Vet stretch 4s Cook, Harper give Pistons a glimpse of what their shooting adds

Veteran power forwards Justin Harper and Brian Cook combined for 33 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday as the Pistons suffered their first loss of Summer League.
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

ORLANDO – It probably wasn’t by accident that Stan Van Gundy put together a Summer League roster heavy on power forwards who can shoot 3-pointers. Two of them played under him in Orlando, Brian Cook and Justin Harper.

Winning an invitation to training camp based on Summer League play is always a long shot, but both Cook and Harper gave Van Gundy something to think about in Wednesday’s 92-90 loss to Boston. It was the first Pistons loss after three Summer League wins and it wasn’t over until Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s 3-pointer at the buzzer missed after the Pistons roared back from a double-digits deficit in the last three minutes.

That they stayed in it as long as they did was mostly a credit to the work put in by the two power forwards looking for a second life in the NBA.

In the first half, Cook played 11 minutes and Harper nine at the position. They combined for 21 points, Cook scoring 11. Harper made all four of his shots, two from the 3-point line; Cook made 4 of 7, including 3 of 5 triples. Harper grabbed three rebounds, Cook two with two assists.

Harper finished with 19 points in 19 minutes, making all seven of his shots and all four triples. Cook contributed 14 in 22 minutes, hitting 4 of 7 from the arc. Both players grabbed six rebounds.

Van Gundy has said he’ll put together a system that best fits his roster and he’s adamant about wanting Greg Monroe back in Detroit as his restricted free agency plays out. But even if there isn’t much room for a stretch four in a frontcourt dominated by Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith, there’s no doubt in the minds of Harper and Cook of the dimension such a player adds to Van Gundy’s offense.

“That’s a huge part of what Stan wants to do on offense,” Harper said. “Just creating action from the bigs and having threats on the perimeter from the fours. The fours are a huge part of offense. It’s crucial to have bigs who can shoot the ball.”

“He’s had great four men before – Ryan Anderson, Rashard Lewis,” Cook said of Van Gundy’s Orlando teams built around Dwight Howard. “A lot of their offense relies on the four man, so I thought it would be a great place for me to end my career.”

Caldwell-Pope again led the Pistons with 26 points, a figure he’s reached in three of four Summer League games, scoring 30 in the other. It took 12 points in the last three minutes for him to get there, though, as the eight practices and four games the Pistons have endured over 10 days in Orlando appeared to take a toll on all of their legs. Most of Caldwell-Pope’s shots came up short – he hit 8 of 22 for the game, 3 of 10 from the 3-point line with two of the makes coming in the late surge – and the defensive intensity wasn’t at the level it had been in the first three games.

Caldwell-Pope still managed to lead the Pistons in rebounds with nine, giving him four-game averages of 27 points and eight rebounds.

The Pistons also felt the effects of not having Peyton Siva, who missed the game after sitting out the second half of Tuesday’s win with a sore hamstring. Chances are he’s done for Summer League after putting in a solid week of practices and two-plus games that gives Stan Van Gundy plenty to go on as he considers the team option – due by July 20 – on the second year of Siva’s contract.

Without Siva – and with Marcel Starks having departed to participate in Las Vegas Summer League – the onus of running the team fell primarily to Ian Miller. He scored 16 points, taking only nine shots, but also committed five of the 23 Detroit turnovers.

The Pistons wrap up the Summer League schedule on Friday. The opponent and tipoff time will be determined after Thursday’s games are completed.