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Archive for Monday, October 9, 2006

Blalock content to play for Pistons

Competition may force former Iowa State guard to be farmed to developmental league for a spell

October 9, 2006

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— The transition of moving from starring as a collegiate point guard to becoming a consistent NBA contributor is one that only the best and brightest make smoothly.

Chris Paul did it.

Isiah Thomas had an All-NBA rookie team year in 1982.

Magic Johnson reached the NBA Finals his rookie year.

That's just about where the list of luminaries ends.

Luckily for the Detroit Pistons, they don't need their rookie point guard, Will Blalock, to do much besides learn this season.

Picked No. 60 overall and coming into a team staffed with All-Star Chauncey Billups, veteran Lindsey Hunter and newly acquired combo guard Flip Murray, Blalock will stay in the shadows this season. That's OK by him.

"I just want to get better every day," Blalock said. "Just come to work, learn on the job and get better every day... If I get a little bit better every day, by the end of the season, I could be OK by then."

Blalock skipped his senior season at Iowa State and entered the NBA draft in June not sure where he'd end up.

Suffice it to say, he didn't expect it to be the final pick in the draft. For the second straight year, the Pistons had the final pick. And they snapped up Blalock, saying afterward that they'd been surprised he'd lasted so long.

Blalock found it surprising, too.

"It was real mind-boggling," Blalock said.

"I'm sitting there with my family watching on TV. But when I saw Detroit picked me, it couldn't get any better for me, as far as the situation with two vets."

Since coming to camp, Blalock has put aside whatever frustration he carried with him and focused on learning. Those two vets, Billups and Hunter, have helped him adjust, as has assistant coach Terry Porter, who harped on Blalock in the middle of the team's open scrimmage Saturday.

Blalock patiently listened as Porter advised him to keep penetrating when his defender gives him space. On the next play, he followed that advice, darted into the lane, and once inside, dished out to a teammate wide open in the corner.

Little by little, he learns.

Blalock said he's trying to soak up the particulars of coach Flip Saunders' systems, as well as adjust to the pace of the NBA game.

There's a good chance the Pistons will outsource Blalock to their new D-league team in Sioux Falls. If that happens, Blalock will roll with it.

"I thought about it," Blalock said. "People always kind of look down on it. I look at it as a learning experience. I'm playing behind two veteran guards. I would get better here, but if I have to go that route, I figure it will be maybe a plus for me because I'll be able to play and stay in shape and then come back here and help them out in practice."

Either way, Billups sees lots of potential.

"The rook is going to be good," Billups said. "He's very, very solid. Doesn't make a lot of mistakes. He's poised out there."

Pistons notebook: The Pistons did not practice Sunday. They flew to Puerto Rico for their first exhibition game, a matchup with defending NBA champion Miami. The game is Tuesday night in San Juan.

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