Jaden Ivey’s blazing speed, Jalen Duren inside presence have made Detroit Pistons fun again

Detroit Free Press

He worked on it all summer, the 3 from the corner, and when he got the ball with 11 seconds left and the Detroit Pistons up by a point, he settled his feet, bent his knees, rose and let it fly, just as he had thousands of times in the practice gym in Detroit, and thousands more back in Rochester, New York, where he grew up.

The surest sign of a shooter is the lack of hesitation after a tough shooting night. Isaiah Stewart hadn’t made a single 3-pointer before he nailed one from the corner to seal the win, giving the Pistons an opening night victory over the Orlando Magic, 113-109, at Little Caesars Arena.

It was the biggest shot of the night, and the biggest of his young career. And if he can hit one, he can hit another. Mental toughness will do that.

Mental toughness will allow a team to absorb opening-night jitters, a 19-0 run and missed shot after missed shot, too, as the Pistons did when they fell behind, 21-6, out of the gate.

They were rushing, mostly. Trying to find one another. Trying to feel the speed of the game. Trying to find the basket, as they missed their first 11 from the 3-point line.

JEFF SEIDEL:Here’s why Saddiq Bey has that green streak in his hair

And if not for a couple of relative oldsters — Cory Joseph and Bojan Bogdanovic — they might have fallen down by more and fallen completely out of the game. Joseph hit a couple of 3-pointers before Bogdanovic, the newest Piston, hit a 3 himself.

Then followed with a couple of pull-up jumpers and another 3-pointer, all while settling the offense and re-directing the flow.

Trading for the veteran wing changed the ceiling of the team this year. If they stay healthy, they’ll be capable of chasing a play-in game.

Opening night showed why. Without him, they lose. Last year, they lose. Though he isn’t the only new arrival to change what this team can eventually be.

Welcome to Detroit, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. How’s that for a debut?

All Ivey did was drop 19 points and pass out four assists in a relentless rush down the court. His dunk attempt after crossing up his defender down the stretch nearly reverberated from Woodward to the edge of the city.

One day, he’ll make that dunk.

One day soon.

As it is, if he keeps playing as he did in his first game, he’ll stay in the Rookie of the Year race. Heck, Duren should too, though he won’t, because he won’t put up the numbers that win such awards.

But the difference he made was stunning.

SHAWN WINDSOR:Pistons should be fun if you’ll forget NBA standings in loaded Eastern Conference

His debut will be remembered for his grown-man facial, when he wrapped his massive mitt around the ball, held it high behind his head as he leapt, and violently threw it down over a defender, blowing the rafters open.

“He’s a freak,” said Ivey, who should know, as he’s a freak himself.

Duren’s coaches will remember him sprinting in from the weakside to tip the ball back out to give the Pistons another possession down the stretch. The instinct and hustle are why head coach Dwane Casey kept him in for most of the fourth quarter. He had to.

The 18-year-old played like he was 30.

Not in every moment, of course, but in temperament and strength? He belonged.

That we haven’t mentioned Cade Cunningham yet is a testament to the improved talent on the roster, and to the must-see quality of Ivey and Duren. Cunningham looked off during preseason and struggled to start the game again Wednesday.

He found a rhythm later in the second quarter and into the third and made a few plays in the fourth to hold Orlando off. But late, he missed three straight shots, the kind of shots he made a season ago, and at one point Bogdanovic walked over to him and put his arm around him to make a gentle suggestion.

“His voice helps the team,” said Duren. “He’s constantly giving advice.”

Cunningham didn’t have such counsel a year ago and should benefit from the other vets as well. All the youngsters should. That’s why they’re here.

To steady things, to settle things, to help the young talent become what they can become, to figure out how to reduce the turnovers.

“It was a team effort,” said Casey. “Everyone who came in contributed in some way.”

They’ll need everyone to reduce the self-inflicted turnovers, too. Sometimes they came from over-aggressiveness, when Cunningham or Ivey would get too deep with no escape plan. And sometimes they came from a lack of familiarity.

It’s not that they were disorganized as much as they didn’t always know where the other was, and that’s hardly surprising with a young team with so many new faces.

PISTONS, NBA PREDICTIONS:Why our guys differ on which player will break out

This should get better as they get more reps, and as Cunningham and Ivey learn when and, more critically, where they can go.

It won’t be easy for Ivey. He’s been the fastest player on the court all his life, and that was true again Wednesday and it may be true every time he steps on the court the rest of the season.

He was that fast. And looks that promising, and will have a better chance at fulfilling that promise once he learns to slow down. Still, you can’t teach speed.

And while Bogdanovic may have hit the shots to keep the Pistons in it, and Stewart hit the dagger, Ivey — and Duren in his own way — hit the gas, again and again. There’s no telling where their jet-fueled bursts will lead.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

Articles You May Like

The more things change in the NBA, the more the Detroit Pistons stay the same
I preemptively reject all your Jerami Grant to the Detroit Pistons trade proposals
The Pistons Pulse: Detroit Pistons Best Lineups Addition
DBB Live: Previewing the Pistons Frontcourt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *