‘I Can’t Wait’
After whirlwind rookie year, Brandon Knight eager to get back to work
Brandon Knight was born eager. So he’s been restless this week, waiting for Arnie Kander to turn him loose as he nurses a mild case of plantar fasciitis while his teammates have logged the first full-court scrimmages of the off-season at the Pistons’ practice facility.
“Arnie wants me to take it slow,” he said, the last one still in the gym, getting called away only when Kander pops his head out of the training room to beckon the team’s 20-year-old point guard for a therapy session. “Me, I’m trying to get out there now. But as soon as I get out there and start doing something, he’s ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.’ ”
In the broader sense, Knight is even more eager to get training camp rolling and, beyond that, his second season.
“Some of the things I wish I would have been better at last year, I think I will show this year because I’ve gotten so much better at them,” he said. “That’s why I’m very excited about the season. I can’t wait. I’m going to be able to do a lot more things as far as getting guys involved. I’m looking forward to getting guys to play harder and to want the basketball and look for me as a player that is going to help them have a good game, somebody that’s making everybody around them better.
“I’m visualizing getting wins, visualizing the Pistons taking strides to being a championship team like it used to be. You get tired of hearing how the Pistons used to be a good team. You take pride in bringing the Pistons back to what Pistons basketball is.”
Knight fairly twitched as he spoke, the sincerity of his anticipation for the season ahead palpable. He’s had a full summer, split between working out under Kander and assistant coaches in Auburn Hills and back in his native Florida under a personal trainer with time in Las Vegas alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond at Tim Grgurich’s camp and a stint at the Orlando Pro Summer League to round it out.
“Very productive summer,” he said. “I know I’ve gotten a lot better. I’ve gotten so much better, I can’t wait for the season to start. I know my teammates have gotten better, too. We’ve got a lot of guys with new attitudes. It just makes the upcoming season very exciting. We’ve got a coaching staff that’s very earnest and eager to start teaching us new things and getting prepared for the season. We’re all eager to get going.”
Joe Dumars told me last month his overarching hope for Knight’s second season is to “master the position.” It’s not a concept that needs any further explanation to Knight.
“It’s an overall thing,” he said. “It’s not just one thing. Once you master the craft, you’ll see that guys respond better. You can tell when a point guard is controlling the game and when he’s running the team and when he has his troops in order. That’s what Joe is talking about, not necessarily assist totals. There’s a lot of intangibles that come with being the point guard of a basketball team. It’s not just the numbers, it’s a letter – whether it’s a win or a loss. As long as you’re pushing your team toward winning, no matter what your numbers are, that’s the biggest thing.”
Not every point guard who takes the court gets to use the term “your team” by mere virtue of the position he plays. Knight gets that. He understand it has to be earned by proving trustworthiness and leadership qualities, intangibles he’s also worked to develop over the off-season as surely as he’s spent countless hours lifting weights – he says he’s gained “something close” to the 12 pounds a recent Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel story described – and developing his ballhandling skills. Knight knows young players – young point guards, especially – have to show they have the stuff others respect enough to follow.
“I know and anybody else can tell you I’m one of the hardest workers on the team,” he said. “I’m working on guys thinking I’m one of the more unselfish guys on the team. That’s going to come with time, as well. Guys know I have the Pistons’ best interests at heart. At the end of the day, I want the Pistons to win. When you have a guy like that, then I don’t have a problem saying it’s ‘my team’ or ‘Greg’s team’ or the other guys that don’t care about themselves – they want what’s best for the team. They’re here throughout the summer – like Rodney Stuckey, slaving to get the Pistons back to what we want to be, what we visualize ourselves being.”
And about that plantar fasciitis: Knight first felt it crop up in Orlando, when the Pistons plunged right into two-a-day practices, but he played through it. It was still nagging him at Grgurich’s camp. Lawrence Frank, there as an observer, urged him to shut it down midway through the week and Kander has been monitoring it ever since.
“I can get up and down now, but Arnie wants me to take it slow. Next week, hopefully, I can test it out and see how it feels. It should be fine by next week. He’s just being careful with it to make sure it’s nothing that crops up during the season.”
Which, by the way, can’t get here soon enough.