| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Pistons’ Dwane Casey reacts to collapse, loss to Atlanta Hawks
Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey reacts after the team blew a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost in OT to Atlanta Hawks, Jan. 20, 2021.
Not that long ago, Christian Wood was considered a potential franchise player for the Detroit Pistons.
Wood was Detroit’s breakout player last season, blossoming during the last few weeks of the season after injuries and the Andre Drummond trade cleared a path for him to become a focal point in Dwane Casey’s offense. In his final 15 games with the Pistons, he averaged 22.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists and a block on 56.2%/41.0%/75.9% shooting splits.
Wood was an unrestricted free agent, and the Pistons’ many moves over the offseason ended up with him headed to the Rockets in a sign-and-trade, netting him a three-year, $41 million deal.
Wood is living up to the hype in Houston, putting up numbers close to that 15-game stretch from last season — 23.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 assists per game.
Even though he’s no longer a Piston, he still has a big fan in Casey.
“He can score, put it on the floor,” Casey said. “He’s become a go-to guy for Houston. Again, everybody last year talked about ‘don’t take him, don’t do this, he’s a bad guy.’ But Christian’s like a lot of young men in our league that just, it’s time to grow. He’s done an excellent job with that, and I’m proud of him, even though I don’t want to play against him.”
Wood was set to make his return to Little Caesars Arena on Friday, but he suffered a sprained ankle on Wednesday and will miss the game.
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Wood beat the odds to become the player he is today. After going undrafted in 2015, he bounced around the NBA before landing with the Pistons when they claimed him off waivers in summer 2019. A strong preseason secured his roster spot over seven-time NBA All-Star Joe Johnson.
Even before the trade deadline, Wood was a fixture in the rotation. He appeared in 62 games with the Pistons last year. In his previous four seasons, he had only played a total of 72 NBA games.
“I’m proud of the young man, the time we put in with him,” Casey said. “Right before the pandemic he was over our house with my family and kids, had a cookout and had a great time. You get close to guys like that. I’m a guy that, I like the downtrodden. I like the guys that people have doubted. All I ask Christian to do is meet me halfway and he did that and then some. I’m glad to see a guy like that.”
Wood’s path to Houston was paved by the Pistons’ signing of Jerami Grant to a three-year, $60 million contract, which sapped the franchise of cap room to re-sign Wood. That gamble on Grant is paying off, though, as he’s averaging 25.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 blocks through 14 games. Though fans could dream, with a healthy dose of hindsight, of what might have been with Grant and Wood in the Pistons’ lineup, it wasn’t meant to be.
“We tried to get him here, we just didn’t have enough in the bucket,” Casey said. “He’s a special kid and I think good things for him and wish him well, except for tomorrow night.”