Pistons owner Tom Gores on early-season struggles: ‘We’re better than our record is’

Detroit News

Pistons owner Tom Gores sat courtside inside Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on back-to-back nights and watched his team compete against the Clippers and Lakers. The end result was the same in both matchups, with the Pistons failing to come away with a victory.

The Pistons are last in the league standings and have lost 15 of their first 18 games, leaving just three wins on their record ahead of Tuesday’s meeting against the Denver Nuggets. The team is winless on their six-game west coast swing, but each game has been competitive. It’s a change of pace from the team’s first 12 losses, and Gores can see improvement, even if the final score doesn’t say so.

As he did early in the season, Gores lauded the work that coach Dwane Casey and general manager Troy Weaver are doing with a young roster.

“We’re growing,” Gores told The Detroit News on Friday. “Right now, we have an amazing core group and a lot of confidence. We’re better than our record is. We’re much better than that and I like the way that this team has a lot of heart. I feel great about it. Dwane’s doing good work. Troy continues to think about growth and everything, so I feel great about it.”

Compared to this time last year, the Pistons are one win behind their 4-14 start through the first 18 games of the 2021-22 season. The team has more talent than last year’s roster. Part of that is due to rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, along with the acquisition of veteran forward Bojan Bogdanovic, whom the team acquired in a trade with the Utah Jazz right before training camp began in October.

Bojan is averaging career highs in points (20.5), assists (2.3) and field-goal percentage (.510) through 18 games with the Pistons. He signed a two-year extension last month to remain in Detroit through the 2024-25 season.

“We’re lucky to have Bojan,” Gores told The News. “I’ll tell you what, he’s a tremendous veteran along with Alec Burks, as well. I think we’re very fortunate. We would be a different team without those veterans. The thing is, veterans bring a lot of experience, but both these guys can play, too. You can’t teach the young men unless you can play, also. I think we’re very fortunate to have them both.”

When asked if Bojan was part of the Pistons’ rebuild going forward, Gores said the eighth-year forward’s leadership makes him a valuable player for the young Pistons roster.

“He’s bought in. He has a tremendous ability to instill culture,” Gores said. “I met him for the first time about a month ago. We played pool. Everyone just thinks he’s a great 3-point shooter. He’s much more than that. He’s a great locker room guy. He’s a great mid-range guy. He does so many things.”

Bogdanovic is one of three Pistons — along with Killian Hayes and Hamidou Diallo — who has played all 18 games this season. The other 12 players have missed at least one game due to illness or injury.

Detroit’s unfortunate luck with the injury bug hasn’t allowed the team to build chemistry or have consistent rotations, with so many players in and out of the lineup.

Cade Cunningham is expected to miss an extended amount of time while he weighs rest or surgery for his lingering left shin injury. Saddiq Bey, who rarely misses games, suffered a right ankle sprain and was set to miss his second straight game on Tuesday against the Nuggets, after playing 152 consecutive games. The team has been without Isaiah Stewart for the last three games, due to a sprain of his right big toe, and he will miss at least two to three weeks.

Gores didn’t want to make excuses for his team’s lack of health, and instead adopted the mentality that injuries create opportunities for others.

“I just think injuries are a part of this game, and just being able to adjust,” Gores said. “What’s great is, it’s the next man up. Everybody has to do their job. We’re a team, and injuries are a part of the game, so we have to know how to deal with that.

“Good luck, bad luck, we gotta make our luck.”

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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