AUBURN HILLS – By the season’s sixth game, all 14 players on Stan Van Gundy’s roster had been a part of his rotation with a game on the line. That’s the roster he envisioned building when he and general manager Jeff Bower sat down to plot their course after the 2016-17 season.
And now it gets put to the test.
Stanley Johnson (hip flexor) will join Jon Leuer (sprained ankle), who’s missed the past two games, on the unavailable list when the Pistons – with a 7-3 record, second in the Eastern Conference to Boston’s 9-2 – host the Indiana Pacers tonight at Little Caesars Arena.
“We said that going in. I think it’s a roster where everybody’s capable of playing and so now you get tested,” Van Gundy said after the morning walk through. “With having two of your top seven guys out, you get tested on that a little bit so we’ll see how it goes.”
Van Gundy wouldn’t say who’ll start in Johnson’s spot. The likely answer if Leuer had been available would be to flop Tobias Harris to small forward and start Leuer at power forward. The options now include Harris at small forward and Anthony Tolliver or Henry Ellenson at power forward or Harris staying put and Reggie Bullock or perhaps Luke Kennard at small forward.
They’ve all gotten their turn at playing time already, something Van Gundy couldn’t recall ever happening in his coaching career.
“Not this early in the year. It usually takes time – injuries and things like that,” he said. “But we knew going on we had that type of team where everybody was capable of playing. So now – as we start to settle into a rotation a little bit, which we have been – then the key is keeping those other guys ready so when situations like this come up that they’re ready to play.”
Indiana, which lost to New Orleans on Tuesday night, might be without second-year big man Domantas Sabonis. He sat out against the Pelicans with a calf injury. The Pacers have a 5-6 record but have been particularly good – and unusually balanced – at the offensive end. In fact, by the proprietary metrics used by the Pistons, Van Gundy said the Pacers rank No. 3 in offense behind Golden State and Houston.
“That’s pretty good company,” he deadpanned.
So whomever the Pistons wind up using at small forward, likely to match up with Pacers small forward and 3-point gunner Bojan Bogdanovic, had better come prepared to dig in at the defensive end.
“It’s always tough to lose two guys, a starter in Stanley and a key piece in Jon,” Reggie Jackson said. “We’re going to try to find a way to collectively get it done, fill those voids. I think everybody will be ready to do their part. It’s been a good training camp and a good few weeks for us. We’ve been working extremely hard. We’re going to find a way to come out and fill those voids.”