OK, let’s make sure we’re completely relaxed and in the proper state of mind before we get going. Please follow along.
**Turns on “Sounds of the Rainforest”**
**Slowly retreats into child’s pose**
Inhale through your nose and take a deep breath. Really try to feel your chest expanding and lose yourself in extreme calmness. Remember to keep your eyes open and stay in the moment. Hold it for a three-count. Now slowly exhale out of your mouth. Push all the air out. Your lungs become free of carbon-dioxide. The overworked muscles are now liberated from tension. Ever so gently, return to normalcy. Repeat as you deem necessary.
Feel better? Me too. Shall we begin?
Dude, Luke, what the fuck?
Wait, let’s reset. People had grand visions for Luke Kennard in year two, just as they had high hopes for year one of the Dwane Casey regime. Kennard the 40 percent 3-point shooter with decent handles was a perfect fit for Casey’s system. Optimal space, an emphasis on perimeter shots and three-guard heavy lineups that turned everyone into a potential playmaker. Hell, there was even talk of trying him out at point guard in Summer League.
But those dreams did not match reality. So, like I said, what the fuck?
The 2018-19 campaign hasn’t been kind to Pistons’ sophomore Luke Kennard. As of typing, the 6-foot-5 wing has only participated in 17 uneven games for your Detroit Pistons. An unfortunate collision of bodies with Channing Frye in late October led to an AC joint sprain in his right shoulder that sidelined Kennard for over a month. If you squint hard enough, the grainy video below will provide a visual:
Sorry, it was the best I could find. If the video is simply too foggy, Kennard is the fella playing defense in the near-side corner.
It would be silly to blame Kennard for injuring his shoulder during game action. It would also be just as silly — if not sillier — to scold him for the knee strain over the summer that robbed the dedicated Kennard congregation of over-analyzing his point guard capabilities in Vegas.
Hey, shit happens.
Historically, though, shit, in the form of injuries, hadn’t happened to Kennard for the first 21 years of his life. He turned 22 in late-June this past summer and, clearly, the side effects of old age have taken an unfortunate toll. Both the knee and shoulder injuries occurred within a few months of that fateful birthday. Based on how his body reacted to the most recent candle blowing party, 22 seems to be the new 80 for Old Man River Luke. It’s probably only a matter of time before he’s caught passing out those gross hard butterscotch candies out of his LCA locker.
Old people stereotypes aside, navigating through injuries is an annoying and frustrating part of being a professional athlete, especially those first couple cracks at it.
The Vegas knee strain cost Kennard all basketball-related activities over the following weeks as “hurry up and wait” was the only available remedy. He would finally be granted the green light for lift off when Pistons training camp kicked off in late September, but all that rigorous thumb twiddling meant Kennard was, sadly, out of shape and behind his teammates.
Fatigue makes cowards of us all and it has no place on a winning basketball court. Before Dwane Casey would show any worthwhile trust in the pudgy Duke product, Kennard had to prove to the first year Pistons’ skipper he was in basketball shape. At the same time the hefty hoopster ran laps to build court stamina, he was being lapped by his fellow wing teammates on Casey’s preferred pecking order.
A rickety and portly Luke Kennard is not what I had in mind heading into the season:
He totaled 30 minutes of playing over the first three games of season which included a box score double-take DNP-CD against Chicago. The fourth game of the season, at home against Cleveland, was the night of the aforementioned shoulder injury.
Warm up those thumbs, Luke, time to start twiddling. Again.
The right shoulder required five weeks to properly heal and rehab. Now, five weeks might not seem like a insurmountable amount of time to overcome, but to any legit competitor desperately itching to prove worth, it might as well have lasted five eternities.
Kennard’s somber silver-lining was described to The Athletic in late November:
“You do see different things,” he stated. “I don’t know if there are specific things I can point to, but you can see spots that you’d be in. You do pick up on some stuff, especially watching on TV and not from the sideline because it’s a different angle. That mental part, like I mentioned, you just have to find ways to be locked in with that stuff.”
Luke made his return to the court on December 3 as the Pistons, winners of five straight at the time, hosted the Oklahoma City Thunder. He registered a +3 during 12 rather uneventful minutes going nada-for-five from the floor. Oh, and the Pistons lost by 27.
For those keeping score at home, Detroit would lose the next five games, too. After that, a W-L-W-L-L-W-L-L record brings us to today.
It’s no secret that athletes thrive off routine. The daily details your typical 9-to-5er would define as mundane and non-essential are the same particulars professional athletes’ livelihoods religiously orbit around. “Find your rhythm” isn’t just an in-game prescription for NBA players, it’s a lifestyle. Establishing routine is emphatically applied to each day, week, month, year, of their career.
Thanks to the injury bug, the entire 2018-19 season for Luke Kennard has enjoyed as much rhythm as a pre-Hitch Albert Brennaman. Consider the fact that he’s also a rehab virgin and the “why” of his seasonal woes become less mysterious. All he needs is time, without disruptions, to successfully fulfill his league-wide favorite destiny.
Right or wrong, that last paragraph would certainly be part of my closing argument as lead defender in a “The People v. 2018-19 Luke Kennard” trial. There is 100 percent truth to the reasoning, and I sincerely believe it. The problem, though, is that while that act might secure the defendant leniency in the court of basketball law, the verdict wouldn’t be so kind in the court of public opinion.
Fans are tired of excuses.
The story of Luke Kennard is the story of the Detroit Pistons and their enablers, and the truth of it doesn’t matter anymore — everyone is ready to turn the page.
It’s not Luke Kennard’s fault the Detroit Pistons’ relevancy, both locally and nationally, has been nonexistent since Kennard was in middle school, but he — and the rest of the current team — are the ones who have to deal with it.
Everyone on the roster, and the team as a whole, could muster up similar stories as to Luke’s to help explain their difficulties, and they’d probably be in the right, but the Pistons are completely bankrupt of sympathetic fans. No one wants to hear it.
Time, the most precious and coveted commodity in the world, isn’t something a healthy majority of fans are willing to donate to a franchise who keeps stepping on rakes. Hard to blame ’em, really. Preaching patience, or any other similar profound cliche, isn’t a viable option for this team to publicly subscribe to.
Dwane Casey was coming from a good place when he issued an apology after a recent embarrassment:
You know who else said the right things? Stan Van Gundy. In fact, no one said the right things at the rightest time more righter than SVG. I appreciate the thought, coach, but save it. We’ve heard it before.
It drives me crazy knowing the two+ hours I spent last Friday watching the Pistons get destroyed by the Indiana Pacers is two+ hours I’ll never get back, it’s probably a common sentiment around whatever remains of the fanbase. I don’t care if you lose, guys, just don’t waste my fucking time. Stuff your sorries in a sack, too. Show me, don’t tell me.
Well that’s just great, now I’m all fired up with pointless Pistons rage just thinking about it. Only one thing to do....
**Turns on “Sounds of the Rainforest”**
**Slowly retreats into child’s pose**