2013 Summer League header

Posted Friday, July 12, 2013

Atop the Pistons’ Summer League checklist were assessing Andre Drummond’s readiness for taking the next step and gauging whether Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would show the first signs of being ready to handle a spot in the backcourt rotation.

It’s fair to say Joe Dumars, Maurice Cheeks and their staffs will leave Orlando after five practices, five games and a few morning shootarounds feeling as good about those questions as they possibly could, with the caveat that Summer League is merely a snap shot in time.

Caldwell-Pope got progressively better as the week unfolded, though he consistently played hard even while his shots went awry in the first few games. But he saved his best for last, scoring a game-high 20 points to go with five rebounds, four assists and a steal in Friday’s 90-85 loss to Miami.

A few late misses, including a potential tying 3-pointer in the final seconds, dropped Caldwell-Pope’s final shooting line to 7 of 14, but he played an extremely efficient game offensively, with several other good passes that didn’t yield assists. He scored in a variety of ways: jump shots, an artfully banked runner, put-backs and frequent trips to the basket that resulted in six free throws. Over his last two games, Caldwell-Pope was awarded 16 foul shots.

Continue reading Check, Check >>

Posted Thursday, July 11, 2013

There’s a temptation to group Andre Drummond’s Summer League reign of terror under the “man among boys” heading, except then you remember this: He’s the youngest guy on anyone’s roster in Orlando.

Drummond, who doesn’t turn 20 until next month, set an Orlando Summer League record for rebounds with 18 in a 78-77 Pistons win over Miami on Thursday to go with 23 points, two steals and two blocked shots. That puts his three-game averages – and Drummond is almost surely sitting out Friday’s finale – at 15.7 points, 15 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 2.7 steals a game.

The game was won on Tony Mitchell’s put-back slam of Korie Lucious’ air-ball runner with 1.7 seconds left. Mitchell and Drummond both grabbed seven offensive rebounds, a testament to the huge upgrade in athleticism Detroit’s front office has managed in the past two off-seasons.

Continue reading Man Among Boys >>

Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ORLANDO – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope knew shots would start falling sooner or later, but he was rooting hard for sooner.

Sooner came in a hurry after halftime of Tuesday’s 79-75 loss to Oklahoma City as the rookie shooting guard out of Georgia scored 11 quick points to give the Pistons a double-digit lead from a halftime tie. He finished with 19 points and made 4 of 10 3-point shots, which included a desperation try at the buzzer with the Pistons trailing by four.

“It did feel good knocking down a couple of 3-pointers, a couple of easy layups and just knocking down jump shots,” he said. “It just felt good getting my offensive game coming.”

While he struggled to a 1 of 14 showing from behind the 3-point line over his first two games, Caldwell-Pope was urged to continue to take shots the offense is designed to produce by the coaching staff. His teammates, as well, had been in his ear to ignore the results and focus on the process.

Continue reading KCP Breaks Out >>

Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ORLANDO – When Kentavious Caldwell-Pope decided to parlay a sizzling second half to his sophomore season into a run at the NBA draft, the assessment from the league’s advisory committee wasn’t particularly glowing. They had him pegged as a borderline first-round pick.
“Late first round, early second round – that was the feedback I was getting,” he told me here as the Pistons participated in Summer League. “But I wouldn’t have been satisfied with that. I thought I could do better than that. I thought I could compete with the players in my draft class and I showed that in Chicago and in the workouts.”

Caldwell-Pope never wavered, never considered returning to Georgia for his junior season, once he made up his mind to test the waters. And it didn’t take him long, once the draft evaluation process kicked up a notch, to justify the faith in himself.

By the time the NBA draft combine was held in mid-May in Chicago, Caldwell-Pope was seen as a fringe lottery pick, and momentum kept building over the next six weeks. Minnesota, holding the No. 9 pick, had keen if thinly veiled interest in drafting him, which led the Pistons to conduct a stealth campaign to mask their own interest in the size, athleticism and shooting range they felt Caldwell-Pope provided.

The shooting hasn’t yet come to the fore through two Summer League games – Caldwell-Pope is just 1 of 14 from the 3-point line – but the athleticism and defensive ability and mind-set the Pistons saw in him have been evident. He picked up four steals in Monday’s loss and had an eye-opening blocked shot in Sunday’s win. In each game, he attempted bold dunks over shot-blockers by taking off well outside the restricted area, drawing a foul on one and crushing the ball into the back rim on both.

Continue reading Soaring Expectations >>

Posted Monday, July 8, 2013

Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013

ORLANDO – It was as rough and ragged as you’d expect of a Summer League opener, but one clearly discernible impression emerged from the muck and mire of the Pistons’ turnover-plagued 76-67 win over Brooklyn: Joe Dumars’ draft-night plan to increase his team’s athleticism was accomplished.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his first eight shots Sunday and finished with four points, but made two eye-grabbing plays to underscore the skill set that enticed the Pistons into using the No. 8 pick on the Georgia sophomore.

The only shot he attempted inside of 18 feet in the first half was a dunk where he took off one very long stride from the rim and soared well above it – and a Brooklyn shot-blocker – forcing a hard foul as he crammed the ball into the back rim. Seconds later, he recovered defensively along the baseline from the weak side to swat away a layup attempt.

“Who would’ve thought he was going to come down the lane and try to dunk on somebody that’s a lot bigger than him?” Andre Drummond grinned after the game. “I didn’t know he had it in him. I thought he was just a shooter, but he told me he had bounce and he proved it. I’m looking forward to more stuff he does.”

Continue reading Off and Running >>

Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013

Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013

ORLANDO – Tony Mitchell isn’t running from his reputation earned during a disappointing sophomore season at North Texas, though he could probably either run away from it or jump over it if he chose. It’s that athleticism – on full display through three days of Summer League practices leading to today’s opening game – that got him drafted 37th overall by the Pistons last week.

But it will be how he channels his innate gifts that will determine how high Mitchell can fly in the NBA, which flushes great athletes out of its system routinely if they can’t master the discipline required to harness their athleticism.

Mitchell was a part of Brandon Knight’s 2010 high school class and was regarded in his stratosphere as a prospect, too. Rivals.com ranked him the nation’s No. 12 player – Knight was ranked sixth – and called him a “freak athlete with good ball skills.”

But Mitchell, who was ticketed to join Kim English at Missouri, sat out the 2010-11 season due to academic ineligibility before debuting at North Texas with a bang the following season, averaging 14.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots a game while shooting 57 percent overall and 44 percent from the 3-point line. While Mitchell only shot 41 triples for the season, the accuracy speaks to the rare combination of athleticism and skill he possesses.

Continue reading High Flyer >>

Posted Friday, July 5, 2013

ORLANDO – Peyton Siva knows pressure. You don’t run Rick Pitino’s offense for three years as his starting point guard without coping mechanisms in place. You don’t have the ball in your hands for a team that wins the national championship without the ability to slow time when chaos engulfs you.

But the stakes are a little different now. The most dire consequence of a Pitino tongue lashing might be humiliation or a few extra wind sprints. The worst result of an NCAA tournament loss is an early flight home and no celebratory parade.

Now it’s not his pride on the line; it’s his livelihood. Siva parlayed his four-year bachelor of basketball degree from Louisville into the No. 56 pick in last month’s NBA draft. That’s an area of the draft that guarantees not much beyond a press conference and photo opportunity shared with lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and early second-rounder Tony Mitchell.

Continue reading Opportunity Knocks >>

Posted Thursday, July 4, 2013

ORLANDO – While most of America brushes beach sand from its toes, puts a fresh bag of ice in the cooler and secures the best fireworks vantage point, the Detroit Pistons will be quietly launching their 2013-14 NBA season in a modest Florida rec center.

Draft picks Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva will be joined by 2012-13 rookies Andre Drummond, Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton, Kim English and Slava Kravtsov as new coach Maurice Cheeks and the coaching staff he’s still assembling gather the team for an evening practice in advance of Sunday’s Orlando Summer League opener.

They’re expected to be joined by young veterans Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight for the next few days of practices, with double sessions scheduled Friday and Saturday, all while Joe Dumars and staff continue their pursuit of free agents and draft targets that could dramatically alter the roster.

Of the seven or eight players on the Summer League roster whose rights the Pistons hold and who figure to be on next season’s roster, Andre Drummond has the most certain role, regardless of what veterans are added between now and training camp. Drummond will be the starting center on opening night. He and Singler finished last season as starters and neither figures to play more than a game or two, by all indications, of the five scheduled over six days in Orlando.

For everybody else, though, Summer League is the first step toward establishing a place in the pecking order between now and the start of training camp. What the front office, coaching and training staffs see in Summer League determines a course of action for each individual for the rest of the summer.

Continue Reading Summer League Checklist>>