2 preseason games to go as Pistons race to knock the ‘rust off the pipes’

Stanley Johnson was back at practice on Tuesday after missing Monday’s game with Brooklyn due to a toe injury
Mark Sobhani (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Two games left in Dwane Casey’s first preseason as Pistons coach and it appears he might have everyone available to play for the first time.

Stanley Johnson missed Monday’s game with a toe injury but went full speed in Tuesday’s practice after treatment calmed the injury down. And Jon Leuer, who’s been rehabilitating from early August surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right knee, could be cleared to play on Wednesday against Washington, as well.

“Jon should be close,” Casey said. “Either tomorrow or Friday. We’ll see (what) his body tells him. He practiced today – full practice.”

Both Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson made their preseason debuts Monday after sitting out the two-game road trip last week. They were on minutes restrictions during the overtime loss to Brooklyn and likely won’t play normal minutes against Washington, but Casey has said he’d more closely approximate his anticipated opening-night rotation as the preseason draws to a close.

So there should be some signals coming from Wednesday’s rotation, assuming everyone remains available, and more still from Friday’s preseason finale against Cleveland at Michigan State.

Casey started Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard at the two wing positions alongside Griffin, Jackson and Andre Drummond on Monday. If Johnson’s back for Washington, how Casey employs his wing combinations figures to be telling.

“We need everybody to get as many minutes as possible just to get a rhythm,” Casey said. “As you saw (against Brooklyn), those guys were working their behinds off, but there’s a difference between game shape and being out here doing drills with the strength coach.”

Kennard has played in all three preseason games after being unable to get on the court for more than two months – he was cleared just before training camp - due to a Summer League knee injury. Casey thinks he’s still playing catch-up.

“You see streaks,” he said. “You see places where he’s running but then you see a streak where it’s fatigue or rhythm or timing catches up to him. There’s no replacement for playing. One thing I was saying with Blake and Reggie last night, they were trying to get the rust off the pipes and that’s tough to do in NBA competition. We have to show patience. I know a lot of those drives Blake had, a lot of those shots Reggie had are going to go once they get the rust off.”