NBA AM: Pistons Look Headed Back to Playoffs
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Greg Monroe Gears Up for A Big Year in Detroit
There’s sort of a hierarchy when it comes to Summer League games; obviously the rookies and unsigned free agents are practicing and playing in the games trying to prove themselves worthy of a roster spot and playing time, but for actual NBA players there actually are a couple of tiers; the first is the young, burgeoning star who hangs around the team and gets to know the new teammates, and the second is the veteran who doesn’t typically spend a lot of time at the events.
Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe, for example, is part of that first group, and he says the organization wanted him and a few of his teammates there to build some chemistry with the younger players and to really establish himself as a leader.
“That’s a big part of it,” Monroe said. “I practiced with them the first couple of days leading into games, and they’ve come to me, Brandon Knight, Kyle Singler, just to come in and help these guys, show them how we practice, how we go about our business.”
And how Detroit goes about their business will be very different this year, not only because they added veteran free agent forward Josh Smith and a handful of experienced and talented rookies, but also because players like Knight, Monroe, and Andre Drummond will have taken another step in their own development.
“Anticipation is definitely growing,” he said. “I’m just ready to get out there and just start playing, just start getting stuff done. That’s what I’m looking forward to. I’ve been working this whole summer, and I know my teammates have been. You just want it to start, you want it to all come together, and you want everyone to start producing in real efficient games.”
As for the rookies, Monroe sees big things for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, and Peyton Siva.
“Those guys have a lot of talent and a lot of athleticism, along with Peyton also coming off a National Championship playing under one of the best coaches out there: Rick Pitino,” Monroe said. “So, it’s three very good additions to our team, and like I said, they all worked extremely hard. There’s a lot being thrown at them, and I think they all handled it very well. As time passes on, it only gets better.”
And speaking of getting better, Monroe is pulling his own weight to try and get Detroit back into the postseason next year.
“I just try to make sure I get as better as I can over the summer, continue to grow on both sides of the ball,” he said. “It’s a little adjustment for me this year, change positions, playing the four spot a little bit more permanently. It’s just a lot changing around here, but I embrace it, I like it, and I’m just ready to get the season started.”
You know what else would be a change? Playing NBA basketball in May. If Monroe plays as well as the Pistons think he can, and all the other pieces of this team come together quickly, that’s a serious possibility for Detroit this year. The tides are turning for this franchise, and Monroe, literally and figuratively, is the center of the shift.
Myck Kabongo Gets His Second Chance with the World Champs
There was no way that Texas point guard Myck Kabongo should have gone undrafted. Two years ago, the former McDonald’s All-American looked like one of the top point guards in his class and was actually once rated higher than a lot of players who were taken in the lottery of the 2013 NBA Draft.
His talent is undeniable, but because his freshman year was underwhelming and his sophomore season was marred by a 23-game suspension because of inappropriate contact with a trainer who works for an agent, he took a tumble on draft night. The Miami HEAT, in need of depth at point guard, took a gamble on the undrafted point guard, who could end up being one of the steals of the draft.
“It’s a great opportunity for me,” Kabongo said. “Everyone in that locker room wearing a uniform says it’s a great opportunity. They’re the two-time defending world champs, and you can’t ask for more than that. They do everything in first-class ways, and it’s a great organization with [Pat] Riley and Coach Spo [Spoelstra]. They do a great job with everything, so we’re all excited.”
As for what Miami is expecting him to do during this Summer League audition, Kabongo admits the edict was pretty straightforward.
“Just take care of the basketball,” he said. “Do my job of taking care of the basketball and make the game easier for my teammates… I did my job just making the game as easy as possible for my teammates, getting them in the right spots and being the vocal leader out there defensively. Just pushing the ball and changing the tempo of the game.”
Anybody who watched Kabongo in college knows that’s exactly what he’s good at doing, and he’s doing everything he can to make his way onto this legendary roster so that he can keep his dream of playing in the NBA live. In the meantime, he’s just enjoying playing the game he’s always played so well, while trying to put his checkered collegiate past behind him.
“When the ball gets in the air it doesn’t matter. I’m getting a chance to show what I can do and all I got wrapped up in doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s all behind me now and it’s time to move forward.”
That’s really the only way for Kabongo to go. It doesn’t get much lower than going undrafted, but he’s got a better chance at making an NBA lineup than any other undrafted rookie this side of C.J. Leslie. He’ll do everything he can to get there, but it’s not an easy road. But that’s how things have been for two years now for this kid. Like he has all along, he’ll work past this adversity, too.