Throwback Guard

Knight calls to mind versatile guards of NBA’s yesteryear

Brandon Knight reminds George Blaha of other versatile guards in Pistons history.
Ned Dishman (NBAE/Getty)
The great thing about Brandon Knight is he’s such a high-character guy and he has tremendous talent. Sooner or later, you’re going to find the perfect spot to play him. He works tirelessly on his game, he loves to play and he has, in some cases, almost freakish athletic ability. He has a great touch on his shot and great lift, as we see when he attacks the basket. He has terrific anticipation defensively.

Players, especially the ones who spend just one year in college, take some time to get adjusted to the league and then teammates and coaches have to adjust to them. Everybody doesn’t fit into a certain category right away.

We’re seeing a guy who very probably is going to be hard to guard as an off guard, whether he’s 6-foot-3 or not. He’s very, very comfortable playing off the ball and, of course, he has a great handle. When he’s playing off the ball, he’s able to do a lot of things many shooting guards can’t. He’s a handful for opponents and he obviously gives the Pistons a big boost, as was in plain evidence when he scored a career-high 32 points in Wednesday’s great win at Washington.

This is still a league that relies on talent. If you don’t have a certain amount of ability, you won’t be here for long and the guys who lead teams to good seasons and maybe down the road great seasons have to have tremendous talent.

It was funny, after the game in Washington, when Lawrence Frank said maybe we should only play Brandon once a week because he had such great energy. In reality, that’s what he brings more often than not. It’s not just physical energy, it’s the mental toughness and his love for the game.

When he’s out there, you can tell he really wants to be out there. I’m sure basketball is very high on his list of favorite things in this world, right up there with his family and his friends. This is a guy who is very positive and wants to help his team and has the ability to do that. That’s the most important thing – this guy has tremendous talent.

The way Brandon plays reminds me of some of the guards who were in the league when I first started. I’ve been in the league now for 37 full seasons – this is my 38th – and right before I started, they didn’t call guys point guards and shooting guards. It’s all kind of evolved in the last 40 years. I realize that’s a long time, but there were some great players right before I started.

Dave Bing had his best years before I started as the voice of the Pistons, and they didn’t call him a point guard. He won the scoring title in 1968, but he could handle the ball and set up his teammates. He was a tremendous guard. There were many teams that had Dave Bing-type players who were all-time great guards who you wouldn’t necessarily call a point guard. Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double, so I suppose he was a point guard, but we just always referred to Oscar as a guard. Oscar could play this game and play it like nobody else could.

I don’t know if you have to have a pure point guard and a pure shooting guard, but somebody has to think like a point guard on important possessions. Right now, the Pistons have the best of all worlds. They do have a pure point guard in Jose Calderon, who is also an excellent shooter, and an off guard in Brandon Knight who is an excellent shooter and has a great handle and also makes plays for his teammates. Both of those guys are very dangerous when they’re on the court together.

As good as both of them are individually, together they are greater than the sum of their parts. They’re really difficult to deal with when they’re on the court at the same time. When you see Jose Calderon have 18 assists and Brandon Knight score 32 – and I think Brandon could have scored 40, he was rolling to that extent, and Jose clearly could have had 20-plus assists – you realize that they are great at their specialties.

As good a shooter as Jose is, he’s an even better passer. And as much as you like Brandon’s ballhandling and passing ability, when he gets rolling he is an impossible-to-stop shooter and scorer. They have stick-out strengths that make them players everybody would like to have. They’re a treat to watch when they’re playing together.