‘It’s Going to be Fun’

Pistons additions have Stuckey eager for season to arrive

Rodney Stuckey is anticipating playing with the newest Pistons.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
As Joe Dumars has restocked the cupboard over a productive summer – drafting three promising rookies, signing Kyle Singler and Slava Kravtsov from European pro leagues, trading for Corey Maggette – Rodney Stuckey has smiled, wiped the sweat off his brow, and gotten back to work.

“I’m really excited about this year,” he said after another lengthy workout Monday at the Pistons’ practice facility. “We’re young and it’s just going to be fun. We’re all in the same age group, basically. We have Tayshaun (Prince) and Corey and other than that, pretty much everyone is in that 18 to 26 range. It’s been a while since we’ve had that kind of vibe around here.”

It’s not just the new blood that has Stuckey excited, but the depth and options that their additions provide. Kravtsov and Andre Drummond add two athletic 7-foot shot-blockers to a frontcourt that needed exactly that. Maggette and Singler take small forward from a thin position to potentially one with tremendous depth if Maggette stays healthy and Singler proves as NBA-ready as he appears.

“We have a lot of options,” he said. “That’s not a bad thing to have. Guys have to be on their A game now. Right now, it’s about hard work. You’ve got to come in and be ready to play. If you’re not ready, the next guy can step in.”

Stuckey and Brandon Knight appear the most entrenched players on the roster given the off-season injection of frontcourt talent. Besides Stuckey and Knight, only Will Bynum at point guard and rookie Kim English at shooting guard among the 15 players who currently project to be with the team as training camp starts are primarily backcourt players. Maggette and Austin Daye could play shooting guard in a pinch and the Pistons feel rookie Khris Middleton can eventually play both shooting guard and small forward.

Up front, Greg Monroe, of course, will log major minutes, but if Kravtsov and Drummond prove ready the Pistons won’t have to rely on Monroe as heavily as they did last season. And it’s possible some of Monroe’s minutes come at power forward playing alongside either 7-footer.

“I hope they crack the rotation,” Stuckey said. “They’ve just got to come in with the mind-set to get better each and every day, which they will. We’ve got two big guys that can really run the floor and get up and block shots. That’s what we really needed.”

Stuckey texted Drummond on draft night – “Congratulations and welcome to the family,” he told him – and met him in Auburn Hills after Drummond returned from Orlando and Summer League.

“He’s a big kid,” Stuckey grinned. “Young, can really run the floor, jump. We have great coaches here and they’re only going to make him better. He’s put together and I’m really happy he fell to us and he’s here with us. His lower body – it’s there. It’s all putting it together. It’s going to take some time – he’s only 18 years old.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the 32-year-old Maggettte is a player whose addition should yield immediate dividends. Stuckey sees in Maggette a kindred spirit.

“He gets to the free-throw line probably eight to 10 times a game, just like me. That’s a plus for us. Having him and myself, hopefully there’s 16 free throws right there we can put up. I know he’s kind of not been healthy, but (strength coach) Arnie’s (Kander) here. Arnie’s the best. I’m not worried about that. A lot of people don’t know, he averaged 15 points a game last year. I’m excited to have him on the team.”

Stuckey is equally enthused about Singler’s addition. He inquired frequently of Singler last season to assistant general manager George David, who traveled to Spain twice for extended views of the 2011 second-round pick.

“He comes from a great program – Duke University. He’s always going to come in and work hard. I was scared at one moment because I thought he was going to go back and play again overseas. I’m happy to be out on the court with him and start working with one another and get our chemistry together.”

Stuckey, who spent a week this month visiting Jonas Jerebko in Europe, has been a ringleader in pulling players into Auburn Hills to get time together before camp opens in early October. On Monday, Stuckey, Drummond, Knight and Charlie Villanueva all were working out. English, Singler and Middleton are due within the next few days.

“Guys will be in and out in August,” he said, “but once September comes, that’s pretty much when everybody’s going to be here and we’ll start organizing five-on-five games, being around each other and getting that chemistry together.”

He’s eager to get to know the rookies, but he’s gotten nothing but positive feedback from everyone he’s asked.

“Hearing good things about them,” he said. “They work hard – that’s the main thing – and they’re great people coming from great schools. We’re excited to have all three of those rookies.”