INDIANAPOLIS — Saturday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the Detroit Pistons looked the part of a young team finding their way, trying to win, but perhaps not quite ready to, losing to the middling Indiana Pacers, 124-115.
The face of that very dynamic may have been Purdue product Jaden Ivey, playing in his third NBA game after the Pistons picked him sixth in this summer’s draft. The former Boilermaker guard’s elite speed, quickness and athleticism stood out on an NBA floor much the same way they did on the college hardwood, probably more so due to the pace and space of the professional game.
Ivey repeatedly exploded past defenders, breaking down the Pacers’ defense off the dribble in the halfcourt or with his burst in the open floor, but he wound up committing five turnovers.
“He has the ability to get in there, and he does get in there, but now what?” Pistons coach Dwayne Casey said. “That’s his thing. But I love his game, he’s going to be a great player in our league for a long time. He just has to go through the growing pains of learning. But he’s a great kid and we’re so happy he’s in our organization.”
He played well during the Pistons’ first two games, against the Magic and Knicks, and while he may not have played his best game against the Pacers — with Matt Painter and his mother, Niele Ivey, among those in attendance — he flashed his NBA ceiling by finishing an unfulfilling night with 17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. He was uneven at the foul line, but otherwise, 6-of-13 from the floor, 2-of-3 from three-point range and relatively efficient in that regard.
“It’s a fast-paced game and the physicality of the game is a lot different,” said Ivey, who was an All-American as a sophomore at Purdue. “I’m just getting used to that and trying to learn everything I can. Coming in and starting, you just have to learn as much as you can. I try to keep watching film every single day … just trying to learn everything I can.”
The same can probably be said for the Pistons as a whole, as Ivey’s one of the many foundational players who are part of one of the NBA’s more intriguing young cores, Ivey being paired In the backcourt with Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 pick in 2021, as well as third-year players Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, among others.