It was a record-breaking day for Andre Drummond, as the high water mark in Orlando Summer League rebounds has now been set at 18. Drummond finished the game with 23 points and 18 rebounds for a one-point win over the Miami Heat. It was Detroit's fourth game in the Orlando Summer League, our final day of coverage and the last game to see second-year player Kim English wearing Pistons colors.
Orlando Summer League Diary: Day 4
There were a lot of empty seats during day four of the Orlando Summer League. For most of the scouts and media personnel, today was a travel day with the Las Vegas Summer League starting tomorrow. It was a quiet audience, with a lot less activity around the court and elsewhere in Amway Arena. Most of the Pistons will return to Detroit on Saturday, but Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and a few staffers will head to Nevada for Team USA workouts next week.
The young Pistons were joined by Rodney Stuckey today, dressed down in gym gear next to Greg Monroe for most of the game. Apparently Mo Cheeks' rules for gym wear stand on the road as well, as every player on the team who wasn't dressed to play was wearing official Pistons gear.
There were three storylines that were evident through this game -- one being the record-breaking performance of Andre Drummond, another being the team-wide involvement in Tony Mitchell's development, and the last being the departure of Kim English after the game.
The Final Game of Kim English
Things could not have gone worse for Kim English this week. He finished today's game with a four-day shooting average of 29%, missing open jumper after open jumper after uncontested layup. On the other side of the court, English was the primary defender against Reggie Jackson, who broke an Orlando Summer League scoring record against him. English stayed poised the whole time, trying to stay positive and doing what he could as an outspoken player to help the team's rookies.
His frustration did bubble up at the end, though. In a late-game huddle, assistant coach Maz Trakh was outlining a play for a key possession and English challenged him on it. He didn't agree with the play as it was drawn up and the two had a brief back-and-forth. Nobody lost their cool, Trakh handled it just fine but the reaction amongst the players made it evident the English went a bit far to challenge Trakh, especially so late in a game where they were only up by one point.
An hour later, English was cut from the team. I couldn't make out the content of their discussion and I could have misread the situation. But English's timing appeared very poor and a few of his teammates responded with muffled "wows" under their breath. If I read the situation right, it was an unfortunate bit of punctuation for a week-long struggle for Kim English.
As mentioned in an earlier diary, however, I don't doubt that English will find time with another team. Despite a bad week, he's a capable shooter and defender, and his voice as a leader should earn him a spot on an NBA rotation. I can hope, at least ...
It Takes a Village to Raise a Man Child
When it comes to the stew that is Tony Mitchell's development, there are a ton of cooks in the kitchen. Everyone from Andre Drummond to Greg Monroe to Peyton Siva to Rasheed Wallace was constantly giving Mitchell feedback and advice and commands throughout the week. It's clear they all see the potential in him and I found it encouraging that they all want to see him succeed -- and take an active part in his development.
The interest and activity from his teammates and coaching staff became humorous as a spectator. At one point, the active players were lined up on the edge of the paint for an opposing free throw. Rasheed yells, "Tony. TONY! REBOUND that." With an "okay boss" nod, Tony prepares to box out. Opposing player misses the second free throw, Tony hops up higher than everybody else and secures the ball. "THANK YOU TONY." Mike Payne laughs out loud.
When Mitchell grabbed the ball off the glass for a putback dunk on Detroit's final offensive possession, every single Pistons player and staffer celebrated and seemed to feel partly responsible. Monroe quipped, "It's about damn time, Tony!" Mitchell had been largely scoreless throughout the game. What followed, however, was really remarkable and something you just don't get to see when watching a stream online.
Coach Trakh called a huddle during Miami's final timeout and talked through the defensive plan. Mitchell had just scored the game-winning basket, and Trakh rewarded him by telling him that the final defensive effort will be led with him on the ball. It was a message to Mitchell -- if you're going to win a game, you're going to do it on both ends of the court. I knew nothing about Trakh before this series, and I completely respected and appreciated this move. It was one of the more remarkable takeaways I had while sitting right behind Detroit's bench for a few quarters all week.
Drummond Breaks Records, Heat
There's plenty to be said about Drummond's game, and it has probably already been said elsewhere. So I'll focus on this: why so much playing time for a possible second-year All Star? Summer League wins and losses are meaningless in the longer term. Rookies and other players hoping to make a team are the guys that get the most burn in Summer League, so why all of this usage for Drummond?
I don't think it has to do with Viacheslav Kravtsov's injury. JaJuan Johnson, Detroit's other summer league backup center, played only four minutes today. I think Detroit is pushing Drummond hard this week to test his conditioning. Drummond's playing time was limited early last season due in part to conditioning issues that Andre was working through. My gut tells me that this week was a test of how far Drummond has come and what they hope to expect out of him in the regular season.
He seemed to handle the added responsibility just fine. Look at the box score. My hope is that continued work like he had this week could make him a 30+ minute contributor come October. Beyond his conditioning, I can't imagine any other reason to make him a central feature of a meaningless game in Summer League, given that his production is already a known quantity.
Another guess: the team wanted to get Rasheed Wallace and Andre Drummond as much time together as possible early on. Rasheed was constantly in Drummond's ear, during timeouts, between possessions, during shootaround, everything. Rasheed seems to love working with Dre, and it's easy to see why. Hopefully some of Wallace's heaping basketball IQ rubs off through work like this.
Friday's final Orlando Summer League game begins at 8:00 a.m. and I'll be sitting this one out. It has been an incredible week, and I will wrap it all up in a longform article this weekend here on DBB. Thanks for reading along, and here's to hoping that this is the first of many NBA events that Detroit Bad Boys covers with an insider perspective.