Pistons forward Saddiq Bey is going to have some good stories to tell about how he spent his summer off from the NBA.
He didn’t exactly take a break from basketball; instead; he was picked for the USA Basketball Select Team, which will practice and scrimmage with Team USA in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics at the end of the month.
Bey, who had a standout season for the Pistons, also was selected for the NBA All-Rookie first team, but getting the call for Team USA still caught him off guard.
“It was a surprise. It’s my first time being a part of USA event, so it’s a blessing and it’s an honor,” Bey said Tuesday via teleconference. “Once I found out I was (selected), I was ecstatic for the opportunity and continued to work and just trying to be the best I can and to help the main team bring home the gold.”
The Select Team consists of 17 younger players, including Pistons teammate Isaiah Stewart. There are a handful of rookies on the Select roster, but having two Pistons is a testament to how well the pair developed and produced during their season under coach Dwane Casey. It’s a promising future for them.
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who is leading the Select Team, noted the improvement Bey and Stewart have made in their first season, and see a bigger benefit in what they’ll gain from being around Team USA.
“Saddiq and Stewart, they’re in a great program, particularly for development under Coach Casey. We saw it firsthand, from where they were at the beginning of the year, to who they were at the end,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a big credit to them and how committed they were for their development and their improvement, to accepting coaching. It’s clear it didn’t just happen.
“There was a lot of working behind the scenes to have that kind of improvement. Both of them have very promising futures.”
Bey, 22, had a good finish to the season, averaging 14.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and shot 37% on 3-pointers after the All-Star break. After Blake Griffin’s departure, Bey settled into the starting lineup and made an impact, despite a truncated offseason leading up to the season and no Summer League.
This summer could be a huge boost as Bey enters his second season, with some off-the-court things that he can glean from the veterans and some of the preparation that they do to make themselves the best in the world.
“It helps a lot and you can’t put an analytic or necessarily quantify specifically how it helps a young player’s confidence, but just being around great players, and seeing their process and their attention to detail, the competitiveness,” Spoelstra said, “I think that will open a lot of eyes of the Select group, when they see, and are able to compete against the main team. You’re talking about the best players in the world, but you’re talking about the best minds, the most disciplined players, the hardest-working players.
“The players that have the highest attention spans, the highest IQs, all of that. The professionalism, the reliability, these are invaluable examples for young players to see, particularly for these guys when they’re 20 or 21 years old.”
Bey and his rookie teammates haven’t taken much time off since the end of the season. They’ve posted several times on social media about practicing together and spending more time bonding, which they didn’t have because of the pandemic during the season.
He’ll get to share some next experiences with Stewart during the training camp and lead-up to the Olympics this month, and they’ll get to play during the Summer League in Las Vegas in August.
The time with the veterans on Team USA will be a time he can learn more about different coaching styles and playing schemes that he hasn’t seen yet. That’s one of the big takeaways from being on the Select Team and getting to be around some other budding young stars in the league.
“It’s very beneficial, to play different guys in maybe a different role and you never know; it’s still early and just being able to adapt and run other systems and other sets and different people with a lot of wisdom,” Bey said. “There is a lot of experience here, so I think it’s going to be very beneficial to be able to learn from some of the best.”
This summer is a big step up from last year, when he was searching out places to play during the pandemic in order to get ready for the draft. Now, Bey finds himself among the top young players in the NBA, and with that comes some small perks.
“It’s a blessing to be able to stay in Detroit and have an NBA gym to play on. In predraft, I was all in high school gyms, so to be able to play on an NBA court, it means a lot.”