Detroit Pistons’ Dennis Smith Jr. to miss Saturday’s game due to health, safety protocols

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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The NBA’s health and safety protocols, introduced to help league minimize positive cases of COVID-19, have consistently added an element of surprise in what’s been a unique season.

The protocols have led to several games Detroit Pistons being postponed to the second half of the season. It will also cost them a player on Saturday, as Dennis Smith Jr. is listed as out for the 7 p.m. game against the Brooklyn Nets due to the protocols.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey said he isn’t yet sure how long Smith will be out for, but it could be for an extended period. 

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“You gotta add to it, this is a young man who hasn’t touched the ball and played in however number of days, so it’s not like he’s going to walk back in and get that rhythm and feel and conditioning,” Casey said.” It may be a couple more days added to that, just for conditioning and for his safety on the court. I think that’s important.”

It isn’t immediately clear why Smith has entered the NBA’s protocols, but it’s unlikely to be a positive test, which would have mandated that the Pistons conduct contract tracing and would’ve potentially put Saturday’s game at risk of postponement. 

Smith’s absence will open playing time for two-way guard Saben Lee, who has excelled during the last few weeks. Rodney McGruder could also spend time at point guard. 

“Next man up,” Casey said. “We’ll have Saben ready to roll. We have different people at that position ready to handle the ball more, maybe Mason (Plumlee) handling the ball more as our quarterback, so to speak. We can have someone else in at the point. It’s unfortunate. But it’s a great opportunity for someone else to step in, whether it’s Saben, whether it’s Rodney McGruder, whoever it is has to be ready to step into that position and take those minutes and produce.”

Blake Griffin, who parted ways with the Pistons earlier this month and signed with the Nets, will miss Saturday’s game due to injury maintenance for his left knee. 

‘313 Day’ events Saturday

Saturday will be March 13 — better known as “313 Day,” an unofficial holiday that pays homage to Detroit’s area code and celebrates the city’s history. 

The Pistons will honor the occasion with a series of events throughout the day. The team will set up their Pistons Sneaker & Donut Truck, a pop-up retail and food truck, at five different SNIPES stores in the city. Each truck will have free donuts and a local Detroit celebrity. Times and locations are below. 

• Stop 1 – Kev Knows, 10-11:30 a.m., 4685 Connor Road

• Stop 2 – Dr. Darrius, 97.1 The Ticket, noon-1:30 p.m., 3300 East Jefferson Road

• Stop 3 – HaHa Davis, 2-3:30 p.m., 2027 West Eight Mile

• Stop 4 – Matashia, 4-5 p.m., 19215 West Eight Mile

• Stop 5 – Tee Grizzley, 6-7 p.m., 14157 Telegraph Road

The Pistons will give any newborn baby at Henry Ford Main Hospital a 313 Baby Kit, consisting of a 313 baby bib, teddy bear and Pistons 313 onesie. Team employees will also volunteer with Strategic Staffing Solutions to donate 313 feminine kits to local women shelters, and send 313 new basketballs to three groups across the city as part of their “Basketball For All” campaign.

The care packages will be donated to All Things Women, Detroit Rescue Mission and Cass Community Social Services, while the basketballs will be delivered to Detroit International Academy for Young Women, Clippert Multicultural Magnet Honors Academy and Detroit Cristo Rey High School.

Lastly, the Pistons will begin selling tickets to April home games at 3:13 p.m. Saturday on and

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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