Donta Hall says 'grinding' in G-League prepared him for big shot with Pistons
Portland, Ore. — In Donta Hall’s mind, he was going to be spending the weekend with the Grand Rapids Drive, playing against the Wisconsin Herd.
There wasn't a reason to think anything would be different.
But in the aftermath of another superb performance, with 22 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks on Friday night, Hall got the surprise from Drive coach Donnie Tyndall in the postgame speech to the team.
“Donta, your effort was incredible,” Tyndall said. “We just want you do know, by the way, that you just got a 10-day (contract) and got called up by the Pistons.”
Handshakes and high fives ensued from Hall’s Drive teammates, including Jordan Bone and Louis King, who have had stints with the Pistons this season as well.
The 10-day deal is well deserved.
Hall, a 6-foot-9 rookie from Alabama, is averaging 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds and is shooting 66 percent from the field in 36 games with the Drive, primarily as a center.
Instead of taking the trip to Oshkosh, Wis., with the Drive, Hall had to make an early-morning drive to Detroit on Saturday morning to make the Pistons’ flight for Sunday’s game at Portland. It was a whirlwind turnaround, with the team going straight from the Portland airport to practice at Nike World Headquarters.
Between Friday’s game and Saturday’s flight, Hall barely had a chance to digest everything — or even sleep.
“I tried (to sleep) for a little bit but I couldn't get comfortable enough. I need some good deep sleep. So, when I hit that bed at the hotel, it (was) over with,” Hall said. “Honestly, I was thinking about a lot (Friday) night, but I got a couple hours’ sleep. Not too much — not as much as I should have.”
Hall, 22, played with the Pistons in Summer League and was at training camp and the scouts and front office liked what they saw, enough to get him a deal with the Drive. Since the start of the season, he’s been solid in the G-League, paying his dues and using it as a stepping stone to get his first big opportunity in the NBA.
“That's what the G-League came about for, for players develop for this type of scenery, this type of situation to come up here,” Hall said. “The experience down there and the fight coming from each team every night is great. It will get you mentally prepared for sure for this and physically prepared, just grinding it out and doing what you’ve got to do. It definitely prepares you for the next stage.”
The next stage comes quickly for Hall, who will have to adjust quickly during the Pistons’ four-game western road trip. The Drive and Pistons run similar schemes on offense and defense, so the transition won’t be as tough as coming from a different team, a challenge facing point guard Derrick Walton Jr., who also signed a 10-day contract last week.
Hall brings another option for a big body off the bench, with Thon Maker, Christian Wood, John Henson and Sekou Doumbouya as the main options.
A roster spot opened for Hall after the Pistons and Markieff Morris reached a buyout agreement on Friday, setting the wheels in motion for Hall’s promotion. Even Hall’s agent knew about it earlier in the day, but didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
“Being down Markieff, he gives us another long guy inside. He’s been playing well, playing hard with our G-League team, giving us everything,” coach Dwane Casey said. “There was an opportunity to come up to get some games with us. Whether we use him or not will depend on Thon, Christian, Sekou and how they’re doing.
“We won’t hesitate to play (Hall) if the situation calls for it.”
Casey sees Hall’s strengths as rebounding, rim-running and defending the rim, but whether he gets in the mix, especially on a short stint, seems likely.