Summer School: Tony Mitchell

High-flying rookie wants to emulate Dennis Rodman with new-look Pistons

Tony Mitchell
Rookie Tony Mitchell checks in with how his summer is progressing.
Nick Laham (NBAE/Getty)

It’s been a really good summer, starting with Summer League. I tried to play my role while playing alongside Dre, Andre Drummond. He’s a tremendous player. Dre stole a lot of rebounds from me, but other than that, it was cool. I liked Summer League a lot. I had a bet with George David, our assistant general manager, that I would get 15 rebounds in a game. I had a chance the one game Dre sat out, but other than that Dre was grabbing everything. I just tried to get what I could.

Since Summer League, I’ve just been working out, getting my jump shot right, lifting, trying to get strong and get ready for the season. I was in Dallas, my hometown, working out with some of my college coaches. I went to Denton, where North Texas State is, a couple of times to work out with the guys, played pickup a little bit, got up some shots, worked on my ballhandling – a little bit of everything.

KCP and I went to Las Vegas for the camp run by Tim Grgurich. We just got after it, did some skill work and got up shots, then we scrimmaged at night. It went really well. We broke down by position and I was in a group with the Plumlee brothers, Mike Scott from Atlanta and Jeff Pendergraph from the Spurs. I worked with different people and I thought it was a good week.

Then Kentavious, Peyton and I went to the rookie program in New York and heard about different stuff on and off the court, life situations, lifestyles, how as rookies we have to know what we’re getting into. Tony Gaffney’s speech made the biggest impression. Tony’s story just blew all of us away. His message was to stay away from people you don’t know who come at you, be suspicious, be specific about your circle, the people you surround yourself with, don’t get yourself into stupid situations. He’s just a great speaker.

Now I’m settled in and I’ve found an apartment close to Dre and KCP. I don’t know my way around yet – I’m still on my GPS device – and I car pool here with Dre or somebody else, but other than that it seems like a good city, good people.

Coach Maz has been working us hard, trying to kill us, but it’s been good. We’re learning a lot and getting better each and every day, especially getting in shape. If you have any little chippies, just let Arnie know. Arnie Kander, he’s got a little book on me already. Arnie told me that my hips were tight, my hamstrings were tight. Maybe I’ll be able to jump a little higher so I can grab some rebounds once I get that flexibility a little closer to where Arnie wants it to be. Dre and I have a little competition going about who’s the best athlete. We’re going to have to see about that.

I’ve also been working with Coach Sheed. He knows what he’s talking about. He was a great player throughout his career. You’ve got to pick up everything he says and listen to him. He was a stretch four and he was also in the post with great back-to-the-basket moves. He was awesome. He just had an arsenal to his game. I’m trying to mimic some of what he did. But right now, I’m just going to try to be the Dennis Rodman of this team. That’s something that came to my mind. I don’t know Dennis at all, but he’s another guy from Dallas, like me. He was just a different type of athlete.

There’s less than a month to go now before training camp opens. I’m learning as much as I can going into camp. We should have a great team coming up, so I’m just trying to find my niche of what I can do to contribute.

We have a lot of great veterans at power forward. I have to be realistic. I feel like with all these guys ahead of me at my position, if I’m fortunate enough to get minutes, I have to go in and give it my all. You never know when your time comes, so I’ve just got to stay ready. When my time comes, I’ll be ready to play. I’m just going to work hard.

I haven’t met all of my teammates yet, but I love this program, this organization. It’s good people, real people. They just have your best interests at heart. It’s a great organization for a young player to come to.