English Lessons

Pistons 2nd-rounder soaks up knowledge as Summer League unfolds

ORLANDO – As Allen Iverson made abundantly clear, not every NBA player loves to practice. Kim English is not one of them.

“I love practice,” he smiled after his fifth in three days as the Pistons prepare for today’s start of the Orlando Pro Summer League. “I love games. Every time I step on the court, I just pray to God to keep me healthy, swift and accurate. As long as I’m healthy and playing, I’m happy.”

In English, a player the Pistons were delighted to draft with the 44th pick, Joe Dumars and his staff feel they’re getting someone who addresses a smorgasbord of needs. They wanted to get bigger and more athletic on the wings.They wanted perimeter players who fit the mold of what Lawrence Frank wants coming off of his bench: players who first and foremost are motivated defenders. They wanted to get shooters who stretch the floor with their 3-point marksmanship.

Check, check and check. The bonus: English is a dedicated gym rat, a rookie of rare maturity and someone the Pistons see as prime leadership material.

“Trust me,” Joe Dumars told reporters after the draft. “He’ll be the most impressive young guy you guys have dealt with in a long time.”

English comes to the Pistons after a four-year career at Missouri, where he played for two coaches, and a year of prep school following his Baltimore high school career. He’s a basketball junkie who pores over tape and statistics. And yet for all of that, he admits the information overload of his first few days as a professional player was daunting.

“Just learning everything,” he said. “All the schemes, the reads, and in that process it didn’t feel like basketball for me, it was so new. All that thinking with the speed and strength of everyone, then around the third or fourth practice, it kind of felt like basketball again. I kind of knew where to be defensively and it felt like basketball again.

“The defenses are complex, but I’m catching on to the schemes pretty quick. It’s just the calls, all of the names, so many names you’ve got to remember. But I’ve got good leaders on this team. Brandon (Knight) and Greg (Monroe) do a really good job of keeping me in tune.”

English is likely to line up next to Knight in the starting backcourt for the Pistons in Summer League games. Khris Middleton, taken five spots ahead of him at 39, has played primarily small forward in Orlando but will likely also get a look at shooting guard behind English. Throw in Kyle Singler – and nobody has been any more impressive through the six Orlando practices leading to the opener than the 2011 second-rounder – and the Pistons appear to have restocked their perimeter depth swiftly.

Here’s English’s scouting reports on Singler and Middleton:

  • Singler – “Super athletic, good defender, a Duke guy so he definitely is true blue and a high basketball IQ. I didn’t remember him being that athletic. We talked about, Greg and those guys, he said they knew he was. He had a big block yesterday, so he’s definitely sneaky athletic.”

  • Middleton – “Super smooth, big-time jump shooter, really long and athletic. He played his last year hurt. That’s why he slipped a little to 39. Khris is a top-20 talent. I always told him, even at USA Basketball last summer, I said he should have left after his sophomore year. He came back, unfortunately, got hurt. I’m happy he’s on our team and not playing against us. Really smooth, really quick, high release, really good shooter.”

English proved a remarkable shooter himself at Missouri, hitting 46 percent from the 3-point line as a senior. But as a student of the game, he knows almost all college players struggle with the transition to the longer NBA 3-point distance as well as the speed of the game and the range of closing defenders. English struggled to knock down shots in early practices, which is the norm when teams get to training camp and timing and tired legs conspire against shooters.

“It’s learning,” he said. “It’s a different speed, heavier balls, longer range. If I shoot 46 percent this year, that will be pretty impressive. But I’m learning. My shot will come as I keep getting reps and keep practicing.”

And, fear not, Kim English is going to keep practicing. He’d be thrilled to be in any of the NBA’s 30 uniforms, but he wasn’t just blowing smoke when he said he hoped to be picked by the Pistons. He’d done his homework and felt he’d fit best with the Pistons, and that feeling crystallized for him upon meeting Joe Dumars and his staff at both their Auburn Hills workout and at the Chicago draft combine. His strengths mesh with Lawrence Frank’s desires, he believes.

“I’m definitely a guy that can help spread the floor, give Brandon space to operate off screen and rolls and I really take pride in guarding people, so I like to ramp it up on the defensive end,” he said. “This is perfect. A really good young core. I’m excited to be a Piston and excited to grow with these guys.”