AUBURN HILLS – Dwane Casey is doing more instilling than installing these days.
If he were still coaching in Toronto – where he spent seven seasons, the bulk of them featuring an offense based on the perimeter skills of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan – Casey might have close to his full playbook in before the first preseason game.
How much is place for the Pistons in advance of Wednesday’s preseason opener at Oklahoma City?
“Very little,” he said after Tuesday’s practice – and he’s OK with that. Casey first wants to ingrain the underpinnings of his offense before cluttering minds with the specifics of individual plays.
“We’re still trying to get our drive-kick-swing philosophy in,” he said. “We’re easing things in slowly because we want to grasp that mentality first, more so than plays. I want guys to play instead of having so many plays.”
The playbook might remain fairly slim beyond the preseason, too.
“Year one and two in Toronto, we didn’t have a lot of plays in,” he said. “We kind of added those in as the years went on, but we have quite a bit in to get us through exhibitions and we’re easing them in as training camp goes on.”
Casey said he’ll juggle lineups liberally and use plenty of players on the two-game road trip that wraps up Friday in San Antonio, but he’s not sure – or not ready to reveal, at least – who, if anyone, would be held out. Reggie Jackson continues to be a full participant in practice, Casey said, after only being fully cleared by the team’s medical team on the weekend before training camp opened.
“We have a number,” he said. “We’ll try to use as many people as possible, limit our starters’ minutes and put a cap on them. We want to see growth. You go in to compete, but you want to make sure we see where we are offensively and defensively with our principles, identity. We’ll try to get everybody some run that is going to be dressed.”
Casey leans on his analytics staff and designs his offense to produce the highest-percentage shots: free throws, dunks, layups, 3-pointers. Even that’s not specific enough, though. He wants corner threes – the shortest distance and historically the most likely to be made – and he eschews pull-up transition triples. If you’re a shooter on a hot streak, he says, you have a “yellow light” to take those. Otherwise, Casey is a stickler for the “shot spectrum” that details which shots to hunt and which to avoid.
And that’s what he’s really hoping becomes second nature through the preseason. Drive, kick, swing. Don’t settle for decent shots early in the shot clock; find a teammate with a better shot. Avoid mid-range shots. Get inside. And finish. The Pistons finished 29th in the NBA last season in points per possession at the rim, he noted.
“That right there is a lot of points we’re giving away if you’re not finishing at the rim.”
Becoming more efficient in selecting the most desirable shots – and more disciplined in avoiding the least desirable – is calculated to help draw defenders a little farther from the basket. And that should make those shots near the rim a little less contested a little more often. More than running plays with precision, that’s what Dwane Casey hopes to see from the Pistons as the preseason gets rolling.