Derrick Walton has shot at extending 10-day Pistons' stint into long-term stay
Detroit — It wasn’t a normal first day on the job for Derrick Walton Jr. He didn’t need any help in finding his way around the city with a new team. It helped too that he was able to sleep in his old bed, with familiar surroundings.
After agreeing to a 10-day contract with the Pistons on Thursday, he had his first day on the job at the practice facility in Midtown and got to know his new teammates and new surroundings. Walton, who played four years at Michigan and also in high school at Chandler Park Academy in Harper Woods, is no stranger to the Pistons.
He grew up watching the 2004 championship team and will get to don jersey No. 12 with the team, beginning on this weekend’s four-game western road trip. The signing caps a big week for Walton, who had his high school jersey retired on Wednesday.
“It’s an honor. It was a big week for me. It felt weird for the first time getting up out of my own bed and coming to practice. It’s surreal and it’s a blessing,” Walton said. “I’ve always had the same approach: I do what I can and let the rest take care of itself. I don’t put too much pressure on myself.”
Walton played 23 games with the Los Angeles Clippers this season, posting 2.2 points and 1 assist and hitting 43 percent on 3-pointers. He fits in with the Pistons as another option at point guard, after they reached a buyout agreement with Reggie Jackson this week.
Walton, 24, is 6-feet, 190 pounds and is regarded for his scoring ability and shooting, showing flashes in his stint with the Clippers, but with their loaded roster and title aspirations, he was squeezed out in a roster crunch.
Jackson will join the Clippers but there could be an opportunity for Walton to stick with the Pistons, who are trying to find young, inexpensive talent to stock the roster with next season. Walton checks a few of the boxes, with a skill set that makes him an asset.
“It’s his leadership, his intelligence. Talking to the Clippers coaches and remembering him at Michigan, his leadership and ability to shoot the ball,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He’s a good shooter, so we’ll see. I’ve seen him today and the other day when he came and worked out. I’ll hold my assessment until I’ve coached him.”
Though Walton is on a 10-day contract for now, he could get a longer look because of the needs the Pistons have on the roster at point guard. Derrick Rose’s minutes will be limited for the remaining 24 games and Casey wants to keep Bruce Brown more at shooting guard than ball-handling.
With veteran Brandon Knight as the only other option at point guard, there could be some minutes and opportunity for Walton to make an impression in his short stint.
“Derrick (Rose) is on a minutes restriction. That’ll give Bruce as much opportunity to be off the ball as much as possible,” Casey said. “Having some extra bodies in will help him to do that.
“(Walton) had a good practice today. I don't know how much practice time we have, but the opportunities is there to play, we’ll play him and he was picking up the stuff pretty quickly today.”
Even with a 10-day deal, Walton isn’t worried about making a big impression and putting additional pressure on himself. He wants to take things in stride and figure out what the coaching staff wants and to transition into that.
It’s what he’s always done — and what got him a shot with the Miami Heat as an undrafted rookie.
“I can shoot it and that's what I hung my hat on. I'm a better defender than I get credit for. And overall, I think I'm just a heady player,” Walton said. “I'm this guy that's always thinking two steps ahead.”
The Pistons also assigned guard Khyri Thomas to the Grand Rapids Drive in the G League. The plan is for Thomas to play two games with the Drive — Friday and Sunday — before joining the Pistons in Denver for Tuesday’s game.