Four more Pistons join Cade Cunningham in COVID protocols
Miami — After a couple of weeks of widespread COVID cases in the NBA, the Pistons are having it spread throughout their roster.
On Wednesday, Cade Cunningham went into COVID protocols, and on Thursday, the Pistons added starters Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes and reserve guards Saben Lee and Rodney McGruder to the list of players in COVID protocols, according to the team injury report.
The depleted Pistons faced the Miami Heat on Thursday night.
Most NBA teams have signed additional players via a new hardship exemption to help manage rosters. The Pistons added big man Cheick Diallo on Thursday to take Cunningham’s roster spot.
The Pistons already were shorthanded because of injuries to Jerami Grant (thumb surgery) and Kelly Olynyk (knee sprain), but they also recalled Isaiah Livers from the G League Motor City Cruise on Thursday. He was ruled out just before game time.
Acting head coach Rex Kalamian, filling in for Dwane Casey, said there was some significant adjustment with the notice of the players going into protocols just ahead of the team leaving for the arena for pregame warmups.
“I had been on the phone with coach Casey all day about what we're going to do and rotations and what we can anticipate coming from Miami's side and what things might look like,” Kalamian said before the game. “And then an hour and a half before the game, things start to pop up and you find out that there are going to be less players, or some players that you thought might be in the starting lineup not with you.
“It's definitely an adjustment but I got on the bus and I just told the guys like, 'Let's go. We've got a game. Let's go play and let's play our hardest and you're going to play a lot of minutes.'”
With multiple players in protocols, the Pistons can sign additional replacement players in the interim to 10-day hardship contracts, as they did with Diallo, who had been playing with the Cruise.
The roster looks to have Saddiq Bey, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Trey Lyles, Cory Joseph, Josh Jackson, Luka Garza, Jamorko Pickett and Cheick Diallo available.
Playing shorthanded isn’t easy, but Kalamian was looking to rally the available players and to try to get the most out of those who can play.
“It's been my experience that when teams are injured, the other guys that step up know they're going to play a lot of minutes and they know they're going to get a lot of shots,” Kalamian said. “They play a little more freely sometimes, and anything could happen.
"So, we're going to take a positive outlook on this into tonight's game.”
Casey missed a second straight game because of personal reasons, not related to COVID.
With Cunningham, Hayes and Lee all out, it left Joseph as the only point guard on the roster. That will put others, such as Bey, in position to handle the ball more and create.
"I would encourage tonight, especially with one point guard on the roster healthy, that anybody that grabs a defensive rebound be an attacker tonight," Kalamian said. "Bring the basketball up the floor and try to be a playmaker with it — not just for themselves, but for our team, and start our offense."