Isaiah Livers embraced his former college coach, John Beilein, for 10 seconds when the two reunited at the Detroit Pistons Performance Center earlier this week.
Beilein recruited Livers to Michigan in 2017, and Livers went on to have a strong four-year career before being drafted 42nd by the Pistons in the 2021 NBA draft. Midway through his college career, Beilein left Michigan basketball in 2019 for a head coaching job with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Now, Beilein is with the Pistons as senior advisor player development, and he’s once again tasked with overseeing Livers’ growth as a player. They didn’t see each other last year because of the pandemic.
“We got some work in yesterday and today, working on footwork,” Livers said on Wednesday. “We’re starting it all over because I do gotta retrain my foot again. It’s a perfect person to start with Coach Beilein.”
Livers continues to rehab a stress injury in his right foot suffered during the Big Ten tournament in March. It was an unfortunate end to his career, during which he started 69 — including every game during his junior and senior seasons — out of 119 games he played through four years.
He was an outside marksman at Michigan, knocking down 41.2% of his attempts during his career and 43.1% as a senior. He has good size for an NBA wing, standing 6-foot-7, and his experience and ability to space the floor appealed to a Pistons team that struggled to shoot the ball last season.
It will be some time before he’s able to take the floor, though. He said he’s expected to return by Nov. 1 at the latest and could return in October. He’ll miss summer league, training camp and preseason.
There’s a chance he could be cleared by the time the regular season tips off in mid-October, but the Pistons aren’t rushing him back.
“He says he’s going to be before that, but all guys do,” Dwane Casey said. “There’s no reason to rush it. This will be a great development year for him, if it’s a little later in the season. He’s a sponge. I’ve got him on the side taking notes and making sure that they’re keeping up with the terminology of what’s going on on the floor.
“We’re going to take it slowly and just make sure we get it right. Could be sooner, could be Nov. 1.”
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Livers’ fellow 2021 second-round pick, Luka Garza, is excited to play alongside Livers after competing against him for four years. Garza starred at Iowa for four years, giving the two plenty of familiarity in Big Ten play.
“I’m extremely excited to be able to play with him,” Garza said. “I’m tired of going against him. We had some battles. One of the best shooters I’ve been around. His release, his arc, it’s tough to guard. And he’s more than just a shooter. He can score in a lot of different ways. He can score at the rim, he’s big, he’s a great defender. He’s a high-IQ player. And he’s a high-character guy.”
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