Detroit — There were plenty of last-day-of-school vibes on Monday, as the Pistons cleaned out their lockers and had their exit meetings before heading off for the summer.
Following Sunday night’s season-ending loss at Philadelphia, the players had their meetings with the coaching staff, each leaving with a folder that included individualized improvement plans.
Call it homework to complete over their summer vacation.
That’s where the similarities end, though. Second-year forward Saddiq Bey, known to work through the summer to prepare for next year, wants to get an early start on prep for next season, but he’s actually getting some different advice.
“(Taking a break) is being recommended for me by coaches and staff,” Bey joked. “It’s tough, though. It’s actually a tough battle. Every summer, if it’s been a couple of days that I’ve been off, if I feel good, I want to be back in the gym.
“It’s trying to figure out that balance because I love to play basketball, just the joy the game; it’s the joy of playing basketball. It’s my favorite hobby, so it’s going to be tough to figure out something else to do, but I’ll try to figure that out.”
Some of Bey’s early-season struggles might be traced back to the fact that he didn’t have much of a break from basketball last summer, with his rigorous offseason workout plan and his additional with the USA Basketball Select Team that helped prepare for the Olympics.
Basketball fatigue may have kicked in and led to his slow start, but the Pistons will try to avoid having a repeat performance in the fall. This is shaping up to be an important offseason for the Pistons, and for Bey, one of the foundational pieces of the rebuild, it will be important to have him healthy and ready to go at 100% when the season starts.
It will be a new outlook, filled with optimism for trying to make the postseason next year, with the Pistons front office embarking on a quest to add another critical piece in free agency and likely a top-five pick in the draft.
There were some signs this season, though it finished with a 23-59 mark, that there could be a breakthrough on the horizon. The Pistons finished 11-14 in their last 25 games, fueling the notion that they could have bigger aspirations coming after some encouraging wins in the second half of the season.
“I think it’s just our mindset and our confidence that we have in each other, and I feel like obviously, the talent is there. We’re a young team collectively, and I think you just need experience sometimes in this league to really make an impact,” veteran guard Cory Joseph said.
“I feel like the more experience we get, the better we’re going to be. Even though we’ll still be young next year, I feel like the experience we’ve had for some of these guys in two years and with Cade (Cunningham) this year, it’s only going to help us out.
“We’re all a little more comfortable with our roles, and we all see what it takes to win, since we won big games the last couple of weeks, and we lost a lot of those games at the start the season.”
There’s plenty of work to be done by several young players on the roster, and with players going to different parts of the country to rest and recuperate before beginning their offseason workout plans, they’ll have some input from the coaches. The improvement plans can be as specific as having drills to work on or just establishing a mindset to have.
For Killian Hayes, It’s a little of both.
“I just talked to coach (Dwane Casey) about it, just really following my instincts and having that ‘don’t-care’ mentality about either missing shots or making a mistake,” Hayes said. “It’s really just following my instincts and playing with confidence.
“For me, it’s just playing a lot of basketball, pick-up ball against other NBA players and getting used to the one-on-one game and playing without a set play, and just really hooping and focusing on my 3-point shooting and the mental aspect of the game.”
Hayes said he’ll work on his 3-point mechanics and get some input from player development advisor John Beilein on specifics with his footwork and technique.”
There’s more to do with the roster construction and deciding on some of the contracts with team options, including Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson, and with Marvin Bagley III, an impending free agent.
Jerami Grant also could be due for a contract extension, and that decision will have a big impact on the other moves that they do in the draft and free agency.
When the Pistons reconvene after summer break, it all starts over again, just like the first day of school.