Central Notes: Olynyk, McGruder, Giannis, Ball, Pacers

Pistons big man Kelly Olynyk played on Wednesday for the first time since November 10, making his long-awaited return from a knee injury. As Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes, Olynyk was thrown into the deep end immediately, logging 22 minutes in a dramatic road win over Sacramento and earning praise from his head coach, who said the 30-year-old had a “huge” impact.

“We need that – his experience,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “He reads situations. He made plays. When they busted up the first option, he automatically went to the second option. Just his IQ, offensive rebounds, right place, right time, taking what the game was giving him. All those things were great decisions on his part. To win in this league, we’ve got to have more of that.”

Detroit also got big minutes from Rodney McGruder, who has had his two best games of the season since returning to the team last week after his trade to Denver was voided. McGruder, who scored 19 points on Tuesday and 15 more on Wednesday, acknowledged the unusual nature of being a Nugget for three days before rejoining the Pistons.

“It was a lot of travel; it was kind of tough,” McGruder said, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “I met the (Nuggets) in Los Angeles and flew with the team to Denver and I was there about a day and a half. … (But) it just felt right back at home when I came back (to the Pistons). … The guys welcomed me back. It is a family and a brotherhood in that locker room, so even if the trade went through and I played in Denver, it still would have been all love and it still would have been the same when I saw those guys.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Despite only being in his ninth NBA season, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was ranked the 24th-best player in the league history by The Athletic. Speaking to Eric Nehm of The Athletic as part of the feature, Antetokounmpo said he hopes he’s not even at the halfway point of his career. “I want to play 20 years,” he said. “Hopefully, I can play all 20 of those years with the Bucks.”
  • Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury could have a substantial impact on his 2021/22 earnings. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, the Bulls guard is eligible to earn nine separate bonuses that add up to $1MM, but he must appear in at least 62 games to earn them. That may not happen, especially if he undergoes meniscus surgery.
  • Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files explores the impact that Myles Turner‘s injury will have on the Pacers and their trade deadline plans.
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