Auburn Hills — With a lull in the early-season calendar, Pistons coach Dwane Casey brought in a Hall of Famer to drive home a message that’s bigger than basketball.
One of Casey’s first priorities when taking the job in Detroit was to form a relationship with former mayor Dave Bing, who Casey brought in to speak to the Pistons before Sunday’s practice.
“The players were glued in. He did a fantastic job of talking about teamwork, professionalism and where he sees our team,” Casey said. “He knew our team inside and out.”
Bing played for the Pistons from 1966-75 and was Detroit’s mayor from 2009-2013. His No. 21 is retired by the franchise, for which he is the fourth all-time leading scorer with 15,235 points, trailing Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Bob Lanier.
Casey and his wife, Brenda, got dinner with Bing and his wife, Yvette, shortly after Casey was introduced as coach.
Casey said he heard all about Bing from Clem Haskins, when they coached together at Western Kentucky in the early 1980s. Haskins, who would later become head coach at Minnesota, played with Bing with the Washington Bullets.
“All he talked about was Dave Bing, Dave Bing, classy Dave Bing,” Casey said. “And now here I am in the city with him.
“He talked about the fans of Detroit and why this is a great spot, how when he played, it was a destination spot for the league. This is where want to get it back to is a place where free agents look at, and our players enjoy and talk to players about being part of the community and investing back into the city of Detroit.”
Point guard Reggie Jackson said the messages stuck.
“Progress and always being true to who you are,” Jackson said were the main takeaways of Bing’s talk. “To understand that we all have a bigger purpose. Being a part of something is very special. I think that was his biggest message.”
Added Casey: “He’s what players should be about, his class and dignity and the way he approaches life is what all the players should emulate.”
Over a seven-day period that concluded on Sunday, the Pistons played in one game, a 106-104 buzzer-beating win at Toronto in Casey’s return against his former team. The Pistons host Cleveland on Monday night.
In an effort to get more rest for players, the NBA bumped the start of the regular season up about 10 days last season to Oct. 17, and started one day earlier this season.
No teams are playing four games in five days for the second straight season, and the league also have decreased instances of teams playing five games in seven days.
According the NBA, teams are averaging 13.3 back-to-backs this season, down 31 percent from 2014-15 (19.3 per team). The Pistons are playing 13 back-to-backs this season, but only playing opponents who are on the second half of a back-to-back 10 times.
Detroit’s back-to-backs come fast and furious in March with four during what could be a crucial playoff push.
“I like the days of practice, because this time of year you can get a little stale,” Casey said. “But we’ll take it. We tried to get the best out of it.
“But there’s nothing in days off that can measure the intensity and the type of force that you have to play with every night (in games). … There’s a level of force you have to play with in this league to be effective.”
Cleveland also has not played since Wednesday, and the Cavaliers have been without Kevin Love (toe) since Oct. 24, George Hill (shoulder) since Nov. 5, and Kyle Korver (foot) for two games.
Korver could return to the lineup Monday.
The team also hosted future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett on Saturday, in town to interview Andre Drummond for his broadcasting work with Turner Sports.
Garnett had worked with Drummond and Henry Ellenson during the summer, as sessions with KG have gained notoriety for his ability to motivate players and provide them with veteran tricks.
“I think with Dre he’s like a proud big brother,” said Casey, who coached Garnett during his season-and-a-half in Minnesota from 2005-07. “KG wanted to really reinforce some of the things he had taught him.”
New, old face
Monday’s game will be Detroit’s first look against Cleveland since Larry Drew took over as interim coach.
Drew coached Atlanta to three playoffs seasons from 2010-13, and then guided Milwaukee to a 15-win season the next year, his only season with the Bucks. He was an assistant under David Blatt and Lue as the Cavaliers made four straight appearances in the NBA Finals, winning the 2016 championship.
The Pistons drafted Drew at No. 17 overall out of Missouri in 1980. He played one season as a reserve point guard for Detroit, which drafted Isiah Thomas the following season and acquired two second-round draft picks from Kansas City for Drew.
Drew’s son, Larry Drew II, played with the Pistons in this year’s Las Vegas Summer League.
Ellenson broke his nose on Saturday in a stint with the Grand Rapids Drive of the G League.
According to the Pistons, the third-year forward was being evaluated on Sunday and no update was available about his playing status.
As expected, the Pistons recalled Ellenson, Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown from Grand Rapids on Sunday after the trio spent two games with the Drive over the weekend.
Ellenson had 24 points in Friday’s 96-93 loss to the Windy City Bulls, but struggled Saturday in a 90-82 win against the Canton Charge, on 2-for-16 shooting. He is averaging 19.2 points, 12.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.3 blocks this season in Grand Rapids and has played one game with Detroit.
Thomas is averaging 19.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals in six games with Grand Rapids. The rookie has played one game with Detroit.
Brown made his Grand Rapids debut on Friday with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and then scored 16 points Saturday. He shot 7-for-11 on free throws (63.6 percent) and was 0-for-4 on 3-pointers on the weekend.
The Drive wore teal jerseys, complete with the flaming horse head logo, fashioned after the Pistons duds from 1996-2001 on Saturday.
For a limited time, the Pistons will have tickets available with no fees.
From 8 p.m. Wednesday through Nov. 26, the team will waive fees on all regular-season individual game purchases.
Tickets starting as low as $10 can be purchased at www.pistons.com of by calling 248-377-0100.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.