| The Detroit News
When Jerami Grant was making a bigger name for himself in the Orlando Bubble last season, almost no one would have guessed that he would end up with the Pistons this season. After the Nuggets made the conference finals, the easy guess would have been that Grant would be back, ready to give it another push to try to get past the Lakers.
Grant turned some heads when he decided to sign with the Pistons in free agency, even after getting a similar deal from the Nuggets. He was looking for a bigger opportunity with being a primary option with a new team — and the Pistons had that for him, in addition to a reunion of sorts with new general manager Troy Weaver, who had been watching Grant’s progression since Grant’s early years.
In the second game of their western trip, the Pistons were supposed to face the Nuggets on Monday, in Grant’s — and center Mason Plumlee’s — first games back in Denver since signing in free agency. But late Monday, the NBA canceled the game due to contact tracing,
“I’m definitely looking forward to this game — no mal intentions or anything. They didn’t do anything wrong to me,” Grant said Sunday. “Just excited to kind of get back there and get to play against my guys.”
Grant, 26, was only in Denver for one season, after spending parts of three seasons each in Oklahoma City and Philadelphia. It’s not that he has any issues with the Nuggets, but he’s getting what he wanted in a bigger role with the Pistons.
Grant’s departure wasn’t a big shock for Nuggets coach Michael Malone.
“I wasn’t surprised, to be honest,” Malone said Monday. “Obviously, he wanted a bigger role, and that’s what he’s gotten in Detroit. He’s played great, so I’m happy for him.”
Grant has improved his production to 23.6 points — almost double what he scored last season with the Nuggets — and has become one of the favorites for Most Improved Player and what would be his first All-Star appearance.
It’s a meteoric rise, and many around the league are taking notice.
“All the coaches talk about the improvement Jerami has made and how he’s handling his step toward a higher usage rate. All those things the entire league knows and it’s to Jerami’s credit,” coach Dwane Casey said. “I don’t think you have to flaunt it; there’s so much media coverage of his play right now.
“Even though our record doesn’t indicate it, he has played at the level that Troy and we all envisioned him playing at. He’s only scratching the surface of the type of player he can be going forward.”
As Grant has improved, he’s garnered more attention from defenses, who are stacking coverage to try to stop him. He’s been able to score anyway, but with more attention on his former team, the tendency is to get too amped up, which can throw off the rhythm and cause him to shoot more than he normally would or try to do too much.
That’s not a concern for Grant.
“I think this is just another game. I try to take that approach to every game that I come in and play, regardless of who I’m playing against,” Grant said. “I am excited to get to play against them, obviously being my team last year. But no, there’s no added motivation or anything like that.”
Casey is familiar with that feeling, as he’s seen many former players fall into that trap when they face a former team for the first time. There’s the adrenaline, the clouded thinking and the desire to make an impression.
With Grant, that doesn’t seem to be there, but whatever positive he can take from it would help.
“I’m a firm believer that guys get a little extra motivation. Any extra motivation you have individually throughout the rigors of the regular season, you should utilize it,” Casey said. “I think there should be a little pep in the step for him and Mason, but you don’t want to get out of character and do things you don’t normally do and hurt the team.”
PISTONS AT JAZZ
Tipoff: 10 Tuesday, Vivint Arena, Salt Lake City
Outlook: With an 11-game win streak, the Jazz (15-5) were the hottest team in the league, before losing to the Nuggets on Sunday. Donovan Mitchell averaged 25.2 points, 5 rebounds and 4.8 assists during the win streak.