Pistons Mailbag - November 13, 2019

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Derrick Rose starting or coming off the bench, discussion about the concept of load management and the impact of an arduous night and morning of travel are on the docket for this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

SC.81 (@SeanCarmody494): Do you think starting Derrick Rose will become a normal thing? It didn’t look too hot against Minnesota but I know everyone is going to need time to adjust to Blake Griffin coming back. It kind of feels like we’re killing our bench depth by starting him.

Langlois: TBD. Not enough to go on yet. It didn’t work very well against Minnesota – then Griffin and Rose didn’t play at Miami – but it would have looked different if Rose had made a few more shots. Rose has played seven games and made better than half his shots in five of them and gone 7 of 29 in the other two. My hunch is that Casey ultimately decides that while Reggie Jackson is out and while Luke Kennard is starting, the greater need is for Rose to drive the second unit. But Monday also might have looked a lot different if Andre Drummond hadn’t picked up his second foul midway through the first quarter, which prevented Casey from keeping him in to stabilize that second unit through the end of the quarter. Minnesota’s 15-1 run – the key juncture, as it turned out, of the entire game – to end the quarter came in the last 2:25 with an all-bench unit playing.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): Even though we have a big three, Derrick Rose probably fits best as a scorer on our second unit. Too bad he and Andre Drummond had bad games against Minnesota, but I think the guys will get better as they play together more down the road.

Langlois: You’re probably right about that, especially because starting Rose makes it trickier to patch together the rotation while still adhering to the minutes limits imposed on Rose. Given that the Pistons are still a long way from getting Reggie Jackson back – Dwane Casey said before Tuesday’s game at Miami, “He’s still weeks away, probably sometime in December, January, just depends on when his body lets us know he’s back” – some of Casey’s decision will be informed by how they’re able to patch together minutes at the point with the starting lineup if it’s not Rose. Bruce Brown gives them a top-notch perimeter defender to start games, no small consideration, if he can hold his own at running the offense – and his career-high 11 assists on Tuesday at Miami represented a step in that direction. Tim Frazier is adept at running the half-court attack and remains the fall-back option.

Nick (Totowa, N.J.): “Load management” and “tanking” are two topics of discussion that generate passion among NBA fans. There should be something to prevent it. Tanking teams should be fined and stripped of draft picks, whereas a team that uses load management should be fined. Shorten the schedule from 82 games with no back-to-back games would solve this issue. Why can’t the NBA take serious actions?

Langlois: No argument from me that those are two topics that stir debate. The NBA has taken steps – revising the lottery odds, most notably – to address tanking. It’s worked to some degree but in a sport so driven by star power, so long as there aren’t 30 true superstars evenly distributed among the 30 franchises you’ll always have teams that begin each season knowing they’re not chasing a championship and thus make moves to optimize the ability to amass future assets – whether that means trading off more accomplished players for younger, cheaper ones or pursuing wins with less than utmost enthusiasm to better lottery odds. There’s only so much legislation can accomplish to dissuade that. As for load management, it’s here to stay, like it or not. The NBA will continue to do what it can to minimize its use, but, again, its power is limited. Even scaling back on back to backs is only going to do so much because it’s the volume of games – 82 – that is the crux of the matter. (As for reducing the number of games, unless the NBA can coax its TV partners and corporate sponsors to pay more for less, it’s a non-starter. Players and owners aren’t going to voluntarily reduce their revenue stream.) It’s a very different game today with so much stopping, starting and cutting and ground to cover defensively that injuries seem to occur with greater frequency even with all of the advances in conditioning, nutrition and strength training. And some of those advances in sports science are telling teams that their best course of action is to strategically rest players. In light of all of that, I don’t see the toothpaste being put back in the tube. It will be up to the NBA to manage the matter publicly as best it can to educate fans to the wisdom of such practices.

Bo (Elko, Nevada): The Blake Griffin acquisition has never made sense with the Pistons’ timeline. Instead of maintaining a goal of mediocrity – although making the playoffs was fun last year, our ceiling the next few years with this group is probably still exits in the first or second round – I have been hopeful for rumors of a Griffin trade to a contender in need of a big. I also worry such a trade might influence Andre Drummond to leave Detroit next summer. The ESPN trade machine gives Portland 10 wins and Detroit eight losses with a trade of Whiteside, Bazemore and Simons for Griffin and Snell. I like this because the future prospect of Simons lines up with our roster and I would hope to get some sort of picks in this deal, as well. Portland’s front line is really hurting. Good for Blake, Portland and us, I think.

Langlois: Not much sense in looking back at the logic of the Griffin trade from 22 months ago. We did plenty of it at the time. It was a previous administration and he was a star of the stature they’d been seeking for their nearly four years on the job at the time. The current administration has certainly been enthusiastic in its support of Griffin publicly and, by all indications, behind the scenes. He’s the unquestioned leader of the team in every sense. If they were to ever entertain trading him, there would be small consideration given to the void his absence would mean in the locker room and beyond. Portland surely wouldn’t be the only suitor, but it’s perhaps the most obvious one, especially in light of the (likely) season-ending shoulder injury suffered by Zach Collins that leaves the Trail Blazers with only ex-Piston Anthony Tolliver at power forward. The name most prominently linked to Portland, though, probably makes even more sense for the Blazers – Portland native Kevin Love, whose Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the teams that entered the season with no expectation of playoff contention.

Charlie Tryck (@CharlieTryck): Though it’s still November, the health of the roster currently has me concerned. If you were in the front office, at what point (record and/or month) would you begin to assess the franchise’s season goals with the current roster vs. long-term goals weighed against the market. Will the risk of a losing season – be it injury-ridden, poor chemistry, etc. – be enough to alter the current season objectives given the veteran-vs.-young-talent on the roster? We have experienced, well-aged stars and some nice young talent, but where’s the foundation?

Langlois: When you ask “at what point would you begin to assess …,” the answer is that assessment is continual and never ending but it’s way too early to begin making decisions on what direction the season is going to take. Eventually, you run out of time, but the Pistons – now that Blake Griffin is back – of course want to see what they have after coming into training camp believing they had improved roster depth and given themselves two solid units. Not that there’s ever a good time for injuries, but everybody saw the Pistons’ schedule looked kinder to them over the first half of the season than the second so they’ve lost some games already that looked winnable with a healthy roster.

Fatima E (@drummondfp): Do you think Christian Wood will get decent minutes?

Langlois: It’s in his hands to get them. Wood needs to clean up mental mistakes – that’s Dwane Casey’s strong intimation whenever he talks about Wood – so that the points and rebounds he generates translate into net positives instead of merely helping erase his lapses. There’s something of a Catch-22 at play in that Wood probably needs more experience to reduce those errors but the errors prevent him from gaining that experience, which puts him in the same company of untold numbers of young players who’ve faced the same dilemma across NBA generations.

Dillon (@SnekLegsJimmy): Am I the only one confused as to why Thon Maker is playing over Christian Wood? He does everything better than Thon and more.

Langlois: He’s a more natural scorer. Dwane Casey trusts Maker defensively, though, and Wood has yet to enter the circle of trust. There’s no mystery here. Does anyone think Casey would suppress any player whom he thinks can help the team win games when it’s his record and job on the line?

J Roze (@Det2UP): With all the talk about load management, can you talk about the impact of travel on a back to back that you are currently going through?

Langlois: I can’t speak for the 20- and 30-year-old world-class athletes who actually had to play against Miami after Monday night’s/Tuesday morning’s travel misadventure that saw the Pistons travel party roll into their Miami hotel just minutes before sunrise and after 6 a.m., but I was operating in a fog all day. Dwane Casey tried as best he could to coax his players to block the effects, but his true feelings could only be betrayed for so long. Here’s what he said – bracketed by multiple assertions that there were “no excuses” – about the difficulty of traveling from Detroit to Miami, in itself a fairly onerous assignment for a back to back, amid the first blizzard of the season: “Our organization has to learn from it. Whatever the deicing plan is, something’s got to happen. There’s no way an NBA team should be leaving at 3 o’clock in the morning to get on a flight. That’s just not good for the players’ health, the health of the game. I know weather situations happen, but we’ve got to plan for that.”

Adam (St. Petersburgh, Fla.): What would you say is Jordan Bone’s ceiling?

Langlois: I’m not even sure where the room is yet, let alone what the specifications are. I saw a bit of Bone at Tennesee, which irrationally became one of my favorite teams last season primarily because of Grant Williams and Bone. Based on what I saw in Summer League, he’s got scoring instincts with his strength being the mid-range right now, though he’s got a shot that should pretty easily allow him to become a solid to very good 3-point shooter as he adapts to the distance and speed of closeouts. Once he figures out how to use his extraordinary speed and quickness to help him facilitate as well as score, he’ll be a big step closer to having a chance to win playing time at the NBA level. It will be a big developmental year for Bone with the Grand Rapids Drive. The injuries to Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose and Tim Frazer that have necessitated Bone being with the Pistons so far are delaying his integration into the Drive lineup, but with Rose and Frazier back that likely changes soon. A little more physical maturity and strength also will benefit Bone.

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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