Weaver on Casey, Hayes, Smith, Lee, the trade deadline, restoring and ‘Piston Pride’
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
Some quick hitters and thoughts from Pistons general manager Troy Weaver’s Zoom session with the media Tuesday afternoon as the NBA comes out of the All-Star break:
If anyone was wondering about Dwane Casey’s future given the 10-26 Pistons record and the fact Weaver was in Oklahoma City when Casey was hired, worry about something else.
“I can’t say enough about Dwane and his staff,” Weaver said. “I absolutely believe and trust we have the best coach in the world for what we’re going through. His steadiness, the way he sets the tone with these guys. They often say the team takes on the personality of the coach and that’s happened. These guys have been steady. These guys come in and do their job every day and that’s who coach Casey is.”
The Pistons said on Jan. 20 that Killian Hayes would go on an eight-week regimen of rest and rehabilitation and be re-evaluated at that time. The eight-week mark comes next week and Weaver said, indeed, there will be an update. Expect it to be a good one.
“We’ll provide an update next week, but he’s progressing well,” Weaver said. “It’s been exciting to see him grow and come back from this setback. He’s been working diligently and he looks great. We’re excited to have him join the team here shortly.”
Only two players from last year’s roster – Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya – remain with the recent trade of Derrick Rose and negotiated buyout of Blake Griffin. Weaver says he’ll remain aggressive – “I think where we are, we have to be” – but he’s not expecting any blockbusters. Weaver ticked off the veterans having career years – Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellington, Delon Wright – and because all of those November transactions now look shrewd, the Pistons possess one of the key ingredients to stirring trade speculation: players outperforming their contracts.
That said, he’s not itching to get off of those good deals, either.
“I wouldn’t expect a bunch of fireworks, but we’re going to be aggressive and comb the league and look at things to see if we can get better. But I don’t anticipate as much activity as we had in November. It would be kind of hard to top that.”
Grant’s name has been bandied about and Weaver wasn’t specifically talking about him when he was asked if anyone was “untouchable,” but he fits the question better than anyone else – and it’s impossible to hear Weaver’s response without thinking that’s how he heard it.
“Untouchables? No, nobody’s untouchable. But don’t expect … I’ve learned to never say never, but there’s some guys that are here to stay. We’ll see. Somebody calls me and offers four first-round picks, then they’re not untouchable. Strange things have happened.”
There was some question when Rose was traded to New York whether the Pistons were primarily interested in the second-round pick – Charlotte’s 2021 pick – that came with it or if they were equally intrigued by getting a chance to kick the tires on Dennis Smith Jr.’s long-term fit. Whatever the motivation was at the time, Weaver gave every indication Smith has his attention.
“We’re excited having an opportunity to bring Dennis is and evaluate him. He’s still a young man and we’re excited by the prospects of him. He has a lot of the traits that we look for in the Pistons, the new Pistons going forward. You’re right to assume we’re going to take a long, long look at Dennis Smith Jr. I really like what I see thus far.”
The other revelation at point guard during Wright’s absence with a groin strain, Saben Lee, is emphatically part of the future. Weaver mentioned seeing him when he was in high school but becoming captivated by him as a Vanderbilt freshman.
“We started to do our homework. I wanted to get some foundation pieces in here, guys that could go through this, that could stand in tall as we’re going through the restoring. People always say, ‘He’s a better person than he is a player.’ No, he’s a better person than he is a player. That goes will all the rookies. He is definitely exceeding people’s expectations but not mine. He’s a tremendous young man, tremendous worker.”
Weaver said “Piston Pride” has become the franchise’s driving motto and he sees it put into practice routinely.
“Everybody wants to look at your record, but we’re more trusting in doing the right things every day, building the right way, laying a foundation for this restoring process and we’re doing it. We want competitive guys, selfless guys who all check their ego at the door and I couldn’t be more pleased with the way we’ve gone out and exuded that.
“We have a catchphrase inside our walls, called Piston Pride. It’s all about taking care of one another, on and off the floor, stepping up when guys are down. And guys have done that.”
Weaver was asked about why he prefers “restoring” over “rebuilding” when talking about the transitional phase the Pistons are undergoing. He talked about his father’s passion for restoring old cars and watching him work on a 1966 Monte Carlo.
“He said, ‘You can only restore something that’s great,’ and that stuck with me. There’s been greatness here in Detroit – three championships. No slight to what I’m about to say, but the Timberwolves can’t restore. They don’t have three championships. They don’t have the greatness. The Atlanta Hawks can’t restore. But the Detroit Pistons can restore. We want to restore the greatness back in the franchise.”