When Brandon Knight was officially introduced by the Pistons, he was quite candid about what he needed to improve. "Definitely, there's a lot that I need to work on," Knight told me in June. "I'm still a very young player with a lot to learn. I can get better going left, better in pick and rolls, and better in decision making. Those are things that I'm going to have to get better at."
You can't get better without putting in work -- and so far in training camp, it seems no one is working harder than the rookie point guard. From Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
When Pistons practice ended Tuesday, about half of the weary players headed for the locker room while others hung around shooting and doing some light running.
Then a few others left, leaving rookie Brandon Knight and veteran Will Bynum on the floor.
After Bynum got in some wind sprints, he finally trudged to the locker room, and Knight was on the floor doing a dribbling drill.
He was headed to lift weights until he realized the media was waiting to talk to him, and he took a little time to give an update on how his five-day pro career is going.
[...] "He's shown the ability to make plays," Frank said. "He's got an unbelievable work ethic. The guys have instantly taken to him because he's hungry, he's thirsty, he's not afraid.
"You literally got to kick him out of the gym."
Vinnie Goodwill of the Detroit News has a similar account:
"This is what we need right here," said Bynum, motioning to Knight. "If he never becomes great, it won't be because he didn't put the work in."
Pistons scouts, coach Lawrence Frank and Platinum Equity partner Phil Norment were transfixed by Knight's work ethic and endurance.
"It's something I had to work at, just from mental toughness," Knight said before he went to lift weights. "Your legs might not be feeling great, you have to persevere. You have to give that effort, because you'll see improvement."
If you weren't a fan of Joe Dumars' decision to select Knight -- and the selection was polarizing, to say the least -- all the glowing reports of his workout habits in the world won't change your mind. He's going to have to do that with his performance on the court during games that count. But still, it's nice to see that the player with the most to prove is also the one putting in the most work.
I'm really excited to see what Knight can do -- and by all accounts, he's showing nice flashes in the portions of practices open to the media. Perhaps seeing him in action will help revive some of the buzz that's been completely missing from his arrival. I can't recall the last time the Pistons had a draft pick this high who's received such little fanfare heading into the season. He was No. 8 pick; the Pistons have drafted that high only
three four times since the 1980s, and the other two picks resulted in Greg Monroe and Grant Hill. (Update: And, um, that Darko guy. Whoops.)
I suppose we can blame the lockout for sapping some of the excitement -- it not only delayed the season but also robbed us of Summer League highlights, which at the very least would have provided new talking points about his potential.
I also blame Joe Dumars, whose "more of the same" blueprint will limit Knight's playing time if/when Rodney Stuckey is re-signed. (How can Knight be a building block for the future when Stuckey and Ben Gordon are blocking his path indefinitely?)
Nevertheless, Knight's play as a rookie is what I'm most looking forward to. It simply wasn't fun to cheer for the Pistons last year, thanks to a handful of spoiled veterans. But it's easy to root for a young kid who knows he's not there yet and wants to improve. More grinders, less whiners. We can all get behind that.