New York — In something of a scheduling oddity, the Pistons have their first two preseason games on the road and the last two at home. After Tuesday’s game at Madison Square Garden, the team spent two more practice days in New York before heading off to New Orleans.
It’s a mini-road trip before the team tips off the regular season in just over a week against the Orlando Magic at Little Caesars Arena. After dropping their preseason opener to the Knicks, the Pistons will face an up-and-coming Pelicans squad that seeks to make a push in the Western Conference.
While it’s easy to mull over a 21-point loss to the Knicks, Pistons coach Dwane Casey values the preseason because it gives him and the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate players and their tendencies against other teams.
“What exhibition season does, it tells us what we need to work on,” Casey said after Thursday’s practice. “In exhibition, I don’t get caught up in losses. I get caught up in what you put on video. It gives us a lot of teaching points to look at on the video in exhibition. We used to have eight (games) a long time ago.”
Last season, the Pistons finished 2-2 in the preseason and ultimately 23-59 during the regular season. The 2020 exhibition slate also resulted in a 2-2 record before going 20-52 in the pandemic-shortened season.
The Pistons’ four-game preseason schedule for 2022-23 includes two teams on the outside of the playoff picture — the Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder — and two teams that made the postseason last year, New Orleans and the Memphis Grizzlies.
While the Pistons aspire to be in a similar position someday, the priority for the remainder of preseason and training camp is to compile enough data to put the best squad and use the best rotations on the floor when the season begins.
“We use exhibitions to have film to look at, to grade people on, to see what works, what doesn’t work for certain players, far more than winning,” Casey said.
For a new team with a few new faces, rotations are usually a hot topic. Detroit went with a starting lineup of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Stewart on Tuesday against the Knicks. The lineup allowed Cunningham and Ivey to gain some experience playing off each other, while also giving Bogdanovic some run with the main group.
Casey’s second unit consisted of Killian Hayes, Cory Joseph, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley and rookie Jalen Duren, who commanded the glass by grabbing 14 boards. Hayes showed confidence in leading the offense and Livers served as the group’s scoring threat from distance.
Duren played a team-high 24 minutes, while Bey and Cunningham both clocked 23.5 minutes of game action. Ivey, Bogdanovic and Stewart played about 21 minutes each. The second unit hovered around 16-21 minutes, especially once the game was well out of reach.
Casey said he’ll try to use the same strategy in terms of minutes distribution.
“Same thing,” Casey said. “We want to go in and work on our stuff more so than game preparation, what they’re running, what their play calls are. We do that, but it’s mainly about us and getting our foundation in, in a game situation.”
After saying that Duren was gimpy after Tuesday’s game against New York, Casey said the 18-year-old center has improved. He also mentioned that Hamidou Diallo, who did not play against the Knicks due to a leg contusion, will see how he feels before Friday’s game, adding that he wants to play him at some point during the preseason before the regular season begins.
“He’s better,” Casey said of Duren. “He went through practice today. He’s much better, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”
Pistons at Pelicans
Tipoff: 8 p.m. Friday, Smoothie King Center, New Orleans
TV/radio: No TV/WWJ
Outlook: The Pelicans are looking for a breakout season with the return of Zion Williamson, who had 13 points in their win over the Chicago Bulls in the preseason opener. The Pistons (0-1) will look to bounce back after a lopsided loss to the New York Knicks.