By Ashley Dunkak
AUBURN HILLS (CBS DETROIT) – Ten years into his pro basketball career, Italian League Luigi Datome finally earned a shot at playing in the NBA when the Detroit Pistons signed him to a two-year contract.
Why did Datome chose the Pistons? Well, because they chose him.
“It was the first year somebody from the NBA wanted me,” Datome said with a smile. “I couldn’t do it before.”
His past season with the Italian league, Serie A, Datome showed enough promise to warrant being scouted by several NBA general managers.
“It was just crazy for me that people from overseas took the flight to watch me play,” Datome said. “That was the moment I realized maybe something was going to happen to me, but I didn’t want to think about it, just wanted to finish my season with the best of my possibility for me and for my team.”
After his team, Virtus Roma, finished third in the regular season, Datome helped guide the group to the finals, and he won the league MVP award. The career year for him, combined with a solid year by his team, showcased his abilities well.
“I played a lot of minutes, I was the main player of my team, I was the center of the club, and all the club was pushing to me,” Datome said. “The big expectation was for me, especially this year. Roma made a great job building a good team because I played good, OK, but I played good in a good team.”
Of course, Datome will not be the star of the Pistons, but he is just fine with that.
“I’m not going to be the top player on the team, so I have to contribute also not with scores or something that goes on the stats but with something that, I don’t know, diving for the ball or helping some teammates, bring some positive enthusiasm in the team,” Datome said.
Datome shot 51.5 percent from the floor and 39.4 percent from beyond the arc this past season with Virtus Roma. The hope is that his shooting ability will open up the floor for the Pistons’ frontcourt of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and recently acquired Josh Smith.
“I think that’s the reason why they signed me, because they have this big center, very good players, big, they need the defense to make a choice – guard the shooter or guard the point,” Datome said, “so I think it’s going to be functional also for those big guys.”
Training camp is still a few months away, but Datome said he is excited to get started.
“I want to come here and show that I deserve to be an NBA player, and I want to contribute for the team result,” Datome said. “It’s a long way to the start, but my emotion, my feelings are great, so I’m just very happy, like a kid who will make his dream come true.”