Detroit Pistons camp allows team to make up for lost time – a lot of it
The Pistons aren’t sure exactly where the end of the tunnel is just yet, but that might be a pinprick of light forming at its center.
Dwane Casey gets the next three weeks to make up for months of time lost to the COVID-19 pandemic that suspended the NBA season on March 11 – and ultimately ended it for the Pistons and seven other teams excluded from the 22-team Orlando bubble relaunch.
Advances in rapid testing protocols are a key step that could help facilitate the NBA’s return for the 2020-21 season, which isn’t likely to start before Christmas Day, recent reports suggest, and could be pushed back to January. NBA owners understandably want to play as many of their 82 games in home arenas before fans – if not full capacity, then at least enough to matter.
While all of that plays out and the NBA monitors both the spread of the virus and efforts to develop vaccines and therapies that would mitigate its effects, Casey and the Pistons embarked Monday on their most meaningful activity in more than six months. The Sept. 14-Oct. 6 team camps OK’d by the NBA and the Players Association will unfold in two stages. The first continues the individual workouts – one player working with one coach – the Pistons were able to resume in early June under state guidelines.
Starting next week, the Pistons go to phase two, allowing for group workouts and scrimmages. The team camps are 100 percent voluntary, though Casey said recently that he expects all of the team’s young players under contract – including Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Svi Mykhialiuk, Justin Patton and Bruce Brown – to participate. Two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King have also been regulars at the Pistons Performance Center and will be part of team camp.
In addition, the Pistons can add up to five players who played the 2019-20 season for their G League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive.
When Casey gathers them as a group next week, it will be the first time in more than six months that the Pistons have been able to do anything other than the limited one-on-none workouts permitted since June. The pandemic just didn’t lop 16 games and a little more than a month off of the Pistons season, it cost them anything approaching a normal off-season, as well.
“It’s going to be great for us,” Casey said last month of the camp. “Just the competition. The guys have been working hard. I’ve been really impressed with the intensity and the strength and conditioning programs the guys have been working on on an individual basis throughout these last couple of months.”
Casey does not expect Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose to take part in group workouts, though they might choose to join the group for some level of participation, he said. Pending free agents from the 2019-20 roster include Christian Wood, Langston Galloway, John Henson, Brandon Knight and Jordan McRae. Thon Maker would be a free agent if the Pistons decline to extend a qualifying offer. Casey said veteran Tony Snell might also participate.
“It’s strictly voluntary, but hopefully with the young guys it’s voluntary but mandatory,” Casey said. “I expect most all the young players to participate. All the young guys have been here, in and out, the past couple of months.”