Las Vegas — Jarrett Jack has never played in a single summer league game despite his lengthy NBA career, but the new Pistons assistant coach is relishing the opportunity to lead this year’s summer squad.
As a former point guard, he’s used to leading teams but now he’s on the sideline and getting a first-hand look at the Pistons’ newest group of young talent. He’s running the summer-league Pistons as if its the height of the regular season with two-hour practices and repetition with drills until it’s up to par.
Jack spent the last two seasons in Phoenix on Monty Williams’ coaching staff and he’s approaching the new experience under the mindset of being an extension of the Pistons’ new head coach.
“I’m just trying to prepare guys based on my experiences in the NBA, but I’m jealous of them because I never got the chance to play in summer league. Never,” Jack said Friday afternoon. “This atmosphere is something I’ve always wanted to be a part of. At least, as a coach, I just live through them and hopefully put them in the right spots and we come out here and have a great showing.”
The Pistons will start summer play with a back-to-back against the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, two teams with similar builds and aspirations. All three teams are full of young talent and the obvious next step for growth is reaching the Play-In tournament.
The main thing that stands out to Jack as the Pistons prepare for Saturday’s opener?
“The competitive spirit,” Jack said. “The intangibles of talent, the athleticism and just leading with overall energy. That’s the part that I’ve relayed to our coaching staff. They’re definitely bring it on their own.”
The Pistons’ summer league team is comprised of rotation players such as Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, Isaiah Livers and James Wiseman, along with rookies like Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser, who are looking to prove they belong on the big stage.
But there are also two-way players like Jared Rhoden and Malcolm Cazalon, G League players from the Motor City Cruise and undrafted players looking to showcase their skillsets.
Jack acknowledged the difficulty to manage different personalities with varying aspirations, but said there will be an opportunity for everyone to see some time on the court.
“It’s tough,” Jack said. “Obviously, we want to give everybody a legitimate shot to showcase their abilities and hopefully they leave out of here with an opportunity bigger than what they had when they came here. Will everybody get the time and minutes they want? No, but that’s what life is about. That’s what being a professional is about and when you do get your opportunity, try to be a star in your role.”
Sasser, a four-year player from Houston, has seen his fair share of competition on the collegiate level, but he’ll will play against talent on the NBA level for the first time on a national stage this weekend.
“The competition is intense, but that’s what you look for,” Sasser said. “A gamer as such as Marcus, he will take his bumps potentially, but that’s what the staff is here for, to help him identify ways to take advantage of it, but he’ll be just fine.”
Sasser and Jack were one of the final few members of the team to walk out of Las Vegas’ Dula Community Center. They spent the final moments of gym availability working on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, an effort to go into Saturday’s opener as prepared as possible. But even if things don’t go the Pistons’ way with a win, Jack is confident that there’s a lesson learned even through the imperfect games.
“Mistakes are expected and that’s also how you learn,” Jack said. “Yes, we would love to come out here and have a flawless game. Is that realistic? I don’t know. But the bumps are what’s going to make us good in the long run and help us success…The bumps and bruises of it all allows us to learn, not individually but collectively.”