NBA schedule won’t wait on Pistons as Casey’s 3-point mentality takes root

Rookie Bruce Brown will have an expanded role for the Pistons as they wait on injuries to Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock to heal and help address their 3-point shooting woes.
Zach Beeker/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Reggie Bullock’s sprained ankle is in no danger of undermining the season the way Reggie Jackson’s sprained ankle took a wrecking ball to 2017-18, but it looks like he won’t be back in time to help the Pistons snap a three-game losing streak at Philadelphia.

“Reggie is still a little sore,” Dwane Casey said after Friday’s practice. “We’re going to see how he goes. Probably doubtful, I would say. But we’re going to hold the card to see how he feels tomorrow.”

That might not mean Bruce Brown will make his second career start – he started the opener when both Stanley Johnson and Bullock missed it and took Bullock’s place in the lineup to start Wednesday’s second half, though Casey wouldn’t commit to a Plan B – but it surely means he’ll again have an expanded role.

And that means there’s no obvious answer for how the Pistons do something to improve their 32.3 percent 3-point shooting, which ranks 26th in the league. Bullock was the NBA’s top 3-point shooter among players who took at least three attempts a game after he became a full-time starter last December, but he’s opened the season shooting 25 percent.

Blake Griffin has been the team’s best 3-point shooter at 48.7 percent on 5.6 attempts a game and that’s helped the Pistons to a 4-3 record. But with Griffin commanding double teams when he ventures inside, it’s imperative that the teammates who are gifted open shots by his vision and passing ability up their games.

Take Griffin and another unlikely 3-point marksman, Ish Smith – he’s second to Griffin at 46.2 percent on a career-high 3.7 attempts a game – out of the equation and the Pistons’ 32.3 percent figure plummets to 26 percent, which would rank last.

“Some of it is the type of shots, some of it is we’re missing some shots that we’re going to make,” Casey said. “It doesn’t just happen because you talk about it. ‘We’re going to be a 3-point shooting team? OK, we’re going to shoot 48, 49 percent.’ It doesn’t happen that way. You look at all the 3-point shooting teams. Golden State – it took them a couple of years to get that mentality. It’s a mentality, it’s a style of play, it’s a confidence.”

The six players who figured to be the ones to get the most minutes surrounding Griffin to supply the 3-point shooting the Pistons need to unburden him of consistent double teaming – Bullock, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard, Glenn Robinson III and Langston Galloway – are shooting a combined 27.7 percent from three. Jackson is the best of the bunch at 33 percent and he’s taken more than anyone on the team with 48 through seven games.

Brown is 1 of 10 from the arc, but Casey has full confidence the rookie – already a fully trusted defender – will progress to becoming a 3-point weapon.

“It just takes work and he’s one of the hardest workers we have,” Casey said. “I have all the confidence in the world his shooting will come. I’ve got a litany of players that had far worse fundamentals with their shot than Bruce, so it’s going to come. He just needs time, minutes and he will get those.”

For all their offensive hiccups, the Pistons are averaging 111.0 points a game, which a season ago would’ve ranked No. 5. Alas, this year it’s good for 18th. Getting Bullock and Kennard – out at least another week, but likely more with a separated right shoulder – back will help.

In the meantime, it’s rushing a process that Casey knows can’t really be rushed and doing whatever is necessary in other areas to eliminate the mistakes that have cost the Pistons two last-possession losses to Boston and Brooklyn in their last two games.

  • Henry Ellenson and Khyri Thomas will play two games with the Grand Rapids Drive, Friday and Saturday, as the G League season opens this weekend, Casey said.