Donta Hall takes another step down the path Ben Wallace blazed with the Pistons
Kamil Krzaczynski (NBAE/Getty)
BEAVERTON, Oregon – Donta Hall’s story should be familiar to Pistons fans: Born in small-town Alabama, undrafted after four years in college, trying to make it as an undersized center in the NBA.
If the Pistons get half the return on Hall that they got on Ben Wallace, the rebuilding project will get a most welcome boost.
Hall happened to meet Wallace last fall, which makes sense when you remember than Wallace is now a part owner of the Pistons G League franchise in Grand Rapids, where Hall spent 36 games as the Drive’s starting center this season. That’s where he was on Friday night – putting up 22 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks to spearhead a Drive win – before getting the news that the Pistons were signing him to a 10-day contract.
That meant Hall, 6-foot-9, had to get up before dawn and get to Metro Airport for the Pistons flight to Portland, where they start a four-game road trip that will occupy the bulk of Hall’s 10-day deal. Upon touchdown, the Pistons bused to the Nike campus north of Portland for a two-hour practice.
Was Hall ready for a little shut-eye?
“Am I,” he exclaimed. “I need some deep sleep. When I hit that bed at the hotel, it’s over with.”
Even before he hits REM sleep, his dream has been realized. Getting to the NBA seemed a long way off for Hall in his first few years at Alabama after he starred at Luverne High, about 60 miles southeast of White Hall, Wallace’s hometown. Hall and Wallace talked about their journeys when they met a few months ago.
“He came to one of our practices,” Hall said after going through his first Pistons practice. “He was talking to me about a lot of small stuff, like growing up and coming to a place, being undrafted. Stuff like that. Just working and grinding. Ever since then I’ve pushed myself even harder to get to where I’m at today.”
Hall has the same Wallace toolbox, as well. He’s not a natural scorer but a rebounder, rim runner and defender. Hall was a dominant offensive rebounder in Grand Rapids, averaging 4.1 per game – for comparison’s sake, the dominant offensive rebounder of his generation, Andre Drummond, averaged 4.6 offensive boards for the Pistons this season before this month’s trade to Cleveland – as well as 15.4 points and 10.5 total rebounds plus 1.4 blocked shots.
“He’s more of a rim runner, roll guy,” Dwane Casey said. “Not a shooter, but a rim runner, shot blocker, rim protector. One thing he gave us (in Summer League last July) was his energy. That’s something with us he can do – protect the rim, run the floor and just be a modern-day five man. Roll, catch it, make a play out of it.”
Hall was pursued by the Pistons after the draft last June to join their Summer League team and after a successful run there, he was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract that helped the Pistons steer him to Grand Rapids. He worked out in Los Angeles last summer with Pistons development staff and the many players who base their off-seasons in Southern California. Hall went through training camp with the Pistons before joining the Drive.
He fills the roster spot opened on Friday by the waiving of Markieff Morris after he and the Pistons agreed to a contract buyout. Morris is expected to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers after he clears waivers.
“Being down Markieff, (Hall) gives us another long guy inside,” Casey said. “He’s been playing well, playing hard with our G League team, giving us everything. Whether we use him or not will depend on Thon (Maker), Christian (Wood) and Sekou (Doumbouya) and how they’re going. Won’t hesitate to play him if the situation calls for it.”
Hall won’t try to swim outside of his lane to catch anyone’s eye. One of his strengths is understand who he is.
“I’m going to just be me,” he said. “Not going to change. Like I said, I’m going to keep grinding, keep being that guy.”