Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey embracing the speed, physicality of the NBA

Detroit News

Detroit — When Pistons rookie Jaden Ivey decides he’s going to attack the basket, he’s aware of the fact that he’s likely going to take a hit once he’s inside the paint.

The No. 5 overall draft pick found his way to the free-throw line nine times Friday against the New Orleans Pelicans. Not only was he able to get to the line, Ivey managed to drain every free-throw attempt. His aggressiveness in drawing contact paid off for the Pistons to offset his steep turnover count and difficult shooting night from the field.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey said Ivey’s ability to get to the free-throw line is huge for a team that ranked 13th in free-throw shooting last season.

“Huge,” Casey said Monday. “His speed, he’s going to get (to the free-throw line). What he’s gotta do is recognize gaps and how quickly those gaps close up, how long guys are. (The gaps) close up a little quicker than they did in college, but he’s got something you can’t teach and we all know that. Now we gotta learn to pick our spots and use it. We’re excited about his future.”

Ivey’s quickness is his biggest strength on the court. It gives him the ability to make plays for himself or others. From the outside looking in, Ivey’s main adjustment from the college to the NBA is learning when to use that speed and when to slow the pace.

However, Ivey said the physicality of the league is the main difference from the college game. He’s not going against 18- to 21-year-olds anymore. The professional level is comprised of players ranging anywhere from 18 (Pistons rookie Jalen Duren) to 42 (Miami Heat’s Udonis Haslem), and most of them have developed their bodies over time.

“The biggest thing, I would say physicality,” Ivey said. “Everybody’s strong. You’re going up against (someone like) Zion Williamson every night. You’re going to be playing physical guys and I feel like other than speed, physicality is something I’m trying to get adjusted to.”

Ivey said he’s learned to catch his breathers throughout the game because he’s running up and down the court so much, but he feels like he’s in “good conditioning.”

A week ago today, Ivey and Duren played their first NBA game against the New York Knicks inside Madison Square Garden. Despite the Pistons’ 117-96 loss, the 20-year-old guard appeared comfortable under the bright lights and led the team in scoring, without committing a turnover.

He said he didn’t know how that he’d start the preseason opener, but he acknowledged the trust he’s gained from the coaching staff.

“Every single day, I just put my head down and focus on what I can control,” Ivey said. “I can’t control any of the lineups. I just go out there and do what I do to help Detroit win.”

When asked if he feels like he’s officially a part of the NBA yet, Ivey smiled and said, “Yeah.”

“That first game was — Madison Square Garden — that was really special,” Ivey said. “I had a lot of jitters going out there, but I feel like I’m in the league now. I’m just trying to do what I can every single day to become a better player. I just love coming in in the morning, seeing everybody. This is officially my job now. I just take every day and I’m just thankful for every day.”

mcurtis@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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