Posted Friday, July 27, 2012

(Editor’s note: concludes a six-part series profiling the players who participated in Orlando Pro Summer League and project to be a part of the 2012-13 regular-season roster with a look at Kyle Singler.)

The Pistons believed Kyle Singler was NBA ready when they picked him 33rd in the 2011 NBA draft. They had ample reason to arrive at that conclusion, too. A consensus top-10 recruit in 2007 and a McDonald’s All-American, Singler, after all, had played a whopping 148 games over a four-year career at a place where the lights burn as hot as anywhere in college basketball, Duke.

And much like Pistons assistant coach John Loyer discovered over the first three games of the Orlando Pro Summer League, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski found it difficult to take Singler off the floor. He averaged 33 minutes a game over his four years in Durham, including 36 as a junior when he led the Blue Devils to the 2010 NCAA title.

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Posted Wednesday, July 25, 2012

(Editor’s note: continues a six-part series profiling the players who participated in Orlando Pro Summer League and project to be a part of the 2012-13 regular-season roster with a look at Kim English. Coming Friday: Kyle Singler.)

George David interviews somewhere between 60 to 80 college players every year in preparation for the June draft, either at the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational or the NBA draft combine in Chicago or in Auburn Hills when the Pistons bring players in for individual workouts.

Of those 60 to 80 get-to-know-you sessions that give the team’s assistant general manager critical insight into a player’s makeup, maybe one or two will stand out every year – good or bad.

His talk with Kim English will go down as an all-timer for him.

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Posted Monday, July 23, 2012

(Editor’s note: continues a six-part series profiling the players who participated in Orlando Pro Summer League and project to be a part of the 2012-13 regular-season roster with a look at Khris Middleton. Coming Wednesday: Kim English.)

When Kim English’s playing days are over, there’s a future in coaching or personnel evaluation awaiting him if he desires. English is a video addict and a basketball devotee.

So when English speaks of fellow rookie Khris Middleton, a player he got to know over three years of head-to-head competition in the Big 12 Conference, it’s worth more than a casual listen.

“Super smooth, big-time jump shooter, really long and athletic,” English said of Middleton, who was taken five spots ahead of him in the second round by the Pistons. “He played his last year hurt – that’s why he slipped a little to 39. Khris is actually a top-20 talent. I always told him, even at USA Basketball last summer, he should have left after his sophomore year. He came back; unfortunately, he got hurt. I’m happy he’s on our team and not playing against us.”

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Posted Friday, July 20, 2012

(Editor’s note: continues a six-part series profiling the players who participated in Orlando Pro Summer League and project to be a part of the 2012-13 regular-season roster with a look at Austin Daye. Coming Monday: Khris Middleton.)

ORLANDO – Success in Summer League is no guarantee of NBA stardom or even of finding a consistent niche. But failure in Summer League doesn’t usually portend good things for a player’s NBA future. So Austin Daye didn’t solidify a spot in Lawrence Frank’s 2012-13 rotation with an Orlando Pro Summer League performance that landed him on the five-man first team chosen when the week concluded.

But Daye, about to enter his fourth NBA season, did give the Pistons a lot to think about.

“I was proud of Austin this week,” Pistons president Joe Dumars said after Daye averaged 15.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots a game while shooting .510 from the field and .353 from the 3-point line over five games. “Not just because he made shots. The reason I’m proud of Austin is that he’s not shied away from any challenge down here.”

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Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2012

(Editor’s note: continues a six-part series profiling the players who participated in Orlando Pro Summer League and project to be a part of the 2012-13 regular-season roster with a look at Andre Drummond. Coming Friday: Austin Daye.)

ORLANDO – The Pistons felt they had a strong sense of Andre Drummond’s fiber when they made him the No. 9 pick in the 2012 draft three weeks ago. They believed they were getting a kid with a good head and a good heart, and that those two things ultimately would allow the tantalizing raw ability within him to be realized.

They left Summer League even more confident Andre Drummond’s career would follow the right path, but just as determined to invest the patience necessary to nurture an 18-year-old suddenly immersed in a man’s world.

“The kid has a tremendous amount of talent, but he’s raw. That’s fair to say,” Joe Dumars said as the Orlando Pro Summer League week wound down. “There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s why we got him at No. 9. But if you look at him as a piece of clay, we got the best piece of clay in the draft.”

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Posted Monday, July 16, 2012

(Editor’s note: starts a six-part series profiling the players who participated in Orlando Pro Summer League and project to be a part of the 2012-13 regular-season roster with a look at Brandon Knight. Coming Wednesday: Andre Drummond.)

ORLANDO – Every waking minute of Summer League was a learning experience for Pistons rookie Andre Drummond. What did he learn about Brandon Knight?

“He’s like a church mouse,” Drummond grinned. “He doesn’t really talk much unless we’re on the floor.”

On the Amway Center’s practice court, where the Pistons played five games in five days last week, Knight was a prolific orator, alternatively barking out play calls, exhorting teammates to dig in defensively or pulling less experienced teammates aside for pep talks or tactical instruction.

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Posted Friday, July 13, 2012

ORLANDO – If one of Summer League’s purposes is to indoctrinate young players to the NBA’s rigors, one of them is learning how to battle through injuries and win. Kyle Singler and Brandon Knight weren’t injured, but Joe Dumars and Lawrence Frank had seen enough of them through four games, so the finale was turned over to their teammates.

Khris Middleton again started for Singler and undrafted free agent Casper Ware for Knight and they scored the last two critical baskets as the Pistons beat Philadelphia 71-67 on Friday.

“Brandon’s had a good week,” Pistons Summer League coach John Loyer said as the Pistons wrapped up a 4-1 week. “He’s a starting point guard in this league and to come out and play four games and practice the way he practiced, he earned it. Kyle’s played a full season and I played him quite a few minutes those first few games. It’s also good to sit back and watch a little bit. We were happy with both of those guys, so we shut ’em down.

“It’s a game of stepping up and a lot of guys stepped up today.”

Without Knight and Singler, a greater share of the offensive burden shifted to Kim English and Austin Daye. English responded by draining 4 of 7 3-pointers to lead all scorers with 17 points, but English again demonstrated his game is about much more than scoring. Daye’s trial at power forward couldn’t have gone much better for him and he finished with a flourish.

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Posted Thursday, July 12, 2012

Kyle Singler had been arguably the Pistons’ best all-around player through three Orlando Pro Summer League games, so when the decision was made to give Singler a day off it took an all-around team contribution to cover for his loss.

That’s exactly what they got in a 93-79 win over a Boston Celtics team that entered the day 3-0, too – a little something from everybody and reasons to feel encouraged about all of the players taking part in Summer League who will wear a Pistons uniform in 2012-13.

Let’s run down the lineup...

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Posted Wednesday, July 11, 2012

ORLANDO – The fact Cole Aldrich is still logging major Summer League minutes two seasons after Oklahoma City swung a trade to take him with the No. 11 pick in the 2010 draft means his NBA future remains uncertain. But he’s a two-year veteran who arrived after three seasons of high-level college basketball at national power Kansas and the Thunder essentially chose him over 2009 first-rounder Byron Mullens, gifted to Charlotte last season for a future second-round pick.

So Aldrich, in other words, was a pretty fair test for Andre Drummond, 18 and playing his third Summer League game in three days.

Drummond more than held his own despite a flat performance from the Pistons, whose early rash of turnovers set a tone that resulted in their 83-62 loss to Oklahoma City, their first setback of the Orlando Pro Summer League schedule.

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ORLANDO – There are no playoffs once the Orlando Pro Summer League schedule concludes Friday and there’ll be no shiny trophy to take home for the team that can wrap up the week with a perfect 5-0 record. The priorities are a little bit different than they are in the regular season, when winning is the overwhelming objective all 82 times the uniforms are donned.

But make no mistake: Winning still matters. The Pistons, 2-0 through their first two Summer League games, have left little doubt that they were playing to win and believe in the value of coming out ahead even in this setting.

“It’s very important,” Brandon Knight said. “It is Summer League, but we want to win every game we play, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. You get to see different situations and as you see situations, they become a part of your memory. You remember what you should and shouldn’t do in certain situations.”

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Posted Tuesday, July 10, 2012

ORLANDO – Day Two of the Orlando Pro Summer League was return-on-investment day for the Pistons: Kyle Singler’s return from Spain and the return from mothballs of Austin Daye’s jump shot paid off with a win.

Daye scored 24 points and showed flashes that his NBA future really could lie at power forward in a 79-74 win over Orlando that gives the Pistons a 2-0 record with three games left. Singler, for his part, proved himself the immovable object – or at the last the unremovable player.

He played all 20 second-half minutes and 36 for the game. And that after the Pistons came into Summer League with the intention of monitoring his minutes, since Singler was coming off a 10-month season in Spain.

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Posted Monday, July 9, 2012

ORLANDO – With the standard caveats about weighing Summer League results with restraint, the Pistons left Orlando’s Amway Center after their Monday opener feeling pretty good about the future – their immediate future.

Andre Drummond, Kyle Singler and Kim English all pushed their chips to the middle of the table in their bid to be a part of Lawrence Frank’s rotation for the 2012-13 NBA season. It wasn’t merely the numbers they put up but the context: Drummond went against Enes Kanter and English against Alec Burks for most of the Pistons’ 76-73 win – Kanter and Burks were 2011 lottery picks with encouraging rookie seasons on their resumes – and Singler split his time against two NBA veterans, 2009 first-rounder DeMarre Carroll and rugged Stephen Graham, a six-year veteran.

English led all scorers with 18 points, hitting 3 of 4 from the 3-point line and attacking aggressively enough to get six free throws, too. Singler his 6 of 8 shots in scoring 14 points, showing the nose for the basket and savvy that endeared him to the Pistons a year ago as his Duke career wound down. And Drummond had eight points, five boards, four steals and two blocks, but most tellingly he helped hold the gifted Kanter to three points while helping to force him into four turnovers.

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ORLANDO – As Allen Iverson made abundantly clear, not every NBA player loves to practice. Kim English is not one of them.

“I love practice,” he smiled after his fifth in three days as the Pistons prepare for today’s start of the Orlando Pro Summer League. “I love games. Every time I step on the court, I just pray to God to keep me healthy, swift and accurate. As long as I’m healthy and playing, I’m happy.”

In English, a player the Pistons were delighted to draft with the 44th pick, Joe Dumars and his staff feel they’re getting someone who addresses a smorgasbord of needs. They wanted to get bigger and more athletic on the wings.They wanted perimeter players who fit the mold of what Lawrence Frank wants coming off of his bench: players who first and foremost are motivated defenders. They wanted to get shooters who stretch the floor with their 3-point marksmanship.

Check, check and check. The bonus: English is a dedicated gym rat, a rookie of rare maturity and someone the Pistons see as prime leadership material.

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Posted Sunday, July 8, 2012

ORLANDO – Solicit opinions on early impressions of Andre Drummond and the responses are all over the map: Freak athlete, Kim English says. Incredible athlete, Austin Daye adds. Unbelievable athlete, Charlie Villanueva chimes in.

No matter their modifier of choice, the word “athlete” comes before the midway point of the first sentence from nearly every respondent when the subject is Andre Drummond. Drummond bristles with athleticism, evident in astounding bursts – dashing out to blunt a pick-and-roll play, then recovering back to the paint in a flash, or snaring rebounds above the crowd – which makes it easy to forget that he’s a mere 18 and a long way from where he will eventually get as a basketball player.

Drummond has struck those around him as introspective and inquisitive – he has a keen curiosity for the way computers work, for example – and has impressed with his attentiveness when plays or principles are explained.

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ORLANDO – It was midway through the fourth Pistons practice in less than 48 hours, with both legs and minds fighting off fatigue, when Kyle Singler snapped everyone to full attention.

Breaking out of a five-on-five scrum at one end that blossomed suddenly into a three-on-two transition opportunity out of a turnover, Singler received a pass from Casper Ware at the 3-point line and took a straight path to the basket. He had no angle to the rim over Brandon Knight, and both Vernon Macklin and Khris Middleton were closing fast, but Singler – off of one dribble – took off and threw down a filthy one-handed dunk with Knight on his left shoulder that stopped everyone cold.

“I saw Brandon on the left,” Singler said. “When I jumped, I saw him jump, too. I knew I either had to take it strong or finish with a dunk. When I went up, I got a bump from him and kind of got a boost. I was already up there – so I finished it.”

Singler had only moments ago returned to the court after icing down his eye, which had gotten poked when a defender tried to swipe at the ball from behind. The area around his eye quickly swelled and the white area around his pupil became an angry red. The dunk stood on its own as the most eyebrow-raising moment of Summer League practices; that it came on the heels of being sent to the sidelines wasn’t lost on his teammates.

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Posted Saturday, July 7, 2012

ORLANDO – For much of last season, Charlie Villanueva was sidelined with a lingering ankle injury that cropped up in training camp. For virtually all of it, he was on the outside looking in at Lawrence Frank’s playing rotation. Most of that time, he had company in Austin Daye, who never really recovered from a paralyzing shooting slump that took away the one basketball skill that had never betrayed him.

The Pistons, for the most part, learned to play without Villanueva and Daye last season – and to win. After their traumatizing 4-20 start, the Pistons closed Frank’s maiden season on a 21-21 rush to ride a wave of momentum into the off-season.

And it’s an off-season that so far has further clouded the futures of Villanueva and Daye, which perhaps helps to explain their participation as the Pistons prepare for Monday’s start of the Orlando Pro Summer League schedule. Villanueva, along with teammates Greg Monroe and Jason Maxiell, is here only to take part in the four days of practice leading to Monday’s opener; Daye is along for the whole ride, and it’s telling that he’s been working at power forward almost exclusively so far.

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ORLANDO – Brandon Knight hardly registers as a seasoned veteran, but he’ll hold a measure of seniority when his second season starts over a number of teammates, including four rookies who will flank him when the Pistons open Orlando Pro Summer League play next week.

It remains to be seen who from among the rookie contingent of 2012 draftees Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton and Kim English, 2011 pick Kyle Singler or Ukrainian free agent Slava Kravtsov will fight their way into the rotation or how much the newcomers will contribute in their first seasons. All but Kravtsov are part of the team’s Summer League entry and Knight has taken to heart the leadership role Lawrence Frank knows will be important for his evolution as the team’s point guard of both the present and the future.

“I don’t feel like a veteran,” he said. “I’ve got a lot to learn. I’m trying to be more of a leader, trying to talk to guys and trying to school guys. Just trying to be more vocal, making sure we have the right attitude and try to coach ’em up as far as character.”

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Posted Friday, July 6, 2012

ORLANDO – Greg Monroe stands as the shining example for Pistons fans that first impressions show no more than snapshots of a motion picture under production. The Monroe who didn’t get off the bench for the first two games of his NBA career and then had difficulty getting shots off without them being blocked bears little resemblance to the double-double machine on the verge of stardom today.

But you have to start somewhere, right?

For Andre Drummond, it started Thursday night in the Barnett Recreation Center on West Colonial Drive in Orlando, where he and Monroe met and traded elbows during an intense 2½-hour practice as the Pistons prepare for five games in the Orlando Pro Summer League starting Monday.

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Posted Thursday, July 5, 2012

ORLANDO – About two hours short of a full week since the Pistons called Andre Drummond’s name with the ninth pick in the 2012 NBA draft, he will be wearing their uniform – well, Pistons-logoed practice gear, at least – and participating in his first practice as a professional basketball player.

By the time the 18-year-old leaves central Florida eight days from now, the first chapter in a very thick instruction book will have been written for him – and by him.

“With Andre, we look at a young man who from an athletic standpoint is off the charts at his position,” Lawrence Frank said last week. “We think it’s going to be a process. Andre is 18. He’s played one year of college basketball.”

The process begins on many levels in Summer League, where the Pistons will log seven practices over the next four days and then play five games in five days. Drummond joins Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight as pillars of the franchise’s future and they’ll come together in Orlando. Knight will be the team’s starting point guard; Monroe, a well-established NBA starter on his way to All-Star status, accepted Frank’s invitation to practice with the team to begin fostering chemistry with his young teammates.

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