The NBA Development League likes to tout that it's the fastest way to get to the NBA and, on Thursday night, that motto proved true. The Detroit Pistons decided to make their first first ever foray into the D-League player pool, according to a source close to the situation, when they decided to call-up Walker Russell from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants.
Russell is no stranger to the Pistons organization as he spent training camp with them this season, but it's been a long time coming for the 6-foot point guard as this his first in-season NBA opportunity after spending parts of five seasons -- dating back to 2006 -- in the D-League.
The former Jacksonville State standout has had a terrific year thus far as he's dished more than 12 assists five times on his way to averages of 16 points and 9.9 assists. His best game came at perhaps the most important time, too, as he scored 19 points and dished 19 assists at last week's NBA D-League Showcase in Reno, Nev., as scouts from all 30 NBA teams were in attendance.
Russell's a veteran point guard with great court vision and a knack for knowing how to get his teammates lined up in the offense, but his biggest deficiency comes when he's asked to shoot the ball. Russell's range has never extended out to the three-point line, though his true shooting percentage of 54 percent is still solid thanks to his ability to get into the lane and then to the charity stripe.
It's unknown exactly why the Pistons decided to call up Russell at this juncture since it sounds like Will Bynum will be able to return from his three game absence due to injury this weekend, but he should have a few weeks to prove himself. Russell will be signed to a non-guaranteed deal, meaning he'll likely have until at least Feb. 10 -- the league's cutoff date to guarantee contracts -- to show he belongs in the big show.