OKC Thunder Notepad: Piston coach no fan of tanking

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AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood drives to the basket in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Oklahoma City.

OKLAHOMA CITY — Detroit coach Dwane Casey knows something about shepherding an NBA basketball team from losing to winning.

He took over a 22-win Toronto team before the 2011-12 season and his win totals there from one season the the next were 23, 34, 48, 49, 46, 51, 59.

He was let go for lack of playoff success, reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 2016, but bowing out in the conference semifinals in the 2017 and 2018 postseasons.

The day after the trade deadline, a day that saw the Pistons deal center Andre Drummond — 17.8 ppg, 15.8 rpg — to Cleveland, Casey was philosophical, yet clear.

“So now it’s on us to develop our young players, get lucky in the draft if [we can], but at the same time maintain our culture, maintain our culture of winning with the young players we have,” he said.

The Pistons are not winning this season, entering Friday with a 19-34 record, in part the result of former Sooner Blake Griffin’s injury issues.

Griffin has played only 18 games this season and none since Dec. 28, the Pistons’ 33rd game of the season, and will not return this season following knee surgery.

The Pistons were 41-41 last season, Casey’s first in Detroit. Coached by Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons won 39 games and missed the 2018 postseason.

Asked specifically about maintaining a winning culture, Casey was adamant that no team, even hoping to nab higher draft picks, can pursue losing, aka “tanking.”

“I don’t buy that,” he said. “If I go out and coach that way, you never get that stench out of your locker room … We rebuilt in Toronto and we tried to win every game.

“If you go out and don’t put your heart and soul into winning, as a coach, prepare your team, prepare your players, you’ll never get that stench out of the locker room. I’m a firm believer in that.”

• Active Adams: Steven Adams missed three of five games with a sprained ankle before returning to the lineup on Jan. 25 and played in OKC’s next four games, yet still appeared to be laboring on the court.

His minutes increased on Wednesday, following four days off for the Thunder. He logged 29:43, more than he’d played in any game since logging 35:43 at Brooklyn on Jan. 7.

Still, he finished with just six points and eight rebounds.

Friday, he looked much more like himself, netting 12 points in the first half alone after going eight straight games without scoring in double figures in all four quarters.

Playing 15:30, he got the points on 5 of 6 shooting and 2 of 2 free-throw shooting, while grabbing six rebounds and dishing three assists, helping OKC to a 52-47 intermission edge.

• Block party: For a ninth-straight game, Shai-Gilgeous Alexander blocked at least one shot. The only three Thunder players ever to do that — Serge Ibaka, Nerlens Noel, Kendrick Perkins — all measure 6-foot-10 or taller. Gilgeous-Alexander is 6-6.

• Dennis' streak ends: Dennis Schroder began the fourth quarter with a natural three-point play, putting the Thunder up 81-68. However, he did not score again, thereby ending his run of eight straight games of 20 or more points, seven of them coming off the bench, a Thunder record.

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