Ben Wallace, Juwan Howard drop in on Pistons' opening day of training camp
Detroit — The Pistons had a few distinguished guests at the first day of training camp Tuesday: newly inducted Hall of Fame center Ben Wallace and Michigan coach Juwan Howard.
Wallace, who is becoming more of a presence around the Pistons practice facility and the organization, took some time to work with second-year center Isaiah Stewart.
“It’s huge, just showing (Stewart) tricks of the trade in post defense. Ben is going to be with us this week in training camp, helping our big guys with post defense and showing them tricks of the trade there,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It's good to have Ben around, and having him as an example for Luka (Garza) and Isaiah and Kelly (Olynyk) is so important, just because of his experience and what he's done, and what he means to this franchise.
“For him to be a part of our organization and working with the guys and he's going to do some scouting, we're really excited.”
When Wallace was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this month, most of the Pistons organization was present for the ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts. It looks to be a harbinger of a strengthening relationship between Wallace and the team where he spent most of his career.
Stewart has been compared to a smaller version of Wallace in the style that he plays and the effort and intensity that he shows when he’s on the court. It’s not a direct correlation from Wallace’s game to Stewart’s, but the technical aspects are important.
“I feel like he can teach me a lot, just because of the guys he guarded back then, and the guys I'm going up against. He went against monsters down in the post,” Stewart said. “Today was probably the most I ever talked to him. I took the time to ask him as many questions as I could but I'm hearing that he's going to around more and I'm definitely going to be picking his brain every day — and hopefully, he doesn't get tired of that.”
Howard wasn’t just checking up on rookie Isaiah Livers and his predecessor as Michigan coach, John Beilein, who is an assistant coach and director of player development. Casey invited Howard, along with some other college coaches in the area, who could drop in during training camp.
Grant taking lead
When last season began, the Pistons' locker room had some big-name veterans around who could assume the leadership mantle and help the young players transition into the NBA. Derrick Rose notably took Killian Hayes under his wing and mentored the rookie point guard.
This season, with both Rose and Griffin gone, some of that responsibility falls to Jerami Grant, who will be the go-to player on the court. Off the court and in the locker room, there’s plenty more of a void to fill for veterans, because more than half of the training camp roster is filled with first- and second-year players.
Grant, who had some positive experiences with Team USA on the way to winning the gold medal in the Olympics, plans to take on a bigger role there.
“Definitely, I've got to play that leadership role and grow into that and be that, especially with this young team that we have,” Grant said. “We also have other vets that can help out and do that. I'm kind of in the middle in terms of being not too old and not too young. I've definitely got to be that.”
Although Grant can appear to be laid-back and take things in stride, he sees where he will need to have a bigger voice in leadership. It’s going to take some other contributions from veterans such as Olynyk, Rodney McGruder and Josh Jackson. But the growth from last year’s first-round picks will help in that process. It also means having Grant come out of his shell a bit more.
“Maybe to be a little bit more vocal. I think it’s kind of natural for me to want to teach, though,” Grant said. “I love the game; I love been around it, so when I see something that I don't think is right, it's kind of easy for me to talk that up, no matter what it is.”
The Pistons rounded out their training camp roster, adding former Michigan guard Derrick Walton Jr. and Cassius Stanley, along with wing Deividas Sirvydis, who was on the roster last season. All three contracts are for training camp and are non-guaranteed deals.
The additions bring the roster total to the maximum of 20, including the 15 guaranteed contracts and two two-way contracts. It’s likely that one or more of those three players will make the Motor City Cruise roster and play in the G League this season.