Detroit — Pistons coach Dwane Casey said his team had a spirited practice Sunday morning after a disappointing loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
Detroit was dominated by Cleveland’s frontcourt trio of Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley and Kevin Love, who tallied a 20-point double-double off the bench.
Sunday’s defensive-focused practice ahead of Monday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was the first of the season in which all 15 players were available to participate. It’s an encouraging sign for the Pistons, who have missed three of their best players from their second unit due to injury. Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III and Alec Burks, all of whom are nursing injuries, practiced on Sunday, but Casey added that some players didn’t participate for the entire practice.
Duren has missed Detroit’s last three games due to a left ankle sprain suffered in the Pistons’ upset win over the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 30. Burks missed training camp and is slowly working his way back to full health from a left navicular fracture. The veteran guard spent time practicing with the Motor City Cruise, the Pistons’ G League affiliate, while the Pistons were in Milwaukee last week.
The last time the Pistons faced the Thunder was during the preseason, and Bagley suffered a sprained MCL and bone bruise after a scary fall within the first minute of the game. His injury did not require surgery. Instead, he was required to rest and rehab for three to four weeks, and the four-week timeline will expire toward the end of the week.
It is unclear if Bagley will be available for any of Detroit’s four games this week, which includes a home contest against the Thunder, followed by a two-game road trip against the Boston Celtics (Wednesday) and New York Knicks (Friday) before returning home for a rematch with the Celtics (Saturday).
“We’ll see. I’m not sure,” Casey said. “Believe me, if it was my decision I’d have him play yesterday but the medical people make those decisions throughout the NBA. They’ll make a decision when those guys are available and can play.”
Casey said getting their bigs healthy will help with rotation flexibility and, more importantly, it gives the Pistons the option to play two centers alongside each other. His concern with a larger lineup is centered around foul trouble, which is a concern for Detroit’s entire roster.
Adding Bagley, Burks and Duren back to the lineup gives Detroit a legitimate chance to solidify its starting lineup and tighten up its second unit, which ranks among the worst in the league in bench scoring. More importantly, it gives the Pistons their best chance to compete on a nightly basis.
Hayes’ early season struggles
Through the first 10 games of the season, Pistons guard Killian Hayes hasn’t performed to the level he exhibited during the preseason.
The third-year guard displayed confidence and poise during his three exhibition games, but that same aggressiveness and composure hasn’t translated to the regular season. He’s averaging 2.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists on shooting splits of 18.2% from the field, 16.7% from the 3-point line and 80% from the free-throw line.
Casey was asked if there was consideration to have Hayes spend time with the Cruise in order to build his confidence.
“No, not with him. I don’t look at it as a demotion,” Casey said. “That’s why we have it here. That’s why Mr. (Tom) Gores invested in the G League. We’ve had Alec Burks go down there and practice and get reps. We’ve had other players go down there and that’s what it’s for, whether it’s for Killian, Duren or whoever it is that may need some reps after injury or they just need to go down and get extra practice in.
“The one thing that I want Killian to do is play defense and move the ball, be a quarterback. He does those two things and everybody gets caught up in the shooting. I think if he defends and quarterbacks, and it’s the same thing I’ve told him. I’m not worried about Killian. He’s a growing young man and the more you make out of it, the more pressure it puts on his shoulders. He just has to play basketball.”
Thunder at Pistons
Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
Outlook: The Pistons look to snap a three-game skid against the Thunder on Monday night. Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is having a breakout season with averages of 30.5 points, 5.9 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. The Thunder are third in the NBA in steals per game (9.1), and Gilgeous-Alexander accounts for 2.3 steals per night, which also ranks third in the league.