AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Brandon Knight is already making an impression on a Detroit team eager for a fresh start.
"He's the future of this organization," Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva said at media day Wednesday.
Knight was taken with the eighth pick in this year's draft, and the 6-foot-3 point guard out of Kentucky is working hard to fit in after the lockout postponed the beginning of his NBA career. It's not clear how much Knight will play at first, but he's taking this whirlwind start to his rookie season in stride.
"Of course you want to get ready to play and get right to it, and for it to be a normal off-season," he said. "But that was something that most of us knew entering the draft — that it probably wouldn't be a normal off-season, there probably would be a lockout. So it was something that I was prepared for."
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Knight averaged 17.3 points as a freshman last season at Kentucky, helping the Wildcats reach the Final Four. He joins a Detroit team trying to rebuild after missing the playoffs two straight seasons.
Although he had plenty of experience playing in big games in college, he's already noticed a major difference in the NBA.
"Just the speed. We talk about something — we talk about a play — and we're on to the next play," he said. "In college, we might spend three or four days on two plays. Here, we're constantly moving on to the next thing. You've got to take it in, memorize it, know what's going on and be ready for the next thing."
Detroit's 2010 first-round pick, Greg Monroe, showed promise in the low post last season, and the Pistons have their share of perimeter threats like Ben Gordon, Austin Daye, Tayshaun Prince and Villanueva. There's room for another point guard, though.
It's not clear if Rodney Stuckey's future is at point or shooting guard — and it's a moot issue right now because Stuckey is a restricted free agent without a contract. Tracy McGrady played the point a bit last season, but he is now with Atlanta. Knight and Will Bynum are the two plausible point guard options currently with the Pistons.
Coach Lawrence Frank, who took over after John Kuester was fired during the off-season, has been noncommittal about his rotation, but the fact that Detroit has a new coach means Knight isn't necessarily behind anyone else this pre-season.
"It's a little bit easier on me in this situation because we have a new coach, we've got a new staff," Knight said. "So it's not just me learning, it's all of us at the same time learning — adjusting to a new coach, adjusting to a new scheme, new terminology."
The Pistons open the season Dec. 26 at Indiana, so Knight has until then to prepare and adjust to his new teammates. That's a particularly important task for a point guard.
"I'm just trying my best so far just to try to run the team and make sure we're getting good shots — trying to lead guys in the right way," Knight said.
Although his talent was obvious, Knight was also drafted to help change the team's culture. Veteran Richard Hamilton fell out of favor and was benched at one point last season, one of a handful of ordeals Kuester and his players went through as they struggled to coexist. Hamilton and the team reached a buyout agreement recently.
Frank had nothing but good things to say Wednesday about Knight's attitude and work ethic.
"Very, very impressed with his general makeup. He's a sponge. He listens very well," Frank said. "Big eyes, big ears, so to speak. He learns quickly. You've got to kick him off the floor. The guys have embraced him because he's not afraid. He loves to play."
Being a rookie isn't easy. Knight said he's still at a hotel while looking for a place to stay permanently. With the season fast approaching, he can't afford to worry too much about logistical matters.
But Knight is confident he can adapt to the pros and give the Pistons a boost.
"I feel I can help the team get better. That's my personal expectation," he said. "I just want to make myself get better throughout the season and make sure that I'm being a positive influence on this team."