Youngsters miss development time as Pistons enter new phase of waiting game
On the first day that the Pistons’ practice facility reopened after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allowed gyms to reopen, Luke Kennard was there Thursday, putting shots up.
It was odd timing, because it was the same day that the NBA Board of Governors voted to have only 22 teams finish the regular season. That means the Pistons, who had the fifth-worst record in the league when the season was suspended on March 11, were out.
Out of the regular season, out of the playoffs, out of the bubble.
“It wasn’t unexpected at all. We had an idea it was going to be that way,” coach Dwane Casey said Thursday. “One, it’s a safety issue as far as having so many teams there. For us, I don’t know what benefit — other than getting experience for our younger players to play some games — it would have.
“To ramp up Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin again — if he’s available — wouldn’t serve a lot of purpose, but it would be great if we did have the opportunity for our young guys.”
It shows the dichotomy of the Pistons’ roster, where there are injury concerns for the veterans and improvement plans for the younger players. That split is part of the reason the Pistons aren’t in contention, and parting with their core players, such as Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris, sent a clear sign of their direction.
Luke Kennard had a promising start to his season, but knee tendinitis shortened his season to just 28 games. He said Thursday that he was set to return when the regular season was halted, but given the quick end, he’ll have to wait until next season, which could be in December.
Bruce Brown showed some significant strides from his rookie season. Svi Mykhailiuk, given a bump in playing time, displayed the promise that prompted the Pistons to acquire him from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sekou Doumbouya was up and down in his rookie campaign but showed some of the spark that prompted the Pistons to make him their first-round pick.
Playing out the 16 remaining games of the regular season would have benefited each of them, but if there aren’t any more games of consequence for six months, they’ll have to work on their own to continue their development.
Casey said he was looking forward to finding out the plan for teams not included in the plan to resume the season, and whether that included a reworked summer league and extra practice time for the eight teams whose seasons ended Thursday.
“Hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to have a training camp or get together as a team and be able to work these next few weeks, like the other teams will before they go down (to Orlando),” Casey said. “(The end of the regular season) doesn’t mean no work. We talked about having some type of fall or summer league along with the teams invited to Orlando. I haven’t seen anything, so I don’t know about that yet.”
Most players had been continuing with customized conditioning work and shooting drills that the coaching staff developed for the downtime during the pandemic, but with an extended period now with now games, there’s a longer lull before the players get back to peak performance.
The Summer League in Las Vegas will take on a different form, which hasn’t been determined yet, but with the condensed schedule — the NBA Finals could end in mid-October and early indications are that the next regular season could start in December — there’s a lot that’s still to be determined.
Along with the young players, the veterans will find opportunities to stay in playing shape, including open runs and other gatherings with NBA players, to sharpen their skills.
The Pistons’ front office will have several decisions to make about their roster, including some restricted free agents, non-guaranteed contracts and the coveted first-round pick, which likely will be in the top five, if they stay in same position following the lottery.