News & Views: With Isaiah Stewart suspended, how will Pistons deal with less size?

Detroit News

Detroit — The start to the season has been a bit rockier than the Pistons had planned. They got a big boost after taking Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick, but several injuries since the start of the NBA Summer League have deflated their high hopes for jump-starting their rebuild.

Cunningham missed most of training camp and all of the preseason and he’s just getting into a good groove within the offense, having played in just 12 games, including Tuesday. Killian Hayes has had some nagging injuries, Kelly Olynyk’s knee injury is going to keep him out for at least six weeks and the early part of the schedule has been unforgiving.

More than anything, the Pistons’ offensive inconsistencies have kept them from taking some winnable games, including against the shorthanded Golden State Warriors on Friday and the sluggish Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

When the Pistons have shot well, they’ve had to overcome turnovers or bouts of poor defense to even stay in games in the second halves. Coach Dwane Casey has talked about fixing some of the issues then another one developing soon after.

“We’re a developing team. I would love to have that 15-year experience factor that the Lakers have, and we don’t. We don’t have that luxury, so every day is a lesson for us in some area,” Casey said Sunday.

More: Beard: Optics of Stewart’s rage, LeBron’s reputation led NBA to suspension decision

“For me, that’s what’s rewarding about coaching and teaching. You see one area improve, but now we have to go over here and put our finger in that hole over there. It’s exciting, but it’s not forgiving, against some very good teams.”

This week’s News & Views looks at some of the top storylines for the Pistons:

►News: The NBA suspended Isaiah Stewart for two games for his involvement in the incident with LeBron James on Sunday.

►Views: It always seemed like Stewart would get a longer suspension than James, who only received a one-game penalty. It’s the visual of Stewart running around the court that will be the enduring image of the incident, while James’ elbow and closed fist will be buried. It’s not right, but it’s the reality of the situation.

The bigger short-term issue for the Pistons will be how to juggle the lineup to compensate for their lack of size. Against the Bucks on Wednesday, the Pistons will have to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo, a task that likely falls to Jerami Grant. Milwaukee’s 7-foot-center, Brook Lopez, has been out, so the Pistons catch a break there, with Bobby Portis, who is 6-10. With Olynyk out, the Pistons don’t have many options besides Trey Lyles (6-9) and rookie Luka Garza (6-11).

Stewart will be eligible to return for Friday’s matchup in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Sunday at the Lakers, provided that his right eye — which required a number of stitches — is healed adequately.

►News: Killian Hayes (left thumb sprain) is out for at least two games for rest and treatment.

►Views: The good news is that it’s only two games, but it’s another small setback for Hayes, who has been trying to find a consistent groove this season. He’s had a concussion and ankle issues, and the thumb issue had been lingering for a few games before he aggravated the injury against the Warriors.

“It’s so tender and the doctors recommended that he miss some time as far as letting his thumb heal,” Casey said. “It depends on how his thumb heals. The tough thing about thumbs and fingers in this league is during the season, it’s very difficult to give it a chance to fully heal, because you always get hit on it.”

The Pistons have been giving Hayes every opportunity to excel with Cunningham in the backcourt, but the injuries keep setting his progress back. Defensively, Hayes has been good this season, and offensively, he’s been one of their best 3-point shooters, but missing games is limiting his consistency.

Cory Joseph started on Sunday and looks to be the preferred option, though the Pistons could start either Frank Jackson, Hamidou Diallo or Josh Jackson in the backcourt and keep Joseph with the second unit. The approach could change as they get through the upcoming five-game road trip.

Pistons at Bucks

►Tipoff: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee

►TV/radio: BSD/950

►Outlook: The Pistons Will be without two starters: Killian Hayes (thumb) and Isaiah Stewart (suspension) against the defending-champion Bucks (10-8), who have won four straight games after a slow start.

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