Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk, Frank Jackson soon could give Pistons a boost
San Francisco — The Pistons are moving toward getting their roster back near full strength.
They’ve been without leading scorer Jerami Grant for more than a month, and without backup center Kelly Olynyk for more than two months. Each is working his way back into playing shape, which could give the Pistons a boost ahead of the All-Star break.
The Pistons assigned Grant to the Motor City Cruise on Monday, clearing the way for him to practice and do some work with the Cruise this week. The Pistons are starting a four-game western trip on Tuesday against the Golden State Warriors, but a timetable for Grant’s return to the lineup is unclear.
“We spent the last few days working him out and we've had some individual workouts with him and he looked really good; he's shooting the ball really well, and he's on the road, and he's on pace to where he should be,” assistant coach Rex Kalamian said Monday. “We're excited about him playing with the Motor City Cruise, and I think he's more practicing with them and just getting back into shape. It's going to take a little time, I'm sure.”
Olynyk, who is working his way back from a knee injury, is close to rejoining the lineup. He practiced Monday with the team in San Francisco, and he’s trending toward playing on this road trip.
Without Olynyk, the Pistons were limited in the depth at center, with Isaiah Stewart starting and Trey Lyles moving up from forward and playing as the backup. The Pistons could have a boost with their most experienced big man back. He was listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game, pending how he felt after warming up in pregame.
Olynyk didn’t feel well enough to play in Sunday's loss to the Suns, but he’s getting closer.
“I'm hoping this trip, we can give it a go. I was definitely right there (on Sunday),” Olynyk said Monday. “We didn't feel like it was necessary, (so we pushed it back) until it's ready. I came on this trip with the intent to come back at some point. That's still the goal.”
Whenever Olynyk returns, it’s more than just the on-court presence that he brings; it’s also the veteran presence and just the calming influence he has on the second unit, which has been up and down through the injuries to Grant, Olynyk and others.
“It's really good to have him back," Kalamian said. "Obviously, just his voice and his leadership, and then everything he does on the floor is so pivotal for us, and just his IQ and shooting and passing. It was nice to have him on the floor today.”
Olynyk could return for Tuesday’s matchup against the Warriors, Wednesday in Sacramento, Friday in Salt Lake City or Sunday in Denver.
He has played in only 10 games this season, but Olynyk is posting numbers above his career averages, with 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists this season in a reserve role. He scored in double figures in eight of those 10 games, including a double-double of 14 points and a season-high 10 rebounds on Nov. 5 against the Brooklyn Nets.
There could be another return, as guard Frank Jackson, who had an ankle injury and later was in health and safety protocols, could be ready for a return.
Jackson last played Dec. 29 at home against the Knicks, and the second unit has struggled to find scoring in his absence. Jackson had scored in double figures in six of the seven games prior to his ankle injury, vs. the Knicks.
In the interim, the Pistons have used Cassius Stanley and others to try to fill the gap.
Stanley, along with big man Luka Garza, also were assigned to the Cruise to get some more playing time.
Pistons at Warriors
► Tipoff: 10 p.m. Tuesday, Chase Center, San Francisco
► TV/radio: BSD/950
► Outlook: The Pistons (10-32) have split their last four head-to-head meetings at Golden State. The Warriors (31-12) have lost five of their last seven games, including three of four on a recent road trip.