Kyle Singler: Detroit’s Consistent Rookie
Kyle Singler enjoyed a storied four-year career at Duke University, but like many college seniors his reward was being selected in the second round of the NBA draft. After being drafted in 2011 months before the NBA lockout, the 2010 NCAA champion eventually signed with Lucentum Alicante in Spain and finished the season with Real Madrid once the lockout was resolved. The time spent in college and overseas was positive and has helped Singler get off to a fast start with the Detroit Pistons in the NBA this year.
“It gave me experience,” Singler said. “Playing under Coach K, I learned a lot and got better as a basketball player. Then my year in Spain, I really got out of my comfort zone. I was still improving as a basketball player, learning different styles and different systems. Just playing with professional basketball players really helped my game.”
“I think going to a school like he went to, Duke, and playing four years there, then going overseas and having that experience aided his development,” confirmed Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank.
Singler earned a spot in Frank’s rotation on day one and after the Pistons 0-8 start, Frank inserted Singler into the starting lineup when veteran Rodney Stuckey missed a game due to the flu. Once in, Frank didn’t want to take him out. The floundering Pistons went 7-7 in Singler’s first 14 starts and are currently 9-13 since the change to the starting lineup.
The 24-year-old rookie was having an unexpected impact. A team that had become known for their inconsistency and not living up to expectations, the Pistons had found someone who could be an example of stability.
“[Singler is] the same guy every day in practice, shootarounds and games,” Frank said. “[He has] the same intensity, focus and motor. There is no [B.S.] to him. He just goes out and plays. He is not always going to shoot the ball well, but his heart and intensity is in the right place. He is 24, he is a rookie, so he is learning, but he is an easy guy for our players to play with because he is a no-agenda guy. He is just playing the game and trying to do the right thing and doing it to the best of his ability.”
Replacing Stuckey in the starting lineup came as somewhat of a surprise. At 6’ 8, Singler was projected to be a combo-forward and most likely a small forward at the NBA level. He was a good scorer with range out to the three-point line and a decent rebounder in college and in Spain, skills that were confirmed coming off the bench for Detroit. Also, the Pistons had drafted Andre Drummond in the lottery and it was widely expected Drummond would get an opportunity to start well before Singler. However, Singler has a high degree of comfort with his own skills and abilities. Starting this quickly and at the shooting guard position does not seem unusual to him.
“It has been a great experience so far in terms of playing in the NBA,” Singler said. “I wouldn’t say necessarily that I came out of nowhere; I have always viewed myself as a very solid basketball player. I am just trying to help the team as much as possible.
“When I was at Duke, I played many positions, so learning how to play different positions for me kind of comes easy because I view myself as just a basketball player. I don’t view myself as a forward or a three. I want to be the type of player that can play any position and I think that is going to be a key for me playing in this league.”
Singler plays the way every head coach would like their rookies to play. He doesn’t let success or failure at the offensive end of the floor influence what he does on defense. Singler wants to be known for his solid consistent effort.
“It is a difficult thing to do,” Singler said. “What I try to do is I try to view the game as two separate things. You have your offensive game and you have your defensive game. For me, I have always wanted to be consistent on defense. You can always control that. You can always try to be solid. You are going to miss shots. You are not always going to put up your best offensive game, but on the defensive end it is mostly effort and just knowing where to be, so that is something you can control.”
“Just be a solid basketball player, a guy where you know what you are going to get night in and night out.”
Plus he seems to really understand what has made him successful defensively. Singler studies his opponents before and during games and has done a good job of adapting on the fly. He doesn’t have the depth of knowledge about his opponents that a veteran would, but his approach is solid and it is easy to understand why Frank has shown so much confidence in him so quickly.
“All you have to do is learn what they do well and what they want to do and that gives you kind of the upper hand on what they are thinking,” Singler said. “For the most part scorers are going to score, but you just have to do your best to force them to do something they don’t want to do. I don’t know them as well as I should or a four- or five-year guy would. I try to study as much as I can and that helps, but it’s nothing like playing them in real life and at game speed, so it’s something that you have to learn on the fly, something you have to pick up during the games, so you have to adjust. If a guy is hot, it’s difficult. It’s definitely not easy, but I knew it was never going to be easy defending good players.”
Singler’s outstanding shooting from earlier in the season has tapered off. It probably wasn’t realistic to expect a rookie to shoot 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from three-point range over the course of an entire season, but as his offense slips, the defensive effort remains. Singler continues to impress his head coach by being an easy guy to play with who always tries to do the right thing. As an older rookie, Singler came to the NBA with good habits, valuable experience and the right attitude. This consistent rookie has earned his spot in the Pistons’ starting lineup.