Hard work still ahead for Singler
As excited as he is about finally realizing his NBA dream, Kyle Singler said Friday that the work is far from over as he strives to be an impact player in Detroit's revival effort.
The Pistons have missed the playoffs the last three seasons after a run of seven straight years in the postseason — and six trips to the Eastern Conference finals — but Singler said he's optimistic that the team is moving in the right direction and eager to be part of it all.
"I think they have a great young nucleus as a team and had a great draft (Thursday) and got some great players there, too," said the 6-foot-8 forward from Medford. "Everything you get is earned and I'm definitely going to have to earn what I get my rookie season. I just plan on working hard, playing to my strengths and trying to earn as much as I can."
Detroit's rebuilding process has revolved around its most recent drafts, where the Pistons were able to pick up 6-foot-11 center/forward Greg Monroe (2010), 6-3 point guard Brandon Knight (2011) and 6-10 center Andre Drummond (2012) with their top picks.
Tayshaun Prince, a 6-9 forward, remains as the only link to the Pistons' last championship team in 2004 and will be entering his 10th NBA season, while Rodney Stuckey appears to be coming into his own after four seasons at shooting guard.
Those five figure to play a prominent role in the Pistons' plans for the 2012-13 season and, after that, Singler finds himself among a host of players hoping to stake their claim to key roles. Detroit president of operations Joe Dumars said the team expects to formally sign Singler on July 11.
"When they were in Spain they told me that they see me being an important part of what they're trying to accomplish," Singler said of visits by Dumars and members of his staff. "They're excited about me and definitely showed interest in wanting me to come play for them."
The biggest logjam for playing time, however, appears to be where Singler fits in best at small forward, although the former Final Four MVP is capable of playing at power forward or shooting guard.
Austin Daye, a 6-11 forward from Gonzaga, was Detroit's 15th overall selection in 2009 but struggled with his shot last season (32 percent from the field and 21 percent from 3-point range). Charlie Villanueva, another 6-11 forward, has been somewhat of an enigma in recent years with his lack of production on defense and took a step back offensively in an injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign.
Detroit did get a boost at the forward position from Jonas Jerebko, with the 6-10 Sweden product providing good energy to go with nine points and five rebounds in 23 minutes per game last season. Power forwards Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace, who is contemplating retirement, provided steady play in the paint but don't offer much offensive output.
Detroit also just traded for 6-6 guard/forward Corey Maggette, a 13-year NBA veteran, but that move was primarily made to clear about $15 million in salary cap space by trading away Ben Gordon. Maggette has averaged about 16 points, five rebounds and two assists over his career but has been injury prone of late.
The Pistons also recently declined to pick up the player option on the contract for 6-10 forward Vernon Macklin who, like Singler, was taken in the second round of the draft in 2011 (No. 52 overall). The move makes Macklin a free agent, although he will play for the Pistons in the Orlando Summer League. He spent half of last season in the NBA's Developmental League and averaged only two points in six minutes over 23 games with Detroit.
If that's not enough to deal with, Singler will have to compete with fellow rookies Khris Middleton, a 6-8 forward from Texas A&M, and Kim English, a 6-6 guard from Missouri. The duo were picked 39th and 44th overall, respectively, on Thursday.
What Singler does have on his side, however, is his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting, his hard-nosed hustle on both ends of the floor and an unquestioned high basketball intelligence. He twice led South Medford High to the state championship final against Kevin Love-led Lake Oswego, winning the title in 2007, and propelled Duke to the national title in 2010. His Real Madrid team also advanced to the Spanish League championship but lost in the pivotal fifth game.
The Pistons shot 44 percent from the field this past season but only 34.6 percent from 3-point range. Singler is coming off a season in Spain where he shot 55 percent from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc.
"They just want me to come in and play how I can but don't do anything crazy," Singler said of Detroit's expectations. "They just want me to be myself and do the things that I'm good at. They told me that's the reason why they drafted me (33rd overall in 2011) and they think the things I do are good enough to help the team."
He will get his first chance to make a good impression when the Orlando Summer League begins July 9. The Pistons will play five games in five days while in Florida. After that, Singler said he plans on taking a break from basketball — he's been going strong since last August in Spain — and plans to return home for the annual Cota-Singler Gala Auction Dinner on July 27 at Kids Unlimited.
Beyond the auction, Singler said he also plans to put on a basketball camp at Kids Unlimited while he's home in Medford. More details of that camp will be disclosed once the summer league is complete.
"I haven't had a vacation day in a while so I'm looking forward to when that day happens," he said. "It'll be nice to see my friends and family again and spend some more time with them, and it'll just be nice to get back to Medford in general."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry