Pistons – 2-0 without Avery Bradley – to be without their ace defender a bit longer than they expected
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AUBURN HILLS – The Pistons are 2-0 without Avery Bradley in the starting lineup, but it’s not an experiment Stan Van Gundy wished to extend for the long term. He might have to do so, regardless.
Bradley has more than just a right adductor strain, it turns out. Van Gundy described it as a “pubic stress injury” with symptoms similar to a sports hernia. At minimum, Bradley will miss the next three games.
“He’s going to be shut down for at least a week,” Van Gundy said after Tuesday’s practice. “We’ll go at least seven days and then week to week. It’s going to take some time. He’ll basically do nothing for the next seven days and then we’ll see where he is and whether we’re starting him back or not.”
It means Luke Kennard is more than just a Triple-A pitcher called up to make a spot start or two. He’s now part of the starting lineup and, he admits, it forces a different mindset.
“My aggressiveness needs to pick up more,” he said. “I feel like I need to bring a little more to the team. I don’t want to do something that is out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to be someone that I’m not. I know the coaches don’t want that, but they want me to be more aggressive, more assertive. So my mind is all about that right now. I’m focused on that and what I can bring. And I want to bring more.”
The silver lining is the Pistons have solid depth on the wing and all four of the players who’ll have to pick up the slack with Bradley out – Kennard, Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Langston Galloway – have recent trends of contributions to the current three-game winning streak.
“We thought that depth would be probably our biggest strength, so now situations like these force you to find out,” Van Gundy said. “I will say that Avery’s about as tough as anybody for us to lose. The guy was our second-leading scorer and our best defender on the perimeter. To lose a guy at both ends, it’s tough. But our depth is good and our guys are capable of stepping up and then our other guys – like Reggie Jackson, Tobias (Harris) and Andre (Drummond) have to be consistently productive and then the guys stepping up have to do their jobs.”
The move of Bullock to the starting lineup and Stanley Johnson to the bench seems to be working out individually for both players and collectively for the starters and bench unit. Galloway has been shooting it well from the 3-point arc and also impressing Van Gundy with a greater focus and impact defensively.
“More attentive to it,” Van Gundy said. “I think where you want to be if you’re a Langston Galloway or one of those shooters off the bench is in a position where you do the other things like defend that keep you on the court on the nights where every shot’s not dropping. Langston’s been more attentive to that and it’s an important thing. You don’t want to be a guy that you’ve got to make your first three shots to stay in the game.”
Kennard had a big hand in the Pistons win at Indiana last week in his debut as a starter, then got yanked a minute into Sunday’s win over Orlando for two mental miscues, one at each end. Van Gundy met with Kennard before Tuesday’s practice to address the issue and said he probably overreacted.
“Should’ve just been telling him to get his head in the game and let him play through it,” Van Gundy said.
Kennard didn’t seem fazed or insulted and reminded questioners that Mike Krzyzewski was no shrinking violet, either.
“I know Coach is going to be hard on me,” he said. “He told me that and I’m completely fine with that. I want to become a really, really good player. If that’s what it takes, then I’m all for it.”
While Avery Bradley is on the mend, the Pistons need Kennard – and Johnson, and Bullock, and Galloway – to all be really, really good.