Siva wins over a tough judge of point guards: Mo Cheeks
On another level, Cheeks holds a sophisticated opinion of what a point guard must bring to his team, based both on his innate feel for the position and a lifetime of observation both as player and coach. There’s no fooling Cheeks if you’re trying to catch his eye as a point guard.
Siva has clearly passed muster with the Pistons coach, who displayed his faith in the Louisville rookie each of the past two nights, turning to him in competitive games against Eastern Conference teams that figure to be competing for the same playoff spots the Pistons are eying.
It wouldn’t have been much of a surprise if Siva didn’t play a meaningful minute all season, given the depth at point guard ahead of him. But with both Chauncey Billups (knee tendinitis) and Will Bynum (hamstring, groin) unavailable, Cheeks scanned his options and decided to spot Siva in at point guard as needed rather than bump players down a position as he’s also shown he’s more than willing to do.
Cheeks could have slid Kyle Singler to shooting guard and covered his minutes at small forward with a combination of Gigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko, but he instead opted for the rookie who led Louisville to the 2013 NCAA championship.
Siva played 11 minutes in Tuesday’s win over New York and six minutes in Wednesday’s loss at Atlanta, and while he didn’t score in either game while taking a single shot, the Pistons fared just fine in both of Siva’s stints. In fact, he was plus-4 against New York and plus-11 in his run against Atlanta.
“I think I played within my game,” Siva said after Tuesday’s win. “I just tried to run the team, play good defense and bring a lot of energy and try to change the pace of the game. Once I got in the game, I feel we did well and we didn’t go down. We stayed the same, kind of went up a little bit. I had to get out there and just play and contribute.”
“I told you, I’m not afraid to play Peyton,” Cheeks said. “He’s always ready. He puts his time in when he’s not playing. Watching him in the preseason, I know he’s not afraid of any moment. I’m not afraid to play that guy at all.”
Cheeks isn’t the only former NBA great who is taken by the way Siva goes about his business. After last week’s game at Golden State, Siva was intercepted on his way to the team bus by no less than The Logo, Jerry West, now a Warriors consultant.
“He gave me some encouraging words,” Siva said after West did most of the talking in about a five-minute exchange, Siva nodding and listening intently. “He said he watched me play and really liked my game, said to continue to go out there and be ready at all times.”
And that’s exactly the approach Siva has taken all along, preparing for every game with the same intensity and focus he applied during his three-year stint as Rick Pitino’s point guard.
“I try to be ready so I can go in the game and just try to manage the team and go out there and hustle,” Siva said. “I prepare like I’m going to start every game. Even if I don’t play, that’s what I have to do and that’s one of the challenges in the NBA, to always stay ready, to always prepare before the game like you’re going to play the whole time.”