ORLANDO, Fla. — New coach Maurice Cheeks spoke with reporters after the Pistons concluded summer-league action Friday morning. He gave his thoughts to Detroit Free Press sports writer Vince Ellis on second-year center Andre Drummond, rookies Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tony Mitchell, veteran guard Rodney Stuckey, increased expectations and hiring Rasheed Wallace as an assistant coach.
QUESTION: What did you think being able to sit back and watch?
ANSWER: I was impressed. Drummond, really love the way he plays, the way he competes. Just overall, I just thought our guys got better like what we talked about. I think they got better, and that's a great sign of when you're playing and you have a week and you go out there and try and get better. Drummond got better. (Caldwell-Pope) got better. Everybody out there got a little bit better.
Q: You've obviously done your homework on Drummond. When you see him like this, do you start envisioning how you will use him?
A: He is a big guy, a big imposing guy who can rebound. He has great hands. He can rebound the ball, he can run the floor. I told him in there he likes to put the ball on the floor, rebound the ball (laughs), make passes. He likes to do some things that guards do. We got to get some of those things out of his game, but as a big guy, the hands he has, the way he runs the floor, the post-ups, it was just something that was encouraging to see.
Q: What did Caldwell-Pope show you how he was able to stay involved when things weren't going well?
A: That was huge. I talked to him about trying to get to the rim a little bit more. So when he wasn't making shots, getting to the rim would allow him to open up his game a little bit more. The last few games he was getting to the rim a little bit more, and his game just looked more polished. He started making some shots, he started getting to the rim, and he didn't press at all. When he started missing shots, he didn't press. And he always plays defense. That's always a plus. If you're not making shots and you keep playing defense, something good is going to happen.
Q: In this setting, Drummond is more of a veteran guy. Did you see an opportunity for him to use his voice to become more of a leader?
A: I don't necessarily know about that. I think he's still a young guy. I think he realizes he's still a young guy. He tries not to play young. That's one of the important parts. You can be young and not play young. His game was speaking for himself. Not necessarily his words, I think his game was speaking for himself. I liked all the things he did out there. He was in the game. A lot of guys who played in the league the year before they come in here and kind of just go through the motions, but he didn't go through the motions. He was in every game. He committed himself to playing, and that's some of things I like.
Q: What are your thoughts on Mitchell's week?
A: I like the way he competes. He establishes himself down low. He didn't take a lot of crazy shots. He did the things that he's capable of doing.
Q: You were talking to Stuckey after Thursday's morning shoot-around and you were pretty animated. What was your message to Stuckey? You were like a preacher in the pulpit.
A: I wasn't preaching. I was just letting him know what I felt about him, the game itself. I talk about the game because I've been around this game a long time, and I try to get my message to guys about the game itself because I appreciate the game so much because I'm fortunate enough to be in the game so long. So when I have guys that have ability, and he's one of the guys that certainly has ability, I don't want his ability to be wasted. I will have an opportunity to put my stamp on him. I want him to understand about the chances that are here for him and don't want them to go wasted. I was giving to him the knowledge that I have and will be giving to him throughout the year, and I will not waste my ability to give him that knowledge because if I'm wasting it, I'm not doing my job.
Q: Since you've taken this job, this roster has changed exponentially. Expectations have been raised a great deal with playoff expectations. How do you approach this now?
A: It was always envisioned that way for me in the beginning that we were going to make a run at the playoffs, that's for sure. Certainly getting a different player here, a different player there allows you to take that vision a little further. The vision hasn't changed for me that much. I'm excited. I'm excited about some of the players we acquired and the players we have and trying to blend them all together.
Q: Are you surprised the overhaul happened that quickly?
A: For me, when you are a coach, you coach the players you have. I'm excited about the additions, but had the additions not come, I would have still coached the players that I have in the manner that I think we can get win and try and get to the playoffs. The players we got enhance the vision a little bit more, but whether we got them or not, I was still going to (do my job).
Q: Thoughts on bringing Wallace as an assistant coach?
A: He's a knowledgeable guy, been around the league a long time. We have a lot of young big guys. Anytime you have somebody that's been in the league as long as he has, that's won a championship, that's done the things offensively and defensively the way he has, you can only enhance the players we have, and that's the reason why I thought about it.