Cavs Reserve Guard Recalls His Early Days in Detroit
by Joe Gabriele (@CavsJoeG)
1/15/20 | Cavs.com
To start the 2011-12 season, the league had to wait until Christmas to show off its brand new toys – with that summer’s Draft class sitting patiently through the NBA Lockout before finally making their debut.
That year, the Cavaliers were waiting on a pair of high picks – Kyrie Irving, the first overall selection, and Tristan Thompson, who went three spots later. Two other point guards went in the top 10 after Irving: Kemba Walker went ninth overall to the Hornets, one spot after, the Pistons tabbed Brandon Knight out of Kentucky.
The Pistons were on the other side of their glory days from the previous decade and were beginning to re-tool for the future. And Knight, coming off a prolific freshman season with John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, was the perfect point man to build around.
He became the first Pistons rookie since Grant Hill to be named to the All-Rookie First Team and his 12.8ppg average was the highest average for a Pistons freshman since 1980-81.
As the Wine & Gold’s roadie rolls on, Knight recalled his unique initial campaign in today’s installment of Rookie Tales …
What was it like, coming in as a rookie in late-December after the NBA Lockout?
Brandon Knight: It was … different.
I didn’t really get to have a Summer League and things like that my first year. So, I was really thrown right into the fire in December.
Before that, you try to train, but it’s tough to train with a purpose when you don’t know when you’re going to start. And that Lockout was one where you didn’t really know if the season was going to start.
And the Lockout ended kind of abruptly. We had heard a rumor that things might resume, and then … it kind of just happened. It was kind of difficult because we got right into it.
So, in my first taste of the NBA, we were playing back-to-back-to-backs! There were multiple times where we would play a triple, then have maybe a couple days off and play another triple. It was nuts.
So, yeah, it was definitely a different experience.
Cavs fans remember some of the battles you and Kyrie Irving used to have that year. Did you go after guards that were drafted around you?
Knight: No, I wouldn’t say it was that. I mean, I tried to go at any guard that I was playing. It wasn’t just those guys.
I grew up playing against those guys. I played against Kemba twice in college, I played against Kyrie multiple times in different camps. So, it wasn’t something where it was new for me. I was very familiar with those guys — especially those two guys.
So, it wasn’t anything like: ‘We’re all in the same Draft class, so I’m going to go after these guys.’ At the end of the day, we all made it. I’m trying to go at guys that have been here for years.
Rookie year, I’m not going to get up for killing another rookie. It’s competition for whoever I’m on the floor with.
The Pistons changed ownership right before your rookie season. Did that affect you in any way?
Knight: I wouldn’t say it did. I would say on the business side, it definitely had an effect, which in turn affected me in the long run in Detroit.
But my rookie year, I was so focused on just basketball. Those details, I wasn’t even aware of them in my rookie year.
“Rookie year, I’m not going to get up for killing another rookie. It’s competition for whoever I’m on the floor with.”
Brandon Knight, on going up against other point guards in his Draft class
Considering that difficult 66-game schedule in 2011-12, did you hit the Rookie Wall?
Knight: Not that I remember, no.
I mean, I remember being juiced up for every game. It was my first year, I’m coming off a Lockout. I was just excited to play.
So I felt like I had energy all throughout the year.
How was having Lawrence Frank as your first NBA head coach?
Knight: He was tough on us. He expected a lot.
You know, having coached some great players in D.C. and having had a good run with a Jason Kidd in New Jersey, he knew his stuff and he expected a lot, even from the younger guys.
That was a veteran-heavy Pistons team. Did any of the vets take you under their wing?
Knight: I had a lot of vets on that team. Ben Wallace, Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell, Tayshaun Prince, Greg Monroe.
So, out of those guys, somebody that took me under his wing — actually, I wouldn’t say ‘under his wing’, but the guy who taught me a lot and showed me a lot and taught me what it was like to work hard, I’d say was definitely Ben Wallace.
Even being in the second-to-last year of his career, he was getting more work in than most of the players on our team. I was able to see that and recognize that — and I follow that to this day.
Was anyone especially tough on you?
Knight: No, not really. Everybody was tough in their own way.
Was there a rookie initiation back then?
Knight: Are you kidding? Of course! I’m not going to go into the details. But that was 2011, man. It’s not like today. And we had Ben Wallace, so you know he was gonna get the rooks. Coffee, McDonald’s, newspapers, lotion.
There was there was no limit for the rooks. Nothing was off limits.