Pistons Mailbag - December 11, 2019

As injuries were the overarching theme of the first quarter of the Pistons season, the status of Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard’s health is the logical launching point for this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag – which remains free of charge, even though the mail this week has to cross an international border with the Pistons in Mexico City.

Joe Marsiglia (1) (@phys_ed_joe): Is Derrick Rose in position to keep his minutes of will we see the Pistons increase those in the coming weeks?

Nothing’s really changed with Rose since the start of the season, unlike with Blake Griffin, who has gradually seen his minutes increase. He played a season high of 34:04 in Monday’s win at New Orleans, not far off of his load from a season ago. That said, I don’t think we’ll see Griffin go much north of that, if at all, even in tight games and even when the Pistons don’t have a game for the next day or two. Rose also played his season high in minutes at New Orleans at 28:22, but I do expect that will be his cap. Casey mentioned “26, 28 minutes” at one point as the limit for Rose, though he didn’t explicitly say that wouldn’t change over the course of the season. But we haven’t seen it inch up as we have seen with Griffin. Rose played between 26 and 27 minutes in three of the first four games of the season and it hasn’t really changed since then. Until we see evidence otherwise, I think 28 minutes is a fairly hard and fast cap for Rose’s minutes.

Rudy (@rudyjuly2): Any concerns about Luke Kennard’s knee long term? He missed some time in summer, had an issue last year and missed a game recently. It concerns me.

The minor knee injury he suffered in July 2018 seems unrelated to the tendinitis in both knees that cost him a game last week and was an issue during training camp this season. Players will tell you that all of them deal with some degree of knee tendinitis over the course of a season. A generation ago – heck, a few years ago – I’m sure Kennard would have played through it and maybe it would have led to a more serious issue, like Reggie Jackson’s tendinitis morphed into tendinosis, or chronic tendinitis, a few years ago and really ruined his 2016-17 season. (And, it should be noted, Jackson’s injury was one that developed over the off-season as he pushed himself during conditioning work.)Teams are going to be vigilant about injury maintenance in this day and age, sacrificing short term to benefit long term. The fact Kennard sat out one game and wasn’t even listed on the injury report for Friday’s game, two days later, suggests that it was 100 percent precautionary to sit him out of the Milwaukee game last week.

Max (Dearborn, Mich.): The Milwaukee Bucks have been a surprise franchise for the last two years after they added Giannis Antetokounmpo. I remember the Bucks as a average team and now they’re one of the best. Their success reminds me of Orlando when it added Dwight Howard. Do you agree?

Yes and no. Yes in that transformative players, by definition, transform franchises. The young Dwight Howard very quickly became the NBA’s most dominant defensive player by a healthy margin and was the driving force behind the Magic playing in the 2009 NBA Finals. No in that Howard – even though he was a high school player – had been heavily scouted prior to the draft and was the No. 1 overall selection. Antetokounmpo was the biggest mystery of the last decade – by comparison, Thon Maker, who was billed as a mystery man, was far better known even though he didn’t play any college basketball – and was taken with the No. 15 pick in a 2013 draft that was considered weak at the time and has been proven so since. John Hammond, Bucks general manager at the time of that draft, deservedly is hailed for his foresight in drafting Antetokounmpo but let’s acknowledge that it was a far easier call for him at 15 in a weak draft than it would have been if the Bucks had been picking in the top five or 10. How weak was that draft? Anthony Bennett was the No. 1 pick.

Joseph (Manila, Philippines): It’s early but the Pistons don’t look ready to beat the Bucks or other top teams in the East if they get into the playoffs. Is it wiser to look ahead and get higher draft picks this off-season? They could at least rest their aging, injury-prone veterans and develop the young guys and maybe look better next season.

The Pistons aren’t going to punt on this season without getting a chance to gauge what their full roster can accomplish. What you’re really asking is should they tank. That’s not a decision you make in early December. It would have been something they decided last spring, after the season ended and they huddled to plot a course for the 2019-20 season. Had the injuries that kept Blake Griffin off the floor for the first 10 games and Derrick Rose for six of the first 13 – and Reggie Jackson for the last 22 games and counting – lingered, then the decision would have been made for them. They felt strongly coming out of free agency that they’d improved the roster from one that went .500 a season ago and lost its opportunity to wage a competitive playoff battle with Milwaukee when Griffin’s knee injury cropped up late in the regular season and kept him off the floor for the first two games of the series. They felt – and the evidence when the roster has been close to fully available supports them – they’d greatly improved their second unit with the additions of Rose and Markieff Morris. They’ve won four of their last five. Dwane Casey wasn’t hired with an understanding he’d be asked to shepherd a complete rebuild. Griffin is thoroughly disinterested in resting to position himself better for 2020. Rose didn’t sign with the Pistons to twiddle his thumbs. They aren’t imaginary figures in a video game. There would be real ramifications for the betrayal of trust on many levels – to their players, to their fans – for the organization to decide a third of the way through the season that, nope, not going to try to win this season. Maybe next.

Christian Woodward Avenue (@Got_Wood35): How realistic is trading D’Angelo Russell to Detroit?

At what cost? Golden State gave up a top-20 protected first-round pick but also had to let Andre Iguodala walk as a consequence of the sign-and-trade deal that shipped Kevin Durant to Brooklyn for Russell. It was immediately speculated that Russell would be spun off at some point by the Warriors, who at the time were reeling from the loss of Klay Thompson to a torn ACL and Kevin Durant to free agency. And that’s likely still the case, even though Steph Curry subsequently was lost for a good chunk of the season with a hand injury. I’d guess a Russell deal has to start with a first-round pick, one with lighter protections on it than the one Golden State coughed up. I don’t think the Pistons are of a mind to be parting with first-round picks at this stage of their development. Perhaps if they hadn’t suffered the injuries to Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose and Reggie Jackson that led to the poor start to the season – perhaps if they were 14-10 at this point and a top-four seed looked well within reach – they’d be more open to something like that. Even then, I think the actions of this front office since last winter indicate they’re looking a little further down the horizon than today. Trading Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson for Thon Maker, Svi Mykhailiuk and a future second-rounder were not the actions of a team chasing a playoff spot at all costs. Drafting Sekou Doumbouya six months from his 19th birthday when players who might have offered more immediate help were available followed in that vein. So if a deal for a player of Russell’s stature presented itself that didn’t empty the “future assets” drawer, then I suspect they’d be interested, of course. But those deals are rare unless the player comes with some sort of red flag or another.

Jacked Up Detroit (@JackedUpDetroit): Is there any reason to be concerned about Blake Griffin going forward? Five points, four rebounds in 32 minutes played at New Orleans. Off game or something to watch?

One game? Coming off a 25-point game when he made the biggest basket of the night to give the Pistons a three-point lead in the final minute? No, that alone is not anywhere near reason enough to worry about Blake Griffin going forward. It’s logical that it was a likely byproduct of the ups and downs most players endure when returning from injury – or maybe it was merely the inevitable lousy game every player logs at some point of a season.

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. To have your question considered, submit it along with your name, email address and city/state using the form below.

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