Pistons bench gets a boost with Baynes’ return and another eye-opener from Bullock in win over Bulls

Reggie Jackson scored 20 points in only 27 minutes as the Pistons used a 15-0 run in the fourth quarter to rout Chicago.
Gary Dineen (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

CHICAGO – Opportunity knocked. Reggie Bullock greeted it with a pool party and a catered buffet.

If there was any suspense left in the battle for a roster spot, a little misfortune to others and a whole lot of eye-opening play from Bullock extinguished the few remaining drops. Bullock has now been called on three times in the preseason and each performance has been more impressive than the last.

Bullock scored 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting, handed out four assists and generally played flawlessly in his longest stint of the preseason, 24 minutes.

“He was great defensively and he made shots,” Stan Van Gundy said. “You couldn’t have a much better preseason than what he’s had.”

In his three appearances, Bullock is averaging 12.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in a little more than 20 minutes a game. He’s shooting 60 percent and about two-thirds of his field-goal attempts have been triples, making half of those shots.

And he wasn’t supposed to play. But another tough break for Adonis Thomas – who aggravated the calf muscle strain he originally incurred late in the first week of training camp – opened the door for Bullock. With Stanley Johnson feeling the effects of his first NBA back to back, as he admitted in the locker room after the Pistons pulled away for a 114-91 win over Chicago, Bullock more than adequately filled in at small forward.

“I’ve just always got to be ready when coach gives me the call,” Bullock said. “He knows what I’m capable of doing, shooting and defending. My teammates believe in me to shoot the ball, they believe in me to play defense. It’s all about me staying mentally and physically ready and going out and playing my game.”

For a guy who knew he had so much at stake in camp – battling not only Thomas but Cartier Martin, who has yet to play with a sprained wrist – Bullock hasn’t played with any hint of a weight on his shoulders. In 62 preseason minutes, he’s committed one turnover and if he’s made any other mistakes, well …

“He doesn’t,” Van Gundy said. “He doesn’t turn the ball over, he makes shots and he defends. That’ll take you a long way.”

“I’m starting to feel myself a little bit,” Bullock said. “Just being confident out there, my teammates finding me. We’re just trying to play together, trying not to force anything. I’ll take the shots if a player goes under (on screens). I take shots when I’m open. If somebody else is open, pass him the ball. I’ve always been that type of player. I’ve just got to keep it going.”

Another player with a more certain role off of Van Gundy’s bench provided another bit of good news from Chicago, too, as Aron Baynes logged his first 13 minutes of the preseason. Recovering from off-season ankle surgery, Baynes looked a little rusty but overall, hey, not bad.

“I actually thought he was better than I thought he was going to be,” Van Gundy said. “He hasn’t played in so long. I thought he looked fine. Better than I expected.”

“Dust the cobwebs off, as it were,” Baynes grinned. “It’s one of those things: The more you play, the more comfortable you get. The wind will come back, as well, so that will allow us to do even more than what you’re capable of right now. Just getting out there and getting the reps up and down with the guys will be the biggest thing for me getting comfortable.”

The Pistons might have to wait on the return of Steve Blake, another newcomer to their bench, a bit longer. Van Gundy was hoping for a Friday return, but Blake experienced a headache after getting off the stationary bike recently.

“Any time you get any of that, they’ve got to slow you down,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t expect him until probably next week sometime.”

If the Pistons get the kind of play they got from Spencer Dinwiddie in Wednesday’s second half, they can afford the wait on Blake. Dinwiddie, Bullock, Baynes, Jodie Meeks and Anthony Tolliver were on the court when the Pistons went on a 15-0 run early in the fourth quarter as they outscored the Bulls 38-16 over the period to win going away.

Dinwiddie had seven points, four assists, four rebounds and just one turnover in the quarter.

“Much better second half,” Van Gundy said. “Worked harder defensively and made better decisions with the ball.”

Meeks finished with 11 points, Tolliver with eight. Van Gundy’s bench scored 54 points, shot 54 percent and made 7 of 12 triples.

One of the anticipated outcomes of Van Gundy’s off-season makeover was a deeper team and a more versatile bench. Their win at Chicago offered the most hopeful signs yet that they’ll be proven right.