It wasn’t that way back that the Philadelphia 76ers had been within the midst of The Course of. Sure, there was loads of shedding concerned, however a couple of positives got here out of it as nicely. Gamers like Jerami Grant, Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell obtained the runway to turn into respectable NBA gamers.

And, regardless of whiffing on a couple of draft picks, the Sixers hit the jackpot in 2014 after they chosen perennial MVP candidate Joel Embiid third general.

There was one other NBA participant round throughout The Course of that remembers it fairly vividly — he simply wasn’t on the courtroom. Jalen Duren, the thirteenth general decide within the 2022 NBA Draft, typically discovered himself within the low cost seats watching video games on the Wells Fargo Middle.

When the Detroit Pistons got here to Philly final week, it was a dream-like homecoming for the promising rookie.

“Man, it’s a surreal feeling proper now,” Duren stated pregame. “That is superb for me. I used to be simply speaking to the coaches, I bear in mind being up within the nosebleeds watching the sport so to be on the ground now it’s simply an incredible feeling for me.”

And his coaches undoubtedly knew it was particular for Duren — principally due to the 40-50 tickets he wanted that evening.

“Effectively, I hope so as a result of J.D. took everyone’s ticket so it higher imply one thing,” Pistons head coach Dwane Casey joked.

Duren remembers seeing the beginning of Embiid’s profession within the constructing the place he’d sq. off in opposition to the two-time MVP runner-up. It wasn’t Duren’s — or the Pistons’ — finest recreation of the season, however the younger huge man had his moments in opposition to the five-time All-Star.

And that’s in a season the place Duren’s age has incessantly belied his play. The groundwork for Duren’s fast progress was laid in a metropolis that loves its hoops.

“I stated [Memphis head coach] Penny Hardaway — and coaches right here in Philly — and [Memphis assistant and former Sixers head coach] Larry Brown, all these guys did an excellent job with him,” Casey stated, “so he was taking the suitable steps of an NBA recreation, NBA strategy, however nothing simulates being in it for actual. However he’s a fast learner, good, adapts to sure conditions, coachable — you may get on his behind and he responds in the suitable method. He’s gonna be nice for the Pistons group for a very long time.”

Duren starred at Philly Catholic League powerhouse Roman Catholic and in addition for Philly-based AAU squad Group Last, which has produced quite a few NBA gamers.

Duren would switch to nationwide powerhouse Montverde in Florida for his junior and senior seasons. There he grew to become one of many high recruits within the nation. He in the end spurned colleges like Kentucky and the chance to show professional for the G League Ignite to affix Hardaway and Brown with the Tigers. After main Memphis to the NCAA Event for the primary time since 2014 and successful AAC Freshman of the Yr, Duren declared for the NBA Draft, the place — after some confusion — he wound up a Piston.

However Duren nonetheless credit his Philly roots for molding him into the participant he’s developed into.

“The grit, the grind,” Duren stated. “Being at Roman and enjoying for Group Last simply … basketball is big in Philly — everyone knows that. So, rising up getting that aggressive edge and enjoying in opposition to all varieties of guys, guys who might have made it to this degree [but] simply didn’t make the suitable selections. I really feel like rising up right here helped me lots, helped me with my aggressive edge, helped me understanding the sport and simply being in contact with the sport from an early age.”

The early returns on the Pistons draft evening have been constructive. Explosive guard Jaden Ivey, chosen fifth general out of Purdue, has confirmed to be a brilliant spot. Ivey and Duren, together with 2021 first general decide Cade Cunningham, might kind arguably essentially the most intriguing younger trio within the NBA.

However Detroit is 8-27 to begin the yr whereas Cunningham just lately underwent season-ending shin surgical procedure. It’s going to take time for Cunningham (21), Ivey (20) and Duren (19) to seek out their footing within the NBA and make the Pistons related once more.

Whereas there are a number of areas of progress for Duren, he’s taken benefit of each alternative he’s gotten to date.

“There’s loads of little nuances he’s nonetheless studying as a result of totally different nights are various things he’s obtained to do,” Casey stated. “He’s studying … he’s an excellent scholar — a sponge. However once more, there’s no magic wand to say the place he will get it in actual time and identical to all rookies there’s a studying curve however he’s proper on monitor the place he ought to be.”

There may be one space of the sport the place Duren has already produced at an elite degree: rebounding.

He leads all rookies in rebounds per recreation (8.2) and rebounding share (16.7, good for 14th in the whole NBA). He’s additionally eighth within the league in offensive rebounding share (12.6).

Certain, Duren’s 6-foot-10, 250-pounds body and supreme athleticism assist, however there’s additionally an innate talent to rebounding that he clearly has.

“What’s gonna take time is his taking pictures, his free throws and all these issues,” Casey stated. “Defensive coverages, terminology — these issues will take time — however one factor I knew would translate could be his rebounding due to his dimension and physicality [and] his knack — he has a pure knack to rebound and that’s one thing you’ll be able to’t train.”

Forward of the matchup in opposition to Embiid, Duren stated it’s the kind of problem he loves. Battling elite bigs like Nikola Jokic or Anthony Davis is one thing Duren desires to study from.

Whereas his recreation doesn’t appear to line up together with his beginning certificates (he simply turned 19 again in November), neither does his perspective.

“Folks will say I’m fairly uncooked and I have a look at that as factor as a result of I’ve room to develop in all facets,” Duren stated. “However the place I’m at now, I really feel like I’ve completed much more than individuals would even anticipate. I really feel like all facets of my recreation can develop. I really feel like we’re locked in on simply me turning into the perfect participant I can turn into.”

Belief the method, Detroit. It looks as if the Metropolis of Brotherly Love produced one right here.

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