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Dwane Casey doesn’t care if Luke Kennard is mad at him

The best stretch of Luke Kennard’s young career has come at the perfect time for the Detroit Pistons. Now that his tough love for the sophomore guard is finally paying off on the court, though, don’t expect Pistons coach Dwane Casey to change his approach.

“Whether he’s mad at me, I don’t care. I hope he is,” Casey said of Kennard after his team’s 113-109 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday, per team beat writer Keith Langlois. “He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder and that’s great. That’s the way he has to play – be mad, play mad.”

Kennard has a bigger role for Detroit since the team traded Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson to the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans, respectively, despite still coming off the bench. He’s averaging 13.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 27.8 minutes per game over the Pistons’ last six, shooting 49.1 percent overall and a scorching 53.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Playing with consistent edge and aggressiveness has been difficult for Kennard, like a lot of young players, since Detroit made him the 12th overall pick of the 2017 draft – just before the Utah Jazz took star playmaker Donovan Mitchell. Now with a more defined role on a game-by-game basis, the sweet-shooting lefty is showing sustained flashes of the talent that made him a lottery pick, and he apparently has Casey to thank for it.

“He’s always challenging us to be better,” Kennard said. “He’s gotten on me before for playing lazy, not being ready, not being in a stance, little things – but big things in the big picture. He’s great, talking to me, being positive but also being on me when he needs to be. He’s been hard on me, which is good. I love it.”

The seventh-place Pistons, 8-2 in their last 10 games, are now 29-30, one and-a-half games ahead of the Charlotte Hornets for eighth in the Eastern Conference.