Fast Fit

Maggette’s mentorship as valued by Pistons as his scoring mentality

Corey Maggette has assumed a leadership role in the Pistons lockerroom.
Kent Smith (NBAE/Getty)
When the Pistons swapped Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette, they knew they were getting a guy who has spent as much time at the foul line as anybody in the NBA over the last dozen years. They also knew they were getting an expiring contract, one that gives them the potential to be as much as $25 million under the salary cap next off-season.

What they might not have been quite as certain about was Maggette’s fit in the locker room.

By all accounts, they could not be more pleased with the leadership presence Maggette is assuming as one of only two 30-somethings on the roster, Tayshaun Prince the other.

I got my first inkling of Maggette’s willingness to lead when he showed up at The Palace in early July, and when asked his impressions of how he saw himself fitting in, brought the conversation around to helping young players find their way.

“Father Time waits for nobody,” he said then. “As you continue to play, things will change and you will be in that process. When I first came in, my veteran guy was Ben Wallace. Hopefully, I can be an example for the younger guys we have.”

The second indication came when Kim English, talking about what he’d learned at the NBA rookie orientation program, mentioned the sagacity of the advice he’d already gotten from Maggette on a variety of subjects, including how to deal with the rookie wall.

The most dramatic evidence came recently when I talked to Arnie Kander, who with more than two decades of a role almost akin to spiritual adviser to Pistons players believes wholeheartedly in the value of forming bonds among teammates that transcend a basketball connection.

“Never mind what he can do physically on the court still,” he told me. “He’s an incredible leader. He’ll do little things like go into the sauna and bring some young guys in with him. Twenty minutes later, the young guys come out, ‘Wow, I learned a lot about the NBA; I learned a lot about life.’ ”

Lawrence Frank spoke earlier this week about what he saw from Maggette even before training camp began.

“He brings a physical presence and he’s got great experience and I really like his spirit,” he said. “He’s had a terrific off-season in terms of coming in here, rehabbing, trying to get healthy and being a part of the team and his wisdom. When you have a lot of young guys, you have a veteran guy who really takes it as a responsibility to try to help the young guys, that’s what you want to see.”

If Kander can help Maggette avoid the injuries that cost him half of last season – and Maggette is going full bore in camp so far and has spoken enthusiastically about the work Kander did with him in summer rehab – his aggressive scoring mentality will fit well with Frank’s philosophy. Beyond that, the Pistons are now pretty sure Maggette will help in ways the box score won’t reflect.