Las Vegas — In the NBA Summer League, game preparation isn’t quite like the normal routine for teams. The rosters are filled with players who mostly are unestablished and have had just a few practices to try to develop chemistry ahead of the four-game slate in the preliminary rounds.
For the Pistons, the task is a little more unusual because their opening opponent Friday is the Croatia National Team. There isn’t much game film to study — and even if there were, some of their top players won’t be playing.
In some respects, the Pistons coaching staff will keep the focus on themselves and not worry about what challenges Croatia presents. That makes it a little bit easier to try to get work done, with such a short practice schedule.
“We’re trying to study them as best we can,” said Pistons assistant coach Sean Sweeney, who is running the Summer League team. “We’re trying to get as good a feel as we can of what their tendencies are. Any time you’re in Summer League, you want to teach how to game-plan and prepare, but as much as anything, you want to understand what we’re trying to do.”
Some of the Pistons’ game plan is clear — stay within their principles and playing hard. It’s not an unfamiliar mantra, as several of the players are making a return trip to the Summer League, after getting their feet wet last summer.
That includes second-year players Bruce Brown, Svi Mykhailiuk and Khyri Thomas, who will be the hub of the Pistons’ offense and whom the coaches will lean on to keep things running smoothly.
They’ll also be looked upon to extend themselves and improve upon their kill sets, which could lead to more playing time in the regular season. That doesn’t mean the playing time for the more experienced players will come at the expense of seeing what the rookies and free agents can do with some opportunities.
“You want to see them play and what they can do,” Sweeney said. “We’re trying to help them understand who they are and what their strengths are and their teammates and what their strengths are and the next part is who is guarding them. The more minutes you get, the more opportunities you get to do that.”
It’s likely that Brown will play a good chunk of minutes at point guard, with Mykhailiuk and Thomas getting a share of the minutes as well.
Rookie Sekou Doumbouya will get a long look as the Pistons coaches and front office look to assess where he might fit with the team and what areas he’ll need to work on.
He’s only 18 and the initial take is that he’ll need some time to work on his game but there are plenty of things the Pistons are excited about already, with many around practice noting that his athletic ability is what sets him apart at this early stage.
“He’s athletic, 6-10, can play both ends if he wants,” Brown said, “but he’s really athletic and he can shoot the ball. He’s going to be good.”
Doumbouya, the 15th overall pick, signed his rookie contract on Thursday and will be ready to go on Friday in the Pistons’ Summer League opener. In the NBA rookie-contract system, the No. 15 is scaled to about $2.7 million, with an option to go 20% higher.
The team also announced that forward Louis King signed his two-way contract, one of the Pistons’ two such allowances on the roster. That designation means that King would spend the majority of his season with the Grand Rapids Drive in the G-League and could be with the Pistons for a maximum of 45 days.
King, 6-foot-9, 205 pounds, went undrafted after finishing his career at Oregon, where he was the leading scorer and rebounder with 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds.
Pistons vs. Croatia
Tip-off: 3 Friday, Cox Pavilion, Las Vegas
Outlook: The Pistons open the NBA Summer League schedule with an expanded field, which includes first-time participants Croatia and China. It’s the first of their four-game schedule in the preliminary round.