Troy Weaver said during an interview with ESPN on Wednesday that his desire for his young team is for them to become “the real Pistons” again.
Detroit’s general manager longs for a return to the playoffs, but he knows the first step to becoming competitive on a consistent basis is the health of franchise cornerstone Cade Cunningham, who is working his way back from season-ending surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left leg.
“We were poised to take a step up last season, but Cade’s injury kind of slowed us down,” Weaver said. “Now, he’s coming back full speed ahead and he’s looked very, very strong this summer. We’re excited about him coming back and leading the troops.”
In an effort to upgrade the roster, Weaver completed three trades on the first day of free agency without giving up any of the team’s current players, which landed sharpshooter Joe Harris and Flint native Monte Morris. Harris is a career 43.7% shooter from beyond the arc, and Morris has career 3-point averages of 39% through six seasons.
“We wanted to add some shooting and some veterans to the group,” Weaver said. “Morris and Harris definitely do that. They’ll help this young core grow, and it provides some more space on the floor for our group we have. We have (Bojan) Bogdanovic and (Alec) Burks, two other veterans who can really shoot the ball, so just adding those two guys to complement our young core, we think is going to really help us.”
Aside from the veterans on the roster, the Pistons are full of young talent eager to prove themselves in the Eastern Conference. One of the newest additions is Ausar Thompson, the fifth overall pick in last month’s draft who was selected after two seasons with Overtime Elite.
Thompson showed off his versatility on both sides of the floor by totaling 17 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two blocks in Detroit’s come-from-behind 92-90 win over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday.
“Just continue to be himself, continue to be aggressive,” Weaver said as he watched the rookie wing compete. “The coaches are having a great time working with him so I’m excited about what he’s bringing to us.”
As a former scout with expertise in talent evaluation, Weaver still gets the itch to offer suggestions on how his players can improve. He mentioned his hands-on approach during the broadcast when asked how he juggles his general manager responsibilities with his innate skills in scouting.
“You got a great coach in Monty Williams. For me, it’s the development,” Weaver said. “I like to see these young players develop and become the best versions of themselves. I’ll whisper in the development coaches’ ears sometimes and our coaches of what I might see, but I’m just encouraged by the way these guys have been working.
“You had Pistons legend over here in Joe Dumars, who’s a great front office executive and a great player in Detroit. We’re just trying to mimic and model what they’ve done in the past so guys like Joe and Isiah (Thomas) can be proud of what we’re putting on the floor.”
Stewart on new extension: ‘It feels great’
Isaiah Stewart was one of seven Pistons players sitting courtside during Wednesday’s come-from-behind 92-90 victory over the Raptors in the Las Vegas Summer League.
Fresh off signing a new four-year extension with the Pistons, the fourth-year big man spoke to ESPN’s Ros-Gold Onwude about the significance of the new long-term deal, which is worth $64 million.
“It feels great,” Stewart said. “It’s truly a blessing and I appreciate Troy, (Pistons owner) Tom Gores and the whole front office for believing in me. I’m just excited to keep on working … For me, it means that they believe in who I am. A lot of guys, if not everybody on this team, respects who I am and what I’m about. I just continue to wear that on my sleeve and come in everyday and just work.”
Stewart’s toughness, work ethic and developing perimeter game in his transition to the power forward position made him an integral piece to the Pistons’ young core. He averaged a career-high 11.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 50 games last season. He’ll have an opportunity to enhance what he’s learned in his first three years under new coach Monty Williams, who signed a lucrative six-year contract in June.
“Just playing under him, continuing to develop my game under him,” Stewart said in response to a question about Williams. “I’m looking forward to just being coached by him. I’m just excited. I heard a lot of great things about him.”
Stewart said the Pistons’ culture is already in place and defined it as a set of hard-working and tough players who competes with a chip on their shoulders. The best part of playing on a young team, he says, is the fact that they’re mostly similar in age and they’re growing together.
The Pistons finished 17-65, which was the worst record in the NBA and the second-worst record in franchise history, but Stewart doesn’t want that mark to define them and they persevered through the losses by focusing on the bigger picture.
“We’re not going to let 17 wins describe who we are and what we’re trying to do here,” Stewart said. “We’re just looking forward to next season. I feel like all the guys have been working hard this summer and I feel like it’ll show.”