A new season, a whole new look at point guard for Pistons and Dwane Casey

Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson comes into the season healthy after dealing with serious leg injuries the past two off-seasons
Gregory Shamus (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

EAST LANSING – Dwane Casey’s inclination to field lineups with multiple point guards was hamstrung in his debut Pistons season by one major impediment: his roster.

Oh, Casey had three point guards on the depth chart. But Reggie Jackson wasn’t really Reggie Jackson for the first half of the season – the devastating ankle injury suffered in December 2017 crashed his off-season and lingered well into 2018-19 – and Father Time caught Jose Calderon from behind at 37.

When Ish Smith – indestructible in his first two Pistons seasons, playing 163 of 164 games – missed 26 games with a groin injury, the Pistons crashed hard, going 8-18.

There’s infinitely more breathing room this time around. There’s no single reason Casey feels better about his 2019-20 roster more critical than his comfort level with the point guard position in year two.

Jackson’s lower-half injuries are well behind him, Derrick Rose is dropping jaws through three days of training camp, Tim Frazier gives them a backup-quality point guard at No. 3 on the depth chart, Bruce Brown is ready to run a team in his second season and Jordan Bone, who’ll spend most of his season in Grand Rapids on a two-way deal, is in deep reserve and biding his time.

“You can go right down the line,” Casey said after Thursday’s practice on Michigan State’s campus. “We’re well protected at the point guard position. Derrick Rose today had some special plays. It looked like the MVP Derrick Rose.”

Rose caused such a stir that Casey immediately went to his coaches to tap the brakes.

“We’ve got to be smart,” he said, “and not get seduced and let him play big minutes.”

Jackson is in a much better place both physically and mentally this season, the two inextricably linked, and Casey is already envisioning a Jackson-Rose tandem as a finishing staple.

“If the game’s on the line, Derrick is going to be out there,” Casey said. “He had some special plays today that were very, very encouraging. That’s not even saying anything about Tim Frazier. Tim has been great and special. He makes things work. He has played along with Reggie or Derrick, in combination, so solid. Then the progression of Bruce at point guard. We’re very well protected right now.”

Blake Griffin, who missed the first three camp practices over 1½ days while being treated for strep throat, stepped into Wednesday night’s session and immediately felt the impact of Rose on the group.

“D-Rose takes everything to another level speed wise,” Griffin said. “His cuts, his up and down, passes, the way he reads the game. He’s going to be great for us. Our second unit is going to be tough. However it shakes out – D-Rose and Luke (Kennard) or Joe (Johnson) and Markieff (Morris) and Thon (Maker), however it ends up shaking out, it’s going to be a tough second unit. I’m excited about that.”

“The addition of Derrick Rose, Tim Frazier, Bruce when he’s at point guard – even Khyri Thomas when he’s in the game, able to run the point,” Andre Drummond said. “I think our point guard position is pretty well filled.”

Casey marveled not only at some of Rose’s moments in practice but also at Rose’s response to them.

“That’s what I love about him,” Casey said. “You would never know he had just made a great player. He looks like he’s done it a million times. Some guys come down, they make a shot, they celebrate like they’ve never made a shot before. Derrick Rose, Joe Johnson, both come out and do their jobs to the utmost and never change expression. Derrick made a play today that I hadn’t seen before. I made an expression; he never changed expression.”

The expression most common to Casey last season when pondering the condition of his situation at point guard was a furrowed brow. He’s changed that expression this season, too.

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