Henson, nearly a Piston in 2012, proves a quick study but Pistons falter late in loss to Knicks

John Henson
John Henson expected to be drafted by the Pistons in 2012 but got late word that Andre Drummond’s surprising fall altered plans.
NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – John Henson’s Pistons debut came more than seven years after he expected it would.

The Pistons had the No. 9 pick in the 2012 draft and they were looking for a big man to pair with Greg Monroe, their 2010 No. 1 pick. That was well before the NBA’s 3-point revolution and every team going all in on analytics, remember. Everybody wanted big men with Henson’s length and shot-blocking instincts.

“The Pistons actually promised me at nine,” Henson said two days after being involved in a trade that sent Drummond to Cleveland and brought Henson – along with 2011 Pistons No. 1 pick Brandon Knight – to Detroit. “But Drummond dropped, so they called me. ‘Hey, Drummond dropped. We’re going to pick him.’ So it’s kind of full circle.”

Henson was better than anyone had a right to expect given that he’s yet to go through a Pistons practice. He played 17 minutes, made all six of his shots and finished with 12 points and four rebounds.

But Drummond’s absence was hard to overlook. The dominant rebounder of his generation probably would have tilted the final rebounding numbers that showed the Knicks with a whopping 47-28 edge overall.

“Man, I didn’t realize it was that bad,” said Reggie Jackson, now the longest-tenured Piston after his sidekick’s departure. “They got after it. Got a lot of offensive boards, second-chance opportunities. We’ve got to figure out a way to rebound as a collective group.”

The last of New York’s 16 offense rebounds and the final two of its 17 second-chance points – the Pistons had three offensive boards and two second-chance points – were especially costly.

Julius Randle’s basket with 13.5 seconds left off of Mitchell Robinson’s rebound put the Knicks ahead by four points. Not only did it cost the Pistons their last best chance at the win, it also cost Thon Maker three teeth when Randle’s elbow jarred them loose as he cleared space to get off his shot.

Christian Wood immediately signaled for the play to be reviewed and Dwane Casey pleaded with officials to do so. They huddled at center court, then told Casey that the 90-second window to initiate the review had lapsed.

“I was begging them to do it as soon as I saw Thon’s three teeth and saw the replay (on the video board),” Casey said. “But they told me that the time had expired where they could go and review it. I’ve got a guy with three teeth out. That’s the second time.”

Drummond lost two teeth when he was elbowed by Washington’s Thomas Bryant as the Pistons lost to the Wizards on Jan. 20. As in Maker’s incident, there was no foul called on that play and no video review, either.

The Pistons cut the deficit to one on Wood’s triple with eight seconds to play and nearly tied it at the buzzer after two Reggie Bullock free throws, but Jackson’s triple to force overtime hit the front rim and bounced away.

“I’ll take that a million times,” said Jackson, who finished with game highs of 20 points and nine assists. “It felt real good.”

The 95-92 loss caps a crazy week that saw the Pistons play five games in seven days with two back to backs. It began with an overtime win over Denver and ended with the Pistons playing their second back to back, this one coming after a Central time zone start in Oklahoma City that saw them get to bed less than 15 hours after Saturday night’s tipoff.

And they did it with only nine available players on Friday, expanded to 10 with Henson’s availability on Saturday. Knight, who hasn’t played since Jan. 14 with left knee soreness, was one of seven players who missed the game.

So there were a lot of crutches the Pistons could have used to explain their loss to the reeling Knicks, who improved to 17-36 in the week that saw them clean house in the front office. But the glaring rebounding deficiency trumps all else.

“I think we’ve been spoiled with a guy like Andre, who’s one of the best in the history of the game,” Casey said. “That’s what he brought to the table. We’ve got to get a mindset of boxing out every time.”


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