AUBURN HILLS -- A quarter of a century ago, the Detroit Red Wings were so desperate to get their hands on Sergei Fedorov, they actually helped him defect from his home country.
The Pistons didn't go quite that far with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but the story of how they selected him with the eighth pick of Thursday's draft still reads like something out of a spy thriller.
The Pistons badly wanted Caldwell-Pope, a big shooting guard who can run the floor and bomb away from 3-point range. However, they also knew that Minnesota, who had the ninth picked, also had their eyes on him. As long as the Timberwolves stayed at No. 9, that didn't matter, but team president Joe Dumars didn't want them trading up to get there ahead of Detroit.
So Caldwell-Pope became a non-person. He never worked out for Detroit, letting Minnesota think that they were focused on other needs -- a point guard, perhaps.
"I let people know that we're looking at perimeter players at the 1, 2 and 3," Dumars said. "I didn't let anyone know that we were actually focused on getting one of the shooting guards."
Detroit did fly Caldwell-Pope into town this week for extensive meetings, but since he didn't work out, he wasn't on the list of names released to the media. Caldwell-Pope got into the swing of the secrecy, denying in a post-pick conference call that he had met with the Pistons before being told that Dumars had already acknowledged his visit.
"Oh," he said, pausing a bit. "We had a great meeting, and that got me excited about maybe going to Detroit."
On draft night, with everyone's boards getting blown up by Cleveland's shock selection of Anthony Bennett at No. 1, Dumars got some unexpected help from a local star. As the picks clicked off toward Detroit, Michigan's Trey Burke was still on the board. With everyone knowing the Pistons needed both a point guard and a way to boost ticket sales, the draft room in Minnesota had to be feeling quite confident that they would get their man.
Sure enough, both Burke and Caldwell-Pope were still available when Detroit went on the clock, and Dumars didn't hesitate.
"This isn't a business where you can make picks based on sentiment," he said. "I think the world of Trey Burke. I know him, I've met with him and I think he's going to be a very good player. He and I had talked about this exact scenario taking place. But my job is to make the Pistons better, and we needed a big, fast wing that can shoot the basketball."
Dumars has watched the NBA change into a league dominated by speed and athletic ability, especially at the shooting guard and small forward positions. The Heat have won back-to-back titles with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, while Oklahoma City struggled this year after splitting up their duo of Kevin Durant and James Harden.
At the same time, the Pistons didn't have anyone resembling that on their roster. After they traded Tayshaun Prince, they had been using players like Rodney Stuckey and Kyle Singler in those spots.
"We've really struggled in the past couple seasons with teams that could play fast and athletic on the wings, because we didn't have anyone to match them," Dumars said. "We knew going into this draft that we had to get faster, we had to get more athletic, and we had to find guys who could shoot."
Caldwell-Pope fits all of those needs, as does second-round pick Tony Mitchell of North Texas State. Mitchell was once considered a lottery pick, but dropped about 25 spots after a poor sophomore season.
"When I talked to the Pistons at pre-draft camp, they really grilled me about why I played that way as a sophomore," Mitchell said. "When I told Joe that I just didn't get up for every game, his eyes got wide. He told me that if I was going to play in this league, I'd have to be 100 percent every day, and that's what I've been doing since then."
Dumars said he's comfortable that Mitchell won't be experiencing any low-motor moments.
"We know how Tony can play when he's on, and that's where he's going to stay when he's here," Dumars said. "We agreed that last season was going to be the last time that ever happened."
If it works, and keep in mind that Andre Drummond came out of college with the same negative perception, Mitchell would give the Pistons two young players that fit the new Dumars mold. Mitchell already has a reputation as being a exceptional athlete, to the point that Drummond challenged him to a vertical-leap contest.
At the end of the press conference, Caldwell-Pope stood next to Dumars with his new No. 5 jersey. Finally, the secret was out.