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Pistons' game prep hits snag after road trip is rerouted through Chicago

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Pistons started out preparing for Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.

The plan didn’t end up that way.

Instead, the Pistons are going to take a detour and start their five-game road trip in Chicago on Wednesday. The NBA shuffled the schedule after the game in Dallas was postponed because of severe weather and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency, which put things in disarray.

"You can’t control it; Just focus on the present," says Pistons guard Dennis Smith Jr. about the schedule switch.

The Bulls’ schedule also was in flux because their Wednesday game at Charlotte was postponed because of COVID-19 contact tracing. The solution was to add another game to the schedule, to help ease some of the second half of the NBA schedule, which will have all the postponed games from the first half.

All of the uncertainty has made for some interesting changes in the schedule and for everyone to be ready for the unexpected.

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“The only common thing about this year is the unpredictable. We spent most of last night watching film on Dallas and trying to get ready for their team and then you wake up today and there’s a chance to play another team and then it’s Chicago,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s always evolving. From our perspective, we’ve got to be flexible and nimble. Our video guys are preparing video for Chicago and our coaches are on the grind getting ready for Chicago

“It’s a switch. We have to be able to adapt and embrace the change, whatever it might be, whether it’s schedule, playing time or position. We have to be able to adapt to it.”

The Pistons weren’t scheduled to play the Bulls in the first half of the schedule, but with the change, they can play one of what would have been four postponed games from the first half.

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Staying ready isn’t easy, but for guard Dennis Smith Jr. dealing with the uncertainty isn’t difficult, because they’ve gotten used to it with an ever-changing schedule through the years.

“It’s about how to stay ready. It’s just focusing on the present and everything that is going to happen down the line or already happened, you can’t control it,” Smith said. “Just focus on the present. They canceled the game and we found out, but that doesn’t change that we practiced. We just came in and got after it.”

It’ll be their first game without Blake Griffin, who reached a mutual agreement with the team to sit out until they can map out his future, which likely means a buyout of the final year-plus of his contract or a trade.

It’ll be new territory for the Pistons, who will evolve from having two grizzled veterans in the rotation in Griffin and Derrick Rose, to having that playing time for young players such as Saddiq Bey, Svi Mykhailiuk and Josh Jackson.

Moving forward with the rebuild is important for the young players’ development and Casey can see the benefit in spreading those minutes around to better gauge what the young players can offer. Sekou Doumbouya, who is in concussion protocol.

“It’s for (Bey) and for Jerami (Grant) to play at the (power forward) more and more minutes for Svi at (small forward),” Casey said. “It’s a chain reaction as much as anything else, and also with Sekou, as he comes back. You hate to have it happen that way, but it’s where we are in a rebuild situation to get those opportunities. It starts with Saddiq.”

With Rose and Griffin out of the lineup, the Pistons will focus on a new set of leaders on the court to try to carry the young roster. That’ll be up to starters like Mason Plumlee and Grant, but also some of the older players who can impart their wisdom on the young players to emulate.

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“Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder are both veteran guys who have been around the block, who are vocal and passionate about team play. There’s Jerami and Mason and Josh Jackson who have been around,” Casey said. “Those guys are fully capable of being the vocal leaders in the locker room.

“We have to do it by committee. That’s our plan now. This is our group. If a young guy comes in and sees something and wants to be in a leadership role, that’s a possibility also.”

Pistons at Bulls

Tipoff: 8 Wednesday, United Center, Chicago

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons (8-19) open their five-game road trip looking for their third straight win. The Bulls (11-15) are vying for a playoff spot behind Zach LaVine (28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists).

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard