Pistons burning questions: What’s ahead for Motor City Cruise and their roster

Detroit News

Detroit — The basketball landscape in Detroit got a jolt when the Pistons added Cade Cunningham as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft this summer.

To a lesser degree, the city will get another big addition when the Motor City Cruise start play this fall in the new arena on Wayne State University’s campus in midtown. There’s anticipation of being able to see the new franchise and having another level of basketball to watch, with some potential future Pistons.

The G League season begins in November and the Cruise had their open tryouts on Wednesday night at the Pistons practice facility. Among the 100-plus participants, there were dozens of dreamers, some skilled players and a few who maybe gained a raised eyebrow from the likes of Pistons general manager Troy Weaver, coach Dwane Casey and Cruise president and GM Rob Murphy.

There were only a couple of recognizable names in the tryouts, which were split into two groups — the first with mostly inexperienced players and the second had prospects with experience playing in college or internationally. That included Brandan Kearney, who played at Michigan State, Arizona State and Detroit Mercy.

This edition of Burning Questions takes a look at the path ahead for the Cruise and how their roster will take shape.

Question: How many of those tryout players have a legitimate shot of making the Cruise roster? Could any make the Pistons roster?

Answer: Just from my observation, there were a couple of players who could warrant a closer look by Murphy and Cruise coach DJ Bakker. The second group looked considerably more skilled in the 5-on-5 scrimmages and there were some big men who had impressive athleticism.

G League teams have a roster of 12, which includes the pair of two-way players they share with the Pistons. The Cruise will have another Detroiter, Derrick Walton Jr. — who played at Michigan and has some NBA experience with the Heat, Clippers and Pistons — at Pistons training camp. They also retain the rights to all of the players who were on the roster when they were the Northern Arizona Suns before the Pistons purchased the franchise.

Realistically speaking, there likely will be a few available spots on the Cruise roster, but whether some of those tryout prospects get those spots is still up in the air. The Cruise likely will scour the NBA and G League waiver wires and see if there are other players who don’t make rosters.

The Pistons’ roster has 14 players with guaranteed contracts, so barring an unforeseen trade, there wouldn’t be a spot available.

Q. How does the process work for the Pistons’ two-way players and Cruise players work for practices and games?

A. There used to be a 45-day limit for playing on the Pistons’ roster and participating in practices. That’s gone, so the current two-way players, Luka Garza and Chris Smith, can work with the parent team as much as they want. Some of the other developmental players also can get a chance to work with the Pistons on a more regular basis.

This could come in handy if the Pistons have a slew of injuries at any given time and they need extra bodies in practices, or a scout team to do some additional work.

Q. When does the G League season start and how does it work?

A. The Cruise will open their first season on Nov. 6 on the road against the Cleveland Charge. The Cruise christen their new arena on Nov. 11 against the Wisconsin Herd.

As part of their 50-game schedule commences, the Cruise will be part of the Showcase Cup for the first 14 games of the season against regional opponents. The top teams will advance to the G League Winter Showcase from Dec. 19-22.

Following the Winter Showcase, the records reset and they’ll play the final 36 games of the regular season with the top six teams in each conference going to the G League playoffs.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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