Summer School: Khris Middleton

Deal done, Middleton eager to catch up to fellow Pistons rookies

Khris Middleton is eager to join his teammates after officially becoming a Piston.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
I got a little anxious, of course, when I saw the rookies who were my teammates during Summer League – Kim English and Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler – sign contracts when I hadn’t. I wanted to come up here and get some work in and find a place to get settled. I enjoyed being back home and working hard while I was down there, but it was a delay. I just tried to work out and make it work.

I left that all up to my agent. I knew he was going to do what was best for me, so I stayed home and was working out mostly by myself with my high school coach – I lifted weights, tried to do some light conditioning to stay in shape and did a whole bunch of work on the floor – so I would be prepared to come up here when it got done. I found out we had a deal on the Friday night before I came up. I flew out last Monday morning – I was going to come on Sunday, but it was my birthday; I’m 21 now – and got here that afternoon.

Home is South Carolina. I grew up in Charleston and I wasn’t that highly recruited coming out of high school. Besides Texas A&M, I had about two or three other big offers and then mostly it was small and local. I weighed the pros and cons and me and my family, we thought it was best for me to go to A&M and I think it worked out well.

I worried about falling behind, of course, knowing those guys were up here a couple of weeks ahead of me. They know what they’re doing when they come in every day. They already have their routines set and now I’m trying to figure out my routine. I’ll get back in the gym today – I had to go to New York for four days with Kim, Andre and Kyle for the NBA rookie orientation program – and I think I’ll have it figured out now with still plenty of time left before camp starts to really feel comfortable.

I had my first two sessions with Arnie Kander last week. I really like what he’s doing. I already can feel the type of vibe he has and the kind of feel he has for the body and ways of working out. It’s great. I feel like he’s going to help me out a lot.

After he checked me out, he felt like my body was kind of off-balance some from my knee injury. I had a partially torn meniscus in my right knee and had surgery to clean it up early in my season last year. Arnie felt my body was a little unbalanced and I wasn’t as flexible as I needed to be, so that’s the type of thing we’re working on right now. I’m doing a lot of stretching and a lot of keeping my body in line when I do certain stuff – keeping my body relaxed but in line at the same time.

One thing they had me do was pull weights behind me on a harness. I’ve never done something exactly like that. It’s getting my legs stronger without taking a beating on me. They’re starting with the basics. A lot of core work. It’s building up the strength in my right leg – nothing with the meniscus, just working without putting pressure on my knee when there doesn’t have to be.

I did a lot of shooting drills last week, too, with coach Steve Hetzel. That’s the focus. They know what type of player I am – they know I’m not the quickest player – so I’ve been working a lot on getting my shot off a lot quicker and more efficiently in catch-and-shoot situations. I feel comfortable shooting from pretty much any spot, both sides of the floor. I’ve always scored all around the court. I know I’m probably going to be a catch-and-shoot player with the guards we have here, but eventually I’ll be able to learn how to create my own shot off of the dribble more.

I was disappointed with my play in Orlando during Summer League – I won’t lie about that. But I did feel I got better and I improved each game and each minute I was out there. It was a learning experience for me. That’s what I hope I can say about my rookie season – learning everything that can help me in the future. I’m just going to take one day at a time, come in and try to get better every day and learn from everybody.

The pace of the game – how physical it was and how fast-paced – was the biggest adjustment for me during Summer League. I don’t necessarily play at a very fast pace, so I need to learn to play at my same pace but also feel comfortable and get things done at the same time. I played both the two and the three, but that wasn’t a big thing. To me, it was basically the same, just different sides. The matchups were different, but it was basically the same thing.

Defense was a big transition. The main adjustment was the defensive three seconds. To me, you just throw everything in college away because you can’t be in the lane for three seconds. The help side was all different.

Now that my contract is signed and the rookie orientation is over, I’ll be going nowhere but right here for the rest of the summer, right up until training camp starts. I’ve got a little catching up to do, but I’ll be ready to get going.