Ready to Compete

Singler welcomes influx of talent, even if it means a fight for minutes

Kyle Singler
Kyle Singler
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Kyle Singler spent most of his summer back home in Medford, Ore., monitoring from afar the waves of moves that added eight new faces to the Pistons. The two that had the most direct bearing on him were the free-agent signings of Josh Smith and Italian league MVP Gigi Datome, both of them in the mix for minutes at small forward – Singler’s natural position.

If you expected such news to irk Singler, guess again.

“I was definitely an interested observer,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting anything big to happen like it did and my whole outlook on it is that I think we’re a better team because of it. We have players in the right positions to have a very successful year and I’m excited about our new coaching staff. I’m really looking forward to next year, for sure.”

Joe Dumars left little room for doubt about Smith’s role, saying upon signing the nine-year veteran from Atlanta that he would be the starting small forward. But the master plan also anticipates Smith spending a good chunk of his time – likely at least half of his minutes – at power forward. That means there’ll be an opportunity for at least one of Singler and Datome – perhaps both – to grab a significant role in the 30 minutes or so each game that Smith is either resting or playing power forward.

“There’s no question that the competition at the small forward, even at the four, is deep, and I’m excited about it,” said Singler, back in Auburn Hills now and planning to be here right up until the Oct. 1 opening of training camp. “I’m not mad about it by any means. I’m a team guy and I want the team to do well. It’s just going to push me. It’s going to push the players to get better, to get to know each other and compete for that job, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

The Pistons have a number of players with positional versatility. When they drafted Singler, they envisioned a small forward with sufficient size – Singler is nearly 6-foot-9 – to slide over to play power forward in many situations. They wound up starting Singler for much of his rookie season’s first half at shooting guard. Datome’s reputation as a shooter – he hit 40 percent from the 3-point line and over 90 percent at the foul line last season – gives him a chance to win a role, if he proves a quick NBA study, and Singler cited Jonas Jerebko as another player in the mix.

“I’m definitely going to have to earn my minutes again this year,” he said. “That’s one of the unique things about our team. We’ve got guys who can play different positions. I haven’t seen Gigi play, but I’ve heard he’s a very versatile player. Jonas is capable of playing multiple positions and the same with Josh. It’s going to be a strength of our team. As the season goes on, we’ll figure out what the rotation is going to be.”

Singler spent several days in Orlando in July, going through five Summer League practices but not participating in games. He got to spend some time with new coach Maurice Cheeks and with two new assistant coaches, Maz Trakh and Bernard Smith, plus returning assistant coach John Loyer, with whom Singler worked closely as a rookie.

“The new staff is great,” Singler said. “I love having at least one guy from last year on staff still, just because you have that relationship. Last year was my first year, so John’s been here since I’ve been here and it’s nice to have that guy on staff, but all the other guys I’ve got to know better since Summer League. Maz and Bernard – great guys. Only going to get to know them better as the season goes on.”

Singler has a passing familiarity with new Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings, having played against his powerhouse Oak Hill Academy team at a tournament in Portland during Singler’s senior season at South Medford, Jennings’ junior season when Singler’s future Duke teammate, Nolan Smith, also played for Oak Hill.

“Getting Brandon Jennings is a great addition,” Singler said. “Losing Brandon Knight was tough. He was a good player for us and a good teammate. But I think Brandon (Jennings) is a great player.”

The Pistons added a bunch of talented players over a busy summer, raising the bar for competition for minutes. Kyle Singler’s attitude: bring it on.