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Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin

NBA

Detroit Pistons: Being cautious with injuries will pay off in the long run

Detroit Pistons fans should not read too much into the team’s 3-4 start through seven games, as even though it appears that the team lacks depth, it has to be remembered that the injury bug has hit the Pistons hard this season.

Three of the Piston’s top scorers have now missed more than a few games for the team this year, with the most notable of those scorers being reigning All-NBA third team forward Blake Griffin.

Griffin has been nursing his left knee after undergoing surgery on it this off-season, and even though Griffin fully participated in practice on Friday, the team is waiting until they are 100 percent sure that their star scorer is 100 percent healthy.

“Patience is the biggest thing I’ve learned over the course of my career,” Griffin said  to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. “When you first come in, you want everything now. You don’t realize how long of a journey it might be.

While Griffin is chomping at the bit to contribute for his team, the Pistons are smartly playing the long game, not rushing Griffin back to ensure that he doesn’t re-aggravate the knee in competition.

Griffin isn’t the only Piston dealing with injuries, as the top two point guards on the depth chart have been dealing with nagging injuries as well.

Starting point guard Reggie Jackson tweaked his back, logging just over 35 minutes this season before having to exit with a back injury. That tweak ended up being a stress reaction, as Jackson will be out for at least the next four weeks.

The Pistons have wisely not rushed him back either, knowing that the backup point guard in former MVP Derrick Rose has stepped up in his place.

Rose has been an ideal example of a spark off the bench, as in the five games he’s played this season, he has averaged 20.8 points and 6.3 assists in just 25 minutes per game, scoring efficiently while also not wearing down from the multiple knee injuries that have severely tampered his career.

The injuries have just kept piling up for the Pistons, as Rose tweaked his hamstring against the Chicago Bulls this Friday, sidelining him for at least a week. It hurts the Pistons even more that their third option at point guard, Tim Frazier, has also been nursing a shoulder injury and will miss a few games because of it.

Even with these injuries to Detroit’s top three point guards and their All-Star, the Pistons have managed to stay afloat. They are still in the midst of the Eastern Conference playoff race, beating the division rival Indiana Pacers twice before defeating the Nets last Saturday.

The Pistons are winning games in spite of these injuries because guys who were once deemed as role players have been stepping up big time for Detroit.

Guard Bruce Brown, who played point guard in college at Miami, stepped in at the point in Saturday’s win and delivered a quality performance, with a career-high 22 points to go along with nine assists. Brown showed these flashes of improvement in Summer League a few months ago, but it’s nice to see these improvements come to fruition in regular season games.

In addition to Brown stepping up, fellow shooting guard Luke Kennard has also appeared to take a step forward this season. He looks more confident on both sides of the floor, can create his own shot more consistently, and he’s quietly averaged 16.4 points per game on 43 percent shooting from three, which are roughly the same numbers that rookie Tyler Herro has been praised for in Miami.

Detroit’s big man has also made a strong case to return back to the All-Star game, as Andre Drummond is averaging 22.3 points ppg and a league-high 18.7 rebounds per game, putting up 20 and 20 in three consecutive games and proving to be clutch down the stretch in these Piston wins.

The Pistons are being smart by holding back their injury-prone players in Griffin, Jackson and Rose. As long as the team can remain afloat in the East while those guys nurse back to health, they will be a force to be reckoned with when they are finally at full strength.