'Push the pace': Pistons see Derrick Rose as ignition to drive their offense
East Lansing — In the Pistons’ effort to revamp their second unit, they brought in experienced veterans, including Markieff Morris, Tim Frazier and Joe Johnson.
The emphasis looks to be in the backcourt, though, where the biggest addition will be Derrick Rose, who fills the void left by Ish Smith’s departure to the Washington Wizards. Smith was known as one of the fastest players in the league, but Rose is giving him a run for his money.
Coach Dwane Casey is looking for a multi-faceted guard who can score from the perimeter, break down defenses and create opportunities for others. Smith did some of those things, but Rose does more of them and that has been his calling card throughout his career.
“He wants me to play the same way I’ve been playing: push the pace. The special thing about here and this situation is what they’re asking me to do, I naturally play that way,” Rose said following Wednesday morning’s practice at Breslin Center. “They want me to get in the paint and create — and that’s what I’ve been doing since sixth grade.
“Having the chance to come here, with no pressure at all and to not have to worry about anything, and just hoop and help the young guys improve, I couldn’t ask for a better spot.”
Rose, who turns 31 on Friday, has built his career on a combination of speed and strength and scoring skill but he’s not at a point where he has to be the MVP player that he once was. With the Pistons, he’ll likely settle into a role as a sixth man, similar to Smith’s role, but Casey has liked what he’s seen so far.
“He looks like he’s got rockets in his back pockets,” Casey said. “Ish was quick but Derrick is doing it with power and speed and he’s shooting the ball well. So far, so good. We’re excited with his approach. He’s a pro and knows time, score, situation.
“I’ve got to be smart to not overuse him and extend his minutes.”
Casey envisions situations where Rose can be a primary scorer or can play alongside Reggie Jackson or Luke Kennard for dynamic scoring combinations. They’ll get a chance to try out some of those playing rotations throughout the preseason, which begins next week.
Rose already is looking forward to the opportunity to work with Kennard, who reminds him of another knock-down shooter he played with earlier in his career with the Bulls. It’s high praise for Kennard, who is stepping into higher expectations in his third season.
“He’s my younger Kyle Korver. I’ve got a chance to play with a shooter at a young age. All the shooters I played with in the past were older or late in their careers,” Rose said. “To have the opportunity to play with someone like Luke means a lot and I think I can help him grow because I played with the shooters I have in the past.”
Pistons legend Isiah Thomas was a guest at Wednesday’s morning session at Breslin Center.
Casey said Thomas was more of an observer but took a moment to talk to the point guards and provided some wisdom where he could.
“He said something to Reggie and Jordan Bone on running the pick-and-roll,” Casey said. “It’s great to have former players, guys of his status, to come to camp and observe and tell me and tell them what he sees. He’s such a big part of the tradition and history of Pistons basketball.
“If you can’t respect what he says or Rip (Hamilton) or Ben Wallace says, you’re not going to respect anybody in the game of basketball.”
Blake Griffin missed the second straight day of training camp because of illness. Casey isn’t concerned that it could set Griffin back or impact the team but is taking a cautious approach to make sure it doesn’t spread.
“He’s had the flu and is on antibiotics. Instead of coming over here and giving it to everybody else, stay back,” Casey said. “He’s feeling much better and they ran a lot of tests (Tuesday).”
… Forward Todd Withers took a blow to the head and was taken to a local hospital. The extent of the injury is unclear.