Across the Board

As Singler sits, Pistons get help from everywhere to run Summer record to 3-1

The Pistons' balanced attack toppled the Celtics for their third Summer League win in four games.
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty Images Sport)
Kyle Singler had been arguably the Pistons’ best all-around player through three Orlando Pro Summer League games, so when the decision was made to give Singler a day off it took an all-around team contribution to cover for his loss.

That’s exactly what they got in a 93-79 win over a Boston Celtics team that entered the day 3-0, too – a little something from everybody and reasons to feel encouraged about all of the players taking part in Summer League who will wear a Pistons uniform in 2012-13.

Let’s run down the lineup:

Brandon Knight – A day after a frustrating, turnover-filled performance in their only loss of the week, Knight’s demeanor from the time the Pistons got on the bus to the Amway Center in the morning conveyed a business-to-be-done tone. He finished with 19 points and 14 assists in 31 minutes.

“I forgot about yesterday already,” he said, before citing the mistakes he made in the loss to Oklahoma City he vowed not to repeat. “I came out today and instead of thinking too much I tried to play the way I normally play. Get in the paint, if I see guys open, instead of trying to force passes, just look for what is there. I got in the paint yesterday at will, got to where I wanted to get on the court at will. It was just the decisions I made once I got to those places. Today, I wanted to be patient, get to those same places and then make the right decisions.”

Knight is finding his voice as a leader, too. The Pistons led by as many as 23 early in the third quarter, but the lead was at 10 with four minutes left when Knight re-entered the game seconds after Austin Daye – more on him coming – also came back. Knight executed a play that allowed Daye to exploit his size for a relatively easy baseline turnaround to push the lead to 12, then his voice cut the air in the gym as Boston’s possession began: “Yeah, AD,” Knight yelled. “Now let’s get a stop! Dig in! Let’s get a stop!”

Daye blocked Jared Sullinger’s shot and when the ball landed in JaJuan Johnson’s hands, Andre Drummond blocked his shot. The lead never was less than 12 after that.

“I plan to continue to do the same thing,” Knight said. “That’s why I’m starting here. Rookie season is tough to lead guys much older than you. With a summer of hard work and my team respecting what I do as a leader, respecting the fact I just want the best for the team, I can be more vocal. I’m closer to guys now, have better chemistry. I know my coach a lot better, so it makes it easier for me to communicate with guys.”

“He came in today, you could tell by the look in his eyes, he was going to really do a good job of getting his teammates involved,” Pistons coach John Loyer said. “He had 14 assists and he did exactly what he set out to do.”

Austin Daye – Summer League isn’t the NBA, but Daye’s audition at power forward couldn’t be more encouraging to the Pistons. His line on Thursday was 15 points, eight rebounds, five blocks, two assists and two steals, giving Daye averages of 17.3 points and 6.5 rebounds – both team bests – to go with 2.3 blocks (tied with Andre Drummond) with a .537 shooting percentage, including 40 percent from the 3-point arc.

“When he’s confident, he’s as good as anybody on the court,” Knight said. “He’s very gifted in how he’s built – long wing span, 6-11, can move around the court, jump shot. He’s able to defend a lot of positions at his size. When he’s confident, he can cover up guys in the post, he can defend guys on the perimeter, he can do a lot of things.”

“Austin’s been good,” Loyer said. “We’re asking him to do a lot. He had to come, the first couple of possessions after they subbed, and guard (Jared) Sullinger. It’s an adjustment for him, but I think it’s a good adjustment and I think by the end of this summer, we’ll know exactly where he’ll help our team.”

Andre Drummond – Drummond controlled the defensive board in a first quarter that saw him score four points, block a shot and grab five rebounds. He finished with 10 points, eight boards and two blocks and impressed his coaches and teammates as he continued to hold up well defensively through a week where he’s had to guard a variety of players, including both of Boston’s first-rounders, Sullinger and 7-footer Fab Melo.

“Nothing really fazes him,” Loyer said. “You can ask him to guard a guy with (Enes) Kanter’s size. Today he has to guard a 6-8 guy in Sullinger. He just never really blinks. He knows that’s his job. He’s mentally focused, ready to go and did a nice job today guarding a bunch of different guys.”

Drummond has some history with Melo. Big East rival Syracuse was a perfect 3-0 against UConn and Drummond last season.

“It’s just something new every day,” he said. “I know my assignments. I go over them with my coaching staff. I watch a little bit of film on everybody before games, so I know what to expect.”

“There are times he lapses, but times he gets a great stop,” Knight said. “It’s just about coaching him through it, keeping on him. He’s a great kid that wants to listen. That’s why I enjoy talking to him. I enjoy playing with somebody that wants to get better.”

Khris Middleton – The majority of Singler’s minutes fell to Middleton, the first of the Pistons’ two second-round picks who hasn’t quite had the debut of the other second-rounder, Kim English.

Middleton played 26 minutes and scored 12 points, making all five of his shots, two from the 3-point line.

“He’s a guy that’s built pretty well, around 6-8, he can defend, knock down shots when he’s open,” Knight said of Middleton. “Good shooter and he can rebound, as well. He can do a lot of things. He’s very versatile, just the way Kyle Singler and Kim English are.”

Kim English – English is making it clear that he’s a player who coaches are going to want on the floor even on those nights when his shot isn’t falling. For his competitive edge, his basketball IQ and his defensive tenacity and versatility, English is destined for a long career as the kind of player every team wants to have around, even if he doesn’t evolve into an NBA starter – and no one is ruling that out, by the way.

He shot 3 of 9 against Boston, but finished with eight rebounds, two assists a steal and zero turnovers in 35 minutes.

“He’s an energy guy,” Drummond said. “He’s always talking, always making noise and he just plays real hard. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s still trying to strap it up on defense and lock on as a defender.”

Four players came off of Loyer’s bench and they all pitched in, as well. Patrick Richard, who shares McNeese State with Joe Dumars, got his first Summer League time and scored eight points, grabbed three rebounds and added an assist and a steal in 18 minutes.

Backup big men Yancy Gates and Vernon Macklin scored seven points each with Macklin grabbing four rebounds and Gates three. Point guard Casper Ware had six points and three assists.

The Pistons wrap up the week with a noon game Friday against Philadelphia. Singler, Loyer said, is expected back in the lineup. One last chance for everybody to make a positive impression.