Despite influx of new players due to COVID, Pistons won't be winging it

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — The past couple of Pistons practices have had a getting-to-know-you vibe to them, with as many new faces as veterans in the mix on the roster.

The Pistons continue to add replacement players on 10-day contracts to try to round out the roster and give them more than nine available players, which was the situation on Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs.

 In that blowout loss, the Pistons weren’t a cohesive group defensively, and it showed throughout the game, with missed assignments and communication, which is to be expected from players who haven’t seen much time together on the court.

Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey is demanding discipline from his revolving-door roster.

 They added two more temporary players, forward Trayvon Palmer and guard Justin Robinson, on Tuesday and center Micah Potter on Wednesday to bring their number of available players to 12, along with having four more injured and eight in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

 Even with the new additions to the roster and the limited number of practices that they’ve had, the Pistons won’t be winging it as they try to work through the roster issues and unfamiliarity.

 “No, we won’t wing it. We have been in this too long to wing it, and that is what I was disappointed in at San Antonio — we were winging it,” coach Dwane Casey said. “You can’t compete with anybody and be OK with the types of plays we were making, and people were making those type of plays.

“No disrespect, it is not their fault. It is a situation with the pandemic, new players and new bodies all at once. We had a day to try to get somewhat organized. So, that is a bad word today, winging it.”

Against the Spurs, there were defensive breakdowns, miscommunications and ill-advised shots that led to the 144-109 loss. The Pistons had only four players from their regular roster and five on 10-day contracts and trying to find a synergy there is admittedly difficult.

 Moving forward with the roster, until they get some players back from the COVID protocols — presumably within the coming days — they’ll have to make do with what they have and work together.

“We have to be organized. We have to have some discipline in what we are doing and how we are doing things,” Casey said. “Not only offensively, I thought it was more defensive lack of discipline as much as anything else. So, we have to get a sense of normalcy. 

“I hate being the bad guy, but you have to come in and discipline … So, we have to have discipline even in these tough situations, these tough times with new players and new bodies because if you don’t, you’ll have chaos and that is not a good recipe in our league.”

Getting their shot

The Pistons had done well to avoid the COVID issues that other teams faced for most of this season, but because they were one of the last teams to have players enter the health and safety protocols, they were limited in their ability to bring on some of the better G League players on short-term contracts.

 Instead, they’ve targeted younger players from the Motor City Cruise and around the G League to give them an opportunity to play and show that they can play on an NBA level, at least for the 10-day contracts.

 “It is an opportunity for them and for us. The opportunity comes by playing hard and doing what you do in those situations, and this is a great opportunity,” Casey said. “It is not like we are bringing in guys with five years of service or six years of service in the league, we are bringing in young guys. So, what better opportunity is it to come and let the entire league see you compete and perform at the highest level in the world?

 “So, it is where we are. We are in a rebuilding stage, and it won’t do us any good to bring in a 10-year veteran. If we were fighting for a playoff spot, yes, we would, I would help them pack.”

General manager Troy Weaver and his staff have tried to work to find players to fit within the roster constraints and given that the G League had been plundered for players, they had fewer options.

 “Troy and his group have done a good job at trying to scurry. (The COVID issues) kind of hit us at a bad time because some of the other top young players had been picked up,” Casey said, “but, they did a good job of finding the next guys available.”