The Pistons held an open practice at nearby Oakland University today, filling the university’s basketball arena (the O’Rena) about half full.
Head coach Lawrence Frank and his assistants split the team up into Blue and White squads, switching up the lineups periodically throughout the six-minute quarters. The Blue team was led by Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, Charlie Villanueva, Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette, Slava Kravtsov, Khris Middleton, Austin Daye and Jonny Flynn. The White team featured Will Bynum, Kim English, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell, Terrence Williams, Andre Drummond, Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler.
Considering the team began practicing just this week, both sides showed significant rust on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. With new teammates and plenty of rookies, that’s understandable, but still something that the coaching staff will need to work on.
There were plenty of lay-ups and put-back shots in the low post that were missed, as well. The Pistons took the fourth-most shots in the paint last year (29.5 per game) but finished twenty-fifth in the league in actually finishing those shots, not a great statistic. With more big men who primarily bang down low, that statistic should hopefully reverse itself this season.
Two of the team’s new additions, Kravtsov and Drummond, showed off their explosive abilities in the low post as well. Both had thunderous dunks over teammates that also drew and-1 fouls: Kravtsov’s came off a designed play and Drummond’s came when he slipped on his way back up the court but was alone on the other end after his team forced a turnover. Both big men also showed good defensive instincts, causing several altered shots and deflected or flat-out blocked others.
Two constants on offense for both teams were the pick-and-roll and dribble penetration leading to kick-outs. Daye and Knight used the pick-and-roll fairly effectively, while Singler and English got open shots through penetration to the basket by Bynum and Stuckey. For a team that shot in the middle of the pack last year (34.6%), one would hope that the team will continue practicing their shooting if these two plays are going to be consistent parts of the offense.
The team’s public address announcer, Mason, also drew laughs from the crowd with several unique sayings after plays made by the team. After a drive to the basket by Monroe (whose nickname is Moose), Mason exclaimed, “The Moose is loose!” When the former Georgetown big man hit a bank shot, Mason said, “Soft touch with a little Moose Juice.” For fans who have grown to enjoy Mason’s unique sayings, it appears he’ll have plenty more for 2012-13.
It’s hard to take much from the team’s early practices, and there’s plenty to work on before the October 31 home opener, but early returns show an athletic, young team.