Pistons’ Saddiq Bey embracing new role off bench: ‘It’s me walking the walk’

Detroit News

Miami — Saddiq Bey displayed offensive versatility on Sunday in what was his most efficient game since early November.

The third-year forward found success in the midrange game. He was reliable on drives to the rim. He knocked down a 3-pointer at a time when the Pistons desperately needed to stop the bleeding caused by the sharpshooting of the Memphis Grizzlies.

And when Bey was double-teamed, he found his teammates for high-percentage opportunities from the perimeter or as they were cutting to the basket.

Bey started all 82 games during his sophomore campaign in 2021-22 and the first 14 games of this season, but his role has shifted over the past three weeks. He’s become the primary scoring option of the second unit for the Pistons.

In Sunday’s loss to the Grizzlies, Bey had his most impressive all-around performance of the season, with 24 points, six rebounds and a season-high seven assists. The last time he reached the 20-point mark was on Nov. 7 in a 25-point outing to lead the Pistons over the Oklahoma City Thunder. He was the lone bright spot for the Pistons, who had difficulty containing Ja Morant’s third-quarter explosion.

“It’s an opportunity to try and help the team win as much as possible,” Bey said. “Whatever role the team needs me to do, I’m ready to do. It’s me walking the walk. This is the role (coach Dwane Casey) needs me to do to help us win and I’m just going to try and contribute as much as I can and just play hard.”

There are a handful of new players on the roster, notably sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic, who plays the same position as Bey. Casey runs similar sets for Bogdanovic, who’s shooting 39% from beyond the 3-point line this season. Injuries have severely impacted Casey’s rotations this season, which are fluid from night to night, depending on matchups and availability. The Pistons have deployed 12 different starting lineups since opening night, seven of which have featured Bey.

Casey told reporters on Sunday that he sees Bey as a starter, but his skill set is best fit off the bench for this team.

“I think his great role is in our second unit,” Casey said. “I don’t look at him as a second-unit guy. I look at him as a starter.”

Against Memphis, Bey drew two defenders in the air before finding Bogdanovic for two corner 3-pointers in the third quarter. He did the same in the fourth quarter before dishing to a cutting Hamidou Diallo, who flushed home a one-handed dunk.

Casey said after Monday’s practice that Bey’s passing is an underrated part of his game.

“It is because he’s a good pick-and-roll player,” Casey told The Detroit News. “He’s a guy that can have a good night assisting the ball because he’s going to draw a crowd. That’s something that’s underrated in him. He did an excellent job last night of finding the open guy. That’s what we have, especially for our primary ballhandlers and high-usage guys.”

Bey only scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in Friday’s win over the Mavericks, but he can find satisfaction in the outcome of the game, knowing his contributions resulted in a win.

“I always hear this quote: ‘Winning solves everything,'” Bey said. “When you lose, everybody’s trying to figure out what happened. But when you win, it all makes sense. I think at the end of the day, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to win, and I love winning.”

Still not full strength

Pistons forward Isaiah Livers (right shoulder sprain) traveled with the team to Miami on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s game against the Heat.

The second-year forward was injured during the Pistons’ win over the Mavericks on Friday after running into a screen set by Dwight Powell. Livers, who Casey said would be out for “a little while,” was able to get shots up after practice with Pistons assistant/player development coach Keith Bogans.

“He’s ahead of schedule,” Casey told The News. “Don’t know exactly when it’s gonna be, but he said he feels good. The medical staff has done a heck of a job of working with him, getting him ready to come back.”

Casey also said nothing has changed in regard to Cade Cunningham’s left shin injury, which has caused him to miss 13 games this season. The cause of Cunningham’s left shin injury is likely rooted in a stress fracture, according to a league source, and he is currently weighing rest or surgery to treat the injury.

Pistons at Heat

Tipoff: 7:30 Tuesday, FTX Arena, Miami

TV/radio: BSD Extra/950 AM

Outlook: The Pistons tied their second-most bench points (55) and blocks (7) of the season against Memphis on Sunday and now they look to rebound against the Heat, led by Jimmy Butler, who recently returned to the lineup after missing seven games due to injury. Butler scored the game-clinching shot to lift Miami over Boston on Saturday. Bam Adebayo, who averages 21 points and 9.1 rebounds, has scored in double-figures in all 21 games he has appeared in this season.

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