MILWAUKEE – Well, that makes it official. With today’s news that Stanley Johnson won’t play tonight with tightness in his back, the Pistons will go through the preseason without having seen their expected starting five play together.
Johnson’s injury – and, really, “injury” is too strong; let’s call it a condition – isn’t something that threatens his availability for the regular-season opener at Little Caesars Arena on Wednesday. In fact, it’s because the regular season is five days away that Stan Van Gundy vetoed Johnson’s objection to being held out on the advice of Jon Ishop, the team’s director of sports medicine.
“He’s actually upset that we’re sitting him out,” Van Gundy said. “Doesn’t think he needs to. But I asked Jon and Jon said he could really benefit from a day off and then a day off tomorrow to try to get his back right, so he won’t go.”
They’ll be similarly cautious with Avery Bradley, who rolled his ankle earlier this week and missed the past two games. Bradley participated in the morning walk through and expects to play, but if he experiences any swelling or tightness prior to tipoff he’ll be in street clothes again.
That caution is a course every coach would take, but it’s also a little anxiety inducing to be facing major decisions on the opening night lineup and rotation with so little to draw on.
“”With giving Stanley the night off, we’ll literally have gone through the exhibition season without having a minute with having everybody,” Van Gundy said. “And then we’ll play the first five games without (Reggie) Bullock, who could very well be a big part of our rotation.”
Because Bullock will miss those games while serving an NBA suspension, Van Gundy probably won’t play him tonight, either – though Bradley’s status could change that. Tobias Harris will start at small forward in Johnson’s spot and Jon Leuer takes over at power forward for Harris.
Then Van Gundy will have three more days of practice – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – to gather all the data he can muster from limited evidence and devise a blueprint for how he’ll line up against Charlotte on Wednesday.