Orlando — There weren’t knee-jerk reactions to the Pistons’ team meeting after Friday’s blowout loss Friday night.
There were no wholesale changes in the starting lineup or reductions in playing time for those deemed to be at fault. Nor was there yelling and screaming to try to correct some of the wrongs in their losing skid in recent weeks.
In his first season, coach Dwane Casey is preaching patience and discipline — which can’t be easy, given some of the foibles — but it’s been his demeanor and tact in all his stops.
“The days of coming in cussing out players are gone. You may get away with it once or twice a year but doing that on a daily basis is counterproductive. That’s not my personality,” Casey said. “We teach more from a positive standpoint than from cussing out. With that comes responsibility and the pressure of doing the right things and the freedom to do those things.
“It creates a team chemistry and togetherness. It doesn’t happen immediately after a meeting or one conversation, but when it hits, you know it, you see and feel that togetherness.”
Casey has a five-year contract — and in many ways, he’s not coaching to perfect the roster this season. There’s going to be plenty of attrition over the next two summers, with more than half of the contracts coming off the books.
The job now is to establish a culture with the core that will be here in two years — likely Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and maybe young players such as Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas.
There are no other guarantees — everyone else is a question mark. The goal, obviously, is to make the playoffs, but Casey is looking to instill a winning culture and as frustrating as the current skid has become, it’s more about preparing for the long-term future and the atmosphere around that than just looking at the playoffs this year.
Although there’s a longing to make a trade to shake up the roster and get closer to winning, that’s a bit unrealistic. From all indications, there aren’t teams waiting on hold to trade for the same flawed players that fans want to cast off.
In essence, the roster is what it is — right now and probably for the rest of the season.
With a steep ramp-up in schedule difficulty, December proved difficult for the Pistons (16-18) — finishing with a 4-11 record after Sunday’s loss at Orlando — but the changing of the calendar won’t necessarily bring better fortune.
They’ll have a tough western trip and with John Wall reportedly opting for surgery, the Wizards look to be a team sinking, though the Brooklyn Nets could be another team to watch, especially when Caris LeVert returns.
After the vaunted team meeting, with all its connotations, it’s just back to business for the Pistons, with a keen eye on doing that business better than they did during their recent skid. There’s no Rasheed Wallace-type trade coming, which puts the onus on Casey and the players to right all the wrongs as they head to the midway point of the season.
The Monday Drive takes a look at some other issues surrounding the Pistons in their recent slide:
1. The Pistons wings have been up and down in the past few weeks. Reggie Bullock had back-to-back career-high games but hasn’t hit 20 points since. Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard are similar, with good games off the bench — but not backing those up with consistent double-digit games. It’s a big part of their scoring woes, trying to figure out where their production is going to come from apart from Blake Griffin.
2. Griffin looks to be in good shape still, but he might be getting toward another day off. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t play in one of the games this week or next, ahead of his return to Los Angeles, when the Pistons play the Clippers on Jan. 12. His production has lagged a bit and they’re looking for other offensive options, but it was unlikely that he’d continue at the frenetic pace he was on to start the season.
3. Casey’s decision to start Bruce Brown has raised some eyebrows, but Brown is the right fit there. He brings the best perimeter defense to the starting unit but also, it keeps two shooters, Galloway and Kennard, with the second unit. Whoever has started with Griffin and Drummond seems to get lost in the mix early in games and while Brown’s offense still is developing, he looks to be the better fit.
4. Reggie Jackson continues to struggle to find a fit, as he’s been taken off the ball primarily. In the four games prior to Sunday, he was averaging 13.8 points, 5.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds and hitting 33 percent on 3-pointers. Solid numbers, but the eye test shows that he’s not getting into as many pick-and-roll situations and without the burst that he’s accustomed to having to create separation, baskets are much harder to come by for him.
5. The East standings don’t look horrible for the Pistons, who are in the No. 8 spot, a half-game ahead of the Magic. They’ll need to turn things around if they’re going to make the playoffs for the second time in a decade, but there’s more to suggest that they will. They’re still a good margin ahead of the Wizards and Hawks, who likely aren’t playing for anything this year. Again, the Magic and Nets are the teams to watch as the potential final playoff team.