AUBURN HILLS – Reggie Bullock came to his first Pistons training camp uncertain he’d have a roster spot after being a throw-in to the deal that brought Marcus Morris from Phoenix.
Bullock had to fight his way onto the roster two years ago and he did it with a flourish. Stan Van Gundy said he probably was the team’s best player that preseason and Bullock, against long odds, began the year in the rotation.
Until he made one – one – of his first 17 3-point attempts.
So when he missed his first nine to start this season, Bullock was less than fazed.
He’s 3 of 7 since and likely will get his third consecutive start Sunday with Stanley Johnson doubtful to play for a third straight game as he recovers from a hip flexor injury.
Besides, Bullock is about more than his 3-point shot these days, the tool that made him a No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft after his junior season at North Carolina.
“This year I felt like I stepped up my defensive intensity and rebounding and running the floor and making the right passes and doing whatever I can to help the team,” Bullock said after Saturday’s practice. “Even with me not making shots as I would like to, my game still affects the energy of the team. As long as I’m bringing something good to the game, my shot’s going to fall and I’m still going to continue to take those shots.”
When Johnson returns – and the realistic hope is he’ll be ready to go Wednesday when the Pistons start a three-game road trip at Milwaukee – Bullock will go back to being in a three-way race for minutes at the second unit’s wing spots with rookie Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway. His edge is his size over Galloway and his history as an NBA 3-point shooter that Kennard lacks.
But Bullock also has an edge because Van Gundy’s reordering of the offense to put a greater emphasis on ball and player movement is right in Bullock’s wheelhouse.
“That’s my type of game – cutting, moving, sharing the ball,” he said. “We’re just scratching the surface of it. It’s been working out for us and we can’t get content where were at right now. We’ve just got to continue to go.”
That style also suits newcomer Avery Bradley, a player Bullock has admired since their paths first crossed as AAU competitors during their high school days.
“The energy he comes out with at the beginning of the game, I know he’s on one wing, I’m on one wing – I don’t want to let him down, not playing as hard as he plays, because I know he’s going to play hard every night.”
Van Gundy remembers Bullock’s rocky start to the 2015-16 season. But he also remembers how Bullock helped fuel the 16-9 close to that season with Bullock shooting 49 percent from the 3-point arc after the All-Star break and being a rotation staple for the team that pushed Cleveland in four taut first-round playoff games. So he’ll ride Bullock during a minor shooting slump.
“I’d like it more if the ball went in, but he’ll find his shot,” Van Gundy said, knowing Bullock does “a lot of other things – moves without the ball, capable of defending pretty well and he rebounds the ball.”
“That’s one thing we really can’t control – shots going in,” Bullock said. “So it’s what else as an NBA player can you bring to your team to uplift them. Mine’s running the lane, defending, sharing the ball and just moving without the ball. So that’s what I try to do. Everybody else on the team is trying to do the same thing, too.”