Instead of spending a beautiful Saturday in October outside, I went to Little Caesars Arena for the Pistons open practice. It is hard to make any clear evaluations from an hour and a half practice and team scrimmage, there were a few interesting things to me.
Practice started out with a message to the crowd from Dwane Casey, and that was the most I would see or hear from Casey the rest of the day. The team started off with a few typical drills, working on defense, working on ball movement and spacing, and then a weave drill involving passing and shooting between three players. There were a lot of clanked jumpers during the drills, and really through the duration of the practice.
Cade Cunningham, Cassius Stanley, and Isaiah Livers all sat out of all of the practice, while a few others only participated in the drills.
After the drills were complete, the available players divided up into two different teams for a four-quarter, 10-minute quarter scrimmage.
The blue team was the “starters,” which was composed of Killian Hayes, Rodney McGruder, Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Jamorko Pickett.
The white team was the “bench,” composed of Saben Lee, Cory Joseph, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Josh Jackson, Kelly Olynyk, Luka Garza, and Trey Lyles.
The blue team struggled mightily and were even given various reinforcements from the white team during the scrimmage. Given the fact that the white team had more depth and experience, it is not all that surprising that the “starters” got blown out. I won’t sound the alarm of concern about the “starters” based on a scrimmage in which they were missing a key player (Cunningham).
More focused observations:
Cade Cunningham #HeightWatch
A story that has come to the forefront a bit since the Pistons drafted Cade Cunningham is how he seemingly “shrunk” since he was drafted from 6’8” to 6’6”. And while 6’6” is likely the more accurate measurement, he might be a bit taller than I thought. When he was standing next to Jerami Grant, they looked very close to the same height from my seats.
So either Jerami Grant is shorter than he is listed or Cade Cunningham is a bit taller. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, but I thought it was interesting.
The Saddiq Bey breakout is for real
Saddiq Bey looked like the best player on the court during the scrimmage and was the lone bright spot for the blue team. He was putting the ball on the floor, hitting threes, posting up, taking the ball down and initiating offense, and making some solid passes. He looked like somebody who could flirt with 20 points per game as early as this season and breakout as the second best player on the team, at least for next season.
Everything we saw that he worked on in the first preseason game was on full display, and it was a joy to watch.
The Jacksons will be key role players
Both Frank and Josh Jackson looked very good. For Frank, he was hitting every shot he put up, and even had a couple nice takes to the basket. He was so good that the white team blew out the blue team in the scrimmage and he had to be moved to the blue team to help them out. He even played some point guard and looked comfortable doing it.
For Josh Jackson, it was a lot of the same we saw in the first preseason game. He was hitting his threes, knocked down a couple of tough mid-rangers, and played solid defense. All that came with the chaos and a few mental lapses as are a part of the Josh Jackson experience. Both of the Jackson’s look ahead of Hamidou Diallo in the wing rotation; Diallo struggled with his shooting all afternoon.
Jerami Grant and the starter’s epic struggle
As mentioned above, the white team blew out the blue team in the scrimmage. The blue team were the “starters,” but you definitely couldn’t tell based on how they played. They were down by 40 points at one point as nobody outside of Saddiq Bey could do much of anything. Jerami Grant couldn’t hit a shot to save his life and Killian Hayes was still struggling to beat people off the dribble.
Hayes had some solid passes that could have been assists if people could hit shots, but he still struggled with many of the things he did last season. He did play a little faster and more aggressive, but it still just ended up with him shooting a floater or passing out in the paint because he couldn’t get by his man.
Isaiah Stewart’s shot was off all afternoon and he got abused by Luka Garza in the post. I didn’t keep track of how many fouls he had, but he probably had enough to foul out twice.
- Jamorko Pickett can shoot and uses his length well, but he struggled with catching passes and couldn’t really do much else offensively.
- Cory Joseph addressed the crowd twice, which was interesting. He is one of the veterans of the team, so it makes some sense, but I feel like somebody like Jerami Grant would resonate more with the fans.
- Everybody loves Luka Garza. He played really well, but he was getting MVP chants while shooting free throws. Obviously a bit tongue in cheek with those chants.
- There were a lot of sloppy passes thrown during the scrimmage, which is to be expected with the season just getting started and the fact that it is practice. There were also a few attempted alley-oops, and I don’t think a single one came close to getting finished.
Overall, it was a fun experience and a great way to check out the team before things get more serious. I wouldn’t read into any of this too much since it was just a practice, but I also think a few of the things mentioned above are very encouraging developments.
Just a few more weeks until we are back to real basketball.
If you were at the open practice, leave your thoughts in the comments below.