Preseason: Incomplete

Injuries push off 2 of 3 major Cheeks’ decisions into regular season

Stuckey, Datome, Jerebko
Rodney Stuckey, Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko
Allen Einstein/Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)

The Pistons came into training camp with three broad evaluations to be made with regard to Maurice Cheeks’ playing rotation to carry into the regular season. Now down to the final two preseason games on which to base that evaluation – the two games Cheeks declared last week to be his targeted dress rehearsals – in appears likely that they’ll go into next week’s season opener with 2½ of those evaluations still incomplete.

That pushes some or all of the following decisions into the regular season:

  • Whittling the backcourt to four contributors – Rookie Peyton Siva was always a long shot to crack the rotation, given the three veteran point guards ahead of him in the pecking order. But lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – because of his ideal size and defensive and 3-point-shooting potential – was at least a candidate to unseat one of the four veteran guards available to Cheeks.

    It’s now likely that Caldwell-Pope will be in the guard rotation when Washington comes to town next Wednesday to start the regular season, along with Will Bynum and Chauncey Billups and, perhaps, Siva for stopgap minutes.

    Stuckey is due to have his broken thumb X-rayed and re-examined on Friday, two weeks since surgery to repair the broken tip suffered when he slammed it in his car door while carrying his infant son. Cheeks said that if he’s cleared to play, he’ll go back on the court and be evaluated for readiness. So it’s still conceivable Stuckey could be ready for the season opener.

  • Kyle Singler and Gigi Datome’s battle behind Josh Smith – Another expected duel that fizzled before it began. Datome pulled up on the fifth day of training camp with a hamstring strain. The Pistons are going to bring him back cautiously, perhaps wary that Datome’s heavy workload with his Italian national team could lead to other nagging injuries if his body isn’t give proper time to refresh itself.

    If Datome had been healthy and seized his opportunity to secure a rotation role, Singler likely would be ticketed for minutes at guard until Stuckey and Jennings return. That’s largely on hold now.

    Even before Datome got hurt, Cheeks gave little reason to doubt he had Singler pegged for a certain rotation role, lauding his hustle and basketball IQ.

  • Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva’s battle behind Greg Monroe – Both Jerebko and Villanueva have been available throughout the preseason and, in fact, Cheeks has come to a semi-decision regarding them: tie.

    Neither has separated himself and both offer something compelling: Jerebko’s grit and Villanueva’s shot-making ability. But Villanueva is 4 of 18 from the 3-point arc through six preseason games. Jerebko is shooting 32 percent, though Cheeks spoke well of his overall play as recently as Sunday.

    On Monday, Cheeks laid out a scenario in which one or the other could be in the rotation on a given night, depending on matchups and need. We’ll maybe get a glimpse of how that plays out in the final two preseason games, tonight vs. Washington and Thursday vs. Minnesota.

Quick note: Chauncey Billups says he’ll play in tonight’s game and says he very well might play against Minnesota, as well.