DETROIT – Motor City Cruise executives, players, and staff spoke to media on Friday as the team works through training camp at the Pistons Performance Center.
New Cruise head coach Jamelle McMillan, who came to the organization with Pistons head coach Monty Williams, spoke highly of his team’s ability to set the tone in the building. Not only for the upcoming Cruise season, but for the entire organization.
On media day, the Cruise held training camp before optional Pistons team gym time after the NBA group got back from New Orleans after playing games each of the previous two nights. McMillan wants his group to leave the gym with a tone already set.
“A lot of mornings we will be in here super early, half asleep and everything,” McMillan said at Cruise media day. “We got to find a way to get going and allow that to translate to [the Pistons] and keep the gym at the level we see fit.”
He feels that the opportunity to lead the Cruise is the perfect start for him as a head coach. He initially joined Williams’ Pistons staff as an assistant but jumped at the chance to lead the G League group.
While winning is always a focus, the G League can provide wins outside of the game in terms of player growth and development. McMillan said that he wants his group’s identity to align with that of the Pistons: the players must earn everything.
“Relentless competition is something that we preach,” McMillan said. “And creating an edge. We’re trying to create advantages by way of our edge. … We really want to be an up-tempo and aggressive unit moving forward.”
Pistons two-way players Jared Rhoden, Stanley Umude, and Malcolm Cazalon are likely to receive heavy minutes and usage in active games with the Cruise, shuffling back and forth between both levels, managing the hectic schedule of any player on a two-way contract. While the Cruise will have some familiar faces on the floor this year—the likes of Rhoden, Umude, Buddy Boeheim, and Ryan Turell to name a few—the roster will employ plenty of new names.
Zavier Simpson, entering his fourth year professionally after playing college ball at the University of Michigan, played with the Pistons Summer League team before signing an Exhibit 10 deal to remain with the team during training camp. Now with the Cruise, he’s primed to have a large role as a lead guard. Cruise General Manager Ben Carloni pointed toward Simpson as a player that can help raise the team’s floor.
“Energy is something I’ve always brought to practices since middle school and high school, and even in college,” Simpson said at Cruise media day. “Obviously everyone’s always out there talking and encouraging one another. But my job I feel like as a point guard is to bring that times 10. Make sure everyone’s encouraged, holding everyone accountable including myself, and being the echo of a voice of a coach.”
Jontay Porter, who the team acquired the rights to in an offseason trade with the Wisconsin Herd, is hoping to prove himself in Detroit. He signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Pistons once he was acquired, spending time around the team throughout NBA training camp also.
“I was seeing the way that Monty laid the foundation and how guys are supposed to come in day-in and day-out with their work ethic,” Porter said at Cruise media day. “Then translating that to this G League training camp with the guys who were at Pistons training camp, I think it’s been really successful and cool to be a part of. Seeing a foundation already being built and the standard being set for everyone else to follow that’s coming in now.”
He mentioned a goal is to play a full season after battling through injuries the past few years, hoping to prove he belongs playing basketball domestically at a professional level.
Overall, the Pistons G League organization looks forward to playing competitive basketball. But, the opportunity to grow as basketball players and human beings is the ultimate prize of donning a Cruise uniform. And the guiding principle through it all: set the tone.
The Cruise open the season Nov. 12 against the Grand Rapids Gold on the road before their home opener Nov. 14 against the Iowa Wolves at Wayne State Fieldhouse.