The Pistons are bolstering their roster in the wake of their COVID issues that have decimated the team over the past week.
Against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, they were limited to nine available players and they’ve added some reinforcements, agreeing to 10-day deals with forward Trayvon Palmer and guard Justin Robinson, the team announced Tuesday afternoon.
The Pistons had just one available point guard, Derrick Walton Jr., on Sunday. Walton has NBA experience but has started just three games in the association and played on the G League affiliate, the Motor City Cruise, this season.
In Tuesday’s practice, the Pistons had some get-to-know-you time and tried to get on the same page with some of the new teammates to learn to play more cohesively.
“It’s almost like training camp. You go back and you’re learning guys’ names, and they’re very quick learners, luckily,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It was almost going back to basics, keeping it simple. Guys came out and worked hard today. Our thing is staying within ourselves and within who we are and letting those other guys fill those slots.
“I thought against San Antonio, we tried to do too much to fill too many shoes individually, and we only had 16 assists where San Antonio had 39. We had 20 (isolation plays), which was a season high for us and we’re not an iso team.”
Robinson, a 6-foot-1 guard, should add some depth to the backcourt and take some of the minutes. The 24-year-old has played in parts of three seasons in the NBA, including nine games with the Washington Wizards in 2019-20, nine games with the Oklahoma City Thunder last season and 20 games combined with the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings this season.
Robinson averaged 2.8 points and 1.2 assists in 12 minutes with the Bucks. Palmer, a 6-6 wing, averaged 11.1 points, 6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 14 games with the Cruise this season. He shot 42% on 3-pointers, which could help the Pistons immediately.
Casey said gaining more familiarity with the new players will help some of their issues and some of that chemistry will come through with more repetitions. With only Saddiq Bey, Frank Jackson, Hamidou Diallo and Luka Garza from the regular roster, the Pistons were shorthanded, but with the new additions, they will have more options.
“We have to play as a group and play as a unit. No matter who’s open, two men on the ball, (there’s a) man open, pass the ball to whoever it is,” Casey said. “Guys like Saddiq, Hami and Frank are going to have to learn their new teammates too. So that’s what we’re kind of introducing the new guys to what we’re trying to do, keeping it simple but at the same time, introducing our current players that are available to the new guys.”
Isolation time altered
The Pistons could be getting some relief from their COVID issues in the coming days.
The NBA and the players association reportedly agreed to reduce the isolation time for vaccinated and asymptomatic players who test positive for COVID-19. Previously, players could either clear quarantine after 10 days or with two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
Under the new guidelines, players, coaches, staff members and referees who test positive could return after six days, if testing data indicates that there is no risk for infection, according to a report by ESPN.
The Pistons have had eight players enter the NBA’s health and safety protocols in the past week: Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saben Lee, Rodney McGruder, Trey Lyles, Cory Joseph and Josh Jackson.
Cunningham was the first Pistons player this season to enter the protocols, on Wednesday. If he has two negative tests or his testing shows that he’s not infectious, Cunningham could be cleared to return this week.
“We’ll leave that to the medical staff as far as exactly when they’re coming back, because it’s all fluid,” Casey said Tuesday. “So even with protocols, it’s going to be something that the medical staff and the doctors and the league are going to have to figure out.”
Hayes, Stewart, Lee and McGruder entered the protocols Thursday, so if they continue to improve, they could return this week as well.
Knicks at Pistons
► Tipoff: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Pistons (5-27) have been decimated by players entering the COVID protocols and have lost three straight games. The Knicks (15-18) beat the Pistons in New York on Dec. 21.