Three of Detroit Pistons’ ‘Core Four’ find moments to shine
When Troy Weaver, general manager of Pistons, made a series of trades to get two extra picks in the first and second rounds, he had a clear plan for how the rebuilding would go.
He called the selection – Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, and Saben Lee – the “Core Four,” a nod to the New York Yankee resurgence of the 1990s and 2000s.
It’s not that Weaver made predictions of multiple championships in the piston’s future, but he was trying to lay the groundwork for a resurgence. That optimism kicked in in the first month of the season when Hayes, # 7 overall, suffered a torn hip labrum and was put on hold for a few months.
In the meantime, the other three have made a name for themselves. When he started getting consistent minutes, Stewart impressed with his hectic pace and became a fan favorite almost immediately. Within two weeks, Bey and Lee were leading the team in a game.
Bey was the Eastern Conference player of the week, and Lee’s 21 points opened some eyes that he could be a key piece for the rotation. In the middle of a 9-23 season the pistons take their lumps, but the future looks better with Core Four.
“The future is bright. It’s ugly right now when we get kicked,” said coach Dwane Casey. “We have some high profile people, some solid people, and a young man like Killian walking in will help them a lot. I like what we have with the new players.
“We have Josh (Jackson) who is young and Isaiah and all these young people who are contributing in the right way. So it’s exciting to think about the future and add some pieces and take some steps, but the foundation is being built ahead of us. “
After trading with Derrick Rose and agreeing that Blake Griffin would sit out, the Pistons have carved out more playing time for their young core. Bey moved up to the starting grid, where he averaged 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 38% on 3-pointers in about 33 minutes per game. That’s a hefty step up for Bey, but it’s a necessary step in seeing how he gets used to the starter minutes.
It’s a little baptism of fire, but the newbies are fine when they have more playtime.
“It is good for all of us to continue to improve and gain experience,” said Bey. “It’s great to go through things and keep learning. It’s a blessing to have this opportunity. “
There is also a building of camaraderie between the newbies, even if Hayes does not accompany them on the street. As they achieve their own small successes, they also try to acknowledge incremental progress.
“We encourage each other. All three of us in the locker room always encourage each other, when each of us has a good game we pick each other up and tell each other how proud we are of each other, “said Stewart. “We’re just sticking together, we’re trying to build something here, so we make sure we work every day.”
Of the three, Lee’s improvement seems to have come out of nowhere. After playing just eight games by February 9, he switched to the substitute role after Delon Wright’s groin injury, which will keep him away for at least two weeks.
Even though Lee had played on site just a few minutes earlier, he was put into tough minutes on the final road trip and has responded with 15.3 points, 4.3 assists and just 1.3 turnovers in his last three games.
“He stayed ready throughout the track, didn’t play a few games and came in straight away and made that impression. I know he has that in him and I wouldn’t expect anything else, ”Stewart said of Lee. “I am very proud of him. This is the guy I see who just works hard, believes in God and lets the rest take care of itself. “
That the rookies make a contribution at a high level is proof of how hard they have worked with the coaches to develop their skills. Stewart and Lee often stay after home games, working with the coaches to get extra shots and individual work that mimics what they missed when they didn’t have a typical off-season or summer league to prepare for the season.
“My hat is to all of the young people across the league – not just to our team – but to all the newbies who went through this pandemic and didn’t get a chance to do the Summer League and fall training camp,” Casey said.
“This (losing) builds up calluses. This whole season is going to be calluses in a game like (Wednesday) and back to back that we’re facing or that are just understaffed. Whatever it is, it will calluses for years to come. “
Pistons against kings
► Tip: Friday, 8 p.m., Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV / radio: FSD / 97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Pistons (9-23) lost four out of five games on their road trip – but they have won four of their last five home games. After a promising start, the Kings (12-19) have lost eight games in a row.