Detroit Pistons have help on the way: Kelly Olynyk, Jerami Grant getting close to returning

Detroit Free Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The Detroit Pistons got some good news over the weekend. Kelly Olynyk, who sprained his left knee on Nov. 10 and hasn’t played since, was listed as doubtful for their home game against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.

More good news came on Monday. Jerami Grant, who underwent surgery to repair his UCL ligament in his right thumb on Dec. 16, was assigned to the Motor City Cruise. He’s ramping up his rehab after missing the last 17 games, and could return to the Pistons sometime after their four-game Western Conference road trip wraps up against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

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The Pistons have been without their two highest-paid players for more than a month, but both could return within the next few weeks. The timing is great for Detroit, which has won five of its last nine games after winning just five of its first 32.

“Spent the last few days working him out, and we had some individual workouts with him,” assistant coach Rex Kalamian, who led practice on Monday, said of Grant. “He looked really good, shooting the ball really well. He’s on the road and he’s on pace to where he should be. We’re excited about him playing down there with the Motor City Cruise. I think he’s more practicing with them and just getting back into shape. It’s going to take a little time, I’m sure.”

Grant was Detroit’s best player last season and was finding his rhythm this season before suffering the injury on Dec. 10. He’s averaging 20.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game this season. In his last six games played, he averaged 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.7 blocks while shooting 45.5% overall, 40% from 3 and 90.7% at the line.

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Olynyk has only played 10 games this season, but the Pistons have missed him. A career 36.6% shooter, Olynyk is the best floor spacer and passer of all of Detroit’s frontcourt players. They’ve been thin at center with Olynyk out of the rotation, forcing Trey Lyles to play up a position to compensate.

It appears Olynyk is closer to returning than Grant. The coaching staff anticipates Olynyk returning to the rotation during this road trip. He practiced with the team on Monday, and Dwane Casey said it shouldn’t take him much time to reacclimate.

“Kelly’s a smart player,” Casey said. “It’s not going to take him long. He knew all of the positions when he was healthy. In training camp, there was a couple of times he ran out when we needed a wing player. He went out on the wing and played the wing position. So he’s a smart player. He knows all of the positions on the court as far as what’s supposed to be done. The main thing with him is just going to be game conditioning, understanding how long it takes to get down the court a few times. It won’t take him long to get acclimated to the actions and schemes and all of that.

“He does an excellent job of shooting and passing,” Casey continued. “He gives us some lift. Not going to call him Dennis Rodman, rebounding-wise, but he gives us some size inside that can help us get some rebounds and protect the rim a little bit. He brings a lot to the table, especially on the offensive end.”

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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