‘Our time is now’: Casey says Detroit Pistons have plenty of talent in place
DETROIT — Dwane Casey looks at the roster of the Detroit Pistons and sees a core of players capable of a lot more than the team accomplished last season.
“Our time is now,” Casey said.
The Pistons introduced Casey as their new coach Wednesday, over a week after hiring him to replace Stan Van Gundy. Casey inherits a team built around Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, but the roster has little flexibility and the team gave up its first-round draft pick this year to acquire Griffin.
In other words, Detroit’s performance in 2018-19 may depend largely on what Casey can get out of a group that fell short under Van Gundy.
“I’m telling the guys now: We’re not developing, we’re not two or three years away,” Casey said. “We want to win right now.”
Casey took the Detroit job after being fired by the Toronto Raptors. He’s a finalist for NBA coach of the year after leading the Raptors to a team-record 59 wins this past season, but he lost his job after Toronto was swept in the playoffs by Cleveland.
“I can hold my head high for what we built in Toronto,” Casey said. “That’s part of the journey. This is a new chapter.”
The Pistons made the playoffs only once in four seasons under Van Gundy, who was also president of basketball operations. Detroit hired Casey to replace Van Gundy as coach, but it’s still unclear what the front office will look like going forward. Ed Stefanski was brought in as a senior executive reporting to owner Tom Gores. His job was to help with both the coaching search and the effort to reshape the team’s basketball operations.
“We’re going through a process here. We’re thinking about, do we want to go a GM route? Do we want to get some younger guys in there and I can mentor them kind of thing? It’s fluid,” Stefanski said. “I’m going to be very influential in the front office.”
The Pistons went 39-43 last season. They got off to a promising start before Jackson, their point guard, went down with an injury in late December. About a month later, Detroit acquired Griffin in a blockbuster trade, giving up the first-round pick and taking on the star forward’s big contract. That wasn’t enough to push the team into the postseason, and it seems unlikely the Pistons will be able to make any major changes to their roster in the short term.
“I don’t see us making a huge deal right now,” Stefanski said.
If the personnel stays mostly the same, the Pistons will have to hope for better health — and Casey will have to look for areas for improvement. The Pistons were fifth in the league in 3-point percentage last season, but they were only 16th in attempts from beyond the arc.
“We have to get up more 3s. We’ve got to play more of an analytical game,” Casey said. “Tom teases me all the time about being a modern man. No, it’s about wanting to win, more than anything else, and you have to adapt.”
NOTES: Gores just finished his seventh season as owner. He was asked how long he is committed to the team. “Forever,” he responded. “This is not an equity deal.” … Stefanski talked a bit about Michigan coach John Beilein, who emerged as a candidate for the Pistons’ job but is remaining with the Wolverines . “Coach Beilein is an offensive genius in my mind,” Stefanski said. “I was mesmerized, because I’m a basketball guy, how good he is on the offensive end. … He has a pretty good job at Michigan with, what he’s telling me, a very good team coming back.”