Lab Time

English, Middleton headed to D-League for planned 3-game stint

Rookies Kim English and Khris Middleton will report to the Pistons' NBA D-League affiliate - the Fort Wayne Mad Ants - for three games.
J. Dennis/Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
If an NBA player’s rookie season is the equivalent of a college graduate’s first-year pursuit of an advanced degree, then Kim English and Khris Middleton have wrapped up the first semester in the classroom and now are headed to the lab.

English and Middleton, second-round picks of the Pistons last June who’ve played sparingly over the season’s first 24 games, will head to Fort Wayne, Ind., for a planned three-game stint with the Pistons’ NBA D-League affiliate, the Mad Ants.

Why now as opposed to a month ago? The Pistons want their rookies to get a representative look at life in the NBA and soak up as much institutional knowledge as possible before applying those lessons in the D-League.

“We like them to get a good 20 to 25 percent of their first introduction to the NBA with us,” assistant general manager George David said. “Everybody has their preferences, but we feel it’s important for them to be around the team to start their NBA careers.”

English and Middleton will practice with the Pistons in Auburn Hills on Thursday morning and then they’ll go their separate ways – the Pistons to Brooklyn for their first game against the Nets since their relocation and the rookies to Fort Wayne, where they will practice for a second time during the evening with the Mad Ants.

The Pistons and three other NBA teams – Milwaukee, Indiana and Charlotte – have working agreements with Fort Wayne to be their D-League affiliate. The Pistons in recent seasons have sent Vernon Macklin, Amir Johnson, Alex Acker and Cheikh Samb to the D-League.

The Mad Ants host Maine on Friday, Springfield on Saturday and Canton on Tuesday. The Pistons plan to have the rookies rejoin them in Toronto for their game on Dec. 19, barring any injuries that would require an earlier recall.

“This is a very good opportunity for them to get a lot of playing time in a short amount of time,” David said. “We want to make sure we maximize the benefit of us having a D-League team that’s a three-hour drive way. We’ve had times it was a three-hour flight away. We’ve had great results with the guys we’ve sent down to Fort Wayne.”

David will catch the Fort Wayne-Canton game next week and scout Durand Walker will be there during their stay to provide guidance and feedback. The Pistons communicate with Fort Wayne and share information about the players and how to best use them before sending them to the D-League.

“You have discussions with them about the role they’re going to be playing for them,” David said. “It’s really more about them asking us a lot of questions, because we’ve had a chance to have those players with us. We’ll tell them what they’re getting and we’ll get some feedback from them on how they’re going to use them and how they see it working.

“We’re going to always make sure we put them in a great situation, but we’ve never had a bad situation in Fort Wayne. It’s always worked out really well.”