Andre Drummond

Central Notes: Pacers, Drummond, Leuer

A number of low profile offseason additions have helped the Pacers take a step forward this summer, so say a number of league experts, as Scott Horner of The Indianapolis Star writes.

The Pacers added significant depth when they brought aboard Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn and Doug McDermott and will benefit from the addition of first-round pick Aaron Holiday and whatever inevitable improvements Victor Oladipo makes to his game over the course of the offseason.

There was no shortage of journalists willing to praise the Pacers for their summer work and NBA.com’s David Aldridge even went so far as to say that they’re as good a threat as any in the East to challenge the Celtics this season.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • There’s no denying that Andre Drummond has been busy working on his perimeter shooting, at least if you’ve followed his Instagram stories this offseason. Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes that the Pistons big man is hoping to use the new weapon to move away from the basket. “Adding that to my game is something I’ve been working on for years but this is the year where I’ve taken it to another level of putting up a lot more shots, and I’m getting more comfortable with it,” Drummond said.
  • Fans may be quick to call the new-look Eastern Conference a three-horse race involving the Celtics, Raptors and Sixers, but Brook Lopez assures Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype that the Bucks are confident they can take the crown. “I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.
  • Injured Pistons forward Jon Leuer had successful surgery yesterday, the team announced in a press conference. The procedure is related to a meniscus injury that occurred in a workout earlier this week. His status will be updated prior to training camp.

Central Rumors: Frye, Parker, Sexton, Garnett

Channing Frye‘s impact on the locker room had a lot to do with the Cavaliers’ decision to bring back the veteran forward, according to Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. GM Koby Altman wanted a respected veteran voice to guide the team through tough times with the departure of LeBron James, Pluto continues. Frye is very popular with his teammates and shares a close bond with the team’s remaining star, Kevin Love. Frye was traded to the Lakers last February by Cleveland solely to make the deal work financially and not because the front office had any issues with him, Pluto adds. Frye agreed to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • The team option on Jabari Parker‘s two-year contract gives the Bulls flexibility during free agency next summer, Kevin Anderson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. With a projected rise in the salary cap, the Bulls could free up enough cap space to sign a top-level free agent even if they decide to keep Parker. That could be accomplished by allowing Bobby Portis and Cameron Payne to become unrestricted free agents if they are not signed to extensions. If they decide to let Parker go next summer, they could have between $35MM-$53MM in cap space during free agency, Anderson adds.
  • Cavaliers lottery pick Collin Sexton was a volume scorer during summer-league competition but reinforced the notion that his long-range game needs work, as Andre Snellings of ESPN details. Sexton did most of his damage inside the arc and needs to develop a consistent 3-point shot, Snellings continues. The University of Alabama product also displayed his ability to create for his teammates but he still can become a better passer, Snellings adds.
  • The Pistons made arrangements to have Kevin Garnett work with two of their bigs, center Andre Drummond and power forward Henry Ellenson, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.
  • GM Gar Forman’s promise two years ago to make the Bulls younger and more athletic is coming to fruition, Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago writes. By drafting Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in the lottery, trading for Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and signing Jabari Parker as a free agent, the average age of the projected lineup is 22, Walton points out. The team can now play at a quicker pace and cover more space defensively, Walton adds.

Pistons Notes: Thomas, Scouting, Gores, Brown

The Pistons were looking to add depth at the wing spots and got two players who will compete for minutes next season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Detroit didn’t have a first-round pick but traded away two future second-rounders to the Sixers to nab Creighton’s Khyri Thomas at No. 38, then chose Bruce Brown of Miami (Fla.) four picks later with their own selection.

“You never know how the draft’s going to go,” senior advisor Ed Stefanski said. “It didn’t look like we were going to be able to move like we did. People were asking for some big asks, but as the night went on it got much better and we were able to make the move. … We need some young guys, especially, to play that position.”

Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are projected to eat up most of the minutes at those spots but Thomas and Brown could get into the mix if an injury strikes.

In other news regarding the Pistons:

  • Stefanski notified the team’s scouting department that their contracts would not be renewed at the end of the month, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets. The team’s front office is undergoing a complete makeover after head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower were dismissed. The team is still seeking one or more young executives to take front office roles. Spurs executive Malik Rose has been offered a front office job. New head coach Dwane Casey is in the process of building his staff. The team reached an agreement with Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney to join its staff.
  • Top players Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson were asked for their input when owner Tom Gores was conducting the coaching search, Langlois writes in a separate piece“I did consult with them, (though) they weren’t making the decision,” Gores said. “I texted Reggie, Andre, Blake. ‘What kind of coach do you want? Let’s check the boxes.’ I did engage with them. I know them pretty well. Meeting Dwane, he really did check all those boxes.”
  • Bruce Brown underwent season-ending foot surgery in his final season with the Hurricanes but he has no restrictions this offseason, as he told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press and other media members. “I’m good to go,” Brown said. “I’m fully cleared. All my medicals look fine at the combine so I’m ready to go 100 percent.”

Pistons Will Exercise Patience In Free Agent Market

The Pistons will wait until the big free-agent signings are made before trying to fill out their roster, new senior advisor Ed Stefanski told Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Salary constraints will likely prevent Detroit from being active during the early days of free agency. “We’ll see who’s out there in the second wave,” Stefanski said. In general, Stefanski doesn’t foresee much of a roster turnover due to the decisions made by the previous regime, headed by former coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy“The luxury-tax line is on us,” Stefanski said. “We’ll see what players are available. The team we have now is our team because we don’t have the flexibility at this time.” Re-signing veteran power forward Anthony Tolliver, an unrestricted free agent, will be difficult because of that lack of flexibility unless the Pistons can somehow clear cap space by moving a big salary.

Here’s more from Beard’s interview with Stefanski:

  • The Pistons feel they lucked out that Dwane Casey essentially fell into their laps during their coaching search. “We’re very happy to bring Casey on board; it was our first priority,” Stefanski said. “We’re very fortunate that the Coach of the Year was sitting out there without a job. It’s unusual in any sport that that caliber of coach is out there.”
  • All of Detroit’s draft preparation is complete, thus there’s no rush to hire a GM. The team doesn’t own a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Assistant GM Pat Garrity remains in the running for a front-office position.
  • Casey met this week with many of his top players this week during summer workouts in California, including Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard“He’s getting an idea of how each guy will play and have them work that into their individual (summer) workouts,” Stefanski said.

Van Gundy Disappointed, Wants To Coach Again

7:52pm: Van Gundy was willing to give up his front office duties and just coach the team next season, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets.

“When it came down to this, I was perfectly willing to only go in one role and to give up the front office and go into (just) coaching. I didn’t fight to hang on to that at all,” he told Beard.

5:40pm: Stan Van Gundy said he’s disappointed but not bitter that the Pistons cut ties with him on Monday, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Owner Tom Gores parted ways with Van Gundy as both head coach and president of basketball operations when they couldn’t come to an agreement on proposed changes Gores wanted to make.

Van Gundy, who was entering the final year of his five-year contract, admitted he wanted to fulfill the rest of the contract and sees how much the team could improve next season with Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson playing together regularly. The Pistons traded for Griffin in late January when Jackson was sidelined with an ankle injury and Griffin sat out the last eight games with an ankle injury. The trio only played four games together.

“To not get a chance to coach a full season after the (Griffin) move we made is disappointing to me. I’m not bitter and I was treated well,” Van Gundy told Ellis. “I’ve got no complaints.”

Van Gundy also said he would like to coach again if he found something to his liking. “If the right situation came along, I wouldn’t dismiss it,” he said. “I’m not going out on the terms I would like.”

That comes somewhat as a surprise, considering that Van Gundy told Hoops Rumors and other reporters in April that he was set for life and would probably retire if he didn’t return next season.

Central Notes: LaVine, Parker, Pistons

Comments from Bulls vice president John Paxson suggest that the franchise is keen on letting the market decide pending restricted free agent Zach LaVine‘s value and, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times writes, the 23-year-old’s fate remains a dicey topic.

Cowley writes that a source of his claims that LaVine’s camp regards him as a max or close-to-max player but that the Bulls may not be so sure.

The Bulls, he adds, have been passive in restricted free agency negotiations in the past, “lowballing” Jimmy Butler back in 2015 and letting the market dictate Nikola Mirotic‘s value last summer.

Well, the market dictates a lot and how things go,” Paxson said. “I think the market has tightened up a little bit the last couple of years since the spike. [The Bulls] obviously value Zach a lot, and we think he’s a part of our future, but he has the opportunity to explore things.

There’s more from the Central Division:

And-Ones: Wright, 2K League, EuroCamp, Fines

After leading his Wildcats to their second NCAA title in the last three years, Villanova head coach Jay Wright figures to draw interest from NBA teams this spring. Three NBA clubs currently have interim head coaches in place and will be in the market for full-time solutions in the offseason, and a handful of other franchises could make changes on the sideline too.

Still, it may be difficult to pry Wright away from Villanova, as Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports writes. The school’s athletic director Mark Jackson acknowledged that NBA interest in Wright will be “inevitable,” but he has “no sense” that the head coach wants to go anywhere, he tells Eisenberg. Assistant coach Ashley Howard agrees with that sentiment.

“I think he loves it here at Villanova,” Howard said of Wright. “He’s shown that. He’s had opportunities to go in the past, and he’s shown that he’s committed to staying here at Villanova and continuing to make this program great.”

Wright is currently making $2.6MM per year, Eisenberg notes, but a raise figures to be on the way after the latest championship if he remains at Villanova. Since the Suns are one team that may have interest in hiring Wright, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 did some digging and was told that Wright is expected to have his salary increased to at least $4MM, making it harder for him to walk away from the Wildcats (Twitter link).

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The draft for the NBA’s new 2K eLeague took place this week, and the league is putting its weight behind the new esports venture — as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes, Shaquille O’Neal will run the Kings‘ 2K squad (Kings Guard Gaming), while commissioner Adam Silver is looking to make his mark on North American esports, per Ohm Youngmisuk and Jacob Wolf at ESPN.com. We won’t be covering the league on a regular basis, but for more details on the NBA’s foray into professional gaming, check out Alex Kennedy’s FAQ at HoopsHype.
  • As Adidas withdraws its support from the annual EuroCamp for international prospects, the NBA is looking to salvage the event, reports Jonathan Givony of ESPN.com. The Eurocamp will take place from June 2-5 in Treviso, Italy and will be rebranded as the NBA Elite International Camp, according to Givony. In a separate story, Givony also takes a closer look at the new Next Generation program, an event organized by the NCAA, NBA, and USA Basketball for prospects during the Final Four.
  • Nets forward Quincy Acy and Pistons center Andre Drummond were fined $25K and $15K by the NBA earlier this week, according to the league. The two players engaged in a shoving match during Sunday’s game in Brooklyn, resulting in ejections for both.
  • Grand Rapids Drive center Landry Nnoko, who was in camp with the Pistons in the fall, was named the NBA G League’s Defensive Player of the Year for 2017/18. Peter J. Wallner of MLive.com has the details.

Central Notes: Oladipo, Pistons Rotation, Griffin

Victor Oladipo knew a breakout season was possible after speaking with Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard on the team’s private plane prior to his introductory press conference last summer, as Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated divulges in a feature story. Pritchard assured Oladipo that the club truly coveted his services, rather than just matching up salaries to facilitate the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder. Indiana wanted to play faster this season. “This wasn’t a dump. We targeted you,” Pritchard told Oladipo, according to Jenkins. The All-Star shooting guard is averaging a career-high 24.4 PPG for the surprising Pacers.  “It was the first time in my career I felt like a team really believed in me,” Oladipo told Jenkins. “I was just thinking, Don’t mess this up.”

In other nuggets involving the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will likely go with a 10-man rotation once Reggie Jackson returns from his Grade 3 ankle sprain, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com.  Jackson would join a starting unit of Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. Ish Smith would return to his usual role as leader of the second unit with center Eric Moreland and forwards Anthony Tolliver and James Ennis getting steady minutes, Khan speculates. Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway would split time as the backup shooting guard, Khan adds.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores invited Griffin and his business partners over to his California home immediately after the blockbuster deal with the Clippers, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Gores wanted to assure Griffin how badly the Pistons wanted him and address any concerns the five-time All-Star power forward might have, Langlois continues. The Pistons are 5-3 since Griffin joined their lineup. “We were very quickly on the same page with the same view of what we want to achieve and the approach to get there,” Gores told Langlois. “He’s definitely hit the ground running. It’s been great to see how his teammates, the whole organization and the fans have embraced him.”

Andre Drummond To Replace John Wall In All-Star Game

The NBA has announced that Andre Drummond will replace John Wall in next month’s All-Star Game, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets. The big man has enjoyed a career year with the Pistons, averaging 14.7 points and 15.1 rebounds per game.

Drummond, one of the most notable omissions from the initial wave of All-Stars, will suit up for his second such contest, his last appearance coming in the midst of Detroit’s 2015/16 push to the postseason.

Per Zillgitt, Silver made the decision to include Drummond because he received more voting points from coaches than any other player left off the initial roster in the Eastern Conference.

When the initial rosters were revealed, Drummond seemed particularly offended by his having been left out. At the time, he took out his frustration in the form of a 30-point, 23-rebound, 6-block, 3-steal night against the Jazz.

Wall’s absence from the game is unsurprising after this morning’s announcement that he’ll miss six weeks tending to a troublesome knee.

Clippers Trade Blake Griffin To Pistons

11:46pm: The trade is now official, according to a press release issued by the Pistons.Blake Griffin vertical

“We are serious about winning, and this is a major move to improve our team,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said in a statement.Blake Griffin is one of the NBA’s elite players, and when you get an opportunity to add that kind of talent, you take it. … He is a great fit for our team and will bring a combination of toughness and athleticism that will elevate our team and excite our fans.”

5:20pm: The Clippers have agreed to trade star power forward Blake Griffin to the Pistons in a multi-player deal, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Detroit will ship forward Tobias Harris, shooting guard Avery Bradley, center Boban Marjanovic, a first-round pick and a second-round draft pick to the Clippers, Wojnarowski adds, citing league sources.

Forward Brice Johnson and center Willie Reed are also heading to Detroit, Wojnarowski adds in another tweet.

Detroit’s 2018 first-round pick is protected if it’s a top-four selection, according to Wojnarowski; It has the same protection for the next two drafts, then goes unprotected in 2021. The second-round pick in the trade will come in the 2019 draft (Twitter link).

The Pistons, long rumored to be active on the trade market, have been trying to shake up their team while nosediving down the Eastern Conference standings. They have lost eight in a row and now sit in the ninth spot in the East. Wojnarowski had reported just hours ago that Detroit was shopping Bradley and his expiring contract.

Griffin re-signed with the Clippers on a five-year max deal over the summer, so the Pistons are taking on an enormous salary commitment in order to pair him with current franchise player Andre Drummond. Griffin is making $29.5MM this season and he’ll be due another $141.6MM over the next four years, though the final year of the contract includes a player option.

The longtime Clipper will also receive a $860K trade bonus spread over the next four seasons, salary-cap expert Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. The Griffin trade bonus is not voided because his current salary is slightly below the max, Marks adds.

The Clippers are in the playoff hunt at 25-24, so dealing Griffin certainly signals a change in the franchise’s long-term direction. It’s possible that this will be the first of multiple moves for the Clippers, since players like DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams have also been considered potential trade candidates.

Aside from Drummond, who is making approximately $23.8MM this season, Harris and Reggie Jackson are Detroit’s highest-paid players at $16MM this season. Bradley is making $8.8MM and Marjanovic is pulling in $7MM this season. Johnson is earning approximately $1.3MM and Reed has a $1MM contract this season.

Both teams are hard-capped and near the luxury-tax line, as Marks notes in a tweet, so it was crucial that each team sent and received about the same amount of money.

The Clippers will get cap relief in the long run as the contracts of Harris and Marjanovic expire after the 2018/19 season. Once this deal is finalized, Danilo Gallinari‘s contract will represent the only guaranteed money on L.A.’s cap beyond 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.