In advance of Media Day, Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey sat down with beat writers from the Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press, MLive.com, and The Athletic for a interview about ... all things Pistons. I highly recommend reading each writer’s take on what Casey had to say (click the links, subscribe, support journalism), but here’s what stuck out to me, both good and bad:
Iso Joe... closing games?
But we also have a need for that veteran player, like a Joe Johnson, who can put the ball on the floor, still make plays, still has it, even at 37. Now, he’s not a 40-minute player anymore, but we don’t need him for 40 minutes. We need that experience, and a guy like that, one that we could bring in at the end of the game to close games.
Ummmmmm ... sure? Personally, I always envisioned Joe Johnson as a veteran mentor for Sekou Doumbouya who possibly could give you 10 decent minutes once a week, not... closing games out with the ball in his hands like it’s 2008. Maybe Joe has more in the tank than I imagine, but even if he does, it feels like a better short-term play to give those crunch-time shots to Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, and Derrick Rose, and a better long-term play to give some of those crunch-time reps to Luke Kennard or even Bruce Brown.
This shouldn’t be surprising from the coach who played Jose Calderon 600+ minutes last season, and yet, here I am, surprised.
Luke Kennard, coming off the bench (...maybe)
I’m not leaning either way. No decision has been made. We’re not going to put anything in concrete... I like him with the second unit just because of the balance he has. I think we utilize his skill set more with the second unit, because if he’s with the first unit, now he’s competing for pick-and-rolls with Reggie and Blake, and now he’s a third pick-and-roll guy, basically.
Luke’s prominence in the rotation and importance to the Pistons has never been in question, but whether the Pistons are better with him starting or off the bench has been a heated (well, as heated as we can get in August) discussion this offseason. It makes a lot of sense for Luke to be a key offensive piece off the bench for Detroit, but there’s a persistent fear that that would represent improper utilization of a player selected in the lottery three years ago.
Personally, I’ve been team #StartBruce:
I need you guys to mentally prepare yourselves for Luke not to be starting. Y'all gotta be ok with this. It's coming. https://t.co/ht1ChpIdGA— Lazarus Jackson (@lazchance) September 24, 2019
Part of that is exactly what Casey said: Luke’s allowed to be more of who he is on the second unit. Part of that is how effective the rest of the starting lineup was when Bruce Brown was playing with them. And part of it is that it doesn’t matter who starts, it matters who finishes, and I expect Luke to close most games.
The #LoadManagement Question
I wouldn’t want to put a set number on (Blake) because if we’re in a dogfight and playoff race you’re not going to say, ‘OK, there’s a game here (he can take off),’ no.
One thing I want to make sure that we don’t do is play (Blake) as many (consecutive) minutes. I want to keep his total the same but not give him as many (consecutive) minutes.
That... doesn’t sound like Blake will be getting a lot of nights off. However, the game-to-game minute load point is important as well - Blake’s minutes per game, total minutes played, and night-to-night production spiked in January, when the season was in serious jeopardy. However, even as the team won more games in February onward, Blake’s numbers never quite returned to where they were in the first half of the year.
Not digging yourself into a place where you feel as if Blake has to play 38 minutes a night for you to have a chance to win will be paramount for this team to preserve Blake’s health. Every element of that - the higher quality of his backups, the higher quality of the team as a whole, lessening the creation burden for Blake when he’s in the game - matters. Casey knows how important Blake is to their season, and he knows that Blake’s most important when he’s actually playing.
Sekou on the wing
I’d say he’s still behind Luke, Svi and Tony Snell. Right now, for us, he’s a three more than anything else. The thing I don’t want to do is have a young player learn two positions.
I am a little disappointed that it sounds like we won’t see much of Sekou this year, barring something occurring over the course of the season, but I am encouraged that the coaching staff is emphasizing that he learn the position he will be most valuable at in the NBA. You don’t want to stall the 18-year-old’s development by trying to teach him multiple positions.
Sekou has a chance to be the best player the Pistons have had on the wing since Grant Hill. The first part of making that possibility a reality is actually training him to play on the wing.
Andre Drummond’s impending free agency:
My thing is, I want every one of our players to be rewarded, but the only way you’re rewarded in this league is by winning. I hope that (Drummond) gets every penny that is coming to him, but the only way we accomplish that together is through winning.
Translation: “Andre, trying to go for 30 every night is not what’s going to get you taken care of. Winning 50 games and making an All-Defense team is what’s gonna get you taken care of. So, please, don’t try to score 30 a night.”
All we can do is hope Andre is receptive to that message. It’s understandable that past actions (VUCEVICCCCCCCCCCCCC??????????? ) indicate that he isn’t. But contract years, and the incentive of a hundred million dollars, have made players do stranger things than... play the way they should always play.
Media Day is Monday, and Training Camp is also Monday. The regular season is less than a month away. We’re almost there, y’all.