If you’re wondering how Langston Galloway fits into a rotation when there are no fewer than two others ahead of him at his position, Dwane Casey provides the answer: Play them all at the same time.
He did it with three point guards – Kyle Lowry, Fred Van Vleet, Delon Wright – at a time in Toronto last season and he did it with his shooting guards in Monday’s preseason home opener with Brooklyn with his shooting guards.
In fact, Casey went long stretches of each half with a center (Andre Drummond or Zaza Pachulia) and four guards on the court. It was partially a response to Brooklyn’s downsizing but mostly Casey’s desire to start experimenting with small-ball lineups of his own.
And it gave Galloway an opportunity to widen the impression he’s already made on Casey this preseason.
“He’s a big-time scorer,” Casey said after Galloway led the Pistons with 24 points in the 110-108 overtime loss. “I love Langston’s demeanor, his toughness. Not only his offense, I thought his defensive toughness and grit gave us a lot down there. Once we get Blake (Griffin) off of minutes restriction and Reggie (Jackson) off a minute restriction, I really like that lineup with Langston in there possibly at (small forward). Even though he’s undersized, he still can guard a lot of threes.”
Galloway spent many of his 36 minutes at small forward in lineups with either Smith or Jackson at point guard and Bruce Brown or Zach Lofton at shooting guard. He hit 9 of 17 shots and half of his eight 3-pointers while battling defensively against bigger players.
“He was great,” Drummond said. “He did exactly what he’s supposed to do. He took the shots he’s supposed to take and knocked ’em down in clutch situations.”
Galloway fell out of Stan Van Gundy’s rotation last season when Van Gundy preferred others at point guard and Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard emerged at shooting guard. He spent his summer preparing for Casey’s system, knowing Casey’s willingness in Toronto to play unconventional lineups gave him an opening.
“Like he’s said to us, it doesn’t matter who started the game,” Galloway said. “He doesn’t care who’s in the game as long as we can finish the game and they can contribute on the floor defensively and offensively. Hey, it gives everybody confidence.”
Galloway’s heart has always been outsized, the overriding factor to explain how an undrafted free agent wound up starting 41 games as a Knicks rookie four years ago. Without specifically knowing he’d be asked to guard small forwards, Galloway spent a chunk of his summer looking to add strength by lifting weights and delving into pilates and yoga as part of his training regimen.
“I put in a lot of work this summer just to be ready for any situation,” he said. “I think I’m ready for the challenge. I was just trying to get stronger and trying to help out, thinking in the future this is going to pay off. I’m excited about it.”
The path to playing time remains cluttered for Galloway. Stanley Johnson, a more conventional small forward, sat out Monday’s game with a minor toe injury. But Casey’s proactive lineup configurations coupled with the pronounced trend league wide to put more ballhandlers and shooters on the court regardless of their spot on the depth chart portends more opportunities coming for Galloway.
“He’s a shooter. I think he’s just getting his confidence back,” Jackson said. “I think the offense is implemented in a way that we can use him because we do want to get a lot of shots up and Langston’s great moving without the ball and getting his feet set. When he can get hot, he can really get it rolling. It’s a system that really would benefit him more. We’ll figure out where are spots are, but I think it’s a little more free flowing and guys are figuring it out.”