Brandon Knight, ‘one of the older guys,’ excited for his second stint with the Pistons

Brandon Knight
Brandon Knight is one of 5 players drafted in the first round in 2011 to have played for the Pistons
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

DETROIT – In this week’s installment of “Time Flies,” we present Brandon Knight discussing what his goals are for his second stint with the Pistons over the season’s final 26 games.

“My job is to come in here, work hard and be a leader. I’m one of the older guys here.”

I’m one of the older guys here?

Brandon Knight? Huh?

Wasn’t it just a minute ago that he showed up, 19 and fresh off a strong freshman season at Kentucky as the Pistons lottery pick?

That was 2011. Knight played two seasons with the Pistons and was traded for a more experienced point guard in the summer of 2013 because the front office felt that after adding Josh Smith in free agency that’s what was needed.

So Knight went to Milwaukee – along with a 2012 draft choice who’d had an unremarkable rookie season, Khris Middleton – for Brandon Jennings.

Knight has since bounced from Milwaukee to Phoenix, Phoenix to Houston, Houston to Cleveland and, last week, Cleveland to Detroit. His best seasons came with the Bucks and Suns, where for three years running he averaged between 17.0 and 19.6 points a game. He’s endured injuries, coaching shakeups and the evolution of the NBA.

“A lot of things have changed,” Knight said about his second tour of duty with the Pistons. “A lot of new faces. I’m excited to be back. It’s interesting how things go. Didn’t expect for it to go this way, but I’m excited to be back.”

There’s another way to illustrate the transitory nature of the NBA than to detail Knight’s travelogue since leaving Kentucky. It’s that the Pistons could field a pretty competitive team with the players who’ve worn their uniform from Knight’s 2011 draft alone.

Knight, in fact, is only fourth in games played for the Pistons among that draft class. Reggie Jackson, the 23rd pick, leads the way with 298, followed by No. 14 pick Marcus Morris with 159, No. 19 pick Tobias Harris with 157 and then Knight, the No. 7 pick, who played his 142nd game as a Piston – his rookie year was the lockout season, and Knight played all 66 games – in Monday’s loss to Charlotte. Markieff Morris, the 13th pick, played his 43rd game at the same time.

Harris, like Knight, is on his sixth franchise. With last week’s trade that sent Marcus Morris from the Knicks to the Clippers, he’s also wearing his sixth uniform. Markieff Morris is on his fourth franchise and that doesn’t include New Orleans, which traded for him last January but waived him in a procedural move before he suited up. The Pistons are only Jackson’s second team, though he’ll be a free agent at season’s end.

As will Knight, who is aware his second go-around – with the Pistons entering a rebuilding phase – has an uncertain timeline.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to get a look at him,” Dwane Casey said after Tuesday’s practice. “And him to look at us at the same time.”

Knight is still a young man in the real world at 28, but there are 10 players on the Pistons roster younger than him. He’s not kidding when he says he’s “one of the older guys.”

“It’s been that way for the past three years,” he said. “The league is just getting younger and younger, so I’m just trying to adapt and be around. That’s it.”

With Derrick Rose – the elder statesman of the Pistons at 31, speaking of time flies – nursing a groin injury and likely to face even stricter minutes restriction when he returns – potentially on Wednesday at Orlando as both Rose and Svi Mykhailiuk practiced on Tuesday – Knight appears set to split time at point guard with Jackson for the time being. He’s also spent a good deal of his career playing off the ball. And that’s where Casey ultimately plans to get a look at Knight.

“Probably his strength right now is playing off the ball a little bit,” Casey said. “Sometimes handling the ball, but more off the ball. He’ll be a good combination with Derrick with the second unit.”

Knight’s Monday debut was choppy, no surprise since he hadn’t played in nearly a month with left knee soreness and hadn’t gone through a Pistons practice yet.

“It’s very tough, but that’s why it’s pro sports,” he said. “Things aren’t easy. But I’m sure with time, I’ll start to learn my teammates’ habits and learn the plays. We’ve been trying to put in extra work to try to pick it up, but there’s nothing like playing in a game. That’s the best teacher, so that’s going to be the best way to learn and get to know guys is in a game.”

Knight’s learning curve should also be hastened by the instant connection he felt with Casey, who shares his Kentucky roots.

“I’ve had a chance to play against him a lot, being in the Eastern Conference, especially when he was in Toronto. When I was here in Detroit, played against him a lot. Great coach. Even just the last couple of days, I can already tell I’m going to be able to learn from him and his coaching style. I’m excited about that, as well.”

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