Thoughts and observations from the Pistons’ open practice

Instead of having a nice Saturday outside in October, I went to the Little Caesars Arena for open pistons training. It’s hard to make a clear assessment out of an hour and a half of training and team play, there were some interesting things for me.

The workout began with a message from Dwane Casey to the crowd, and that was most of what I would see or hear from Casey for the rest of the day. The team started with some typical drills that worked on defense, working on ball movement and spacing, and then a weave drill that involved passing and shooting between three players. There were a lot of jumpers jarring during the exercises, and indeed throughout the duration of the training.

Cade Cunningham, Cassius Stanley, and Isaiah Livers all sat outside of practice, while a few others only participated in the exercises.

After the exercises were completed, the available players split into two different teams for a four-quarter and 10-minute quarter game.

The blue team was the “starter” made up of Killian Hayes, Rodney McGruder, Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Jamorko Pickett.

The white team was the “bank” consisting of Saben Lee, Cory Joseph, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Josh Jackson, Kelly Olynyk, Luka Garza and Trey Lyles.

The blue team fought mightily and even received various reinforcements from the white team during the scrimmage. Given that the white team had more depth and experience, it is not surprising that the “starters” were blown out. I’m not going to raise the alarm of concern about the “starters” based on a scrimmage in which they lacked a key player (Cunningham).

More focused observations:

Cade Cunningham #HeightWatch

One story that has come to the fore since the Pistons moved in Cade Cunningham is how he seemingly “shrunk” since he was drafted from 6’8 “to 6’6”. And while 6’6 “is probably the more accurate measurement, it could be a little bigger than I thought. When he stood next to Jerami Grant, they looked very similarly high from my seats.

Either Jerami Grant is shorter than he is listed or Cade Cunningham is slightly taller. It doesn’t really matter by and large, but I found it interesting.

Saddiq Bey’s outbreak is real

Saddiq Bey looked like the best player on the court during the scrimmage and was the only bright spot for the blue team. He put the ball on the floor, hit threes, posted, took the ball down and started the offensive and made some solid passes. He looked like someone who was already flirting with 20 points per game this season and could break out as the second best player on the team at least for the next season.

Everything we saw in the first preseason game that he worked on was there and a joy to see.

The Jacksons will be major role-players

Both Frank and Josh Jackson looked very handsome. For Frank, he hit every shot he fired and even had some nice shots in the basket. He was so good that the white team blew out the blue team in the scrimmage and he had to be transferred to the blue team to help them. He even played point guard and looked comfortable doing it.

For Josh Jackson, it was similar to the first preseason game. He hit his threesomes, knocked down a few tough midfielders, and played solid defense. All of that came with the chaos and a few mental failures that are part of the Josh Jackson experience. Both look at Jackson turning the wings in front of Hamidou Diallo; Diallo struggled with his shooting all afternoon.

Jerami Grant and the starter’s epic fight

As mentioned above, the white team blew out the blue team in the scrimmage. The blue teams were the “starters” but you definitely couldn’t tell how they played. They were 40 points lower at a point when there was not much anyone outside of Saddiq Bey could do. Jerami Grant couldn’t fire a shot to save his life, and Killian Hayes was still struggling to beat the people off the dribble.

Hayes had some solid passes that could have been assists if people could score, but he was still struggling with a lot of things he’d done last season. He played a little faster and more aggressively, but it still ended up shooting a floater or passing out in color because he couldn’t get past his husband.

Isaiah Stewart’s shot was interrupted all afternoon and he was abused at the post by Luka Garza. I didn’t see how many fouls he had, but he probably had enough to foul twice.

Random thoughts

  • Jamorko Pickett can shoot well and makes good use of his length, but had problems catching passes and couldn’t do much more offensively.
  • Cory Joseph turned to the crowd twice, which was interesting. He’s one of the team’s veterans so it makes sense, but I feel like someone like Jerami Grant is more resonant with the fans.
  • Everyone loves Luka Garza. He played really well, but got MVP chants while shooting free throws. Obviously a bit of a wink with these chants.
  • Lots of sloppy passes were thrown during the scrimmage, which is to be expected given the season starting and the fact that it is training. There were also a few attempted alley-oops, and I don’t think any of them were anywhere near finished.

Overall, it was a fun experience and a great way to review the team before things get more serious. I wouldn’t read into too much here as it was just an exercise, but I also think that some of the above are very encouraging developments.

Just a few more weeks until we’re back to real basketball.

If you’ve been to the open practice, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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