SAN ANTONIO – Maybe, perhaps, Dwane Casey sees a little bit of himself in Langston Galloway. Well, minus the 3-point shot.
Casey earned his way into the mix for Joe B. Hall’s late ’70s Kentucky powerhouse on pure grit, crawling into the jersey of whomever he was asked to guard from one end of the commonwealth to the other.
Galloway’s calling card might be the incredibly quick trigger on his 3-point shot, but there’s a reason Casey hung with him so long even when he was mostly firing blanks through a February shooting slump.
“His toughness,” Casey said. “He has a toughness – physical toughness – about him and a stick-with-it attitude defensively.”
But after Galloway missed his only 3-point attempt in Friday’s win at Atlanta – the third straight game Galloway had failed to make a shot or score a point – even Galloway’s toughness didn’t earn him a spot in the rotation of Saturday’s first half at Miami. Rookie Khyri Thomas, a player in whom Casey sees a similar fearlessness, took his place.
But when Thomas had a few rookie moments in a big game against a team with the same record as the Pistons at the time, Galloway got another shot. He scored 17 second-half points as the Pistons won going away, then came back with 13 more in another big win over Indiana.
Galloway’s 11 second-half points sparked a Pistons comeback from 14 down to pull them within two at San Antonio on Wednesday, though a late 9-0 Spurs run snapped a three-game winning streak.
Galloway went undrafted in 2014 after a terrific four-year career at St. Joseph’s, landed with the Knicks D-League team in Westchester and worked his way into New York’s starting lineup before his rookie season ended. With that background, a little shooting slump isn’t going to deter him. When his shot betrays him, Galloway doubles down on the dirty work that endears him to coaches, Casey among them.
“For sure. Defensively, number one,” he said. “Rebounding, try to get assists. Try to make even more hustle plays. Just try to find ways to help out and change the game. I think that’s a big, big stickler for Coach. He wants us to go out there and play hard if it’s falling or not. Try to give something to the game that helps the team.”
Galloway has already matched last season’s 58 games played, a measure of the trust he’s earned from Casey. And he’s averaging 21 minutes a game, seventh on the team. He and Luke Kennard flank Ish Smith on the second unit’s perimeter and when both Galloway and Kennard are clicking and Smith is darting around screens and dancing into the paint, Casey’s bench becomes a positive force.
Casey doesn’t hesitate to put Galloway on primary scorers or bigger wings, either, a challenge Galloway relishes.
“When I was in New York, I normally had the task of guarding whoever was the best player on the other team,” he said. “This year, with the second unit, I’m out there with the best player. It’s actually a goal of mine to be able to get that responsibility because it makes me go out there and focus even more to help out the team in those areas.”
Galloway’s slump saw his 3-point shooting dip below the league average to a career-worst .336, but as a preternaturally positive personality that only means Galloway expects the law of averages to work in his favor over the season’s home stretch. It won’t be for lack of working at getting his numbers back up if it turns out any other way.
Whenever his shot begins to stray, Galloway mixes increased video study with back-to-basics drill work. And he focuses on ratcheting up his intensity even more in all the subtle ways that contribute to winning – and pull at his coach’s heartstrings. He’s aware that Casey stuck with him longer than he might another player who doesn’t attack each game with the same ferocity.
“I think I just do the little things, the intangible stuff,” he said. “Hustle, being able to play great defense, try to be poised out there when I’m talking to the young guys or maybe talking to the rest of the team to try to be the leader of the bench.”
That always will keep him fresh in mind when Casey turns to his bench for options. What will keep him on the court for longer stretches is getting on a roll with his 3-point shot.
“I’m going to err on the side of toughness and hard play,” Casey said. “And that’s what he gives us. It’s even better when his shot’s falling.”