Despite sluggish start, Casey not planning changes for Pistons
Detroit — Despite the Pistons’ slow start, there isn’t a panic emanating from the locker room about the shooting struggles and the other issues that have led to a disappointing 1-6 start to the season.
It’s suboptimal, but coach Dwane Casey isn’t going to start switching things up to try to jump-start the offense and find players who can hit shots. He’s said repeatedly that he believes in the players and their work ethic and what they’ve done in practice.
Changing course now might just cause the panic that they’re trying to prevent.
“We will look at things for 20-game increments to see why our young guys are and to see what we have and see how they react,” Casey said Thursday. “They're our future, our foundation, so there's no use of flipping the lineup or changing lineups trying to (try to fix things). Their growth is the most important thing and I think I've said it a million times. It's going to sometimes look ugly and sometimes it's going to look like they've never seen each other, but that's part of the process.
“It's part of the growth mentality we have to have as part of it. One thing I didn't anticipate is the (poor) shooting. I thought maybe that that would be a little further along than it was, but I knew some of the other situations.”
The Pistons have started the season as one of the worst-shooting teams in the league, and they’ve had their struggles with focus and intensity in staying in lopsided games. All six of their losses came against projected playoff teams, and they’ve played close in the first half of each games, so there are some things to build on.
The coaching staff and front office are preaching patience and building a winning culture, so it’s sinking in that the slow start is just part of the roadmap to becoming a winning organization.
“Nobody's got their head down. Nobody's sulking, and nobody is pointing fingers,” Casey said. “We understand what we are and who we are and what we have to do to win in this league.”
Rookie Cade Cunningham has struggled in his first two games in the NBA, and there’s been some scrutiny about his shooting percentages and that he hasn’t made a 3-pointer yet. That, too, is part of a building process, after he was sidelined for a month because of the sprained ankle and the recovery from it.
His timing is off, and without much time to practice and get that footing, conditioning and timing back, it’s going to be more time before he catches up with all that he missed.
“He's got to get (his rhythm) back. He's got to get his timing back. He's got to get his feel back,” Casey said. “The young man unfortunately has played two NBA games, no exhibition, and no training camp, and probably wasn't one full practice, where we're going (full speed).
“I'm not making excuses for him — it is what it is — but he's got a lot of things to fight through and to come through for a young player.”
Casey said the slow start isn’t limited to Cunningham. With Isaiah Stewart’s ankle injury, he’s started slowly as well. And having two starters who aren’t quite up to speed can take a bigger toll than can seem evident.
“We have a couple of guys like that. I think Isaiah is kind of going through that same come back from injury because he missed the whole month of September, which is a big growth month or training month for our guys,” Casey said.
The Sixers are dealing with a couple of players in health and safety protocols, including Tobias Harris and Isaiah Joe. It’s something that teams have had to deal with in the new normal of COVID, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
“Life happens. I tell our guys that all the time. You don’t get everything you want all the time, and things don’t always go exactly the way they’re planned, but we talk about it a lot … life still goes on,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “You’ve still got to do your job and do your job well … you still feel for the people who are going through it, you know, and it is not normal.
“These last two years have not been normal, but it’s not normal for everyone or just basketball players … it’s all walks of life. We’re just a part of it.”
Nets at Pistons
►Tipoff: 7 p.m., Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
►Outlook: The Pistons get a rematch against the surging Nets (5-3), who have won three straight games. The Nets won the first meeting on Sunday, 117-91, in Brooklyn.
— Rod Beard