AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Kobe Bryant’s injury problems gave Jodie Meeks an opportunity.
Meeks started 70 games last season, averaged a career-high 15.7 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range for the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Detroit Pistons are hoping for more of the same after signing the 6-foot-4 guard to a $19.5 million, three-year deal. Although it was an awful season for the Lakers, Meeks took advantage of the extra playing time — and extra shots — while Bryant was limited to six games because of Achilles tendon and knee injuries.
“Unfortunate for Kobe, but fortunate for me — I got to expand my game,” Meeks said. “Got a chance to run some point guard and really show people what I could do.”
The Pistons probably won’t need him at the point much, but they were looking for help on the wing after last season’s team floundered despite an impressive front line.
Only one Detroit player in 2013-14 — Kyle Singler — shot over 34 percent from 3-point range while playing major minutes. The Pistons couldn’t take advantage of big men Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith because of the team’s inability to produce outside the paint.
“From a skill standpoint on the perimeter, shooting was our primary focus, to the point that there really wasn’t anybody we were interested in that wasn’t a very good range shooter,” said Stan Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach and team president. “We really wanted to change that.”
The Pistons also have agreed to deals with free agents Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Sunday night because the team had not announced the deals.
Those players are expected to be introduced today. Monday was all about Meeks, who was the team’s first big addition after Joe Dumars stepped down as team president this year and was replaced by Van Gundy.
“We’re really excited,” Van Gundy said. “Obviously, our first signing of the offseason — as a new management group, our first signing period.”
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