The Detroit Pistons hosted an open practice in Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 29. The Pistons Blue Team took on the White team. The Blue Team starters were the “Big Three” of Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond, and Blake Griffin. Luke Kennard and Stanley Johnson were the other two starters. I would be very surprised if Dwane Casey is tipping his hand at who will start the first game of the season, but Kennard and Johnson on the wings is not out of the realm of possibilities.
The White team starters were Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, Glenn Robinson III, Henry Ellenson, and Zaza Pachulia. They played a full game with referees and 12 minute quarters, but it was a running clock.
It could be because it was Zaza Pachulia, but Andre Drummond was absolutely dominant. He was everywhere on both ends of the court and ended up shooting either 4 or 5 three pointers by my count. He made the first one he put up and then missed the rest. Most of his three pointers came within the flow of the offense after some good ball movement and usually near the end of the shot clock. It never really seemed like Dre was camping on the perimeter waiting to put up a three. He was constantly attacking the basket and looked like he was far and away the best player out there.
Reggie Jackson looked like a player who didn’t play basketball all summer. He looked a bit slow out there, but he didn’t appear to be favoring his ankle or anything.
Luke Kennard was cold from everywhere on the court. I can’t remember him making a single three all game, and he had some difficulty beating his man off the dribble. He was another player who was apparently dealing with an injury that he suffered during Summer League, so it makes sense he was a bit rusty. He was active defensively, which was a good sight to see.
My man Henry Ellenson looked similar to how he did during Summer League. He can do some good things offensively with the ball, but the process of actually making the shots wasn’t there. He was a little bit better at putting the ball in the basket than he was in Summer League, but not enough to lower people’s concerns about him. I also thought he wasn’t completely awful defending Blake Griffin despite being heavily outmuscled.
Speaking of Blake Griffin, he looked like Blake Griffin. There is nothing new to really report out of him. Same can be said about Reggie Bullock, although he did miss most of his three point attempts. I’m still not worried about him.
Stanley Johnson looked like typical Stanley Johnson as well. He was solid defensively and looked comfortable with the ball in his hands and attacking the rim, but he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn with his shot. A lot of players seemed to struggle with their shots, so I wonder if it was the smaller arena or different hoops that were throwing them off a bit.
A few of the other standouts were Glenn Robinson III, Zac Lofton, and Johnny Hamilton. Robinson hit his threes and looked a bit more comfortable with the ball than I remember him being. Lofton looks like a player who can score, but not do much else. He hit a couple threes and had a couple nice drives to the basket. I am all for replacing Reggie Hearn with him on a 2-way contract because he showed a lot more than Hearn. Hamilton looks like a nice project to develop in Grand Rapids. He moved well for somebody his size and looked a lot better than Zaza Pachulia. He had a couple of nice runs to the rim and did a decent job bodying up Andre Drummond. I doubt Pachulia gets replaced by him, but I could see it happening next season if the Pistons can keep Hamilton around.
Two players that were rather uninspiring were Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas. Thomas in particular looked awful. I can’t remember him doing anything that stood out bad or good, he was just kind of there. Bruce Brown played a lot of shooting guard and a bit of point guard at the end. He looked more comfortable to me when he was playing point and had the ball in his hands. He did a decent job getting to the rim, just struggled with his finishing. It is tough to make an evaluation on a player after one game, but I am a lot higher on Brown than Thomas after this game.
After the game was over, Andre Drummond made a brief speech to the crowd and made the rookies come out with their rookie backpacks. They also made Zac Lofton do this because he forgot his backpack.
Overall, it was a great experience. My thoughts are a bit jumbled because I was trying to watch so many different things, but I hope it paints a bit of a picture of what went on. My biggest takeaway is that if we get THIS Andre Drummond this season on a consistent basis, the league better watch out.