Detroit — The Pistons bolstered their depth in athleticism and perimeter shooting over the offseason, but the team’s first two practices of training camp have centered around the defensive end of the floor.
“I like our two days we’ve had. Guys are intense,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s been a huge defensive emphasis, as far as what we’re doing and that’s kind of what we want to do because … we’re going to be able to score, but now, at the other end, we’ve got to get some stops.”
The Pistons finished 22nd in the NBA last season by limiting their opponents to 112.5 points per game. On the flip side, the team’s offense suffered even more, averaging 104.8 points per game, for 28th in the league.
Scoring points should be easier for the retooled Pistons, with the additions of Bojan Bogdanovic, Jaden Ivey and in addition to Alec Burks, once he’s fully recovered from a foot injury.
The Pistons’ main defensive anchor is Isaiah Stewart, and while he’s worked throughout the offseason to transition his game to the perimeter, he’s still mindful of his primary responsibilities.
“Defense, this offseason, is something I definitely didn’t get away from,” Stewart said this week. “Just continue to try to come (to the ball) quicker. I gotta continue to guard guards quicker and laterally, and still watching film and those kinds of things.”
Among the Pistons’ depth in the youthful frontcourt is 18-year-old Jalen Duren, an athletic 6-foot-10 center who specializes in his ability to catch lobs threat and protect the rim. The team also acquired veteran center Nerlens Noel from the New York Knicks. Despite being unable to participate in the beginning of training camp due to reconditioning from plantar fasciitis, Noel anticipates a return to the dynamic defender he once was when he’s cleared.
“I expect to be who I am, what do you expect?” Noel said on Monday.
Marvin Bagley not satisfied
Marvin Bagley’s short, but productive stint with the Pistons was rewarded this offseason with a three-year, $37.5 million contract extension. The fourth-year big man served as Detroit’s inside scoring presence for 18 games last season and averaged 14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
Now that Bagley gets an opportunity to reap the benefits of a full training camp with his teammates before the season gets underway on Oct. 19, he should be able to gain more comfortability with his teammates.
But is he satisfied now that he’s secured a long-term deal? Not in the least. When asked to use one word to describe this new stage of his career after an injury-riddled 3.5 seasons with the Sacramento Kings, the former No. 2 overall pick took a brief pause before his response.
“Hungry,” Bagley said during media day. “I’m blessed, but it don’t stop now. For me, it’s what’s next? How do I continue to get better? How do I take it to the next level? The situation that I’m in now, it’s all a blessing. But what can I do today to get better? That’s all I’m worried about.”
Bagley averaged 9.3 points and 7.2 rebounds in 30 games for the Kings last year, but ultimately fell out of the rotation. With a fresh start in Detroit, his joy for the game has returned and he wants to help his team compete on nightly basis.
“This is the most fun I’ve had playing basketball in a while — with this group of guys, this organization, coaching staff,” Bagley said. “It’s back to having fun but still having that chip, but in a positive way towards my teammates to where we going out there and winning and using it in a positive way.”