As offense bumps along, SVG considers tweaks to pull Pistons out of 5-game swoon

Reggie Bullock is dealing with a thumb injury that clouds his status for Wednesday’s game with Utah.
Chris Schwegler/NBAE/Getty Images
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – An offense that’s performed as one of the NBA’s five worst since Reggie Jackson went down 12 games ago probably would have Stan Van Gundy inclined to shake things up anyway. But another injury might demand it regardless.

Reggie Bullock, who’s started the last 19 games, suffered a thumb injury in Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn that extended the Pistons losing streak to five. He missed Tuesday’s practice and his status for Wednesday’s game with Utah is uncertain.

Van Gundy used a day off Monday to consider what changes are due for an offense that ranks 28th in scoring at 100.8 points in going 3-9 without Jackson. He wants the Pistons to push the pace more after made baskets by the opponent. He’s going to send in a wider variety of plays from the sideline.

He might also alter minutes and roles, though nothing is in concrete.

“Everything’s on the table in terms of rotation,” he said. “I don’t know that either our starters or our bench have been very inconsistent in terms of the way they’ve played, so we may have to mix things up a little bit.”

Two players trending in the right direction: Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson. If Bullock can’t play against Utah, one of them is likely to step into the starting lineup. Johnson just returned after missing eight of the previous nine games with a strained hip flexor and Van Gundy seemed to indicate he’d prefer to keep him in his current role for the time being.

“He’s played well off the bench,” he said.

Whether Kennard starts or not, Van Gundy is almost certain to continue broadening his role and perhaps his minutes.

“I don’t know that he could carry the load right now of 32 or 34 minutes a game for 37 more games,” he said. “I don’t know if he’s ready for that. But more minutes – 24- to 28-minute range, something like that – yeah.”

In the 11 games Kennard has played since Jackson’s injury – he missed last week’s loss at Toronto with a thumb injury – Kennard is one of the few Pistons who hasn’t seen his offense suffer. He’s averaging 9.6 points and shooting .516 from the 3-point line over that span and is the only rotation player with a positive plus/minus rating.

With the Pistons groping for scoring, Van Gundy will continue to prod Kennard to be more mindful of looking to exploit every opportunity.

“I’m trying to get him to be more aggressive,” he said. “We’ve gotten him to when he rebounds to bust out. We’re running more plays for him. Just want him to be more aggressive, not just in shooting but in terms of making plays, drawing people to him. But really happy with his development. He’s got just got to continue to improve defensively.”

The Pistons have remained a stingy defensive team, despite the occasional lapses within games. In the 12 games without Jackson, the Pistons are the NBA’s No. 8 ranked defense but the 27th ranked offense. Boston, though, has gone 7-3 over that time despite an offense that’s cratered to 30th. So Van Gundy will continue to preach defensive focus and remind his team that during its five-game losing streak the Pistons were a possession or two or three from winning all of them.

“We just haven’t gotten the job done in close games, but we’re not far away,” he said. “And we’ve just got to take care of the things we can control. Two or three possessions different – maybe even one possession different – and your record is different. Just got to take care of those things.”