The slog through the season has reached the final stretch, and in the Pistons’ final 10 games, it won’t just be about rolling over and giving up. There’s still more that can be gleaned from these games, and coach Dwane Casey are looking to have a strong finish — win or lose.
Casey has mixed the lineups, playing some young players along with veteran players, but he’s been happy with the effort that they’ve shown, though the results haven’t always gone their way. In a rebuilding season, that’s going to happen, but the frequency has been a lot less than most losing teams.
That’s a testament to the culture that they’ve built and the types of players that general manager Troy Weaver sought out as foundations of the rebuild.
“It’s probably been that you can count on one hand the games that we just didn’t have the energy, whether it was energy or travel and we just couldn’t get it going,” Casey said. “You’re going to have that in the NBA in a 72-game or 82-game schedule. For the most part — maybe 95% of the season — every player on the court has come out and given his all, with toughness, alertness and defensively.”
The Pistons (19-43) have had some surprising wins this season, and some entertaining losses that will help pave the way to winning for the young players who stick around. The fundamentals are important, and not just in the X’s and O’s — there’s something about learning the right things to do in practice and carry over into games.
Some things might be the same with different players, but the lessons will be lasting for young players in their development and understanding of the league. Coming back next season, they’ll be better for it.
“We may not have made all the shots we can make each and every night, but guys laid it on the line and Troy did an excellent job of finding young men that will go for 50-50 balls, take charges, put his body on the line,” Casey said. “That’s something you want to start your foundation with those kinds of men and he accomplished that. I think we accomplished that with our play.
“Now we have to add the offensive part of it with that toughness, but your foundation is built solid, and that’s what you want to do. When you’re restoring or rebuilding your team. I would rate that an A, as far as our toughness, hard play, being in most games and putting ourselves in positions to win most games and growing at the same time.”
For Jerami Grant, it’s been a learning process as well, where he has elevated from being a role player with the Denver Nuggets last season to a critical piece in the Pistons’ puzzle. He bet on himself and it’s paying off with the role he expected.
He admitted that it’s not easy, but he’s getting a better understanding of what he needs to do to be ready for the grind that the new role presents.
“Through the whole experience, I learned how defenses will play me. I learned a lot of things I need to do to keep my body healthy throughout the season,” Grant said. “It’s been the most minutes and the most load that I’ve been playing, in terms of what I’m doing on both ends of the court, so there’s a lot of things that I want to work on going into the summer, so I can come back and be better next year.”
Grant has had the best season of his career and is in the conversation for most improved player, but just getting acclimated to Casey’s system and building a relationship with Weaver had been helpful as well.
“It’s been pretty much what I expected coming here. I know it’d be a lot of work that we had to put in — for me personally and as a team,” Grant said. “Between me and Troy, there’s a lot of trust. I’m happy with my decision and I wouldn’t change it; if I could go back, I’d do the same thing over again.”
The Pistons are partnering with the City of Detroit for a unique community to encourage people to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
The event will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Pistons’ practice facility in midtown Detroit and will include free food, giveaways and appearances by former Pistons Rick Mahorn and Earl Cureton.
Appointments to receive the vaccine are required and are available by calling (313) 230-0505. Anyone aged 16 or older can receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Parking for the event is available in the structure on Amsterdam Street near the Pistons Performance Center, which is at 6201 Second Ave.
Pistons vs. Mavericks
► Tipoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/104.3 FM
► Outlook: The Mavericks (34-27) have rallied with four wins in their last five games, since beating the Pistons last week. The Pistons (19-43) will be without three starters: Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Cory Joseph.