Singler Times 2
Like Kyle, E.J. Singler has all-around game & a nose for the ball
Singler wasn’t a McDonald’s All-American, either, unlike big brother Kyle, who was a senior when E.J. was his sophomore wing man as South Medford High won the Oregon state title by knocking off Kevin Love’s Lake Oswego team, avenging a loss in the title game from the year before.
Other than those two years in high school, they’ve never played on the same team. Kyle didn’t play in Orlando’s Summer League games this week, but he took part in the five practices over three days leading to Sunday’s opener. And when E.J. turned the corner and got a step on Kyle in one of the first scrimmages, Kyle administered the same hard foul he might have done a thousand times in the Singler driveway or at a Medford playground.
“Not the first time,” E.J. grinned. “We’ve had battles like that our whole lives. That’s what has made us good competitors – just battling each other since we were young. We’re both used it. We’re fine with it.”
As an undrafted free agent, and with roster spots tight, E.J. faces an uphill battle to be with the Pistons into the regular season, or with any NBA team, for that matter. But he’s prepared, if necessary, to follow in Kyle’s footsteps in another way by playing in Europe.
The motivation for Kyle to spend a year in Spain was the prospect of the 2011 NBA lockout after the Pistons drafted him 33rd overall that year. For E.J., if it comes to that, it will be to continue to play basketball, earn a living and, perhaps, play his way back to the NBA after further honing his game.
Singler saw spot duty over the first three Summer League games, playing 21 minutes, but he played 38 over the final two days and did the kinds of things Kyle did for the Pistons last season. He scored six points and had three steals in Thursday’s win over Miami, then – with Peyton Siva sitting out the finale due to a sprained ankle – he played facilitator on Friday with six assists, two more steals and just one turnover.
Much like Kyle, E.J. is more a jack-of-all-trades than a specialist. He led Oregon in scoring, minutes played and 3-pointers and was second in rebounds and assists. But he’s at least a few inches shorter than Kyle, listed at 6-foot-6, and might have to play shooting guard as well as small forward. In either position, he’s got the same sense of anticipation and tendency to be in the right spot as his older brother.
“I see a lot of similarities in our games,” Kyle said. “A lot of it comes from our genes, but we did go through the same high school coach, so a lot of the fundamentals we learned are pretty similar and we do play similarly and have a knack for the ball a little bit.”
Ironically enough, E.J.’s all-around game could work against him in cracking an NBA roster. Teams generally look to fill their last roster spots either with high-ceiling players who aren’t ready or specialists who offer one above-average skill, whether it’s 3-point shooting, elite wing defense, shot-blocking or six hard fouls in a 7-foot body.
“I’ve always been an all-around player,” E.J. said. “Hopefully, someone likes that and not just something that I do really well. I’m kind of just that all-around type of player.”
It’s a style of play, Kyle believes, that should play well in Europe.
“E.J. is the type of guy who can come into any situation and be impactful,” he said. “He does a lot of things well. If he’s not shooting the ball great, he’s decent on defense. He can move the ball, pass the ball. His game definitely will translate, especially to overseas basketball, because a lot of that basketball is played as a group, just understanding what you do well and doing it. I think he’ll have a good career over there.”
E.J. said the Pistons were the first to call his agent and expressed the most interest. There’s a chance he could catch on with another team for Las Vegas Summer League. Both leagues are heavily scouted by European team executives, who often even watch teams practice to get a gauge on players they feel won’t get many Summer League minutes but could be finds for them.
“I’ve got the overseas option,” he said. “I can look at going to the D-League, but I don’t know what’s the best fit for me yet. Kyle loved it over there. He really improved as a player. He said it’s still great basketball over there, so if that’s the opportunity, I would go overseas. That one year overseas really prepared him for the NBA, so he thought it was great. He learned a lot and became a better player because of it.”
While E.J. was leading Oregon to unexpected success, he kept an eye on Kyle’s NBA rookie season. It was one that began with him seemingly buried on the depth chart at small forward behind veterans Tayshaun Prince and Corey Maggette, but finished with him starting all but the season’s first eight games. When Rodney Stuckey came up ill one night in Philadelphia, Singler started at shooting guard and held that spot until the late-January trade that sent Prince out of town. His success came as no surprise to his younger brother.
“Kyle’s a great competitor, a winner, so it didn’t surprise me at all,” E.J. said. “He’s been a great basketball player his whole life. I just think he’s going to continue to become better and better. I don’t think there’s an ending point for him. He’s going to keep on becoming better and it’s going to be really fun to see him in a couple of years.”
Who knows? Maybe by then E.J. will have found his own NBA home, giving the folks back in southwest Oregon two reasons to scan NBA box scores.
“The people back in Medford really follow our journey pretty closely,” Kyle said, “so it’s pretty cool that E.J. is on the same team as I am in Summer League.”