(Editor’s note: Today continues a five-part interview of Dwane Casey with two weeks until training camp opens for the 2019-20 Pistons season. He spoke with Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois last week. In Part II, Casey talks about Reggie Jackson bouncing back at mid-season last year while recovering from injury, the possibility of him playing alongside Derrick Rose, and two other free-agent acquisitions, Markieff Morris and Tim Frazier.)
KEITH LANGLOIS: The last two summers have been pretty much ruined for Reggie Jackson by coming off of serious injuries. do you expect he’ll be able to hit the ground running this year?
DWANE CASEY: No question. Last year, all the medical people said it was going to be like January before he bounced back and, lo and behold, before he really started playing it was January. The toe thing this summer (Jackson had a toenail removed) was very minor, but he’s had an excellent summer, a full summer, which the last couple of years he hasn’t had and so he will hit the ground running once camp starts.
KL: In the last five minutes of close games, it’s almost like all bets are off and it comes down to which team can make the most plays. Last year, the ball was in Blake’s hands almost every time in those situations. If Derrick Rose plays as he did last season, now you’ve got two dynamic guys plus the Reggie-Andre pick-and-roll dynamic. Do you feel you can be a more diverse, unpredictable, dangerous team in those last five minutes this year?
DC: That’s our goal. We’ve got to be. We were very predictable – out of necessity, so to speak – and I thought the second half of the year, once Reggie came around and was making shots and Luke shot the ball very well, I thought we were a little bit more diversified. Then Blake went down and for the playoffs we lost our mojo a little bit. But that’s our goal, to be more diversified, cut Blake’s usage rate down somewhat as far as not handling the ball. But a lot of stuff we run is through him, whether it’s him scoring or him (dribble handoffing). To give a different look and be a little bit more flexible, I do know that Derrick brings that to the table. I think Bruce Brown has added an element of being able to make plays off of the dribble and then Andre, I think we found something in him in transition, bringing the ball down the floor, DHOing, getting the offense initiated off of the rebound. He’s going to rebound a lot, so that bust-out and that triggering the break is huge for us. I thought he was responsible and very disciplined in that situation, bringing it down, as long as he kept it on the sideline. He did a good job of triggering our break for us.
KL: I thought one of the underrated signings of the summer was getting Markieff Morris and especially at the price point you were able to get him. What role do you see for him?
DC: As a backup four/five is a role that I think will help us. His toughness, his physicality, his rebounding is huge. His size, I thought adding length to our team and size. Now we can go small without really going small. You get a guy like Markieff, possibly could play some at the five. The way we want to play, it’s a possibility. Just his overall physicality, his toughness, his ability to rebound the ball is really going to help us a lot.
KL: Teams don’t commit three roster spots necessarily to true centers any more. You’ve got Andre as a true center and maybe not another true center on the roster as you look at it now. Thon Maker can play there, Christian Wood maybe can play there, Morris can play there. Do you envision having an every-night backup center or could it be more situational depending on need?
DC: I see it being very situational. The other guy we haven’t mentioned, we have played Blake at the five. Not good numbers off of that, so I don’t anticipate that but there are scenarios in the game, last two minutes of the game, where Blake could play the five. Looking for really a bump out of Thon, playing him at four/five, whatever it is, but a lot of nights if you look at the league, the rosters have gotten smaller and the traditional five has kind of gone the way of the dinosaur. The flexibility we have with Thon, with Markieff having the possibility of playing there, is really important.
KL: You picked up Christian Wood on waivers and I know it’s a non-guaranteed deal so maybe he’s not written in ink right now but what have you seen? His G League production was off the charts, he had a really impressive finish to the season in New Orleans – what do you see in him?
DC: Big-time talent. Length, he has the potential to play a backup five. Young guy coming out of college. There’s never been a question about Christian’s talent. With Christian, it’s temperament, being a pro, doing the right things all the time and doing what you’re supposed to do all the time. I think that’s the most important thing with Christian and he’s demonstrated that this summer. That’s the reason we picked him up off of waivers. He gives us the length that we’re talking about, the ability to have a different look at the five position. He can stretch the floor, which is going to help guys like Derrick Rose, it’s going to help a guy like Blake. They can’t sag off of him outside because Blake can find and kick on penetration. A talented, talented young man but having consistent discipline, being a consistent pro is what we’re looking for out of Christian.
KL: Tim Frazier was another guy you moved to sign very quickly in free agency. Last year when Ish Smith was out, that backup point guard spot became problematic for you. I think you were 8-18 in the 26 games Ish missed. Did you go into free agency – and you had limited tools so you couldn’t know how it would turn out – hoping to get two point guards you’d feel comfortable playing?
DC: No question about it. That was huge. That was also a need, point guard, along with the length and size we got with Tony (Snell) early. And Tim does that for us. He’s another pro. Hard-playing kid. His 3-point shooting is not broke. It’s there. He can knock down shots. But his speed, pushing the ball, creating tempo in our game is a help. I think we were ranked 28th or 29th in pace, so we’ve got to get the ball – make or miss – we’ve got to get the ball down the floor and not walk it down and wait for Blake or wait for Andre to come on down. We’ve got to get it in and try to see what we can get down the floor and Tim does that and has done it for playoff teams. He’s been with Milwaukee, he’s been with New Orleans in the playoffs. He’s a proven, proven vet and a great young man.
KL: With the possibility of Derrick playing together with Reggie some, with the possibility of the organization being proactive at keeping Derrick healthy and maybe getting him some nights off as a part of that consideration, in a traditional depth chart Tim would be No. 3 at point guard. But he’s probably more like a 2a and 2b type of thing, right?
DC: Yes. If Reggie’s out or misses a game or whatever, now you have Derrick and Tim sitting there. That was what our front office with Ed (Stefanski) and Malik (Rose) went into free agency looking for. If something happens – and there might be situations where we look to rest Derrick – he gives you that third point guard that has been vital to this organization over the last two, three years.
In Wednesday’s Part III of Casey’s Q&A, he talks about the three players taken in the June draft – Sekou Doumbouya, Deividas Sirvydis and Jordan Bone.