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The Detroit Pistons are 32 games into the season. But their practice on Tuesday felt like the first day of training camp.
That's because six new faces have joined the roster within the last week. With eight players in health and safety protocols and four additional players on the injury report, the Pistons are relying on a mishmash of NBA and G League players to get through the season.
They've added five players from the Motor City Cruise within the last week, and one player who has spent a significant portion of his professional career on other G League teams.
Cheick Diallo became the first Cruise player to sign a 10-day contract with the parent organization last Thursday. Four of his teammates — Derrick Walton, Cassius Stanley, Deividas Sirvydis and Trayvon Palmer (signed Tuesday) — have since joined him. The lone outsider is Justin Robinson, a Virginia Tech alumnus who also signed Tuesday and was most recently on a 10-day deal with the Sacramento Kings.
"Guys like Saddiq (Bey), Hami (Diallo), Frank (Jackson) are going to have to learn their new teammates, too," Dwane Casey said after practice Tuesday. "It’s introducing the new guys to what we’re trying to do, keeping it simple, but at the same time introducing our current players that are available to the new guys. It was a lot like training camp today."
The team could sign additional players as they await the return of their eight players in the NBA's COVID-19 protocols. Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saben Lee, Rodney McGruder, Trey Lyles, Cory Joseph and Josh Jackson have all entered protocols within the last week. Detroit had just nine players available in the loss to the Spurs on Sunday in San Antonio, and four of the nine were Cruisers.
Casey, who has missed last four road games due to personal reasons, praised the performance of his coaching staff in the wake of a COVID outbreak that's impacted teams leaguewide. Rex Kalamian has filled the lead chair in Casey's stead. With three additional assistant coaches also sidelined right now, Cruise coaches and members of the developmental staff have had to take on larger roles.
"When you’re undermanned, who find out exactly who people are," Casey said. "Everybody in the organization stepped up through adversity. This league is about adversity, as you all know. Tough times, you find out exactly what people are made of, what they can do and if they can step up. I think everybody in the organization, from top to bottom, the medical staff, the front office getting these new guys in here. These are tough times in this league."
No update on Olynyk
When Kelly Olynyk sprained his left knee on Nov. 10, the Pistons announced that the big man would be re-evaluated in six weeks. Last week marked six weeks since the injury, but there's no word on when Olynyk will return yet.
Olynyk has been wearing a knee brace at the Pistons Practice Facility, and and has been spotted working out on the exercise bikes.
"It’s just when his body responds," Casey said. "He’s still working, still rehabbing. We really don’t have a timetable to put a date on when he’s coming back, exactly. He’s probably getting ready for a triathlon on that bike because he’s peddling away."
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: With many new faces, Detroit Pistons practice resembles training camp