Start of Pistons training camp 'like the first day of school'
Ann Arbor — Objectively, there’s not a lot that can be taken from the first day of training camp. In most cases, it’s going to be sloppy, with plenty of turnovers and mistakes and most players just getting their bearings and reacquainted to game speed and structure.
Still, there’s a sense of excitement that goes with the first official practices and full-speed workouts with coaches and the full roster. Tuesday was Dwane Casey’s first day of training camp with the Pistons, which brought its own bit of anxiety and anticipation.
“I was like the first day of school. I was excited and the players were excited. I love the energy that they had,” Casey said. “I understand it was the first day and everybody was bouncing off the walls, going 100 mph — probably too fast for offense.
“Since it was a defensive day, I liked some of the turnovers that were forced.”
Having camp in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan’s Crisler Center was a change of venue that made it a little different for everyone. Casey opted to have training camp away from the Pistons’ practice facility in Auburn Hills because they wanted to mix things up and not have the veterans feel too comfortable.
In unfamiliar territory, they would be more apt to spend time with each other and get to know more of their teammates’ nuances. Having team dinners each night, they are spending more time with each other and have more one-on-one conversations.
“It’s different; I’ve never done this in my entire career, seven years; we’ve never left the Palace once,” said center Andre Drummond, the longest-tenured Pistons player. “It’s different scenery and cool to be away from home and under the same room with the guys. We all agreed to do this and it’s pretty cool to be up here.
“We’ve had three team dinners in the past week and that’s the most I’ve had in my career. We’re figuring out ways to come together and figure each other out and learn each other and what we like and don’t like and figuring out how weird we are. I’m having fun with it.”
The changes extended to the court when camp started, as there were no discernable lineup groupings; they were mixed up, for a specific purpose.
“I had them all mixed up and did it on purpose today. I had everybody alternating and it wasn’t any set lineup,” Casey said. “That may be the first couple days to make sure we keep everybody motivated and off-balance. There’s no rhyme or reason (to it).
“I want to establish an atmosphere of equality and have everybody be ready, whether you’re on the second or first unit — it’s really who closes the game. We’ll get to that a little bit later.”
The biggest emphasis was defense and communication, which was one of the Pistons’ strengths last season. The focus is on getting into transition quicker and not getting bogged down in half-court sets so often on offense.
“He wants our offense to start on the defensive end and get stops. Our first option is to run in transition,” guard Luke Kennard said. “If we get stops, we can be dangerous in transition this year. He wants us to shoot 3s, quick shots, the right shots at the rim. It’s going to start on defense and give us motivation to get it and just go.”
For their first practice, the Pistons had all of the roster available for the non-contact portions but were without Reggie Jackson and Jon Leuer for the 5-on-5 full-contact portions. Jackson, who had been limited in the summer because of ankle issues, was medically cleared to practice on Sunday but the medical team is being cautious and bringing him along slowly.
“Reggie is fully healed. We did an MRI a couple weeks ago and it’s perfect. Now it’s just basketball shape and he hasn’t played all summer long,” Pistons senior advisor Ed Stefanski said on Monday. “It’s going to take him a while to get in basketball shape. If everything goes the way we hope, we would hope opening night he should be ready to go.”
It’s one step at a time for Jackson, who could be limited in preseason games, but if he’s back to playing shape, that’s more important for the team. Leuer, who missed all but eight games last season because of foot injuries, is making strides and is expecting to be ready for the regular season as well.
Kennard, who was slowed by knee issues since the start of Summer League practice, was back in full practice for the first time since July.
“It’s great; I was able to do everything, able to move normally, full 100 percent,” Kennard said. “It felt good to be back out there.”