Challenge Accepted

Competition for minutes doesn't faze Jonas Jerebko

Jonas Jerebko is looking forward to challenging his teammates in practice once training camp opens next week.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
All Jonas Jerebko wanted a year ago when he came to training camp as a second-rounder about whom little was known or expected was a chance to compete – first to make the team, then to be one of the 12 Pistons who got to pull on a uniform every night, then to crack the playing rotation.

And, finally, to start when an injury to Tayshaun Prince three games into the season created an opening.

So Jerebko figured to be the last one to raise an eyebrow when he read that Joe Dumars expects this Pistons training camp, unlike any in nearly a decade, to feature competition for minutes at all five positions.

“We’ll have competition at every practice,” he said Thursday after a workout that didn’t include scrimmaging due to a minor ankle sprain suffered Tuesday. “That’s the NBA. They’re the best players in the world. Every team is going to have that. It’s just how it is.”

In fact, after going head to head against Charlie Villanueva for the past two or three weeks, Jerebko is embracing the opportunity to test himself in practices against a multifaceted scorer.

“It’s great for me – Charlie’s a great offensive player,” he said. “For me to play against him, I’ll take every opportunity I get. It’s just getting me ready for the NBA. He’s a great player.”

Jason Maxiell has spent his summer in his hometown, Dallas, but Jerebko expects him, too, to push hard for playing time after Maxiell’s outstanding finish to the 2009-10 season. And he knows other players – including Greg Monroe and Chris Wilcox, or if the Pistons choose to change the look, Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince – are also capable of stepping in at power forward, just as Jerebko’s versatility makes him an option at small forward for John Kuester.

After an eventful summer that included another stint with the Pistons’ Summer League entry, a star turn with the Swedish national team and hours of individual workouts at the practice facility and elsewhere, Jerebko is eager to open camp and build off a rookie season that saw him named to the All-Rookie second team.

“Physically, I feel ready,” he said, showered and finished with his workout four hours after arriving at the gym. “The ankle will be fine by Monday. I just can’t play on it right now, but I was here at 9 this morning with Steve (Hetzel, player development coach), shooting and working, trying to get everything finished before (his teammates) started playing so I don’t bother them. But I’ll be ready. It’s going to be a different game when you start playing, but I’ll get into it. I’m ready – I’m just looking forward to starting the season.”

Jerebko did give himself Monday off from training when an invitation too good to pass up came to him. It was the chance to watch another team in training camp – the Red Wings – with his friends among the fellow Swedes who star for Detroit’s NHL team.

“I had to take that opportunity,” he said. “I was picking my cousin up at the airport and when I got home I had a message on my phone asking if I wanted to go up to watch the Wings scrimmage and go play golf. I had to take that opportunity to go up there before training camp starts.”

Jerebko was at a Swedish national team dinner in Stockholm over the summer when he ran into two Wings, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson. But he was in the United States earlier when Henrik Zetterberg got married, which spared him the embarrassment of having to wear the hideous black-and-white striped singlets all wedding guests donned for a swimming party the day before the wedding ceremony.

“I probably wouldn’t have been there to wear them,” he laughed. “They looked funny.”