Casey says Pistons ‘proceed as normal – our goal is to get into the playoffs’
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AUBURN HILLS – Dwane Casey is happily divorced from plotting franchise direction. He wants his perspective on players solicited once his front office starts down the path toward a transaction, but that’s where it stops.
Dealing rotation staples for Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson for two players, Svi Mykahiliuk and Thon Maker, more in the “prospect” bin were moves to help address next season’s roster needs while navigating a constricted salary cap, but Casey’s focus remains unchanged.
“One vision that I have is winning. That vision doesn’t change,” he said after Thursday’s practice, which ended about 30 minutes before the 3 p.m. NBA trade deadline. “We’re going to proceed as normal. Our goal is to get into the playoffs.”
The Pistons, having won two straight, entered Thursday’s play 1½ games out of the final playoff spot and two games back in the loss column with 29 games remaining.
They host the Knicks on Friday, a team that just beat Tuesday, and both will have a different look over the course of the 72 hours between games. The Pistons will be without Bullock and Johnson while the Knicks are reportedly in buyout talks with Wes Matthews, acquired last week from Dallas in the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
Casey says he didn’t diverge from his practice routine to get Mykahiliuk – Maker was not yet able to practice as the trade had yet to get formal approval from an NBA office overwhelmed by the quantity of deadline deals choking its pipeline – up to speed, another indication he’s focused on squeezing out as many wins as possible over the next two months.
“Today was more about getting our compete level up, things we didn’t do well against New York, more so than just the whole practice trying to integrate one guy,” he said. “We went through our stuff and went through a normal practice.”
Will the new guys be part of the playing group? To be determined.
The Pistons have to replace Bullock’s 31 minutes, 12.1 points and the threat of his 3-point range as well as Johnson’s 20 minutes, 7.5 points and often elite one-on-one defense. Beating the Knicks on Tuesday would have been a trickier course without Bullock’s five 3-pointers and Johnson’s fourth-quarter suffocation of Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr.
But Casey has a list of in-house candidates to get it done. Langston Galloway and Khyri Thomas are in line for expanded roles to help plug Bullock’s vacancy, though neither is likely to replicate his 39 percent 3-point accuracy. Luke Kennard could see his 20 minutes a game expand as part of the solution to fill both Bullock’s and Johnson’s role. Glenn Robinson III has alternated between starting (17 games) and not playing, but he comes closest to approximating Johnson’s size/defensive ability combination of the remaining options.
And then there’s Mykhailiuk, a 21-year-old who spent four years at Kansas, was drafted 47th overall, was one of the stories of 2018 Summer League and has flashed intriguing offensive potential in limited opportunity with the Lakers. Casey got a strong endorsement from a unique connection.
“George Karl’s son, who I used to baby sit, Coby, was very, very high on the young man,” Casey said. Coby Karl coaches the Lakers G League team. “He’s a playmaker.”
Mykhailiuk’s game holds some elements of Bullock’s and some of Kennard’s for his ability to put the ball on the floor. But it’s his 3-point shot that probably will determine where his NBA career takes him.
“I think everybody knows I’m a pretty good shooter,” the native of Ukraine said. “So definitely spacing the floor, creating my own shot and just help with whatever they need me to do.”
Casey said the team was very much business as usual while going through its first practice since dealing away Bullock and Johnson, but things at home were a little different.
“My kids were upset that we traded Stanley and Reggie Bulllock,” he said, “but I told them, ‘You like those Corn Flakes and orange juice and everything else, so we’ve got to keep working.’
“We have enough guys here to go out and fight and compete.”