Bey, Stewart cap Pistons rookie seasons with ‘invaluable’ stint on U.S. Select Team
Ned Dishman (NBAE/Getty)
Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey’s inclusion on the United States Select Team wasn’t just an honor to cap their eye-opening NBA rookie seasons. It was more than another confirmation of the eye for talent possessed by Pistons general manager Troy Weaver.
It was also – and most critically where the future of the Pistons is concerned – the experience that will most hasten their off-season development.
So says the guy who coached them last week in Las Vegas as the Select Team went through scrimmages against the U.S. National Team that will represent America at the Tokyo Olympics starting later this month.
“There is absolutely nothing you could do during the summer in terms of workouts, player development or open gyms that could surpass the type of experience that all the guys from the Select Team could get from competing against the very best we have to offer in this country,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Stewart and Bey were two of only seven NBA rookies invited to participate with the Select Team – and then Bey was one of just three NBA players asked to join the National Team for its five-game exhibition schedule while Olympic team members Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday of the Milwaukee Bucks and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns play out the NBA Finals. Bey was the only rookie called up to the National Team, joining Cleveland’s Darius Garland and San Antonio’s Keldon Johnson.
“It was a surprise,” said Bey, who was named to the NBA All-Rookie first team after averaging 12.2 points and 4.5 rebounds and setting rookie and franchise records for his 3-point shooting. “First time being a part of a USA (Basketball) event, it’s a blessing and an honor. I was ecstatic for the opportunity and continue to work and trying to do the best I can and to help the main team bring home the gold.”
Bey was the 19th pick in the November 2020 draft, obtained after Weaver traded Luke Kennard and four future second-round picks to the Los Angeles Clippers for the first-round pick and Rodney McGruder. Stewart was picked 16th after Weaver executed a trade with the Houston Rockets. Stewart averaged 7.9 points and led all rookies in rebounding at 6.7 per game. He also led all rookies in blocked shots and offensive rebounds.
Bey set a Pistons rookie record by making 175 3-pointers, most by any NBA rookie this season. Bey broke an NBA rookie record previously shared by Allen Iverson and Steph Curry by making five or more 3-pointers in 13 games.
Bey will play alongside teammate Jerami Grant during his time with the National Team. And even though Grant is a seven-year veteran, he, too, expects his experience with the Olympic team to reap dividends for his career.
“I think this is going to benefit me, being around a group of guys this talented,” said Grant, who had previously been part of the Select Team. “Being able to pick up the little things they do and watching, observing. It can only help me out for my future.
“They were extremely excited to be here, talking to me about how I went from being on the Select Team to being on this team. Just telling ’em to keep working – they can get here. They’ve just got to keep putting the work in and they’ll be fine. They’re ahead of where I was at their age.”
“Just being around great players and seeing their process and their attention to detail, their competitiveness – I think that will open a lot of eyes of the Select group,” Spoelstra said. “You’re talking about the best players in the world, but you’re also talking about the most disciplined players, the hardest-working players, the players that have the highest attention spans, the highest IQs – all of that. The professionalism, the reliability – these are invaluable examples for young players to see, particularly for these guys when they’re 20, 21 years old.”
Spoelstra expects the development of Stewart and Bey – and all of the many young players Weaver has stocked on the Pistons roster, including fellow 2020-21 rookies Killian Hayes and Saben Lee – to continue based on his knowledge of the organization and its leadership.
“Saddiq and Stewart, they’re in a great program, particularly for development, under coach (Dwane) Casey. We saw firsthand from where they were at the beginning of the year to who they were at the end. It’s a big credit to them and how they worked and how they accepted coaching. It’s clear it didn’t just happen. There’s a lot of working behind the scenes. Obviously, both of them have very promising futures.”