Detroit Pistons’ big men of the future getting lessons from coaching hopeful Jason Maxiell

Detroit Free Press

During his eight seasons with the Detroit Pistons, Jason Maxiell thrived as an energetic and defensive-minded big man off of the bench. Despite being an undersized power forward listed at 6-foot-7, he was a skilled shot-blocker, rebounder, lob finisher and set devastating screens.

Now, Maxiell is enjoying being on the sideline. He’s with the Pistons’ coaching staff during the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League. Maxiell is primarily working with Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren, as well as 2021 second-round pick Balsa Koprivica, and he’s optimistic about what he has seen from the young big man duo thus far.

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“I just love basketball,” Maxiell, who played 10 seasons in the NBA (2005-15), told the Free Press on Monday. “Barely playing it now, so I had to get to the other side where I can teach. Fortunate enough to come to Detroit for summer league and have two bigs in Isaiah Stewart and Jalen, and they’re willing to listen. That’s the main thing, whatever I want to teach is that they’re willing to listen and take it. That’s perfect.”

Maxiell has been in the NBA’s Assistant Coaches Program since last November. The program has given more than 200 former players including  former Pistons Jerry Stackhouse, now Vanderbilt men’s basketball head coach, and Chucky Atkins. Prior to joining the Pistons shortly after the draft, Maxiell was at NBA draft combine in Chicago assisting with drills.

He played with a fiery energy on the floor, but Maxiell said he adjusts his coaching style based on the needs of the player.

“A little bit of both,” Maxiell said. “Each player is coached different, so you get a coach who’s different I try to come in with a positive mindset every time and feed off their energy.”

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In Stewart and Duren, Maxiell has two players with similarities to himself. Stewart, like Maxiell, is a powerfully built undersized big man. They also both have elite wingspans for their size, enabling them to play bigger than their height. Stewart’s wingspan is listed at 7-foot-4, and Maxiell’s is 7-3.25.

Stewart is playing in his first Summer League despite entering the third season of his career, and he’s been in the spotlight this past week. The Pistons have challenged him to expand his game to the perimeter, and he has knocked down 5 of 9 3-point attempts during his first two games as a starting power forward.

“He’s very strong,” Maxiell said. “Once he gets to his full potential and understands what he can do, the next level of his game is spreading out more, putting the ball on the ground and being dominant, which is what he’s been doing. He’ll be great.”

Duren is taller than both Maxiell and Stewart, standing 6-11 with a 7-5 wingspan. His game is more similar to Maxiell’s than Stewart’s is. Duren is a high-flyer who, like Maxiell, will has his fair share of highlight blocks and dunks in the NBA.

“He’s very talented,” Maxiell said of Duren. “He has no clue what his future potential is.”

The Pistons drafted Maxiell in 2005, and he spent the first eight seasons of his career in Detroit. His most productive season was in 2012-13, when he started 71 games and averaged a career-high 24.8 minutes. In 2017, Maxiell signed a one-day contract to retire as a Piston.

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What does he appreciate most about his career?

“Just every moment of playing hard,” he said. “Never took a day off. Being with (Rasheed Wallace) and Ben (Wallace) and being undersized, I could never take a day off.

“It was great that I was welcomed back to the team that drafted me. To sign and retire with the Pistons was great.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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