The emotions running through Jaden Ivey were raw and real when the Pistons called his name Thursday night. When Detroit called him home.
"I wanted to go to Detroit, but I don’t dictate the draft," Ivey said after the Pistons selected him fifth overall. "I didn’t know where I was going to go. When my agent told me I was going to the Pistons, I just broke down in tears. It was somewhere I felt comfortable coming from my family background. My grandpa's up in heaven just smiling right now."
Ivey's grandfather, James Hunter, was a star defensive back for the Lions for seven seasons; he passed away in Allen Park when Ivey was eight years old. Ivey's father, Javin Hunter, was born and raised in Detroit, starring on the football field at Detroit Country Day before playing in the NFL himself. Ivey's mother, Niele Ivey, played for the Detroit Shock of the WNBA. (You can see where the dude gets his athleticism.)
When Ivey talks about his "Detroit ties," he's not making things up. And when he says he wanted to land with the Pistons, he means it: "I definitely wanted to come here."
"It felt like home when I went there for my team workout, a special place to be. Everybody was so genuine and that’s what I liked about it the most," he said. "It felt like a family."
An explosive point guard who models his game after Ja Morant, Ivey can't wait to team up with Cade Cunningham and the rest of Detroit's young core. He said he watched tons of film of the Pistons "and the pieces they have" ahead of the draft, preparing for this exact possibility. In time, Ivey and Cunningham have the potential to form one of the best backcourts in the NBA.
Asked specifically about playing alongside Cunningham, the face of the franchise in Detroit, Ivey said, "Part of my game that a lot of people don’t see is that I can play off the ball, too. I feel like I could complement Cade with his ability to score the ball. I could play off the ball and just read how the offense is going. Obviously I could be a lead guard, but I’m a baller, so if you need me on the ball, if you need me off the ball, whatever it is to help the team win I can do."
Thursday night couldn't have gone any better for the Pistons or their top draft pick. Ivey called it a "dream come true" to wind up in Detroit, where he's already dreaming bigger.
"Man, Detroit is home for me," he told Sirius XM. "I'm going to go all out for the fans, for the organization and for my teammates. I’m going to give it my all and bring Detroit back to winning. Just seeing Steph Curry and the Warriors win another championship, I want to get to that championship level. It's something we gotta work toward, for sure."