Eastern Notes: Baynes, J.R. Smith, Celtics

Aron Baynes looked like a logical trade candidate for the Pistons prior to last month’s deadline, since he’ll likely become a free agent this summer and Detroit may not be able to re-sign him. However, as Aaron McMann of MLive.com writes, Stan Van Gundy preferred to roll the dice on retaining Baynes rather than accept a low-ball offer on the trade market.

“You couldn’t get enough of a return to make up for what we think we lose in him,” said Van Gundy, the Pistons’ president of basketball operations. “And even thought we know it’s about that-much-of-a-percentage we could have him back, we didn’t want to give up that percentage. … We have a lot of respect for him. He’s a guy that we obviously play really well with. And he’s a big part of what we’re doing now. We didn’t want to give him up.”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • J.R. Smith, who hasn’t played since December due to a broken thumb, has been cleared to resume full practice, and is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game in Detroit, the Cavaliers announced today in a press release.
  • Although they’re still hanging on to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics have some inner turmoil to deal with after Isaiah Thomas publicly voiced his frustrations earlier this week, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Pointing to Boston’s unusually strong record in close games, head coach Brad Stevens also admitted that the C’s might not be as good as their overall record suggests. “We’ve been fortunate. We have to get better,” Stevens said. “I think that everybody talks about chasing other teams or whatever the case may be. We have a long way to be what I think is competitive at a necessary level to be really good when it’s all on the line.”
  • The annual list of “Luke Walton All-Stars” from ESPN’s Zach Lowe includes several role players who could be headed for lucrative paydays in free agency, including Michael Beasley (Bucks), Dion Waiters (Heat), and James Johnson (Heat).
  • For most of the last year, the Sixers have been viewed as a team with too many centers and no long-term solution at point guard. However, John Smallwood of The Philadelphia Daily News wonders if the club might end up entering the 2017/18 season with more certainty at point guard than center, due to T.J. McConnell‘s solid and reliable play, as well as Joel Embiid‘s ongoing health issues.
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