Casey hopeful NBA OKs summer competition for Pistons, 7 others excluded from Orlando resumption
Andrew D. Bernstein (NBAE/Getty)
Since Michigan’s gradual relaxation of social-distancing norms in response to COVID-19 last week allowed the Pistons to make their practice facility available to players, at least a half-dozen of them have gotten in workouts under the strict protocols imposed by the NBA.
“We’ve had great participation,” Dwane Casey said Wednesday, “but it’s one player, one coach, one basket. Each player has their own ball. Coach wears gloves. So it’s a very sterile situation. The weight training and the conditioning part is also very big and that’s what they’re doing, also. From a basketball standpoint, you can only do that so long before it gets stale.”
And so if the NBA is taking the temperature of the eight organizations shut out of the Orlando reboot of the suspended 2019-20 season, it can rest assured that Casey’s Pistons are an enthusiastic proponent of allowing the excluded eight a minicamp or some form of real, live NBA basketball – lest they go nine months or more between games from the March 11 suspension to the anticipated December tipoff of the 2020-21 season.
“Just the lack of competition,” is Casey’s biggest concern with such an unnaturally prolonged absence from games. “I know there’s been conversations with the league as far as different options to get the group together to have some type of competition later in the summer – late July, August – so the league is very aware of it. I just think it puts us as a competitive disadvantage if we go from March 11 to Dec. 1 or whenever the season reconvenes.”
Casey isn’t particularly concerned with whatever the NBA and the Players Association can agree to – so long as it gets his team, and especially his young players, together and competing.
“If it’s a minicamp or a round-robin Summer League with four of the eight teams, (that) would be sufficient,” he said. “Different ideas have been put out there. Especially with a young team – and all of the eight teams are young teams – you can only drill one on one and try to get guys better from an individual standpoint (so much). The teams in Orlando have a competitive advantage by going against each other in a very competitive atmosphere and it really puts us behind the eight ball from a competitive standpoint.”
The Pistons got exceptions from the NBA so rehabilitating players like Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown and Derrick Rose could make use of the practice facility even during the shutdown. Since last week’s reopening, Casey mentioned Svi Mykhailiuk, Sekou Doumbouya and Brandon Knight as others who’ve worked out there.
He also said Blake Griffin, who underwent season-ending left knee surgery in January, is on track with his recovery.
“I talked to Blake yesterday. Blake is doing well,” Casey said. “He’s got his workout. Blake is one of the hardest workers I’ve been around. He’s coming along. He’s right on schedule as far as his rehab is concerned.”
Casey said Brown, who underwent thumb surgery, is ahead of schedule and Kennard, who had been out since late December with tendinitis in both knees but was due to return on March 14, “looks great. His tendinitis has gotten much better.”
“Everybody right now is in tip-top shape,” he said. “But what we need as much as anything is being together and have competition at some point throughout the summer to see exactly where we are.”