Detroit — Pistons coach Dwane Casey wanted to establish a tone on the first day of training camp, his 28th edition of the annual two-week preparation period leading up to the regular season.
Those two words were displayed on Casey’s gray shirt to serve as a reminder that even though the Pistons have a youthful roster, pulling the inexperience card won’t be an acceptable excuse when it comes to competing on a nightly basis.
“This is an unforgiving league against young guys, and it’s up to us to go and take it,” Casey said. “We can’t sit back and use ‘young’ (as an excuse). That’s why I have this shirt on today. No excuses. Being young is not an excuse, where we make some of the same mistakes we made last year. We understand it’s a process to go through and live through and get better through.”
The Pistons have nine key players with four seasons of experience or less: Cade Cunningham (1), Saddiq Bey (2), Marvin Bagley III (4), Jalen Duren (rookie), Killian Hayes (2), Jaden Ivey (rookie), Isaiah Livers (1), Isaiah Stewart (2) and Hamidou Diallo (4).
Casey said Bojan Bogdanovic, the newest addition to the team, stepped into the flow of the team and offered his veteran expertise. He also said Ivey and the other younger players were “seamless,” and attributed it to their offseason work.
“A lot of that is from the work they did last summer,” Casey said. “We’re a step ahead from where we were last year.”
Playing two bigs? ‘It’s tough’
When the Pistons traded away Kelly Olynyk, the move cleared up a crowded group of big men. The Pistons still have four players who can play the center position: Bagley, Jalen Duren, Nerlens Noel and Stewart — and in order for two of them to play alongside each other, someone has to slide to the power-forward spot. That role comes with a responsibility to knock down 3-pointers in order to stretch the floor.
Is it feasible for the Pistons?
“It’s tough,” Casey said. “What it’s going to manifest itself and it’s not natural now, for Isaiah to kind of slide to the (power-forward spot), just to open up some spots because right now, there’s four (centers) and it’s tough to play that many in today’s game. I really feel like Isaiah, and also Marvin, can slide out to (power forward) and space the floor. That’s our charge right there, is to try and get them to do that.”
Stewart appears ready to make the transition. He knocked down 32% of his attempts from distance last season and appeared more comfortable during this year’s Summer League showcase. Even in practice, the 6-foot-8 forward has shown an ability to connect from the wing and the top of the key.
“It’s just like the first day of school. My (28)th training camp and it’s still like the first one,” Casey said. “When you don’t have that (nervous feeling) is when you say it’s time to hang it up. We’re excited. We got a great mixture of young and old that’s gonna help us take the next step.”
Inside the Pistons’ mostly red, white and blue practice facility was a hint of maize and blue, as Michigan coach Juwan Howard joined the team for the first practice of training camp.
Howard, entering his fourth season as the Wolverines’ coach, spent the end of the Pistons’ practice talking to members of the coaching staff. He also spoke with his former standout forward, Isaiah Livers, who played for Howard in his upperclassman years from 2019-21.