AUBURN HILLS – Necessity scripted a very short shopping list for the Pistons in 2017’s free agency. They needed someone capable of playing big minutes at point guard in case Reggie Jackson didn’t come back at full speed off of the knee injury that undermined his 2016-17 season – but they also needed someone capable of big minutes at shooting guard in case they lost Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to free agency.
And they needed that to be the same guy because of the reality of their roster and salary-cap situation, which whittled the list of viable candidates down to less than a handful.
They landed on Langston Galloway and locked him up quickly with an aggressive three-year offer for the three-year veteran who’d finished the 2016-17 season in Sacramento after being included in New Orleans’ trade for DeMarcus Cousins.
But Jackson came back at or near full speed – before a late-December Grade 3 ankle sprain cost him nearly three months – and the Pistons pounced when Avery Bradley’s trade availability more satisfactorily addressed Caldwell-Pope’s loss.
So Galloway was left to fight for a role behind Bradley at shooting guard with Reggie Bullock and rookie lottery pick Luke Kennard or whatever was left at point guard after Jackson and Ish Smith gobbled up the majority of minutes.
By early March, with Kennard ascending, Bullock solidifying his status as an elite shooter and Jackson nearing his return, Galloway found himself anchored to the bench. His carrying tool – a 3-point shot launched on a hair trigger – became predictably inconsistent with sporadic playing time.
But if you think that left Galloway crestfallen – if you think a guy who had to fight his way onto a roster after going undrafted out of St. Joseph’s in 2014 would let that crush his spirit – guess again.
“It fuels the fire,” he said. “It shows that I’ve still got some kinks I need to work out and I’ve got to keep continuing to get better. When I wasn’t playing, I was still in the gym, still after it, still getting my reps and trying to find a way to get on the floor. I’m never going to concede. I’m never going to just say, that’s it, that’s the end of everything. I’m going to continue to fight.”
Though it was the previous administration that invested in Galloway, he’s encouraged that his 3-point shot and short memory will be ideal fits in an offense Dwane Casey is building to produce as many open 3-point shots as possible.
Galloway is seeing how Casey’s emphasis already has filtered down to players who’ve spent their summer in conversation with Casey and his assistants and hearing a constant drumbeat. In voluntary workouts with the players who’ve returned to Detroit ahead of training camp, the threes have been flying.
“It’s crazy how we’ve been playing,” he smiled. “It’s try to shoot early and if you penetrate, kick out for a three. It’s not like you’re pulling up or taking floaters. If you can finish, finish. But he’s trying to kick out and knock down threes. I know we’re going to get up a lot of threes this year. It really perks me up. I know I’m going to be ready to fire.”
Galloway said Casey invoked a comparison to C.J. Miles, signed by the Raptors last summer to be a scoring threat off of the bench. In just 19.1 minutes a game – the least Miles has played in 10 years – he averaged a career-best 6.5 3-point attempts per game.
It also isn’t lost on Galloway that Casey made liberal use of his bench in Toronto and wasn’t beholden to rigid rotation patterns.
“It gives (Pistons expected reserve players) a lot of confidence,” he said. “I know it doesn’t matter who’s on the floor at the end of the game – he just wants to win. That’s my M.O., just going out there and competing and finding a way to win. Doesn’t matter what’s going on. As long as those guys are contributing, hey, that’s all that matters. So I’m really excited about that.”
Galloway spent his summer home in Baton Rouge, La., where he and his wife, Sabrina, welcomed their first child, Langston Galloway II. They call him Deuce. It was dad’s job to get up for the 4 a.m. shift and get Deuce settled back in and then he’d head to the gym for 6 a.m. workouts, focused on shooting – what else? – ballhandling, strength training and flexibility, yoga and pilates part of the regimen.
“The biggest takeaway (from last season) was there were a lot of missing pieces in my game that I had to work on,” he said. “To get in the lineup, I had to go work on them. This summer was big, just being able to get stronger, work on defensive assignments, being able to react quicker on the court, being able to knock down shots. That’s huge to stay on the floor in the NBA. It was a definite learning process last season and, hey, I’m glad I went through it and learned a lot from it.”