Beard: Pistons’ Saben Lee must bide his time, despite explosive debut with Cruise

Detroit News

Detroit — Saben Lee had himself a night on Saturday.

It wasn’t just some pickup game at a local health club against part-time basketball players.  The Pistons’ second-year guard made his debut for the Motor City Cruise in the G League with a memorable one: 42 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals.

The Cruise also were playing their first game as a Pistons affiliate, and they put up an eye-popping 140 points, making a big statement about the Pistons’ young stable of future players.

Lee shot 14-of-24 from the field, including 2-of-6 on 3-pointers, and made all seven of his free throws. Luka Garza added 24 points and nine rebounds and Derrick Walton Jr. tallied 15 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the Cruise’s 140-117 victory over the Canton Charge.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey took notice.

“You look at the numbers and that was very impressive: 42 points from a point guard, and I think he had eight assists,” Casey said Sunday. “You look at how that fits into your team and I know he’s got Cade (Cunningham) in front of him right now and Killian (Hayes) in front of him, so it’s tough to overtake those guys.

“The opportunity is always going to be there, (we’re) open to it, and when he does get his opportunity with the parent team, he has to take advantage of it. I was really impressed with his stat line.”

Even a strong performance like that doesn’t translate to more playing time with the Pistons for Lee. In addition to Cunningham and Hayes, veteran guard Cory Joseph is entrenched with the second unit as the backup point guard. Lee can continue to develop and work on his jump shot and 3-pointers with the Cruise, but the playing time simply isn’t there right now with the Pistons.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be at some point, though.

“It’s a similar situation we had with (Pascal) Siakam and (Fred) VanVleet and all those guys in Toronto. They put up some big-time numbers — as a matter of fact, they won a championship,” Casey said. “Still, there were so many guys in front of them that it was hard to just say, ‘OK, because of that game, they’re going to come in and overtake your starters in that position.’

“When they do get the opportunity, they’ll have to step in and take it. You watch the growth and you see that, and you respect it and you see where they come from. We’ll see how it fits into what we’re doing and how we can find them minutes or time with the parent team.”

Unlike last season, when the Pistons didn’t have a G League team where their young players could hone their skills, they are looking to utilize the Cruise for young players like Lee and Garza, as well as Jamorko Pickett (15 points) and Isaiah Livers to give them playing time instead of just watching from the Pistons’ bench.

Finding the time

The Pistons’ early schedule has been one of the toughest in the league, but it also has been so condensed that they haven’t had much opportunity to get significant practice time in. That means that they’re mostly limited to working on game plans and walk-throughs for the next game rather than correcting some of their errors and working on skill development.

After Friday’s game, they don’t play again until Wednesday in Houston, which is giving them some prime practice time to figure out some of their issues and improve themselves.

“A lot of the mistakes we worked on are things that we now come back today and could go full speed. The day between (games), it’s very difficult to do it at game speed,” Casey said. “You can walk through it, go through it at shootaround, but it’s nothing like a real live, competitive practice for guys to go through things.

“That was something we worked on: our switching, our rebounding, our boxing out — all those little things and if you look at the game against Brooklyn, it was little things like the rebound that Blake (Griffin) knocked out. We didn’t do a good job of boxing out or sandwiching and driving the guy back. A lot of things that kind of hurt us, we worked on it.”

Draft duels

The schedule-makers also set up an interesting week for the Pistons, with games against the Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors. It sets up a three-game run where Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick, gets to face the second, third and fourth picks consecutively.

Casey said they’re focused on each game individually and trying to focus on improving on their sluggish 1-8 start. There’s intrigue for others, but not for them to get too concerned about.

“Well, I’m sure it is (interesting) for the fans who keep up with it, but for us is, it’s the Detroit Pistons against the Houston Rockets (and Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors),” Casey said. “We can’t afford to get caught up in anything like that. We’re going to be against their five players and they have an excellent athletic, young team, a lot like ourselves.

“We can’t afford any brainpower or brain energy used on that portion of the game, so that’s going to be our focus going in.”

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Articles You May Like

I preemptively reject all your Jerami Grant to the Detroit Pistons trade proposals
DBB Live: Previewing the Pistons Frontcourt
The Pistons Pulse: Detroit Pistons Best Lineups Addition
The more things change in the NBA, the more the Detroit Pistons stay the same

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *