Wood’s road breakthrough another step in cementing his Pistons future

Christian Wood
Christian Wood had his best road performance of the season as he scored 20 points in Wednesday’s loss at Brooklyn.
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

NEW YORK – The fact Christian Wood has emerged as a Little Caesars Arena fan favorite might have something to do with the fact that his best games come before the home crowd.

Until Wednesday, at least.

The silver lining to the 125-115 loss at Brooklyn was the performance of Wood, who had his best road performance yet in a Pistons uniform. In 21 minutes off the bench, Wood hit 5 of 8 shots and 10 of 11 free throws, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds and two steals. He wound up with the highest plus/minus on the team at 13 in the black.

“Huge,” Dwane Casey said of Wood’s road breakthrough. “That’s the first thing I thought about when I saw his stat line. He’s usually struggled on the road and played well at home. Tonight he came out with confidence, under control, took what the game gave him, didn’t force anything. Defensively – we’ll have to look at the film – didn’t seem too bad. Liked the way he played tonight.”

Prior to his 20-point game at Brooklyn, Wood’s top seven scoring games this season had come at Little Caesars Arena. In 22 home games, he’s averaged 12.1 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 63 percent overall and 49 percent from the 3-point line. In 22 road games prior to Wednesday, he’d averaged 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 51 percent overall and 26 percent from the 3-point line.

Wood admits there’s a mental hurdle he’s had to get past in road games.

“When you’re on the road, you’re not going to get as many calls as you should,” he said. “You’ve just got to play through everything and through the calls. Once you play hard, they see it and you’re going to get rolling.”

As Wood improves his consistency and makes strides in the more nuanced areas of the game through experience, he’ll earn more consideration for a broader role than just playing the dozen or so minutes a game behind Andre Drummond at center. With Sekou Doumbouya struggling and perhaps in line for a G League stint, Wood could also get some minutes at power forward as he did at Brooklyn, where he said he felt a need to change the tenor of the game when the Pistons fell behind 16-4.

“Playing with energy,” he said of his mindset against the Nets. “Coming off and playing with heart. I see we were lacking a little bit of energy to start the game. Just coming out and playing hard. That’s what the guys need.”

Wood’s natural shooting stroke, ball skills and length help him score effortlessly at times. Attention to detail at both ends – and off the court, as well, early in his NBA career, he admits – is the area where Casey hoped to see notable gains when the decision to keep Wood to start the season was made. So far, so good.

“Being a pro, being on time, doing what he’s supposed to do, being where he’s supposed to be,” Casey said of Wood’s biggest area of growth. “That’s the first step of being a pro with young players. And then him letting the game come to him, not forcing anything.”

“I think I’ve definitely gotten better on the defensive side from where I started,” Wood said. “I think I got better on the offensive side, as well, from learning the plays and knowing where to be on the floor and stuff like that, which helps me out and allows me to be more efficient.”

Wood will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end with the Pistons holding his early Bird rights. If the Pistons don’t have cap space – which will be the case if Drummond doesn’t opt out of the final year of his contract – then they’d be able to sign him by using all or part of the mid-level exception. Wood has said he’d like to remain with the Pistons, where he’s had the greatest opportunity – and the greatest success – of his five NBA stops.

“He’s very talented,” Casey said. “He probably can get to the rim any time he wants to, but picking and choosing his spots which is a sign of growth for him. Defensively, he’s got to learn not to get cheap fouls, go vertical. A lot of those things are growth. He’s a talented young man.”

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