Pistons eager to tip off voluntary group workouts in home city bubble
It’s not just the playoff teams that are in a basketball bubble.
The eight teams who didn’t finish the regular season after the NBA season restarted in July are getting an opportunity to work in their home markets with their players, beginning this week.
That includes the Pistons, who are eager to begin the three-week process to ramp up their individual work and catch up on some of the synergy that the other teams in Florida have had with their young players.
The first stage of the mini-bubble is a continuation of the one-on-one work that players have been doing with coaches, but now includes daily COVID testing and restrictions on traveling between their homes and the practice facility.
The two-week second stage begins next week and will have players and will have everyone in a hotel and traveling strictly between the practice facility and a local hotel.
Coach Dwane Casey is looking forward to the opportunity to work with his group, which won’t have veterans Derrick Rose or Blake Griffin, nor unrestricted free agents Christian Wood or Langston Galloway.
The mini-bubble is voluntary for players, but Casey was hopeful the developing players would attend and he confirmed that Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, Sekou Doumbouya, Svi Mykhailiuk, Khyri Thomas and two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King are there, as well as Tony Snell, Thon Maker and Justin Patton.
Each team is allowed five additional players from its G League squad as well, which allows them to have more people available for team drills. Casey said getting back together for five-on-five work will be critical because of the long respite.
“We've been out since March 11 of going body-to-body with physicality,” Casey said Wednesday. “They're tired of beating up the coaches, so to speak. So, it's going to be really geared toward playing.”
There are 15 players total, which will allow them to have three teams of five to rotate to keep them fresh and in case there are injuries.
In the downtime from regular practice, Casey has had time to break down the Pistons’ performance from their 20-46 partial season and to watch the playoffs. From that, he sees some direction on what next season can look like and what focus areas he’ll prioritize in the mini-bubble and entering next season’s training camp.
“I'm jealous because I'm sitting watching young players develop and grow through that setting and that's kind of what we missed out on. And that's why we're excited about having the bubble here in Detroit,” Casey said. “Our defense took a huge step back. Our emphasis going into next season is going to be from the defensive end.
“The game has changed to more of an offensive type of league, but we really we have to get better protecting the paint, protecting the rim, our transition defense took a step back, so I'm looking at different things that teams are doing.”
Casey mentioned specifically the zone defenses that the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat — both in the Eastern Conference finals — have played, which hearkened back to Casey’s days with the Dallas Mavericks, when they were one of the few teams playing zone defenses.
Some of the lapse in defense can be attributed to trading Andre Drummond and losing regulars Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris from the rotation and putting less-experienced players in positions with more minutes.
Phase two of the mini-bubble will be a good start to working on some of the new defensive concepts and seeing how much the young players have improved through their one-on-one work with coaches and their time in the weight room.
Time will tell.