Sekou Doumbouya's big dunk still excites one year later as Pistons prep for Cavaliers
In a league that’s filled with highlights, every once in a while, there’s one that simply stands out above the others.
Or maybe it leaps out.
Because of the pandemic, it seems like five years ago, but it’s been just over a year since the dunk heard ‘round the world, when Sekou Doumbouya was a rookie finishing the best week of his young career.
The Pistons were in Cleveland and the young forward caught a pass at the top of the key, which drew a defender. Doumbouya immediately drove toward the rim, and seeing little resistance, he rose and dunked — over the Cavs’ Tristan Thompson. It became one of the top dunks of the season, but what added a little sauce was that the unheralded rookie stood over Thompson for a second, as if the dunk weren’t enough.
On Wednesday, the Pistons play at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse for the first time since that game. For Doumbouya, it’s like returning to the scene of the crime, where the memories hit him almost immediately.
Following Tuesday’s practice, Doumbouya was asked about the play, and he immediately struck a smile, even before the question was done.
“When I came in for shootaround, that was the first thing I thought about,” Doumbouya said. “That was something special — that was my first big one. When I came in, I was like, 'I've got to make another one.' I don't know who that's going to be, but I have to catch a body.”
This season hasn’t provided the same level of excitement, as Doumbouya, has struggled to find playing time behind Blake Griffin and Jerami Grant. He’s played sparingly, but the effort has been there even if the numbers haven’t: 4.5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 16 games.
Doumbouya understands the logjam at the position and that minutes will be hard to come by, unless Griffin is resting his knee or another circumstance provides an opportunity. He took advantage in Saturday’s loss, tying his season high with 13 points and adding four rebounds, along with another seven points Monday against the Sixers.
General manager Troy Weaver and coach Dwane Casey speak glowingly of Doumbouya still, and there’s no indication that they’re looking to go in a different direction or that he’s available in a trade. Still, understanding the landscape of playing behind Griffin and Grant and being only 20 years old requires some patience.
“I think about it. Yesterday, I was thinking about it. I'm only 20 but at the same time, there is no age in this league,” Doumbouya said. “You know you can play and because of the situation, it's tough sometimes, but I don't have to pay attention to that.”
With Griffin set to miss Wednesday’s game, it’s another opportunity for Doumbouya to make an impression — maybe on a different Cavs player.
As the Pistons get near the quarter mark of the season, there’s some disappointment that they’ve only won four games, but then there is a realization that everyone expected this to be a rebuilding season, with the rookies as the centerpiece.
The win against the Sixers on Monday was one of the high points of the season, as two of their victories have been over the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s a little something to savor in the midst of a mountain of losses, but something nonetheless that Casey and his staff can build on.
“There's moments. I think that shows when we're in games and we're competing. But then in some moments, we show our NBA experience or maturity. Just more experience of being in those situations or being in those roles before,” Casey said. “(The young players) are growing in those roles and it's not a negative; I'm not putting them to the negative. I expected it. There are other times guys they play their butts off, make the right decisions and make the right plays throughout the game.”
PISTONS AT CAVALIERS
Tipoff: 7 Wednesday, Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland
Outlook: The Cavs (8-9) are one of the surprises of the young season, with Collin Sexton (24.8 points and 4.2 assists) leading the way. The Pistons (4-13) will be without Blake Griffin (injury management) on the first game of a back-to-back.