Pistons get 'leadership and character' with Anthony Tolliver

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — In many ways, Anthony Tolliver didn’t need an introductory news conference. He had been with the Pistons for almost two seasons before signing with the Kings as a free agent last summer.

He did a news conference anyway — sort of a re-introduction to the Pistons — after signing a contract to return as the most veteran member of the roster, and the only one over the age of 30. Boban Marjanovic won’t turn 29 until August 15.

“It’s definitely weird,” Tolliver said Friday. “Not only that, but being the oldest by three years — it’s quite a big gap between myself and Boban. I don’t feel old — to me that’s the most important thing.

“My body is still great and I’m in just as good or better shape as I’ve ever been in my life and playing at the highest level.”

Pistons president Stan Van Gundy tabbed Tolliver to return, seeing the void that was left last summer when they got two power forwards: Jon Leuer as a free agent and Henry Ellenson in the draft. The roster got younger, but even after the playoff appearance in 2015-16, they were missing something.

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While the Pistons have had veterans on the roster in recent years, for the most part, they haven’t been in the playing rotation, which has made it harder for them to have an impact on some of the younger players.

His Pistons teammates recognized it and the front office saw the need as well. That made Tolliver a priority with in the team’s offseason plans.

“He’s one of the highest-character guys in the NBA. What he will do in terms of leadership is important to our team, but it’s important that he’s a guy who can go out and play,” Van Gundy said. “It’s tough to be a leader who’s not playing, and Tolliver still plays at a high level.

“He models what a pro should be every day, in practice and games, and he’ll speak up when appropriate. The leadership and character part will be great.”

Tolliver said it was important to him he not just be a bench mentor, as Steve Blake, Joel Anthony and Beno Udrih have been in recent years, but be a contributor on the court as well.

With the Kings last season, Tolliver had 7.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 65 games, hitting 39 percent from beyond the arc, which would have led the Pistons.

Van Gundy has sought better 3-point shooting — and they’ve gotten it with Avery Bradley, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard and bringing back Reggie Bullock and Tolliver.

In his season with the Kings, Tolliver was around another young roster, but he kept an eye on the Pistons, especially on Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond and the progression they were making since the playoff run.

“I’m excited to be back. I just took a year-long vacation in California and now I’m back home,” Tolliver said. “I’m looking forward to bringing something to this team that it was missing last year. I actually kept a really close eye on the Pistons last year and had a chance to talk with Reggie and Andre a little bit.

“That was something I could see from afar that was missing here — no disrespect to the guys who were here. Guys need leaders and people who are willing to speak up and talk to them in situations that they don’t really want to be talked to in.”

Tolliver said he’s comfortable in Detroit and although the weather isn’t as nice as California, he has plenty of family and relatives here, so it’s not much of a change. He envisioned a return, but just didn’t think it would be so soon.

“I never felt like that about any other team. For some reason, when I left here and went to Sacramento, I told my cousin who’s lived here his whole life: ‘I’m going to Sacramento but I’m going to be back at some point.’

“I told him that the day I signed with Sacramento. I felt like there was unfinished business here.”