The Value of Winning

Even in Summer League setting, Pistons play to win

The Pistons look to cultivate winning habits with their Summer League play.
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty Images Sport)
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.”

Exposing players to stressful situations to see how they respond, and giving them the chance to experience those situations so they can learn about themselves in a setting as close to the NBA as it gets for them, is a part of the individual player development that is also a significant component of Summer League.

In Tuesday’s win over Orlando, Pistons coach John Loyer rode for much of the fourth quarter with four players who didn’t start the game: Vernon Macklin and undrafted rookie free agent Yancy Gates up front, undrafted rookie free agent Casper Ware at point guard and second-rounder Khris Middleton at shooting guard.

“Just like I told our guys, you never know on any particular night when your number is going to be called,” Loyer said. “You’ve got to be ready to answer the bell and some guys stepped up. That’s what it’s about – winning every night, having guys come in and contribute.”

The mainstay was Kyle Singler, who played all 20 minutes of the second half. Singler, it’s clear, has already won the confidence of the coaching staff for his reliable decision-making.

It doesn’t hurt that confidence any to know of Singler’s background – a successful four-year college career on one of college basketball’s biggest stages, Duke, where he contributed to a national title team as a junior, and one year in Spain where he played a major role for a team that came up one win shy of winning the league championship.

“There’s definite value (in winning),” Singler said. “It’s your first showing, it’s your first impact that you have on your team, your future teammates, your future opponents. It’s definitely huge to come out and play hard and try to play as well as you can.”

Lawrence Frank and his staff were eager for the Summer League experience this year, especially, due to the circumstances under which they were hired a year ago when a lockout prevented any contact with players.

“We really wanted to accomplish what we couldn’t accomplish last year,” he said. “We really wanted to get to know our guys. Last year we walked in here cold. We were new to them, they were new to us and this gave us an opportunity in a little different environment to get to know them as people, one, and as players, two. We really just wanted to get terminology, wanted to get our guys indoctrinated to how we play Piston basketball.”

That includes making winning a priority, even in games that will soon be forgotten by every outsider.

“As coaches, we have a checklist for each and every guy and we talk about it on a daily basis,” Loyer said. “That’s why we spend so much time on individual instruction. We just wanted to learn our system, play together and the wins will come. If we play our way, I think we’ll win the majority of our games.”