| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Pistons’ Jerami Grant: ‘We’re right there at the end of games’
Jerami Grant answers questions after his 27 points, 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks in loss to Warriors, praises Isaiah Stewart, Dec. 29, 2020.
Jerami Grant joined the Detroit Pistons for nights like Tuesday. Not for losses, exactly. But for the chance to find his way out of a rough start.
Two-for-10 rough. And while that is nothing for Blake Griffin or Stephen Curry to shake off, it’s significant for Grant, who didn’t have the freedom to keep shooting in Denver on nights he didn’t have it early.
Here, he does, especially when Griffin isn’t playing — he missed the second half because of concussion protocol after taking an elbow to the cheek. Grant’s third quarter led a Pistons run that eventually fell short in a 116-106 loss to the Warriors on Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena.
He did it by attacking the rim and getting to the line. A scorer’s mentality. The kind of mentality he was convinced he had when he gave up running with championship-level teammates in Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
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He bet on himself coming to the Pistons. General manager, Troy Weaver, bet on him, too. Not as the lead man, exactly. But as a player capable of getting 27 after a horrid start, a sturdy second or third option, or maybe somewhere in between.
Grant’s effort wasn’t enough, obviously, but wins and losses aren’t completely the point for the Pistons. Player development is. And, so far, the players understand the mission.
“Everybody in that locker room is all in,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey. “We just have to stay together through these rough times. One thing that’s been non-negotiable is playing hard.”
The early returns on that front are encouraging. So is the possibility of development.
In this way, the first four games for the Pistons have been hopeful, even promising at times. Grant will be a plus starter for a while, or a nice asset on the trade market. Killian Hayes, who sprained his ankle in the third quarter, struggled against the Warriors after a solid game in Atlanta on Monday.
For the second consecutive game, he had to chase around a great point guard. First it was Trae Young, then it was Curry. Hayes had moments where he stayed with both and in thinking about his progression, it’s easiest to see it blossoming on defense.
He is long and anticipates well. As well as shuffle his feet laterally. And despite a tough night, he still dropped a nifty pass under the basket, reminding of his vision.
He has a long way to go, as does much of the developing roster. But there are flashes, even in losses, and for now that will have to do.
Saddiq Bey has shown more than a flash. The rookie forward scored 11 points in the first half, making three 3-pointers, not hesitating to shoot at all. The parts are there for a tough-minded, 3-and-D difference maker.
His fellow first-rounder, Isaiah Stewart, is showing a little something, too. His quick second-leap and overall tenacity will be ever more important as the team improves and grows.
Stewart played late in the game, replacing Mason Plumlee, who Casey thought was gassed. Though it wasn’t just fatigue that motivated Casey’s decision to give the rookie forward a chance.
“The young fella had a lot of energy, which he always does,” said Casey. “This year is about getting those guys ready, developing, and it’s painful. We just have to learn from these games.”
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And then there is Josh Jackson, who got another start Tuesday as Casey looked to give the lineup a jolt of offense. Jackson didn’t shoot well — he missed all five 3s. But the quickness and athleticism that made him the No. 4 pick in 2017 allowed him to get into the lane.
On one possession in the first half, he took a pass beyond the 3-point line, crossed up his defender, and glided to the rim for a soft right-handed finish. He managed 17 points without his jumper working, and his jumper has been working so far.
If Jackson keeps this play up, he’ll be one of the best signings of the year in the league.
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Even though they are winless, there is a sense of purpose within the team and it’s not hard to feel the promise. Not of championships anytime soon or even the playoffs, but of a team forging an identity.
The young guys — and new guys — are coming. And may be taking over depending on what happens with Griffin and Derrick Rose. Griffin was missed in the second half against the Warriors. Not only is he shooting well from deep, he remains a settling presence.
And yet without him, the Pistons continue to compete. Monday night in Atlanta. Tuesday night back home.
As long as that desire and spirit are evident, they should remain interesting, sometimes even compelling, to watch. After years in the basketball desert, what else is there to ask?
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.
Déjà vu all over again?
The Pistons crumbled down the stretch to fall to 0-4 to open the season. It’s just the fourth time in the last 22 seasons they’ve had a start this bad. And they all had ominous endings:
The start: 0-4
Overall record: 42-40
The coach: Alvin Gentry, fired late in season.
The start: 0-5
Overall record: 30-52
The coach: John Kuester, fired after season.
The start: 0-8
Overall record: 29-53
The coach: Lawrence Frank, fired after season.