Dunking with style is one of the skills rookie forward Tony Mitchell brings to the Pistons. He is vying for a spot in the rotation. (Kathy Kmonicek / Associated Press)
Auburn Hills — Sometimes a complex game like basketball can be so simple if the instructions are concise and clear.
Pistons second-round pick Tony Mitchell is living proof of that, with his quick feet, long strides and wide eyes making it hard for the coaching staff to ignore his attempt at cracking the rotation.
He was the first big man off the bench Tuesday night and in tandem with fellow reserve Jonas Jerebko, can add a dimension of activity if Maurice Cheeks so chooses to go that route. He played 16 minutes against the Wizards and made all four of his shot attempts with one rebound, one steal and two blocks.
He brushed off the observation he could be making headway ahead of Jerebko or Charlie Villanueva.
“Right now I’m not worried about it, I’m just taking whatever minutes I have,” Mitchell said. “Whatever Coach Cheeks wants me to do, I’ll do it.”
His initial draft combine meeting with Pistons brass, where Joe Dumars grilled him relentlessly about his lack of effort in his sophomore season at North Texas, seems worlds away.
At the end of the first quarter in Tuesday’s game against the Wizards, Mitchell leaped over the taller, longer Jan Vesely for an offensive rebound and used his leaping ability to convert a buzzer-beating shot at the rim with Vesely draped over him.
He also hit a foul-line jumper in rhythm that surprised many, considering that’s not in his scouting report.
“They give us that extra boost, extra kick,” said Cheeks of Mitchell and Jerebko. “They played well and have been like that for much of the preseason.
“I have the luxury of playing different guys at different times. He has to learn the NBA game, pick up certain things because he’s a rookie.”
He definitely has to add some strength, noting how strong Wizards big man Nene is, “That boy was like a bully”, but playing with energy and not needing the ball makes him easy to play with his teammates.
“My role on this team is to rebound, block shots and defend. Whatever else comes is extra,” Mitchell said. “It’s very easy, because I can jump. Basically, I know my role and know what it takes to help.”