then, it’s changed, with him taking fewer shots and missing more of them.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard