‘Never Stop Working’
“It was true,” Kim English said of Frank’s warning that D-Leaguers would come at them with extra relish because they had what those player wanted – one of the coveted NBA roster spots. “They know when an NBA guy is on the court and they definitely want to get that name against you. They definitely want to attack you.”
English’s response: Bring it on. “With me, be it Kobe Bryant or the 13th player on a D-League team, I respect every player enough to try to kill ’em, to try to destroy ’em. I didn’t look at them like they were in the D-League; I looked at them like they were 10-year vets and I attacked them before there was even a chance to get attacked.”
Both Pistons rookies, who rejoined the team in time for Wednesday night’s game at Toronto after finishing up their three-game D-League stints with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants on Tuesday, said it was good to get back in the mix after mostly sitting through the season’s first six weeks.
“It was a good experience to go there,” Middleton said. “I got to play some games and got some good game experience. Getting my game legs back, running up and down five straight times, I had to get used to that real quick and I did. I think it was good.”
English averaged 18 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 37 minutes a game; Middleton averaged 11 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 26 minutes a game. English said he wanted to do the things that made him an attractive NBA prospect, but also focus on a few other things, including distributing the basketball. He played some point guard when Walker D. Russell got hurt in one game and sat with foul trouble in another. For Middleton, the focus was on showing he could rebound as well as score.
“That was something I wanted to work on,” he said. “I didn’t do a good job of that during Summer League. I wanted to be effective on the glass.” Middleton’s shot, his calling card, abandoned him over the last two games, when he hit 7 of 30 shots, which didn’t elicit concern from either him or the Pistons.
“(Middleton) was active, engaged, rebounding,” said Frank, who watched their first two games but hadn’t yet seen the finale. “But talking to Joe (Dumars), he said Khris had good shots, they just didn’t go on, but he did other good things on the defensive end and making some plays.”
“Most were good looks that just went in and out,” Middleton said. “I expected those shots to fall and I feel like they will in the future.”
Both English and Middleton immediately impressed Pistons management and coaches with their eagerness to improve, starting with the Orlando Summer League and especially in the weeks leading to training camp when they were fixtures at the team’s practice facility. There was little concern about them letting up, but there’s nothing like a trip to the D-League to remind them of how many players are lined up behind them, awaiting a turn on basketball’s biggest stage.
“There are only 450 spots in this league,” English said. “You never know how many guys from the draft will sign on, but probably at least 40 guys. When those 40 guys come on, 40 guys have to go out. Always work. Never stop working.”