The Detroit Pistons’ Brandon Knight is ready to start his second season as Motown’s point guard. He didn’t flock to summer hotspots like Los Angeles or Las Vegas or Orlando for extended time, preferring to improve himself in Detroit, where few venture once the season is over. On the eve of training camps optimism is unbound everywhere, so what’s striking about Knight is that he makes no proclamations or promises. Where can the Pistons go this year? As far as we allow ourselves to, Knight responds.
The most anyone talked about someone from the Central Division last season and this offseason was Kyrie Irving, and mostly that was about his injuring himself in Team USA camp after his Rookie of the Year debut. A hyped point guard since he was in eighth grade, Knight knows about publicity, too, and also about winning at every level but the pros. Now he’d like to earn some of the former because of the latter in Detroit.
Dime recently spoke with Knight about his summer, which was heavy on basketball but also volunteering. He traveled to Miami Children’s Hospital, where he received treatment at age 15; promoted an active lifestyle at the Alliance for a Healthier Generation; helped build a playground in Detroit and also held basketball camps there and in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he — last but not least — dropped by a middle school to spread the word about working hard.
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Dime: After a long summer and after last season’s wait to start the season, how does it feel to be so close to training camp?
Brandon Knight: It’s a lot of fun, just knowing exactly when it’s going to start and knowing when and how I need to prepare for my timetable because there’s no lockout now, there’s no doubt.
Dime: Coming into this season, what areas did you feel you improved the most in that you needed to?
BK: Probably just my ability to make decisions as a point guard. The fact that playing a lot with NBA guys this summer and just getting more reps, the NBA game has slowed for me now. And also just the terminology, I’m quicker to understand when we make calls defensively what I need to do to get in line.
Dime: Do you feel like your workouts will have you close to game speed come camp?
BK: You never really know what coach has in store for training camp. Last year we had training camp but it wasn’t the same as it as during the regular season. I think my workouts are similar and pretty tough.
Dime: Once you got out of your individual drills and scrimmaged this summer, where could you see the difference most?
BK: Decision making. And if were to talk about that it goes hand in hand with pick and rolls. You have a lot options and you have to make the best decisions.
Dime: So who’s your favorite teammate to run the pick and roll with?
BK: Just because I have a better relationship playing with Greg (Monroe), I’d say it’s him, right now — him and Jason Maxiell.
Dime: I read a story about your volunteering at a middle school in Coral Springs, Florida, where none of the students knew anyone on the Pistons. Was that a good-natured humbling of sorts?
BK: I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m not somebody where I need to be recognized everywhere I go, if that comes it comes. I’m in Heat nation so that’s the only thing they see. I’m like you gotta say somebody other than me (laughs). The only players they actually know are LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh.
Dime: What drew you to volunteer as much as you did this summer, and is this something you want to continue every offseason, you think?
BK: Definitely. I just spend some time. You don’t have a lot of time in the season to focus on volunteering with winning games and playing so when I have time in the offseason you want to volunteer and give back. It’s nothing to give an hour here or there in the summer.
Dime: You had surgery on your spine in high school. When you visited that same neurology clinic in August, was that a special experience?
BK: Definitely because there were a lot of kids in that situation as I was and they’re looking to go home. Just the fact you have an NBA player who can go in there and cheer up their mood it’s pretty cool. I was in their same situation and wanted to go home. If I had someone famous drop by it would have been cool.
Dime: Are the Pistons better than people might think? Seems like you have the beginnings of a good base, especially if Andre Drummond can contribute quickly.
BK: We definitely have lot of good pieces. Right now I don’t know if we have one guy we rely on for anyone. The way we play it could be anyone’s night. We don’t play like that and as far as who has it going, that’s who we’ll turn to at the time. Like you said we have a lot of good pieces. Everyone can contribute. We’re going to take ourself as long as we want to. A lot of people want to look at that realistically but we have as much talent as any team in the NBA. It’s on us to hold ourselves accountable and play the game the right way. If we handle ourselves the right way I think we’ll show ourselves.
Dime: Why do you have that confidence about the team?
BK: Just guys maturing and approaching the game the right way. Last year we could get away with certain things. The coaches would say it but at some point you can tune them out.
Dime: Does that mean there’s more leadership from within the team now?
BK: Greg has become very vocal, standing out, and he’s someone who can do a lot of talking early on.
Dime: I’ve read that Keyon Dooling, who’s also from Fort Lauderdale, helped give you some guidance on how to succeed in the NBA. Coming from a guy with a career arc like his, what has been most valuable?
BK: He talked a lot about professionalism. You know being a good teammate and I think those are other than basketball qualities that organizations like. Guys who are on time and doing the right things for our organization. Just basic things like dressing right.
Dime: You were hyped for so long about your potential, but now are there young points coming up you enjoy watching the most?
BK: I don’t really watch college basketball or high school basketball. I’m so focused on the NBA players and watching them, so I don’t really know what I used to know.