Stan Van Gundy says it's an important summer for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
Orlando — The Pistons begin their summer league play in Orlando today, a first mini-glimpse of how Stan Van Gundy will run his show. He won’t be coaching, of course, as that responsibility belongs to assistant Bob Beyer.
They’ll play four games before next Friday, when their record will determine who they’ll play. All games will be on NBA TV from Orlando’s Amway Arena, although the games are closed to the public.
Here are a few notable things fans should keep their eyes on:
KCP: Last summer’s first-round draft pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a year under his belt, although he had an inconsistent rookie season. With the Pistons giving free-agent shooting guard Jodie Meeks $20 million a few days ago, Caldwell-Pope must begin to make an impression on the new regime.
He can certainly defend his position, and is certainly a step up on Meeks in that category. But he didn’t convert on his offensive opportunities last season, until the last game of the season when he scored 30 on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Last year at summer league, Caldwell-Pope wasn’t bashful in terms of getting his shots up, trying to feel his way around his new surroundings aggressively. As it stands now, he’s the most experienced player on the summer league roster, and he’ll get plenty of opportunities, meaning he shouldn’t be forcing his own game.
Van Gundy has said it’s a big summer for Caldwell-Pope, and even for all the things Caldwell-Pope isn’t, he’s still extremely useful and Van Gundy can find a place for him as he’s done for others in the past.
Peyton Siva: As big as summer league is for Caldwell-Pope’s future, it’s even more critical to Siva’s present. The Pistons must decide on his team option right after summer league ends, and the 2013 second-round pick would like to stick around, especially in Detroit.
A stint in the D-League seemed to settle Siva down last year, as the game looked too fast, too athletic and too long for Siva to find his place. His last several games down the stretch of the season showed an aptitude for playmaking, maturity and even a developing jump shot as he attached himself to the good influences on the team.
If he can run a team that doesn’t possess a lot of pro experience, it could prompt Van Gundy to hold onto a young, cheap and effective backup point guard while considering his options with Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum.
Van Gundy: Just because he’s not coaching doesn’t mean one can’t get a feel for the Van Gundy effect. Even though Andre Drummond is only practicing and not playing, Van Gundy’s pro sets will be in use — inside-out, spread play with shooters around the floor.
Former Los Angeles Lakers forward Brian Cook is on the roster because of his ability to stretch defenses. You won’t see exotic sets and concepts from the Pistons, but there’s a reason Van Gundy has run the Pistons through two-a-days this past week: to get a jump start on his new program.
The rumor mill: Summer League is a ground zero for influential league personnel. Executives sit courtside, having candid conversations in plain sight of cameras and observers.
Player agents are never far behind, with their various agendas. And with the NBA in a holding pattern due to LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and other free agents keeping teams at bay with impending decisions, as dominoes begin to fall, other deals will follow.
Reports have Greg Monroe in Orlando with his agent David Falk. Although it feels like a lifetime, free agency has been alive barely three days. Monroe’s future with the Pistons is uncertain, and tricky things can happen this time of year.
Tony Mitchell: There were questions surrounding Mitchell’s consistency when he was at North Texas, and the 2013 second-round draft pick didn’t get much playing time with the logjam in front of him, with Monroe, Drummond and Josh Smith taking the lion’s share of minutes.
Van Gundy was candid when asked about Mitchell, saying he wanted to see more in the way of offseason commitment. Perhaps the live competition of summer league will bring out the competitor in Mitchell, an athletic marvel even on his worst day.
Following is the Pistons’ summer league schedule (all games on NBA TV):
Saturday: vs. Houston, 3 p.m.
Sunday: vs. Memphis, 3
Tuesday: vs. Miami, 5
Wednesday: vs. Boston, 7
Friday: Time, opponent TBA
Pistons summer roster
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia
Brian Cook, F/C, Illinois
Justin Harper, F, Richmond
Jordan Heath, F, Canisius
Damion James, F, Texas
DeAndre Liggins, G, Kentucky
David Lighty, G, Ohio St.
Ian Miller, G, Florida St.
Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas
Tim Ohlbrecht, C, Germany
Peyton Siva, G, Louisville
Tristan Spurlock, F, Central Florida
Markel Starks, G, Georgetown
Chris Watford, F, Indiana