‘All About the Detroit Pistons’
Pistons rookies ready to help lead franchise turnaround
In the back of the room, Greg Monroe smiled – barely. From one serious guy to another. Knight didn’t need to explain anything to Monroe. A year ago, when he was drafted, Monroe didn’t exactly do back flips on his way to shaking hands with David Stern.
“At that moment, there’s so much stuff going through your head,” Monroe said, off to the side while his newest teammate stood at the hub of a media throng. “People don’t really, truly understand. You’re sitting in that room at the table, your name is called, you’re in a little bit of disbelief. For me, personally, your whole life flashes before your eyes – all the stuff you did to get there. All the work you put in. His face probably didn’t show how he really felt inside. I definitely could relate to what he was experiencing.”
Monroe, similarly understated, saw his competitiveness questioned in the run-up to the 2011 draft, then spent his rookie season systemically debunking the skepticism. The Pistons are confident Knight’s competitive fires burn just as hot.
Here’s a clue they’re right. Knight chose uniform No. 7 – he was going to go with 0 because Ben Gordon has owned 7, but Gordon is switching to 8 for next season – because, he said, seven teams passed on him in Thursday’s draft.
When the Pistons consider drafting college one-and-done players, the first question they want answered is work ethic. Knight answered those questions for them as a Kentucky freshman when he was unfailingly the first at practice and the last to leave – an hour before, an hour after. And the Pistons last season saw a lot of Kentucky practices – the only opportunity NBA teams had to scout Enes Kanter, who wound up being the No. 3 pick by Utah. That’s the spot Knight thought might be his.
Whatever sting the mini-slide inflicted, Knight says, has past.
“I’m definitely happy to be here in Detroit,” said Knight, who threw out the first pitch at Friday’s Tigers game. “It’s a great feeling to be picked by Detroit. It’s a great city with great tradition – three championships, and I’m hoping we can add to that.”
Knight and Kyrie Irving were peers and rivals via the AAU circuit and ratings services before they ever chose their college destinations, so it’s not a stretch to believe Knight privately believes he was worthy of Cleveland’s consideration for the No. 1 pick. It doesn’t appear the Cavs widened the search beyond Irving, Derrick Williams or Kanter.
“My relationship (with Irving) is basically when I see him, we communicate,” Knight said. “That’s about it. I’m not frustrated at all (that Cleveland didn’t consider him). I’m happy to be here and plan to do whatever it takes to help my team win. I’m not really focusing on the workouts in the past or to have the opportunity to work out against so and so. Right now, it’s all about the Detroit Pistons.”
Joe Dumars again emphasized the character traits he admired not only about Knight but also second-round picks Kyle Singler and Vernon Macklin at Saturday’s press conference, but dismissed the notion that the Pistons overlooked talent to take Boy Scouts after the 2010-11 season was undermined by strained player-coach relations. Singler sold them for every one of the 148 games he played at Duke and Macklin closed the deal by looking right at home in a Tuesday workout with five players taken ahead of him in Thursday’s draft.
“It’s not like we had some guys who were more talented and we passed on them,” Dumars said. “Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. We were lucky on draft night those guys were still on the board. It wasn’t even a discussion in the room, when the draft unfolded and we saw who was going to be on the board, we knew – we’re taking these guys. They’re good basketball players; they also happen to be extremely high character guys, as well.
“These guys epitomize what we’re about going forward. These are some good people. Their families have done an incredible job with them and we’re happy to have these guys represent us on a daily basis. .. What they’re also going to reflect is when they get on the floor, you will not have to ever worry about how hard these guys are going to play. It’s never going to be a question. And if it is, you have a right to call me a liar. But I don’t think it will. These guys, they will get it done.”
Sounds just like what Joe D said after drafting Greg Monroe a year ago. If the 2011 draft proves as fruitful, the turnaround that can’t come soon enough for all of them will be that much nearer.