Pistons share some Motor City kindness with Special Olympians in Mexico City

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Mexico City — Markieff Morris guided a child in a wheelchair around the court. Andre Drummond helped another youngster walk through a footwork drill. Blake Griffin, Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway exulted as a small group of students made baskets on the other end of the court.

All had smiles on their faces.

Basketball was everywhere.

Players and coaches from the Detroit Pistons cheer on 11-year-old Emiliano Valente Flores Garcia, center, after he shot the ball from his wheelchair.

The Pistons participated in a community-service effort with NBA Cares to benefit Special Olympics in Mexico City as part of a day of fun and activities before Thursday’s matchup against the Dallas Mavericks.

Following a light practice and some drills before a small crowd of spectators at Mexico City Arena on Wednesday afternoon, the players and coaching staff engaged with the participants on the same court.

Coach Dwane Casey also took part, helping with a passing drill and other fundamentals. The trip to Mexico City is off the beaten path of the usual road trips and gives the Pistons the opportunity to showcase the franchise on an international stage.

“It’s huge pride, especially from Detroit. We’re not the L.A. team or New York team or a San Antonio team that’s very popular here. We’re representing the Detroit Pistons organization, who has three championships under our belt,” Casey said. “We’re a prideful basketball city and to represent that is huge and to represent the NBA is huge here.

“We want to spread the brand and let fans know we have a quality team too and hope to be building something special here and let that be known in Mexico.”

 As the participants rotated to each of the stations to work on different skills,  players beamed with pride as the children completed them.

With members of the Jr. NBA Latin America team in attendance, the Pistons players came up with an impromptu incentive: each time a child made a free basket, the Jr. NBA team members had to do five push-ups.

For Kennard, simply being able to pass along some tips and skills in the game that he loves was the biggest takeaway from the day. It was a time of service to help brighten the days of some children and young adults who love basketball.

“It's awesome to know we have fans in other countries,” Kennard said. “The way this game is continuing to spread worldwide, it’s a really exciting thing and for us to be a part of it really means a lot.”

Pistons vs. Mavericks

Tip-off: 9 Thursday, Arena Ciudad de Mexico, Mexico City

TV/radio: FSD/WWJ

Outlook: The Pistons (10-14) are playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning four of their last five games, behind Derrick Rose, who hit the game-winner Monday at New Orleans. The Mavericks (16-7) are one of the surprise teams in the league, behind MVP candidate Luka Doncic (30 points, 9.rebounds and 9.2 assists).


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard