Gigi Datome, who's appeared in just one game for the Detroit Pistons this season, took advantage of his first extended playing time since the preseason Thursday, scoring 15 points while helping the Grand Rapids Drive over the Austin Spurs, 102-87, on the first day of the D-League Showcase in Santa Cruz, Calif.
In 27 minutes off the bench, Datome shot 5-of-11 from the field – including 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point line – while adding five rebounds and a block. He also committed three turnovers. Pistons teammate Spencer Dinwiddie started the game, scoring 11 (4-11 from the field) with five assists and two rebounds in 27 minutes.
Datome's long-distance shooting is his greatest strength, albeit one he's been unable to showcase in limited NBA minutes. In 35 career games with the Pistons, he's shot just .190 (8-of-42) from distance.
In theory, getting the chance for extended minutes is a good thing for Datome, especially at an event like the D-League Showcase with representatives from all 30 NBA front offices in attendance. But Stan Van Gundy admitted that Datome, 27, was less than thrilled about the assignment. From David Mayo of MLive.com:
"You know what? Not really," he said, when asked if Datome was excited for a chance to play. "There's sort of a ... he's leaving the NBA, he's a little older, he's not a 21-year-old guy. So no, not really. But hopefully, when he gets down there to Calfornia, and gets practicing, and gets ready to play, and is getting ready for a game that he knows he's going to get a chance to play in, hopefully he will get enthused about it."
Datome, 27, is a former Italian League MVP who signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Pistons in July 2013 after the best season of his professional career. But instead of enjoying his prime years, he's been glued to the bench on a team that's been mired in the NBA's basement. Getting a "demotion" to the D-League must be demoralizing, but hopefully he realizes the opportunity in front of him – namely, impressing the other NBA executives in attendance and planting the seed that he could still be a rotational player elsewhere in the league.
The Pistons sent GM Jeff Bower and assistant GM Jeff Nix to Santa Cruz, Mayo notes – ostensibly to scout available talent (the team does still have an open roster spot) but perhaps also to discuss Datome's availability. If Datome continues to play well, his chance to play consistent minutes in the NBA might be around the corner, even if that doesn't happen in Detroit.
The D-League posts their entire games on YouTube for fans to watch free of charge – you can see Datome and Dinwiddie in action below. Datome makes his first appearance at the 6:10 mark of the first quarter, and plays until the 6:36 of the second. He returns at the 5:48 mark in the third quarter and plays until the 2:08 mark of the fourth:
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