2017 Summer League

After injuries stalled start of career, Eric Moreland hopes 'gritty' style impresses Detroit Pistons

Fran Blinebury

ORLANDO — Even after a game when he puts up 15 points, pulls down six rebounds and makes his presence felt on both ends of the court, Eric Moreland won’t admit to being content.

Or even happy.

“Just say I’m happy that I’m healthy,” said the 6-10, 240-pound center on the Pistons summer league team.

It’s been a while.

At 25, Moreland is already trying to put the pieces back together after two broken seasons split between the Sacramento Kings and the Reno Bighorns.

Undrafted in 2014, he played in only 11 games for the Kings, averaging less than five minutes a game as he battled with a shoulder injury and then a broken bone in one foot.

Moreland spent last season with the Canton Charge of the G League to get himself healthy and is seeking a second chance in the NBA to show not only what he can do, but the things that he’s learned.

“When I was with the Kings, I was hurt for those two years and I got a chance to soak in all that information being around those vets and seeing that lifestyle,” said Moreland. “When I was hurt, I got a chance to learn that stuff and when I got back last year, I tried to implement that and bring it into this year. I just keep going and trying to grow as a player.”

He chose to join the Pistons in Orlando because of their style of play and perhaps and opening on a team that is looking for a high-energy, low salary big man to fill out the roster behind Andre Drummond and Boban Marjanovic.

“The Pistons were pretty interested and I thought it was a good opportunity to come in and use that interest to showcase what I can do. Now that I’m healthy, I’m just showing that I’m ready to go,” said the Oregon State product. “When I was with the Kings, I was hurt for those two years and I got a chance to soak in all that information being around those vets and seeing that lifestyle.

“When I was hurt, I got a chance to learn that stuff and when I got back last year, I tried to implement that and bring it into this year. I just keep going and trying to grow as a player.”

Moreland has gotten himself noticed with his ability to defend in the lane and to use quick feet to stop cutting guards in the pick-and-roll game.

“He always plays with an engine,” said rookie Luke Kennard, the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft. “He’s got a motor and it’s kind of contagious. He’s a big body and very physical, really talented and skilled. He’s all over the boards and wherever the ball is, he’s around it.

“You can feed off that energy and I love playing with him. He’s a finisher and he makes the right plays; he knows if he needs to pass it out or score the ball.”

The Pistons’ first-round pick from 2016, Henry Ellenson agrees.

“Eric Moreland is fun to play with because it makes your job easier in terms of rim protection,” he said. “If your guy gets past you, he’s aggressive on the defensive end going to block the shot…Rebounding, he’s able to seal a guy out. Playing with guys like that is a lot of fun.”

Through three games Moreland has averaged nine points and nine rebounds.

“Stan (Van Gundy) likes gritty, hard-nosed guys who get in there and play hard,” Moreland said. “That’s exactly what I do and I wanted them to see me up-close and personal,” Moreland said. “It’s a good opportunity but I don’t want to overthink stuff. I just want to do what I do best and let things take care of themselves.”

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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