AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — For a team like the Detroit Pistons, it’s not so much about the wins and losses.
Of course they want to win, but they’re not yet ready to contend for an NBA title, so there are other things that go into evaluating them.
One of the things that matters is which players are going to be around when the team is ready to contend. Another is determining if those players are getting better.
That means looking past the 88-77 loss to the Indiana Pacers at the Palace on Saturday and not focusing on the current four-game losing streak.
Based on the recent trend, it’s looking like Jonas Jerebko and Austin Daye might not be part of that future. Jerebko has recorded 13 straight DNP-CDs (did not play-coach’s decision). Daye has gotten into just two games in that span for a total of 10:58 in playing time.
One might think that coming off a double-overtime loss in Brooklyn on Friday and arriving back in Detroit at 3 a.m. that those two players might see some time against the physical Pacers.
Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight all played more than 40 minutes, with Knight racking up 47:19. Jason Maxiell played 38 and Rodney Stuckey played nearly 40.
But Jerebko and Daye stayed glued to the bench.
Coach Lawrence Frank said he hadn’t forgotten about either of them but more goes into a decision than just whether players have fresh legs or not.
“It’d be one thing if at the 8:23 mark (of the fourth), we’re down 20 or we’re down 15,” Frank said. “It’s a two-point game, so it’s not easy just to say, ‘You know what? Even though we’re tired, I’m going to go with someone who’s completely fresh at that point.’
“If you’re going to do it, do it in the first quarter. We had 10 guys play in the first quarter. It’s hard to pluck a guy who hasn’t played, just throw him in there that late in the game.”
Jerebko, 25, and Daye, 24, are still young players. Daye is in the final year of his contract, and Jerebko will be a free agent in 2015.
Neither one is complaining publicly about not playing, but they can’t be happy about it, either, especially Daye, who would like to be able to impress another team.
Monroe, who played 43 minutes Friday and another 33 Saturday, isn’t worried about getting too tired.
“(Frank) does what’s best for the team and that’s how I look at it,” Monroe said. “We have guys who aren’t playing that are talented, but in this league, you can say that for every team.
Certainly Monroe is one of those players expected to be with the Pistons when they return to playoff form. After some recent struggles, the 22-year-old has responded with 17 points and eight rebounds against the Nets; and 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists against the Pacers.
“I was picking my spots, getting to places I was comfortable at, making moves, making plays,” Monroe said. “Being aggressive but at the same time taking what they gave me.”
Andre Drummond, 19, also looks to be improving as he learns the NBA. In 18:23 against the Nets, Drummond had eight points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Against the Pacers, he followed up with 11 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 29 minutes.
“Just bringing what I do to the team, effort and energy,” Drummond said. “I rebound the ball and just try to get my team going.”
Point guard Brandon Knight, who just turned 21, has definitely been on an upswing after a somewhat slow start to the season. Against the Nets, Knight had 22 points, five rebounds and five assists. Against the Pacers, he had 14 points, four rebounds and three assists.
The Piston recently sent Kim English and Khris Middleton to the NBDL’s Fort Wayne Mad Ants so they could get a little playing time. They’re expected to contribute at some point down the line as well.
The next step in the evaluation process will come Monday against the Pacific Divison-leading Los Angeles Clippers. It will be particularly tough on Knight, who will go up against Chris Paul, perhaps the top point guard in the league right now.
As for Jerebko and Daye, they will most likely be sitting that one out.