Brandon Knight probably isn’t the happiest Detroit Piston right now. Mr. Big Shot’s back. The Pistons didn’t go through all the pomp and circumstance of staging Chauncey Billups’ return Tuesday in the Palace atrium unless they envision him as the likely starting point guard on opening night. And the Rajon Rondo rumors aren’t dissipating anytime soon. It’s highly unlikely the All-Star Boston point guard will remain a Celtic by next season’s trading deadline. And the Pistons will be at the top of viable suitors because they can offer the Celtics two of the three components they’re looking for – young potential still on rookie contracts and valuable expiring contracts. The third component is a 2014 first-round draft pick. Charlotte owns that Pistons’ pick, but it’s protected through the first eight selections. Knight might think the Pistons are pushing him out the door. But if he’s smart, he’ll appreciate the challenge facing him with a steadily changing Pistons’ roster. If he’s a competitor, Knight will use the shifting currents as motivation to push himself harder. It doesn’t help Knight’s development as a NBA-quality point guard if he honestly believes there’s limitless time on that clock. He’ll get every opportunity to prove that he’s ready to assume the leadership responsibilities that come with the title of point guard. But it’s time now to prove it. Don’t pout. Just play. If Knight sulks because of all the whispers, if he allows the business realities of the NBA to mess with his mind and sabotage his advancement, then he’s only making the decisions regarding the re-signing of Billups and the continued courtship of Rondo that much smarter. Of course the Pistons want Knight to succeed. His progression was a principal reason why they hired ex-point guard Maurice Cheeks as their newest head coach. It also factored into bringing back Billups. He insisted he didn’t come back to serve as a coach/mentor to Knight, but that is certainly part of his responsibilities. He can serve as that mature voice and steadying hand who endured more than his share of doubts through Billups’ many NBA career detours. But the Pistons have to make the playoffs now. They need a leader on the floor confident to make the right decisions as well as the clutch shot in the closing seconds of a tight game. Knight could still evolve into that player. But the Pistons need to know quickly if Knight can or cannot handle that role. Creating genuine competition through the realities of Billups and the rumors of Rondo accelerates that process.
With Billups back to Pistons, the pressure is on for Brandon Knight
Detroit Free Press | Jul 17