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LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 5: Cade Cunningham looks on during the USA Men's National Team Practice as part of 2023 FIBA World Cup on August 5, 2023 at the Mendenhall Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Joe Amati/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cade’s healthy, Thompson’s ready and other day one Pistons takeaways

If news is generated on media day, it’s usually not good news. The only news you want coming out of media day is one guy gained 15 pounds of muscle over the off-season and another added 4 inches to his vertical leap.

The Pistons, just hours before Monday’s media day signaled the opening of the Monty Williams era, announced that Isaiah Livers would miss six to eight weeks after suffering a Grade 3 ankle sprain during a recent workout.

The good news? Livers, though he wore an ankle brace, walked without a noticeable limp as he made his way to the podium at Little Caesars Arena. No crutches, no walking boot.

“Definitely a quicker recovery,” he said. “Able to walk and move around.”

Other than that, Pistons media day didn’t produce any curveballs. But it did yield some notable quotes, observations and items to monitor over the coming days leading to the Oct. 25 season opener. Here are some takeaways before things get going in earnest with two-a-day practices scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday and the preseason opener coming on Sunday:

The frontcourt puzzle – We know Isaiah Stewart is more power forward than center now. “I definitely see myself more as a power forward now, especially having this group of bigs,” Stewart said Monday. Who might be second in line among Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III and James Wiseman to get minutes at that spot?

  • “Where I’m looking for growth from him is when he’s not at the center position,” Williams said of Duren. “I think there’s an opportunity for him to play four. If we see opportunities to go big, it’s going to be on him to be versatile to rotate on the back side.”
  • “I said before, whatever they need me to be, I’ll be,” Duren, still 19, said. “I feel I can affect the game in many different ways. I play to win. Monty wants me anywhere, that’s where I’m going to be.”
  • Bagley said he’s prepared to play either spot and had a heavy focus on shooting over the off-season to be ready to handle whatever he’s asked to do.
  • “I’m always ready to play both,” he said. “I don’t have an expectation coming into it. My own expectation is to be the best teammate I can be, to show up every day and be able to lock in on the small things.”

Goal setting – No general manager is going to throw out a number of wins as a goal for the season on media day. But Troy Weaver left no doubt that he expects more suspense out of the Pistons this season – in fourth quarters and in February, March and April.

  • “In the past, after the All-Star break, we haven’t played meaningful basketball,” he said. “The goal this year is to play 82 games. We want to compete. Every game is going to mean something from the start, 1 to 82. We’re going to play this thing out. We’re going after it, full speed.”

Depth and defense – Weaver said over the summer that “defense and depth” were his motivations in cobbling together the roster. That depth took a bit of a hit with news of the Livers injury, but – barring a wave of further injuries – Williams is still going to have to make some tough calls ahead of opening night.

  • “That’s all we’ve talked about all summer,” he said. “The camp’s going to be really competitive. There are a lot of opportunities for rotation minutes just because of the way the team is made up. I look forward to that. I look forward to putting guys in environments where they can have a fair shot at competing for minutes.”
  • “Since I’ve been here, this is the most depth we’ve had and now it’s up to us to flip that coin and really defend,” Weaver said. “We aren’t the Pistons until we defend. I talked to all the players. We can’t become the team we want to become until we defend. Coach Williams and his group, they understand that.”
  • Backing that up, Monte Morris, who spent the first five seasons of his NBA career in Denver, said preseason scrimmages have been the most competitive he’s experienced since 2018-19 in Denver when the second unit included him, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig and Mason Plumlee taking on the guts of a team that is now defending NBA champions.
  • “So much talent,” Morris said. “As far as teams I’ve been on, it’s definitely one of the two teams where pickup games, they’re all competitive. Both courts competing, good talent. If we can all stay like a fist most of the season when things get tough, adversity, I think we can have a good restore and get the city buzzing again.”
  • Losing Livers, even if it’s just for the first month of the regular season, cuts into the depth a bit. But if the starting perimeter group is Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Bojan Bogdanovic, that still leaves Morris, Killian Hayes, Alec Burks, Marcus Sasser, Joe Harris and Ausar Thompson to fight for three spots.

All eyes on Cade – Cade Cunningham, whose early-season injury that limited him to 12 games set the tone for the 2022-23 Pistons season, gave the best, most succinct response possible when asked his status: “I feel great.”

  • And with that, the Pistons writ large – from owner Tom Gores, to Weaver, to Williams to Cunningham’s teammates – feel equally great about their possibilities.
  • “Great,” Isaiah Stewart said when asked how Cunningham has looked to him in off-season workouts. “He’s looked great this summer. Just getting back to doing what he’s great at.”
  • “What people saw (at USA Basketball camp, where Cunningham starred with the Select Team) this summer was Cade just being healthy,” Weaver said. “He didn’t do anything we didn’t think he couldn’t do. He was just healthy for the first time. He’s able to really explode off that leg and play with his mind free of not worrying about his leg. He’s the lynchpin of what we’re doing and we’re excited that he’s healthy.”

The verdict on Ausar Thompson – Whether he cracks the starting lineup or starts the season fighting for rotation minutes, Thompson’s teammates harbor zero doubts about his NBA readiness.

  • “A.T. – I think he’s ready,” 12-year veteran Alec Burks said. “I’ve played a lot of pickup with him.”
  • “He’s ready,” Isaiah Stewart said. “Ausar knows how to play great team basketball. Defensively, his game is off the charts. I feel like he’s going to be playing from day one because he’s such an easy guy to play with. There’s a lot of ‘wow’ moments.”
  • “I feel very ready,” Thompson said. “You never know until you actually play in an NBA game, NBA atmosphere. But I feel confident I’ll be ready. I’m super excited. I wouldn’t even say I’m nervous. Just excited to get out here with the guys and get the season started.”