Rookies Rising

Siva joins KCP, Mitchell in showing early signs of promise for Pistons

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Nathaniel S. Butler (Getty Images)
If Rodney Stuckey makes it back for opening night, as the Pistons legitimately hope, and Brandon Jennings’ lingering issue with his wisdom teeth resolves itself, then they won’t have to rely on this year’s lottery pick, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, to nearly the same extent as they did on Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond before him.

And second-round rookies Tony Mitchell and Peyton Siva happen to play at the two deepest positions on the team, power forward and point guard.

So it could be a while before the results of the 2013 draft come into evidence. But the Pistons feel like they went 3-for-3 on draft night based on early returns.

That Caldwell-Pope has been able to make an impact on his first three preseason games while shooting a dreadful 1 of 16 from the 3-point line underscores what the Pistons have felt about him since Summer League. His defense, motor and instincts enable him to affect games even if he isn’t scoring.

He has 19 rebounds in those three games and his athleticism has been put on display with two spectacular blocks and a breakaway dunk at Brooklyn thrown down with such force that it evoked loud oohs and cheers from the Nets crowd. If that shot ever starts to fall …

“That’s going to come,” Mitchell said of his fellow rookie. “It’s preseason. He’s trying to get comfortable out there, but that’s going to come. He’s just got to keep working. He’s doing a lot of other things well, though – defending, blocking shots. Pope can defend anybody and he works hard and he’s tough. His shot’s going to come along.”

Mitchell had his best showing of the preseason against Brooklyn, scoring 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and a blocked shot in 26 minutes. Though the Pistons believe Mitchell eventually will prove himself a complete player, for now he’s fixated on sticking to a few strengths.

“Keep it simple,” he said. “We have scorers on this team and guys who can shoot the ball. My role is just rebounding and blocking shots and defending, pretty much. That’s what I’m going to try to bring to the team.”

It can’t hurt Mitchell’s growth that he goes against the variety of players who populate the Pistons’ frontcourt in practices. There might not be a handful of players in the league as athletic as Mitchell, but one of them – Andre Drummond – is on his own team and he’s even bigger than Mitchell. The highly skilled Greg Monroe offers a major defensive test for him every day at power forward. And Josh Smith combines athleticism and scoring ability.

“It helps me a lot,” Mitchell said. “It prepares you for the game and going against bigger defenders. Going against Dre helps when you have to go against Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez. That’s who I played against the other night.”

It opened some eyes that Mitchell didn’t look overwhelmed when he was in the game at Brooklyn against players of that caliber.

“It’s just a blessing to be out there with those guys,” he said. “It’s just learning day by day and trying to take it one day at a time. But I’m not intimidated. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I figure I can jump higher than some of these guys, so it’s cool.”

Siva held his own despite unfavorable circumstances in his debut at Brooklyn. A calf injury had sidelined him for nearly three weeks. His first practice came on Friday – the first five-on-five basketball he’d played since Summer League, he said. But he proved a quick study, finishing with eight points and two assists, and said he already absorbed a few lessons about the differences in college and the NBA.

“I just think the NBA is a lot faster,” he said. “You’ve just got to pick your spots out. There was one play at the end of the first quarter, I thought I had an open lane and it just collapsed on me like that. Just watching film, learning to pick and choose those spots, is going to help me out a lot.”

Among Siva’s five turnovers were two for carrying the basketball. He said officials told him it was a point of emphasis this season. “And I guess I was the main point of it. It happens. It’s just something I have to be conscious of. See other guys do it, you try to emulate that. I guess that’s something you’re not supposed to emulate. You definitely get the rookie treatment, but I enjoyed it. It’s good to get out there. I’m looking forward to the next game.”

Siva, who said he asked Chauncey Billups and Will Bynum for their assessments of his play during the game, said that watching his fellow rookies enjoy some fine moments in the first two games helped him believe he, too, would be able to contribute.

“Watching Kentavious and Tony out there, it was great,” he said. “I came in with those guys. We worked out in the summer. We put in the time and effort and it was just a blessing to see them out there doing what they get paid to do.”