Despite Pistons’ 2-9 start, Troy Weaver will stay aggressive: ‘My clip will be empty’

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver came out swinging in his first offseason on the job.

His message has been clear: He wants a competitive team on the floor, yet build for the future. His aggression brought four new rookies into the program, a handful of respected veterans who are guiding the young players behind the scenes, and a splash signing in Jerami Grant, who’s playing at an All-Star level through 11 games. 

“You have to have the mindset of being aggressive and trying to improve the team,” Weaver said Thursday. “Sticking with your plan and making your plan work. When I was growing up, I didn’t stick my toe in the pool, I jumped in. I sit on the front of the rollercoaster with my hands up. I’m not going to come in and be gun shy. My clip will be empty.” 

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The Pistons have won twice, but they’re checking many of the boxes Weaver wished to see early in the season. They’ve gotten contributions from the young players and Weaver is pleased with the level of competition, both in games and practices. The Pistons are facing one of the NBA’s toughest schedules in the season’s first half, and have been in most games. 

“We wanted to come in and establish a mindset of being competitive every day in practice, so that could carry over to the games,” Weaver said. “I think we’ve done it. The 2-9 record doesn’t really say that we’re progressing, but I like the progression we’re making. Guys are competitive every day, competitive in games. There’s another level we need to get to, but we’ll get there.” 

All three of Weaver’s first-round picks, Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, have shown glimpses of the players they can become. Saben Lee, who the Pistons drafted in the second round and is on a two-way contract, has also appeared in two games and drawn praise from Casey. 

Bey was one of college basketball’s best shooters at Villanova last season, and his shot has immediately translated into the NBA. He’s shooting 43.1% from behind the arc, and is fifth on the roster in minutes played.

Stewart has emerged as one of the NBA’s more effective offensive rebounders on a per-minute basis, and is ninth on the roster in minutes. Before Hayes injured his hip, he had started all eight games he played. 

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Weaver refers to the rookies as the “Core Four,” and is impressed.

“These guys, they’re the last guys to leave the building every day,” Weaver said. “They’re usually the first in. We can debate the player all day long, but we’re not going to debate the person. These are high-character guys who work and are selfless. Extremely excited about them.” 

Hayes is out indefinitely with a torn labrum in his right hip, suffered against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 4. He entered the season with high expectations as the seventh pick of the draft, and first draft pick of Weaver’s tenure. Weaver acknowledged the injury is unfortunate, but is confident it ultimately won’t be a setback for his development. 

“He was a rookie point guard trying to find his way, and time and minutes was going to help him continue to grow and now that’s been taken away,” Weaver said. “He has to continue to grow in other areas. It’s tough, but he’s built for this. He’s a guy that can handle it. He’s a worker. He’s diligent. He’s tough-minded. We’ll see him on the other side of it and he’ll be better from it.” 

The biggest success of Weaver’s first offseason, so far, is the three-year, $60 million contract he gave to Grant. The move raised some eyebrows across the league, as Grant was previously a role player with the Denver Nuggets. 

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Grant’s performance so far — 24.8 points with 58.6% true shooting, six rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.2 blocks and a steal — shows Weaver and Grant were both correct. He has been their best player, and is a key reason why the Pistons have been competitive despite a talent deficit in most matchups. 

“Belief is the first step of success, and Jerami and I had a great connection since he was a teenager,” Weaver said. “He believed in me, I believed in him. What he’s doing, to the rest of the world it might be a surprise but not to myself. I expect him to continue to progress and get better as well. I’m excited and he took a chance on himself, took a chance on the Pistons. I’m not surprised at all, to be honest with you.” 

There’s a lot of season left, but Weaver’s aggression has already paid off in some ways. The Pistons have a young core to build on and develop, and their free agency moves look better than many signings of the past decade by previous Pistons regimes. Weaver acknowledged that in a pandemic season with few fans in the arena, it was easier to hit the reset button and embrace sweeping roster change. 

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He doesn’t intend to alter his approach, no matter where the Pistons finish in the standings this year. 

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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