DETROIT, MI - MARCH 13: Saddiq Bey #41 of the Detroit Pistons dribbles the ball during the game against the LA Clippers on March 13, 2022 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. 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 2022 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the work bell rings, ironman Bey shows up for Pistons

It’s entirely possible that no two human beings of the 528 who’ve worn the Pistons uniform are more unlike in temperament than Saddiq Bey, deferential and unassuming, and Bill Laimbeer, decidedly not those things.

But Dwane Casey is forever thankful for the one thing they most obviously share: showing up for work every day.

Laimbeer played in a Pistons-record 685 consecutive games. Bey has a ways to go to get there – through no fault of his own. He’s only been in the NBA for two years, so start with that. But he’s never missed a game. Dwane Casey chose not to play Bey twice in his rookie season – including in his first game – but he’s suited up for all 140 so far and his streak of 121 straight played ranks second to Mikal Bridges’ 293.

Laimbeer was as competitive as he was ornery and played all 82 games in six consecutive seasons and played 81 games in three others during his 13 seasons in Detroit. That was another time, though, long before “load management” entered the NBA lexicon.

Today, Bey counts as one of just five players who’ve appeared in all of his team’s games. He’s fifth in the league in total minutes played at 2,292, 535 more than Cade Cunningham, second on the Pistons

And, yes, Bey’s full intent is to play all 82 games. If Casey is entertaining any notion to rest the 22-year-old at any point in the season’s dying days, well, he’ll have a fight on his hands.

“That would mean a lot. That would mean a lot to me,” Bey said of playing all 82. “I pray to God every night just for him to keep me healthy. That’s the most, for me, is to stay healthy to be able to go through everything that the game has to offer. I don’t want to miss any games at all.”

The last time Bey missed a game for any reason other than a coach’s decision was in his senior year of high school when an ankle injury cost him a week. He still winces talking about not being able to suit up. In his two years at Villanova, Bey reported for duty 67 times out of 67.

Casey talks for all coaches when he speaks of the peace of mind it affords him to be able to pencil Bey in the starting lineup come hell or high water.

“I love him,” Casey gushed. “He’s an iron man. He plays with bumps and bruises. He plays with hangnails. Some guys are out with a hangnail, but Saddiq is there every night.”

Answering the bell every night this season came with an added challenge once COVID-19’s Omicron variant tore through the league in December and January. Only Bey and Hamidou Diallo among the Pistons failed to spend time in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Only Bey has managed to avoid injury serious enough to sideline him.

It’s remarkable, really, given the size, speed and strength of today’s player that anyone can run the gauntlet without rolling an ankle or badly spraining or breaking fingers, wrists or ribs in the many collisions that come with the hundreds of screens and box-outs applied every night. Bey talks of it with a hint of apprehension for fear of jinxing himself. What goes into being unfailingly available to play?

“Number one is praying,” he said. “Second is the medical staff helps me, gets me different treatments – a massage therapist, stretching, anything I can do to help. Tubs, hot tubs. I get a massage before every game. I do the same routine every day. I just pray that I can stay healthy.”

There’s another ironman in Pistons history much more in sync with Bey’s demeanor. Tayshaun Prince played 497 consecutive games, appearing in all 82 for six consecutive seasons while blending in ideally with the aptly monikered Goin’ to Work Pistons. Bey would’ve fit right in with them.

“Saddiq has been steady. That’s been him since he’s been with the Pistons,” Casey said. “He wants to play. He’s tough-minded. He’s just an old-school type guy.”