Detroit Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson wasted no time in getting his feet wet in his NBA preseason debut Tuesday night.
The eighth overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft came off the bench and knocked down the very first shot he took, a corner triple, before scoring 11 first-half points. When it was all said and done, Johnson had registered a team-high 26 points in the Pistons’ 115-112 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
With point guards Reggie Jackson, Steve Blake, and Brandon Jennings all out with injuries of varying severity, Johnson moonlighted in the backcourt on Tuesday, spelling Spencer Dinwiddie for extended stretches throughout. Johnson committed a game-high six turnovers but generally held his own while playing out of position, contributing four assists and hitting 3-6 quick release 3-pointers.
How does Johnson feel about being his team’s leading scorer in his first NBA appearance? Unimpressed, it appears.
“I think there were three plays that really stood out that I think lost the game for us,” he said. “My two turnovers at the top of the court and then I got (beat for a lay-up) with two seconds, three seconds left on the shot clock.”
Even in the loss, Johnson found time to echo Schoolhouse Rock when it comes to absorbing experience and becoming a better basketball player moving forward.
“I think knowledge is power and your best teacher is experience,” he said. “The more experience I get, the faster I learn, the faster I can be great.”
Key Notes & Observations from Tuesday’s Preseason Opener
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy stuck to a 10-man rotation against the Pacers, meaning half of the Pistons training camp roster earned a DNP, either due to injury (Jennings, Jackson, Blake, Baynes) or conscious decision from Van Gundy to keep the rotation moderately short (everyone else).
- Spencer Dinwiddie struggled mightily. Starting in place of the injured Reggie Jackson, Dinwiddie was mired by foul trouble all evening, finishing with 4 points, 4 assists, 3 turnovers and a highly unflattering -18 plus/minus rating.
- The hot start to camp continued for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Van Gundy estimated Caldwell-Pope has shot close to 60% in three camp scrimmages and after standing out at Saturday’s Open Practice (attacking the rack with zeal along the way), KCP made his first six 3-pointers on Tuesday, finishing with 22 points on 7-9 shooting.
- New guy update: Marcus Morris scored 8 points (3-9) and grabbed 8 rebounds.
- In a familiar refrain, Van Gundy wasn’t pumped with the Pistons’ defensive effort last night. “We went backward; we were terrible,” Van Gundy said. “I was really disappointed in our defense.”