‘So Happy to be Here’

Datome, fresh off 11 EuroBasket games, raring to go in Pistons camp

Gigi Datome
Gigi Datome
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty Images Sport)
Joe Dumars and Maurice Cheeks would get it if Gigi Datome’s head was swimming and his legs wobbly after playing 11 tough games for his national team in EuroBasket competition, hopping on a plane and landing in Detroit, immersed in a new culture, less than 48 hours before Pistons training camp began.

His teammates? That’s another story.

“Those guys that are trying to get his minutes, they don’t care,” Cheeks said of the 6-foot-8 dead-eye shooter the Pistons signed off of an MVP season in the top Italian league, where he led Rome to the finals. “In fact, they’re glad he was over there playing. It’s the NBA. You’ve got to come in and fit in and try to make your mark.”

Datome concedes the EuroBasket tournament and the opening of his first training camp could have been timed a little better, but it’s not doing anything to dampen his enthusiasm for realizing a dream that seemed beyond his reach until his breakout 2012-13 season.

“You can’t do anything about (the timing), so I’m so excited and so happy to be here,” he said. “I will have time to rest end of the season. I’m so happy that I started, finally, because after two months (since signing), everybody was talking about me, about NBA, so I’m really excited.”

Datome knows the level of competition is another notch above what he experienced in Italy, or even with his national team, and the difference was in evidence for him in early camp practices.

“Best players in the world here,” he said, “so everybody is more quick, more fast, more physical and for sure also skilled. I can feel a lot of aggressive (play) on me in practice and it’s good. I’m going to get better, for sure, and I have to get used to it as quick as possible.”

Cheeks says if Datome is fatigued from his EuroBasket experience or caught in the adjustment to a higher plane of competition, it’s not showing in his play.

“I’ve liked what I saw of him,” he said. “He’s getting up and down the floor. He’s made shots.”

If the speed of the game doesn’t overwhelm him – and the Pistons are confident, based on his dominance in Italy and reinforced by his EuroBasket performance, that it won’t – then Datome’s shot-making figures to be a most valuable tool coming off the bench.

In those 11 EuroBasket games, Datome finished eighth in the 24-team field in scoring at 13.8 per (40-minute) game to go with 4.9 rebounds. His shooting was as advertised – 51 percent overall, 43 percent from the 3-point arc and 90 percent from the line. With Josh Smith penciled in as the starter at small forward – but sure to play enough at power forward that 30 minutes should be available behind him – Datome and Kyle Singler have a wide window of opportunity to grab playing time.

“I think for sure Josh is going to be a starter. I think then we have a lot of good players,” Datome said. “I hope I’m going to be a good player, like Kyle, and try to share minutes and give quality from the bench.”

Going from league MVP and national team captain to role player forces another adjustment on Datome, but he comes in with his eyes wide open.

“It’s been a great season, a great year,” he said. “Maybe it’s going to take more time to adapt myself and my game to this league, but I’m so happy, so excited. I’m going to work to do it. I don’t have any kind of rush. I just wait for my moment.”