Detroit — It’s a rise-and-shine day for the Pistons and Houston Rockets.
Saturday is the first of two games this season with a noon tipoff time, which will take some adjustment from the team and players from a logistical standpoint, as well as with mental and physical preparation.
Basketball coaches and players tend to be creatures of habit and routine, and with the normal tip times at 7:00 or 7:30 p.m., trying to adjust to a noon start has its pitfalls.
“It’s funny, but just trying to get your team awake and alive and ready to play, the first quarter is so important,” Pistons acting coach Rex Kalamian said Friday. “I’ve been on so many different teams where we’ve played 12 or 12:30 games before and you just never know which team is going to come ready to play and which team is going to kind of sleepwalk through the first quarter.
“We’re going to try to get our guys a little energized early, whether it’s with some film, some music, or whatever it is, to try to get them going a little bit early. I’ll try a few different things and see what happens.”
Additionally, Saturday’s matinee comes as the middle game of a string of three games in four nights, with Friday’s practice session coming as the first of a back-to-back.
It was a quick turnaround from Thursday night’s loss at Indiana, but Kalamian, who has the reins while head coach Dwane Casey is out because of non-COVID-related personal reasons, tried to make it a productive team session.
“We felt like (Friday) was a better day to do the walkthrough because it is such an early morning,” Kalamian said. “So, we did the walkthrough for Houston (Friday) afternoon and watched film on them, as well as some film from (Thursday) night, so we had a long film session and we talked a lot and walked through some things, so it was pretty light day.”
Injuries have hit the Pistons hard this season, and with two of their big men out in Kelly Olynyk and Jerami Grant, they are without the bulk of their scoring, which also spreads around the opportunity for other players to chip in to fill the offensive void.
“Without Jerami there, there’s a little less dependency, obviously, on when something goes wrong. We just normally give the ball to Jerami and say, ‘Go get us a basket.’ Now, it has to be done through more of a team aspect,” Kalamian said. “Our spacing has to be better; our pace has to be a little bit better, and I think guys feel that there’s 16 to 20 more shots available out there, so they have to go to somebody.
“The ball finds positive energy. The ball defines movement. The ball finds guys that play hard and for Saddiq (Bey) last night, I thought that was his biggest improvement honestly, and it’s something that that we talked with him about a lot and I’ve had a personal conversation with him about — at the end of the night, how do you feel? Do you feel like you’ve put everything you possibly could into the game?
“Sometimes just playing harder allows for good things to happen, and I thought for (Bey) (Thursday) night, that was the key for him. He didn’t change anything; he just played extremely hard.”
Grant is on the road to recovery.
He had successful surgery Thursday to repair UCL ligament damage in his right thumb, the team announced Friday. Grant injured the thumb during the first quarter of last week’s matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans.
He returned to the game later, but after further examination, the medical staff determined that he would need surgery. Grant will be re-evaluated in six weeks.
Grant is the Pistons’ leading scorer at 20.1 points per game.
Rockets at Pistons
►Tipoff: Noon, Saturday, Little Caesars Arena
►Outlook: The Rockets (9-20) followed a 15-game losing streak with a seven-game win streak and they’ve now lost four of their last five games. Jalen Green (hamstring) has missed the last 11 games and Christian Wood (knee tendinitis) has missed the last two games.