The Detroit Pistons’ first official appearance at Little Caesars Arena will be Oct. 11, when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder in a preseason game. But fans got a glimpse of the new roster at their open practice at the LCA on Sunday.
Players ran through on-court drills before a four-quarter scrimmage, which ended just in time for the Lions’ home game against the Seahawks at 1 p.m.
The organization is ready to take a step forward, and Dwane Casey made it clear during his address to the crowd before practice began.
“We’re expecting a great year this year,” he said. “We’re expecting a great year. It’s a year of growth, getting better. We did that last year and we expect the same thing this year. Stay with us, jump on the bandwagon now and stay with us through the ups and downs of the season. Good things will happen. There’s a big pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
Team White, which was headlined by Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo, Isaiah Livers, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren, defeated Team Blue, 73-57. Team Blue was headlined by Jaden Ivey, Cade Cunningham, Bojan Bogdanovic, Marvin Bagley III and Saddiq Bey.
Don’t read too closely into the score or the teams. We’ll get a better measure of where this Pistons team stands this Tuesday, when they tip off the preseason on the road against the New York Knicks.
Isaiah Stewart showcases new role
Stewart lined up at power forward next to Jalen Duren during Sunday’s open practice. As expected, he showcased his new role as a floor-spacing, interchangeable big man. He launched 18 3-pointers during his final eight games last season, hitting 11, and hit five of nine attempts in two Summer League games.
He has the green light to shoot this season. The coaching staff envisions Stewart playing either power forward or center, depending on matchups. To maximize his effectiveness, he’ll have to space the floor so the Pistons can avoid playing two non-shooting bigs together. The early signs have been good, even though there was room for improvement on Sunday.
“His 3-point shot is something he’s been working on, even last year, toward the end of last year he began to work on it,” Casey said. “It’s coming. The only one I disagree with, he took one that was a 2-for-1 situation with 19 seconds on the clock, he pulled it at the end of the first quarter. You want the last shot. I love the way he’s playing with confidence with it. That’s what we want him to do, is take that when he’s open.”
Though his volume will increase this season, the Pistons aren’t pressuring Stewart to take 3-pointers he isn’t comfortable with. Taking the right shots is the priority — rather than Stewart breaking plays and going out of his way to take them.
“If he’s in the paint, he’s not gonna run out to the 3-point line and try to find it,” Casey said. “If they sag back or help off of him, he’s got the green light to take it and get his feet set. Not the volume, so to speak, but the right 3-point shots. And he’s doing a good job with that.”
Killian Hayes’ confidence stands out
It’s tough to read deeply into open practice performances. It’s a glorified scrimmage, after all, and mostly exists for fan entertainment. Players play at half-speed. The lineups are poor indicators of Casey’s rotation, and good and bad performances aren’t indicative of how players will perform when the lights are on.
With all of that said, Killian Hayes might’ve been the biggest standout. He didn’t do anything overly flashy, other than a nifty euro-step move that led to a left-handed layup in the second half. But he looked in control and sure of himself, which hasn’t always been the case during his first two seasons. He finished at the rim through traffic and his passing, per usual, was crisp.
It was a continuation of what the Pistons have seen from him in camp this far, Casey said. Hayes had a full offseason for the first time since he was drafted, and spent much of it tweaking his 3-point form and playing pick-up basketball. He only took one 3-pointer and missed it, but the rest of his game looked good.
“I’ve seen him the entire summer being more comfortable, more confident in what he’s doing, and he’s been that way,” Casey said.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.