Upgraded athleticism on display at open practice

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jennings and the rookies stood out in fans’ first glimpse at the new-look Pistons.

Desperate enough for basketball to watch a practice online? Even over actual, meaningful college football games? Yeah, me too.

In case you missed it, the Pistons have the full practice stream online. There's only so much that can be taken away from a practice - but one thing was definite: this team is a whole lot more athletic.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has received praise from Keith Langlois in his performance early on in training camp. Judging by the open practice scrimmage today, it looks well-earned. The shooting guard starting spot is open for grabs and Caldwell-Pope looks like he is staking his claim. The Pistons need him to be able to limit mistakes, play aggressive defense, and, perhaps the biggest question mark for the rookie early on, provide a reliable three point threat. He did just that.

KCP certainly outplayed his competition for the starting job, particularly Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler. Neither seemed to make much impact on the game, with Stuckey seeming particularly passive.

Brandon Jennings put on an exhibition on why many have a sense of optimism about his addition to the Pistons. His ball-handling, ability to orchestrate an offense, and mastery of the pick-and-roll was a definite breath of fresh air. The box score isn't available, but he certainly piled up the assists - thankfully, while limiting the dumb shots.

Greg Monroe and Josh Smith seemed to have developed a nice chemistry, as Moose fed the new signing with several easy buckets. Smith had several athletic buckets under the basket and a nice three over Tony Mitchell - but he still seemed to fly under the radar for much of the game. Moose looked smooth and confident, even opening the game with a nice jumper over Andre Drummond. He did have a couple of rotten turnovers though.

Dre had an up-and-down showing, too often seeming to try to do too much. He took several dumb shots, made some bad passes, and showed no improvement at the free throw line. The bread-and-butter of his game was there as a defensive presence, hitting the glass though, and throwing down some big dunks.

Tony Mitchell and Luigi Datome played fewer minutes, but both looked legitimate - and probably superior to the veterans also fighting them for playing time this season. Datome particularly fit right in as a deep threat role player. Mitchell seemed tentative on the offensive end but did a nice job holding his own defensively, particularly when he was matched up against Josh Smith. Peyton Siva sat out with a strained calf.

It's really doggone nice to see Chauncey Billups back wearing number 1 for the Pistons. He did most of his damage at the line but most importantly he looked healthy.

Next up is the first game of the preseason, Tuesday against Maccabi Haifa at the Palace.

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