Pistons going ‘back to basics’ to start final stretch of the season

Detroit News

Orlando, Fla. — With 23 games left in the regular season, the Pistons will look to finish the year strong, after winning just 15 of their 59 games.

The final quarter of the season is full of storylines, including James Wiseman’s transition, Marvin Bagley III’s return from his hand injury and potential late-season leaps from rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren.

Additionally, Pistons coach Dwane Casey wants his team to prioritize the fundamentals on the defensive end of the floor.

“It’s back to the basics, trying to get the body and mind back locked in to what’s about to come in the next 23 games,” Casey said after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ve gotten better our last 10 games, our transition defense has improved tremendously and we’ve got to continue to build on that.”

Wiseman’s addition should help on the defensive end, since he’s officially the Pistons’ tallest player at 7 feet, which makes gives him an advantage because he can use his length to block and disrupt shots. He posted 11 points and five rebounds in his debut against the Boston Celtics last Wednesday. Casey said the coaching staff sent Wiseman into the All-Star break with film and their playbook to get him more up to speed.

“We’re trying to keep it simple for him. He’s an intelligent young man, and sometimes, you overthink things, but I think he’s doing a great job of picking things up. We’re trying to spoon-feed him offensively, but a lot of our defensive concepts don’t change. Our terminology is different from Golden State, but our concepts are similar with switching and pick-and-roll defense.”

Wiseman will likely split time in the second unit with Bagley, who is close to returning after undergoing surgery to repair his broken hand. Casey didn’t give a timetable on when the 6-11 big man would be available, but he did confirm that Bagley was able to participate in Wednesday’s practice.

“Not everything, but he went through most of it,” Casey said.

Ivey and Duren, who represented the Pistons in Salt Lake City, Utah for All-Star Weekend, will also look to take similar leaps to what Cade Cunningham did last season during the final stretch of the season. Casey is hopeful that’ll be the case for the Pistons’ two rising stars.

“We hope so,” he said. “I think All-Star Weekend and the Rising Stars was a step for them to go and feel it, smell it, taste what that situation is about and make them hungry to come back these remaining 23 games, along with next summer, and build on that. Cade was hungry to do it, but going forward, it’s going to do with a lot of the success of the team.

“Use (All-Star Weekend). Use the individual improvement to help the team improve coming back next year. I think that’s going to be true with all of those guys, along with Cade coming back next year.”

New addition

The Pistons will likely have a new piece join the roster, as RJ Hampton, who was waived by the Magic on Tuesday, and the Pistons are expected to sign him to add to their depth at the guard position.

Hampton, the 24th pick of the 2020 draft, joins his draft classmates Wiseman (No. 2), Killian Hayes (No. 7) and Isaiah Stewart (No. 16) in Detroit. In 26 games, Hampton averaged 5.7 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists with the Magic. Troy Weaver is building a reputation as a general manager who will give talented young players a second chance on low-risk deals, banking on their upside and potential. It is unclear where Hampton will fall into the rotation after Ivey and Hayes. He will likely compete for playing time with veteran guard Cory Joseph, unless Casey opts to play him at the shooting guard spot. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to contribute in the final quarter of the season.

Hampton still has to clear waivers before he can join the Pistons, but he seems intent on signing with Detroit.

Pistons at Magic

Tipoff: 7 p.m. Thursday, Amway Center, Orlando, Fla.

TV/radio: BSD Extra/97.1

Outlook: The Pistons (15-44) will meet the Magic (24-35) for the third time this season. Detroit won both matchups at home.

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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