Young Pistons aim to build 'winning mentality' in Summer League
Cade Cunningham didn’t mince words about what his expectations are for the Pistons in their five-game Summer League schedule.
He said he wants to go undefeated and to win the championship.
That’s a lofty goal for a group that should have one of the most talent-laden rosters of young players among the 30 teams that will tip off in Las Vegas on Sunday.
Coach Dwane Casey reinforced the thinking.
“You want to go with the mentality to win,” Casey said Thursday. “You want to build that winning mentality because in the NBA it's a skill to know how to win, so everybody on the roster has to know what plays will win for you and things you don't want to do in certain situations.
“That's what we want to see, as much as anything else. There's nothing wrong with Cade saying we want to go undefeated.”
Unlike previous years, only the teams with the top two records, after tiebreakers, will go to the title game. It’s a long haul for the Pistons to try to get there, but it’s a challenge that they seem to be taking early on.
There are so many little nuances that they have to learn to win, but building those winning habits will be critical for Summer League and going forward into the season.
“It’s just getting used to the speed of the NBA game, the length for our young guys that didn't play in the NBA, guys like Luka (Garza) and Cade and the guys that are participating in the Summer League,” Casey said. “That's one thing you do want to see. Today, we had a lot of end-of-game situations. How do you guys think under pressure? Can they handle it? Can they take the ball out of bounds? Are they good screeners?
“If you're on defense, we had a situation where we were up three and we wanted to execute a foul. We didn't handle that properly, so teaching them all those things as they're coming in as rookies, where it doesn't happen to you in October, November once the season starts.”
Summer squad set
The Pistons officially revealed their Summer League roster on Thursday, and it’s going to have plenty of familiar faces.
Many of their young core players will highlight the roster, including last year’s draft picks Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee are expected to play. Several of this year’s selections, including Cunningham, along with second-round pick Luka Garza, are among the 17 players listed.
Sekou Doumbouya, who was their first-round pick in 2019, also made the roster. Two notable omissions are 2020 second-round picks Isaiah Livers (Michigan) and Balsa Koprivica. Livers is recovering from a foot injury and is expected to be cleared for full basketball activities in October. Koprivica is likely to be available, but not until his trade from the Charlotte Hornets, who drafted him last week at 57th overall, is completed.
Other notable names include Tyler Cook and Deividas Sirvydis, who were waived last week. They could be auditioning for one of the pair of two-way contracts the Pistons will have. The other is expected to be Chris Smith, a forward from UCLA, who is injured and will not play in Summer League.
Among the other players on the roster are rookies Blake Francis, Spencer Littleson, John Petty Jr., Jamorko Pickett and Anthony Tarke.
The Summer League team will be coached by assistant coach J.D. DuBois, and it will start its five-game schedule Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Here are the first four games of the Summer League schedule. The fifth game will be announced when the preliminary games are completed.
► Sunday vs. Oklahoma City, Thomas & Mack Center, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
► Tuesday vs. Houston, Thomas & Mack Center, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
► Aug. 13 vs. New York, Thomas & Mack Center, 8 p.m. ET (NBATV)
► Aug. 14 vs. vs. L.A. Lakers, Thomas & Mack Center, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Livers said Wednesday that he was looking forward to being cleared for five-on-five workouts sometime in October, and Nov. 1 at the latest. Casey said they’re not going to try to put Livers in a position where they can risk further injury.
“We're going to take our time; we're not in a huge hurry. He says it's going to be before that, but all guys do,” Casey said. “There's no reason to rush it. This will be a great development year for him, if it's a little later in the season.
“He's a sponge. I have him on the side taking notes and making sure that they're keeping up with the terminology and what's going on on the floor. We're going to take it slow and just make sure we get it right. It could be sooner, or it could be Nov. 1.”