McRae will get his chance to show Pistons he's a keeper
Detroit — Jordan McRae had a busy first 24 hours on the job after joining the Pistons on Wednesday. He barely had time to process that he was joining his third team this season before he was off a plane from Denver and headed to Little Caesars Arena.
He warmed up for the game and while team equipment manager John Coumoundouros was still preparing McRae’s jersey, the newest Piston, who was claimed off waivers, was still trying to find his way around Little Caesars Arena and get his bearings before Wednesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
McRae had 15 points in his debut, and his game preparation was minimal at best. He got some diagrams of plays on paper, but not much video to review or much introduction to the Pistons’ schemes on offense or defense.
“I thought I was going to wear the warm-up by I didn't think I was going to play. I didn't know the plays or anything, but I went with the coaches and learned as much as I could for about 25 or 30 minutes and it was time to play,” McRae said after his first practice Thursday. “I didn't have (plays) prior to the game; they just gave me an iPad, though. The paper was a little old school.
McRae got some more papers Thursday — his payroll information and tax forms. He also got his first look at the Pistons’ new practice facility and got to run through his first practice, at a much slower pace than his first few hours in Detroit.
Following the season, McRae will become an unrestricted free agent, but in the remaining few weeks, he still has value that he can add to a young Pistons roster that doesn’t have much experience on the wings. As he showed in his first game, McRae can bring that scoring in loads, and in a hurry.
Whether he has a longer-term future with the Pistons hasn’t been determined, but in the interim he’ll look to contribute and find a niche, or even help out in working to groom some of the younger players. In the meantime, he’s not getting too comfortable, as he’s learned in his travels already this season.
“You've got to make the best of the opportunity. I've been on one- or two-year deals and everybody's dream is to find a home and I've gotten kind of used to living out of a bag, so to speak,” McRae said. “I never take my clothes out of the bag, never put them in the drawer because I could be gone.”
McRae, 28, started the season with the Washington Wizards and was traded to the Denver Nuggets at the deadline for Shabazz Napier, then negotiated a buyout and was waived on Monday, paving the way for him to join the Pistons on Wednesday.
It’s a whirlwind season for a player with McRae’s credentials, including playing on the 2016 championship team with the Cleveland Cavaliers and having his best season, averaging 11.6 points this season.
“It's tough; he's been unfortunate and caught in a couple of situations with trades and people wanting him in trades. He was behind the 8-ball with a good team in Denver and he was looking to go and get more playing time,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We saw it; his skill set is something every team needs.”
After losing Derrick Rose to an ankle injury for a couple of weeks, the Pistons needed another scorer and when McRae became available, they jumped at the opportunity, even on a short-term basis, on a smaller salary.
It’s a low-risk move that could pay dividends down the road, whether they decide to retain him beyond this year or they just have an experienced scorer to utilize and help steady the waters in the last 19 games of the season.
It was a long first day for McRae, but he’ll look to find some footing and become more acclimated in the coming days — and the playing time will be there for him to find it on the court.