Dwane Casey: Three things we learned in first win with Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Dwane Casey. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

It wasn’t pretty but new Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey got his first win of the season on opening night with a 103-100 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Here’s what we learned about the new man in town.

Last nigh I saw Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond make his first three-point shot of the season. He subsequently missed his next two attempts with one of those coming in crunch time.

I would have been laughed at if I told a Detroit Pistons fan Andre Drummond would sink a spot-up three during the Stan Van Gundy era. In fact, people were laughing about this heading into the season.

I must have heard a wise-crack about Drummond practicing three’s from at least five national-minded NBA podcasts this off-season. I’m sure some people must have questioned Casey directly as well. Does he care? No. Why?

Because Dwane Casey is a man who lives without fear.

As I enunciate on what I took away from Casey’s first regular-season victory, his fearlessness will be a constant, underlying theme. I expect that bravery to impact the team, for better or for worse, all year.

Courage under fire

As I just finished outlining, Casey doesn’t appear to have a drop of fear in his body. More than that, he seems to keep a calm demeanor throughout the game.

When guys made obvious mistakes that had me screaming at my television, I’d suddenly feel foolish as I would notice Casey, peacefully overlooking the floor with a sanguine expression.

The only time I watched him break his composure was to argue a foul call made against his squad.

Maybe we as Pistons fans are just conditioned to expect something different in these situations. For the past few years, microphones would pick up Stan Van Gundy as much as any player on the court.

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Screams of “ANDRE!!!!” and “REGGIE!!!” would permeate through our screens almost as much as Zaza Pachulia’s groans under the basket do now (seriously, pay attention next time he’s down there).

But there we were, at home, in a tight game against the Brooklyn Nets, a below-average team missing some key players. The Pistons were up by three but they desperately needed a bucket.

Much to my chagrin, Reggie Jackson dribbled the air out of the ball two possessions in a row leading to wasted opportunities.

At this point, I expected Casey to lose his mind and reprimand such uninspired play. Instead, he looked like the most relaxed guy in the building. This courage and calmness could add a new, much-needed element of trust to Pistons players after spending a few years with the fiery Stan Van Gundy.

From James Edwards III (The Athletic):

"“Coach Casey always seems like he’s pretty calm,” Blake Griffin said. “He has a certain demeanor about him. He’s very positive. … We didn’t want to give him some more gray hairs.”"

The young guys will make mistakes (and that’s okay)

First of all, let’s take a second to applaud Bruce Brown for starting his first game on opening night.

I thought it was going to be a few months before we saw him play, let alone touch the starting lineup. It seems like Casey’s philosophy regarding injuries will be to keep the bench unit as intact as possible, even if it means playing young guys like Bruce Brown in the starting lineup.

When Stanley Johnson (Toe) and Reggie Bullock (Flu) were listed as inactive for last night’s game, most of us expected to see Glenn Robinson III start at small forward.

Instead, Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard started at the two and three spots, respectively.

I think one takeaway from this will be that Casey wanted to keep Ish Smith, Langston Galloway, and Glenn Robinson III together off the bench. You could argue that GRIII should have started to put a bigger body on Caris Levert for the Detroit Pistons.

The bigger story is on Dwane Casey’s trust of Kennard and Brown to start.

It’s hard not to continue comparing Casey to Van Gundy, but that’s the natural inclination here. Van Gundy, well known for his distrust of young players, would never have started Bruce Brown last night.

I don’t think he played well at all, but I really applaud Casey’s willingness to put Brown in there to get some time with the starters. It could help his development down the road to get those minutes.

Same goes for Kennard, who fans practically begged Van Gundy to play more last season. It seems like Kennard’s conditioning is still not up to par which could explain his minutes limit last night, but it was really encouraging to see that Casey isn’t afraid put his young players out there to sink or swim.

He won’t shy away from playing unconventional lineups

We saw it in the preseason, and it continued last night: Dwane Casey does not care what you consider to be a standard NBA lineup. Much to my surprise, he started the game with a three-guard lineup (Jackson, Brown, Kennard). Actually, the top three lineups last night in terms of minutes played were all three-guard lineups.

The top three lineups last night in terms of minutes featured the following combination of guards:

  • Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard
  • Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Langston Galloway
  • Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway

This might be an aberration due to Stanley Johnson’s absence, but don’t forget that Reggie Bullock also needs to be inserted into the rotation.

One thing is clear: Dwane Casey will play whoever the heck he feels like playing, at any given time, and I am here for it. With his top-notch analytics team, I am confident they’ll be able to hone in on the best lineups and play them, regardless of perceived ‘positions.’