Detroit — Christian Wood made the most of his opportunity. He didn’t get a ton of playing time in the Pistons’ preseason opener on Monday but in the minutes he got, he was active.
And he was visible.
And he was scoring. And rebounding.
On a night that coach Dwane Casey said that most of the players were in second gear, Wood was in first gear, as if he were a wind-up toy and let loose. By the time he was done in the first half, he had 12 points and four rebounds, buoyed with confidence from a successful first stint.
“I was really comfortable. Coach Casey instills confidence in me and I try to go out there and show the confidence I have on the court,” Wood said. “I go out there and he gets mad when I don’t shoot the ball and yells at me. That goes a long way. As soon as you tell a guy like me to go in the game and shoot the ball, it helps me out a lot.”
It would be a coming-out party for Wood, 24, if he hadn’t done it before. Wood is in his fourth season, trying to make the Pistons his fifth different team. He’s had a modicum of success, but it’s been in short spurts.
Both Casey and Andre Drummond pointed to the important of becoming more consistent and stringing together multiple good outings, which will, in turn, build more confidence.
“I’m used to it; every day is a grind for me. I have something to prove every time I step on the floor,” Wood said. “Coach Casey wants guys who can shoot and space out the floor. I have to get my 3-point percentage up but overall, I’m confident to shoot it and I’m going to shoot it if I’m open.
“I have to be ready at all times, especially checking in the game and not knowing how many minutes I’m going to get. I have to bring energy on the defensive and offensive end.”
Wood’s energy is what stood out in the preseason loss and it’s notable because he’s vying for the final roster spot, presumably with veteran Joe Johnson, but it’s not a typical one-on-one competition for one spot. Wood is 6-foot-10 and Johnson 6-foot-7 — playing different position, with two different metrics for what defines success.
Wood’s value can be as a multi-positional perimeter-shooting and rebounding threat. Without many other comparable options as a second-unit center, he could have a significant role in the reserve unit.
Johnson, 38, provides veteran leadership, savoir faire and the ability to get key baskets.
Casey said the competitions for minutes, roles and roster spots aren’t as simple as going out and putting big numbers in the box score.
"For all our guys, it’s not just points; it’s doing your job and your position, whether it’s screening, executing a play,” Casey said before Monday’s game. “In certain situations, it’s more than just going out there and scoring a bundle of points and looking for your shots.
“I told the young guys that to make this team, make sure you screen, you’re in the right spot defensively, getting back in transition, all the hard things get our attention as a coaching staff.”
Andre Drummond has hinted that it could be an interesting summer following the season. Drummond, 26, has a player option for the $28.8 million in the final year of his five-year contract. If he chooses to opt out, he could go into free agency; otherwise, he could renegotiate his deal.
Therein lies the rub: Drummond could test the market and find that there isn’t a huge market for a traditional center. Alternatively, he could find a team that covets his services and could pay him more than the 20-percent increase the Pistons could offer.
Drummond is interested in staying in Detroit, where he has spent his entire seven-year career, and team owner Tom Gores is on board with keeping him here. The sticking point will be making the salary number match on both sides.
Drummond’s last deal was a for the max, based on his salary scale and he’s looking for another max deal, if the two sides can figure a way to make it work.
“(Max salary) is the way (Gores) sees me and that’s obviously the way anyone will see himself as a basketball player. With the hard work and dedication that you put in each day, no player should feel like he’s not a max player,” Drummond said. “Every player should feel like they’re worth that sum of money because of the hard work and blood, sweat and tears you put in every day.
“The work you put in, you should be rewarded for it; it doesn’t matter whether it’s me or a rookie. Everybody feels they should make the maximum amount of dollars to play the sport they’re playing.”
Pistons vs. Mavericks
Tip-off: 7 Wednesday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Pistons were sluggish in a 24-point blowout loss to the Magic on Monday. Christian Wood (19 points) was the standout and will look to follow up with another good performance. The Mavericks will be on the second night of a back-to-back.