Kennard’s absence – a minor knee injury – means more reps for Ellenson, rookies

Rookies Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown will get more opportunities in Summer League games with Luke Kennard sidelined with a minor knee injury.
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by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

LAS VEGAS – It wasn’t the way the Pistons would have mapped it out, but the minor knee injury that will shut down Luke Kennard’s Summer League creates opportunities for others.

And, in truth, Kennard’s role with the 2018-19 Pistons was leaps and bounds more secure than anyone else’s on the roster. He’s firmly in the rotation and a key to an offense that will be designed to get off more 3-point attempts than last year’s 29 a game. So no Kennard means more of a leadership role for Henry Ellenson and more repetitions for second-round rookies Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas.

“It’s disappointing because the summer is when you get better and certainly we wanted to see Luke in there,” Pistons assistant coach Sidney Lowe said Tuesday. “Unfortunately, his knee was acting up a little bit so we’ll miss him, but obviously looking forward to him getting healthy, first and foremost.”

Kennard remains with the Pistons Summer League team here and the left knee strain, suffered in Monday’s practice, is not considered a threat to Kennard’s availability for anything beyond Summer League.

The Pistons had planned to feature Kennard and put the ball in his hands a ton at Summer League to explore how far they could expand his role for next season, but there will be plenty of time for that in camp and preseason games. In the meantime, Lowe likes the work ethic he’s seen through the first two days from Brown and Thomas, rookies who arrive with more advanced defensive toolboxes than typical rookies.

“Both guys are working hard,” Lowe said. “They’re picking up what we’re teaching them. It’s different than the college game, but they’re doing a great job with it. I particularly like Brown’s defensive ability. He’s really aggressive and strong as a perimeter guy. That was encouraging to see that.”

Thomas’ strength also caught Lowe’s eye, manifesting itself more noticeably at the offensive end.

“His ability to get to the basket – he’s got great strength,” Lowe said. “He’s shot the ball decently so far. I like his knowledge of understanding what Coach (Sean Sweeney) is telling him to do in terms of our offensive scheme and things we’re trying to implement. That’s very encouraging. Any time you get young guys that pick things up quickly, that’s a plus.”

Lowe spent several minutes following Tuesday’s morning practice in conversation with Ellenson after watching him put on a dazzling shooting drill display.

“The fact that he’s mobile and he can do several things, his ability to shoot the three ball, he can put it on the floor, he’s a decent passer. As I was just talking to him about, now let’s hone those skills. He has some natural things that a lot of guys his size don’t have. He and I were just talking about working on those things, getting in and getting the work done early and then going to practice and then he can shoot a little bit afterward. Just talking basketball – talking about the mindset that we’d like him for to have.”

Ellenson said one skill he hopes to put on frequent display at Summer League is to grab defensive rebounds and lead the fast break. Lowe won’t dissuade him.

“He has the ability to do that. That’s one of those things that’s the natural talent he has. I think the more that he does it, the better he’s going to become.”