AUBURN HILLS – With one final tune-up before the games start to count, Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy remains uncertain about his rotation and not satisfied with his team defense.
The starting lineup likely will consist of Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Avery Bradley and Reggie Jackson, though Ish Smith is making a push at point guard.
But who rounds out the nine- or 10-man rotation? They have Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovic, Eric Moreland, Henry Ellenson, Anthony Tolliver, Reggie Bullock, Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard in the mix.
“I’m seriously going into Friday still not sure who my rotation is, so it’s a little uncomfortable,” Van Gundy said. “Couple of guys I know will be in the rotation – more than a couple — but there’s still a lot that I don’t know.”
Injuries and the inability to have a full lineup for any of the first four preseason games contributes to the uncertainty.
“You go on the information you have,” Van Gundy said. “Would I like to have five preseason games with different guys playing with different guys? Yeah. But we didn’t get that, so you make the best decisions you can and move on.”
The Pistons visit the Milwaukee Bucks Friday in their preseason finale (8:30 p.m., no TV, WWJ-AM 950). They open the regular season Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets at Little Caesars Arena.
The Pistons worked extensively on defense during Thursday’s practice, implementing some minor changes.
It was in response to a poor performance in Tuesday’s 116-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors. The Pistons were playing their second game in as many nights, missing their best perimeter defender (Bradley, ankle) and facing one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
But that didn’t absolve them in Van Gundy’s eyes.
“We had to go back and do some very basic things,” Van Gundy said. “I think every once in a while, to get drilled like that in the preseason, against a good team, was good, because it made us go back and re-evaluate some things. We made some fairly minor schematic changes that will help us.
“But our effort and disposition has to change, too. Our transition defense may be as a bad as it’s been since I’ve been here. We didn’t run back at all. Our help defense wasn’t good.
“Hopefully, we’ll see some improvement.”
The Pistons, despite missing the playoffs in 2016-17, ranked seventh in points allowed per game (102.5).
“I thought some of the things we were asking them to do were sort of counter to what the instinctual basketball play is,” Van Gundy said. “It might look good on paper, and it did end up working for us pretty well last year, but right now we’re a little slow. We were trying to play to instincts more so people could cover more ground without thinking quite as much.
“Some of it is we just haven’t made some teaching points clear. some of it is things you need more repetition of and some of it is things you need to change. And then there’s things they’ve got to bring to the table, too. There’s no excuse for not running back on defense. We didn’t do that the other night. Our help defense wasn’t very good. Those are effort things they have to take accountability for.
“I think when you get beat like that, I’m not going to say it’s good, because I hate it at any time of the year, but it makes you re-evaluate a little bit and I think that’s good.”
Van Gundy said everyone will be available for Friday except guard Dwight Buycks.
Asked if Smith, who’s been terrific in the preseason (15.3 points per game on 57.1 percent from the field and 8.0 assists per game) or Jackson would start, Van Gundy said, “I’ll think about it tonight and we’ll talk about it in the morning.”
Jackson, coming back from a knee issue last season and a groin strain that kept him out of the first two exhibitions, is averaging 10 points on 39.1 percent shooting.
“I want him to play better, but that will come with time on the floor,” Van Gundy said. “The guy hasn’t played much basketball. He didn’t get to do his normal summer work. He missed all of our September voluntary stuff here, he missed the first three days of training camp. He’s had minutes restrictions in everything he’s done. It’s not easy to get into a rhythm. It’s just going to take time. Everybody else has had a lot more time.”