Bullock’s return nears as ‘teed off’ Pistons look to reverse momentum
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
AUBURN HILLS – It looks likely the Pistons will get Reggie Bullock back Saturday. The bigger question for Dwane Casey is whether they’ll get their swagger back, too.
“Like I told the players, there’s nobody on this team that shouldn’t be teed off from the position we’re in right now,” Casey said after Friday’s practice, the first since they squandered a 10-point lead in the final six minutes at Charlotte on Wednesday to extend their losing streak to six games. “It’s not the end of the world, but we’ve got to have a bad taste in our mouth to create a sense of urgency for a longer period of time.”
Since beating Golden State to crest at 13-7, the Pistons have lost four key players to injuries and seen a murderer’s row of opponents compound their challenge in falling to .500. The schedule doesn’t lighten any with Boston and Milwaukee on deck over the next three days.
“We’ve had a string of hell of a teams we’ve been going against, but that’s no excuse for where we are,” Casey said. “It’s on us, on me to start with. We’re going through one of our times right now and we how bounce out of it is going to be important.”
Their fortunes began to turn very early in their next game after the win over Golden State on Dec. 1 when Bullock stepped on Jerami Grant’s foot and sprained his left ankle – same ankle, same injury that cost him two-plus games a month earlier.
“I tweaked it in the Boston game (Oct. 30), tried to play on it in Brooklyn (Oct. 31) and rolled out,” Bullock said. “Then against OKC, I just rolled it all the way over. This one was a little bit worse, so I just had to get the right recovery.”
Stanley Johnson returned at Charlotte after missing three games with a knee injury, but Ish Smith (torn adductor), Glenn Robinson III (sprained ankle) and Henry Ellenson (sprained ankle) remain out for extended periods. Bullock went down on the same night that Luke Kennard was cleared to return from a 16-game absence with a separated shoulder. The Pistons have had precious little time through the first third of the season when they’ve had both of their two best shooters, Kennard and Bullock, available at the same time.
Casey isn’t one to tip his hand on lineup adjustments and was reluctant to expand on what it would mean to have the option of using Bullock and Kennard in the same lineup to see what the impact of having two 40-plus percent 3-point shooters together could be.
“It’s more than two guys,” he said. “We just saw Reggie out. If we have everybody on the same page, that’s handling the injury part. We shouldn’t have to rely on a guy being out. That’s why you have a bench. I’m more doing it as a whole. You’re going to lose players for injury. If your habits are there, everything else kicks in. That’s what we’re striving for. I’m excited to see five guys with the right habits.”