Casey makes competition the focus of Detroit Pistons team camp as Phase 2 looms next week

Luke Kennard
Luke Kennard is among the young players gathered at the Pistons Performance Center taking part in the team camp that runs through Oct. 6
Brian Sevald (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Sometimes it might be prudent to read the owner’s manual before embarking on the construction of that shiny new toy you just brought home, but sometimes you just want to dive right in.

Pistons team camp is going to be a little like that, Dwane Casey says. They’ll spend the briefest amount of time possible putting a structure in place next week when the Pistons are allowed their first taste of full-court, five-on-five basketball in more than six months.

“It’s really going to be geared toward playing – competition,” Casey said. “We’ve been off since March 11 of going body to body, going against physicality. They’re tired of beating up on the coaches.”

Casey has nine players from last season’s roster plus newcomer Justin Patton, the 2017 No. 1 pick of Minnesota who became new general manager Troy Weaver’s first acquisition when he signed over the summer. Five players from last season’s Grand Rapids Drive G League roster give Casey enough to field three five-man units for scrimmaging.

“We’ll do some fundamental drills before we start playing,” Casey said. “We’re going to do a few things different defensively, play a little more zone. We’ll put some parameters in to have an organized scrimmage, not a rec league scrimmage. But it’s going to be really geared toward playing.”

Casey said “all of our young guys are here” for the team camp, which runs through Oct. 6 as allowed by the NBA for the eight teams that were excluded from the Orlando bubble relaunch. Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, Svi Mykhailiuk, Khyri Thomas, Thon Maker, Tony Snell and two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King join Patton.

Players not participating include veteran stars Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, neither of whom Casey expected to take part in the strictly voluntary camp as per the agreement with the Players Association. Others not taking part are the five pending free agents: Christian Wood, Langston Galloway, John Henson, Brandon Knight and Jordan McRae.

“It’s their prerogative,” Casey said. “We totally understand. We’re not reading anything into that. I totally get it. If I’m a free agent, I wouldn’t attend to the team you’re not under contract with.”

As for those participating, they’re limited to individual workouts this week as part of Phase 1 of the team camp with Phase 2 starting next week. While undergoing rigid testing protocols, camp participants can live in their individual homes during Phase 1 but must congregate in a campus-like environment during Phase 2.

“This week, we’re allowed to go home,” Casey said. “That’s a lot of stringent protocols. Our medical staff has worked overtime to make sure the rules and regulations fit. It’s a lot of work. The days of just coming and going to practice and preparing for the season have changed. Everything is a lot of planning involved.”

Casey knows he wants to emphasize competition to tie together all the individual summer instruction – both skills work and strength and conditioning efforts – but wonders what comes next. Reports this week indicate the NBA has now locked in Nov. 18 for the draft with free agency likely to follow on its heels, but there remains uncertainty as to dates for training camp or to start the season.

“The beginning of next season is not clear so we’re dancing around,” he said. “We’ve got the bubble plan now, but what happens after that? How do we really plan for an upcoming training camp? Is there going to be a free-agent camp or a summer league, so to speak? We’re still kind of up in the air. We’ve got our individual workouts planned after this. We’ll wait and see if there’s going to be another get-together.”

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