Detroit — Between Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, the Detroit Pistons have plenty of players on their Summer League roster who played significant NBA minutes last season.
And that’s without mentioning guys like Killian Hayes, Saben Lee and Isaiah Livers, who also are returning from last year and find themselves on this year’s Summer League team.
Some of the more high-profile guys — like Cunningham — might not see the floor much in the actual Summer League in Las Vegas, but the roster’s unique construction is a feature, not a bug.
“(The practices are), for me, far more important than the games,” Casey said Sunday afternoon. “Because now we can work on stuff we’re going to do this year and reiterate things we did last year. This is an opportunity for us to get some extra work in, legally, for the upcoming season.
“It’s an opportunity to build leadership, chemistry (and) connectivity with each other. (It’s) an opportunity for our young guys to learn to play together and work together. (They’ve been in the) weight room and they went to the baseball game (together). … Just doing things like that to build camaraderie and togetherness is important.”
One high-profile newcomer looking to ingratiate himself with the team is Jaden Ivey, who was drafted fifth overall by the Pistons just over a week ago. Ivey has deep ties to the city, as his mom, Niele Ivey, played for the Detroit Shock and his dad, Javin Hunter, played basketball at Detroit Country Day.
Ivey’s grandfather, James Hunter, also played for the Lions from 1976-82, snagging 27 interceptions in his seven seasons with the team.
Although he’s only been through a few practices with his new teammates, Ivey said he sees himself fitting in nicely thus far.
“I feel like we all are connected as a group and we’re talking to each other and, you know, just building that team chemistry. I think that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “I love these guys already. They’re so fun to play with.”
Casey said the main thing he’s noticed about Ivey in his time watching him is his elite-level speed. Casey singled out a play in practice Saturday where the rookie went for a steal in the backcourt, fell down, got back up and raced down the floor to play help defense on one side of the court.
He then ran to the other side and got a steal.
“First mistake, you know, don’t gamble in the backcourt and fall down, but he made up for it,” Casey said. “I always say, I don’t care if you make a mistake, make it hard, and he did with his speed.”
Casey also said Ivey has to learn when to throttle it down, but it’s a good problem to have, because possessing the physical talent is the first step. He just has to learn to control it.
Another player to watch in Las Vegas is Syracuse’s Buddy Boeheim, who agreed to a two-way deal with the Pistons shortly after the draft. Boeheim’s brother, Jimmy, will also be playing in the Summer League for Detroit.
Boeheim has strong connections to the front office, as general manager Troy Weaver worked under Boeheim’s dad, Jim, at Syracuse from 2000-04. Assistant general manager Rob Murphy was also with the Orange from 2004-11.
“I think (the relationships) could help, but I also think I just put myself in a good position,” Boeheim said. “I had a good workout here, I thought I shot the ball really well. (Detroit) is definitely a place I wanted to come in and eventually help down the road (with) whatever they may need me to do.
“Just (be) a guy who can make shots and space the floor for guys like Cade and Jaden and all the guys that can create. This was one of my top spots, having that relationship helps, but I put myself in that position too.”
Boeheim made 94 starts in his career at Syracuse, averaging 14.6 points per game and shooting 36.2% from three-point range on over seven attempts. That sweet shooting is his calling card, but Boeheim said he’s been working on his defensive abilities to guard screens and switch one through five.
The Summer League team will be coached by player development coach Jordan Brink, who has been with the Pistons dating back to the Stan Van Gundy era.
Brink said this is the first time in his career he will be a head coach on any level.
“It’s been a very big learning experience,” he said. “I was just watching film with Jaden and he was kind of talking about how his head was spinning the first day just because of the adjustment, and I told him I’m in the same boat.
“My head was spinning yesterday. I was so drained from practice, just because everything is from a new perspective and you’re thinking differently.”
Ivey and Brink have seemed to form a bit of a special connection since the former Purdue Boilermaker arrived to town. Ivey said the coach has even picked him up early in the mornings from his hotel.
“He’s just a charismatic person,” Ivey said of Brink. “I feel that deep inside my heart, like he truly cares for me. He wants me to get better and he wants to win, that’s the most important thing.
“He’s going to tell me what I need to hear for us to be able to win.”
The Pistons are guaranteed to play five games in the Las Vegas Summer League, with the first scheduled for Thursday against the Portland Trailblazers on ESPN.