Pistons to mix it up with MMA fighters to build bond

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — There are signs the Pistons are becoming close.

Take Andre Drummond, who has asked rookie Stanley Johnson to move in with him this season.

The Pistons are buying into the concept team chemistry is important. It was pushed by veteran Caron Butler last season but is being taken to a different level by point guard Reggie Jackson and Drummond this year.

Next week, much of the team will train with MMA fighters and trainers in Las Vegas to get into better condition and bond.

"I think the main thing is cohesion because obviously they are not going to allow us to fight MMA fighters," guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. "It will be more about training and team bonding."

With camp five weeks away, most of the players are expected to attend, including Drummond and Johnson, who have been friends since their AAU days. They trained together this summer at Peak Performance Project in California, along with rookie Darrun Hilliard.

"I've known Andre for a while and being on the same team is kind of weird," Johnson said. "Look where life has taken us."

The camaraderie, however, is nothing new when it comes to the Pistons.

Last season, Butler held a number of bonding dinners, among them a preseason meeting at a Washington, D.C., steakhouse. The idea was to set ground rules for the season.

And this season, the team concept took hold for Jackson after he signed his five-year, $80 million deal. He went to the Orlando Summer League to see teammates play and offer words of encouragement.

Johnson, for one, was struck by Jackson's presence.

"That told you something about him," Johnson said.