Blake Griffin

In-Market Bubble Updates: Pistons, Wolves, Cavs

As the NBA’s bottom eight teams gear up to conduct group workouts starting next week, the Pistons have 15 players in attendance for the first phase of their in-market bubble. However, that 15-man group includes five G Leaguers, with a number of notable names from the NBA roster absent.

As Eric Woodyard of ESPN details, head coach Dwane Casey said on Wednesday that Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Christian Wood, and Langston Galloway aren’t participating.

“All of our young guys are here. Derrick Rose and Blake are not here, which is totally understandable,” Casey said. “Both are working out, and it’s nothing physical. They’re both 100 percent. Blake’s working out in LA, and Derrick is in and out of town.”

As for Wood and Galloway, both players are set to reach unrestricted free agency this fall, so Casey said he understood why they’d be reluctant to participate in workouts with the club over the next few weeks.

“We’re not reading anything into that either way,” Casey said, per Woodyard. “So it’s just something I totally get because if I’m a free agent, I wouldn’t attend anyway to the team you’re not under contract with.”

Here’s more on those mini-camps taking part in “bubbles” across the country:

  • The majority of the Timberwolves‘ key players, including Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell, and restricted free agent Malik Beasley, are participating in their in-market bubble, as are G Leaguers Canyon Barry and Lindell Wigginton (Twitter link via Woodyard). Free-agent-to-be Evan Turner, Omari Spellman, and Juan Hernangomez won’t be in attendance. Hernangomez is an RFA and is currently overseas, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic notes (via Twitter), while Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News tweets that Spellman’s camp is hoping to find the big man a new home.
  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com provides details on the Cavaliers‘ in-market bubble plans for the next two-and-a-half weeks, with group practices set to begin next Wednesday. Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, both eligible for free agency, won’t attend, but G Leaguers Levi Randolph, Marques Bolden and Vince Edwards have been invited to participate.
  • A personal matter will also prevent center Andre Drummond from attending the Cavaliers‘ mini-camp, though he wanted to be there, sources tell Fedor. “He’s been pretty engaged in everything,” one source said of Drummond. “It’s not like he’s gone dark. He wanted to be there. It’s nothing malicious. It’s not a sign or anything like that. It’s not going to cause a rift.”
  • The NBA sent a memo to the league’s bottom eight teams warning them that if they “require or coerce” players to participate in the optional workouts, they’ll be subject to league punishment, tweets Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.

Eastern Notes: Gordon, Heat, Pistons, Knicks

Magic head coach Steve Clifford told reporters on Wednesday that forward Aaron Gordon played 2-on-2 after practice, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Clifford also mentioned that Gordon’s availability for Game 2 against the Bucks will be determined by how his hamstring is feeling on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Gordon missed Game 1 on Tuesday with a left strained hamstring, which he suffered back on August 5. This season, the Magic forward is averaging 14.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and 3.7 APG.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra answered questions on Wednesday about the benchings of center Meyers Leonard and rookie point guard Kendrick Nunn. Both players received DNP’s for Monday’s Game 1 against the Pacers. “Everybody’s all in on that, the purpose of what we’re trying to get accomplished here,” Spoelstra said (h/t South Florida Sun-Sentinel). “We’ll need everybody. … It’s something that we talked about as a team. And it’s Game 1 … Obviously, Kendrick is a major part of our team. We will need to get into our depth at some point.” Leonard, who was the team’s starting center, fell out of the rotation when the seeding games begin. Nunn, however, started in five games in the bubble. In those contests, he averaged 10.8 PPG, 2.4 RPG, and 2.0 APG.
  • Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said on Wednesday that he does not expect Derrick Rose or Blake Griffin to participate in the team’s voluntary camp next month, though both players could attend if they want to, per James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link). However, Casey hopes young players view it as mandatory.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post writes about the Knicks‘ odds of landing standout point guard LaMelo Ball. According to the Post, Ball’s preference is to go to New York. However, the Knicks only have a 27.6% chance of landing a top-three selection in the 2020 NBA Draft. In fact, New York has a 62.8% chance of getting a pick between 6-10. If that happens, Ball will likely be off the board, and the team could opt to draft former UNC point guard Cole Anthony.

Central Notes: Giannis, Griffin, Pacers, Pistons

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo joins many around the team who have expressed frustration over the team’s play in Orlando to this point. Milwaukee recorded just a 3-5 record in eight seeding games despite going 53-12 before the season was suspended in March.

Antetokounmpo, a perennial MVP candidate, hinted that the team’s effort and ball movement must improve entering the postseason if the club hopes to succeed.

“It wasn’t frustrating because we were losing. Like, losing is part of basketball, losing is part of the game, but, obviously, what was frustrating because at times I think we wasn’t ourselves,” Antetokounmpo said, as relayed by Eric Woodyard of ESPN. “We wasn’t moving the ball as much as I wanted to move the ball or as much as [coach Mike Budenholzer] wants us to move the ball. We wasn’t defending as hard. As I said, there was times that we were ourselves, where we were the No. 1 team in the league on defense, but there were times that we showed that and there was times that we didn’t.

“I think the most frustrating part for me was probably the Memphis game, sitting in the hotel and not being able to be out there to help my teammates compete and win a game and losing a lot of money. But, yeah, this is over. This is in the past,” he continued. “Now it’s playoff time. I definitely don’t believe in the turn-on switch that everybody talks about, like we can turn on the switch and be great, but I do believe that if everybody is on the same page and if everyone is focused and get together and watch clips and be on the same page and we know what our game plan is, I believe we can play way, way better.”

Antetokounmpo was named to the NBA All-Seeding Games Second Team in Orlando, holding per-game averages of 27.8 points and 12.2 rebounds. The Bucks are set to open the playoffs in a first-round matchup against the Magic (33-40) on Tuesday.

Here are some other notes out of the Central Division:

  • Pistons big man Blake Griffin is willing to accept a different role if it helps the team succeed during its rebuild, Woodyard explores in a separate story for ESPN. “I look for our team to be competitive,” Griffin said as part of a larger quote last week. “I know from my conversations with Coach [Dwane Casey] and [GM] Troy [Weaver] and the front office, they want to put a competitive team on the floor. I’ve told them, I’m here to do whatever they ask of me. Whether that’s sort of taking on a different role, taking on more of a role, whatever it might be.”
  • The Pacers’ arena renovations at Bankers Life Fieldhouse are proceeding as regularly scheduled, Akeem Glaspie of the Indianapolis Star writes. The renovations are set to total roughly $362MM and an October 2022 deadline has been set for completion.
  • James Edwards III of The Athletic makes five offseason predictions for the Pistons, a team that’s largely expected to continue its rebuild phase under head coach Dwane Casey. Edwards examines the club’s draft situation, Christian Wood‘s impending free agency, and more.

Pistons Notes: Weaver, Draft, Griffin

Reports during and after the Pistons‘ general manager search suggested that Troy Weaver was the team’s top target throughout the process, with Detroit renewing its pursuit of the former Thunder executive after being rebuffed by him two years ago.

Although Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes and Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson were said to receive serious consideration from the Pistons, a report from Marc Stein of The New York Times confirms that Weaver was always the “runaway” frontrunner. According to Stein, Weaver was the only one of Detroit’s candidates who interviewed with team owner Tom Gores.

Here’s more on the Pistons and their new GM:

  • Asked about his draft philosophy and how it might be affected by the fact that the Pistons will be picking in the top 10, Weaver stressed that a player’s character will be a major factor in his evaluations. “More times than not, high picks who don’t pan out the way people see it, you missed on the person,” he said, per James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. “If you get the person right, the basketball will take care of itself. Drafting high, getting the person right, is more important to me. If you draft in the 20s, you might want to take a swing on talent or a certain position, but when you’re where we’re drafting, you want to make sure the person is right.”
  • Keith Langlois of Pistons.com makes a case for why Blake Griffin‘s presence on the rebuilding Pistons is important and why the team shouldn’t be looking to dump his contract at any cost, with two years still left on that deal.
  • For what it’s worth, Weaver said earlier this week that Griffin is “definitely in our plans going forward,” as Edwards relays.

Weaver Will “Run Basketball Side Of Things” For Pistons

Pistons owner Tom Gores defined new general manager Troy Weaver’s role, saying that the former Oklahoma City executive “will run the basketball side of things” for the rebuilding franchise, Keith Langlois of the team’s website reports.

Senior adviser Ed Stefanski had been running the front office but will take a step back with Weaver in place. Gores also encouraged Weaver to receive input from vice chairman Arn Tellem, and coach Dwane Casey. The club is expected to hire at least one assistant GM.

“We want Troy to lead. He’s going to run the basketball side of things,” Gores said. “We have over 100 years of experience between Arn and Ed and Dwane to leverage. The smartest people in the world leverage whatever resources they have. I wanted to make sure he would leverage it.”

Weaver said he was “blown away” by Gores’ energy and enthusiasm in a video conference and was sold on taking the job “in two minutes.”

Weaver, who had been with the Thunder for more than a decade following a stint with the Jazz, most recently held the title of vice president of basketball operations after previously serving as the team’s VP/assistant GM. He was Sam Presti‘s top lieutenant in Oklahoma City and had been a candidate for other top basketball operations jobs around the NBA in recent years.

The Pistons pursued him for a front office role two years ago after Stefanski was hired. He wasn’t ready to leave OKC at that point. When the Pistons came calling this time, Weaver was more willing to make a career move.

“It’s all about timing. When this opportunity presented itself, I thought the timing was right,” he said. “I thought the fit was right and the loyalty that Mr. Gores and Arn and coach Casey and Ed have building made it attractive. My talents fit with those guys there to be collaborative.”

Though the team is focused on a youth movement, Weaver sees Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose as a big part of Detroit’s plans for next season, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.

“We’re excited to get them healthy and help them move forward,” Weaver said. “We feel like we have a good mixture of young guys with those two staples to be able to start there, but obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do with the draft and free agency.”

Pistons Notes: Weaver Hiring, Wood, Griffin

The Pistons‘ long pursuit of Troy Weaver finally paid off Thursday when he was hired to be the team’s general manager, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. A league source tells Beard that Detroit had strong interest in Weaver when team president/coach Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower were dismissed two years ago, but the Thunder wouldn’t grant permission for an interview.

Weaver, 52, spent more than a decade in the Oklahoma City front office and was instrumental in building a team that reached the NBA Finals. He was an advocate for drafting Russell Westbrook with the fourth pick in 2008, even though he wasn’t projected that high. Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem previously worked with Wasserman Media Group, which represented Westbrook.

“We’re rebuilding our roster and Troy brings a tremendous amount of experience. He’s one of those guys who has a knack for talent,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said in an NBA-TV interview. “A lot of the growth and building they did in Oklahoma City Thunder, he was a big part of that. … The next couple of years of developing our roster is a key time in our organization.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • In addition to Tellem and Casey, Weaver spoke with senior adviser Ed Stefanski, owner Tom Gores and the Pistons’ assistant general managers during the interview process so the organization could get a “fully rounded view,” according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Weaver will be given free rein to hire more assistant GMs and support staff. Sources tell Edwards that Nets assistant GM Jeff Peterson and Clippers assistant GM Mark Hughes were both impressive in their interviews and received serious consideration for the job.
  • Re-signing Christian Wood should be Weaver’s top priority, states Ansar Khan of MLive. Wood will be an unrestricted free agent after a breakout performance over the last month of the season, but faces a market limited by financial uncertainty and a shortage of teams with cap space. Detroit owns Wood’s early Bird rights and can start his new deal at a little more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which is expected to be about $9.7MM. The Celtics and Rockets both expressed interest in Wood at the trade deadline, Khan adds.
  • Weaver also faces an important decision on Blake Griffin, who still has two years and approximately $75.6MM left on his contract, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit News. Griffin was limited to 18 games this season because of a knee injury and at age 31, he doesn’t fit the team’s rebuilding timeline. Sankofa notes that Weaver was part of two franchise-altering trades last summer involving Paul George and Westbrook.

Central Rumors: Poeltl, Griffin, Porter, Thompson

The Spurs’ Jakob Poeltl and the Kings’ Harry Giles are two of the centers the Pistons could target in free agency, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. Poeltl began his NBA career under Pistons coach Dwane Casey in Toronto and his agent, Michael Tellem, is the son of Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, Edwards notes. Giles, like Poeltl, has the ability to develop into a much greater force than he’s shown with his current club, Edwards adds.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The 2019/20 season was a wash for Pistons star forward Blake Griffin due to knee and hamstring injuries. However, the oft-injured Griffin believes he has plenty left in the tank, as he told the Detroit Free Press’ Omari Sankofa II (Twitter link) and other media members. Griffin said he doesn’t see his current contract, which lasts through the 2021/22 season, as his last. He also doesn’t view himself as being in decline. Griffin said last month he’s fully recovered from knee surgery in early January.
  • It’s doubtful Otto Porter will remain on the Bulls beyond his current contract, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago speculates. Porter’s expiring contract — provided he opts in for $28.5MM next season — is his main value to the organization. Given Porter’s injury history, Johnson anticipates there are other long-term plans for the wing spot beyond Porter.
  • While many NBA experts believe free agent Tristan Thompson has played his last game with the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer has heard otherwise (hat tip to Hoops Hype’s Alex Kennedy). On the Wine and Gold Talk podcast, Fedor said Thompson is intrigued by the idea of finishing his career in Cleveland. “There’s also a sense that the Cavs recognize the value that Tristan Thompson brings,” Fedor said. “And Tristan being one of the greatest Cavaliers of all-time and eventually having his jersey hung and continuing to climb the ranks of the all-time Cavs is something that’s meaningful to him.”

Dwane Casey Talks Pistons’ Plans, Blake Griffin’s Health

The Pistons are one of eight teams not headed to Orlando, but their practice facility has been open for about a week and players are utilizing the space, Keith Langlois of NBA.com shares.

“We’ve had great participation,” Dwane Casey said. “But it’s one player, one coach, one basket. Each player has their own ball. Coach wears gloves. So it’s a very sterile situation. The weight training and the conditioning part is also very big and that’s what they’re doing, also. From a basketball standpoint, you can only do that so long before it gets stale.”

There have been rumblings that the NBA could afford the eight teams some form of competition before the start of the 2020/21 campaign and the Pistons love the opportunity to get back on the court with other clubs.

“I know there’s been conversations with the league as far as different options to get the group together to have some type of competition later in the summer – late July, August – so the league is very aware of it. I just think it puts us as a competitive disadvantage if we go from March 11 to Dec. 1 or whenever the season reconvenes,” Casey said.

“If it’s a mini-camp or a round-robin Summer League with four of the eight teams, (that) would be sufficient,” Casey added. “Different ideas have been put out there. Especially with a young team – and all of the eight teams are young teams – you can only drill one on one and try to get guys better from an individual standpoint (so much). The teams in Orlando have a competitive advantage by going against each other in a very competitive atmosphere and it really puts us behind the eight ball from a competitive standpoint.”

Prior to the Pistons’ opening their practice facility, the league granted the team several exceptions that allowed rehabbing players to use the facility. Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard were among those.

Blake Griffin underwent left knee surgery back in January and wasn’t expected to return for the remainder of the season even if the Pistons were invited to Orlando. Casey said the former No. 1 overall pick is on track with his recovery.

“I talked to Blake yesterday. Blake is doing well,” Casey said. “He’s got his workout. Blake is one of the hardest workers I’ve been around. He’s coming along. He’s right on schedule as far as his rehab is concerned.”

Pistons Notes: Summer League, Billups, GM Search, Roster, Grades

As one of the eight teams that won’t head to Orlando to resume the season, the Pistons have made proposals to the league for a revised summer league and earlier training camp, Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press reports.

The Pistons would like to hold a “mini-summer league” in July featuring structured workouts and games against other lottery-bound teams for their younger players. They also requested to hold a team training camp in mid-September for all players under contract for next season, Sankofa adds. That wouldn’t include free agent signings and draft picks, since that would occur in October. The start of the 2020/21 season has been pushed to December.

We have more Pistons-related news:

  • In the same story, Sankofa indicated that Chauncey Billups is a front office candidate but not for the position he covets. The Pistons are seeking a GM and assistant GM. Billups is only interested in the GM job but the front office would rather bring him in as assistant GM and groom their 2004 NBA Finals MVP for a higher-level executive position.
  • The GM search signals that senior adviser Ed Stefanski will eventually move into a background role, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic notes. The franchise prefers an experienced candidate for the GM job who can make an immediate impact and oversee player evaluations and the draft, Edwards continues. It’s also possible that the Pistons will hire multiple assistant GMs and leave the GM spot vacant for next season, he adds.
  • Blake Griffin, Sekou Doumbouya and Bruce Brown are the players under contract most likely to remain on the roster entering next season, Keith Langlois of the team’s website opines. Derrick Rose will also likely be back, though he’d be a prime trade candidate in his walk year if the team fortifies the point guard spot, Langlois adds.
  • A couple of players earned A-minuses from Detroit News beat writer Rod Beard. See all his evaluations and final grades here.

LeBron, Curry Among Players Who Will Owe Money From 2020/21 Salaries

Starting this Friday, 25% of NBA players’ pay checks will be withheld for the foreseeable future. The NBA and NBPA reached that agreement last month in order to ensure that players are bearing some of the brunt of the league’s lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic — and so that players won’t be required to surrender a significant lump sum in a few months if games are officially canceled and the CBA’s “force majeure” clause is triggered.

However, some players will still have to return money to the league down the road rather than seeing a portion of their pay checks withheld now. While most NBA players are paid in 24 bi-monthly installments, beginning in November, some players negotiated deals that see them receive just 12 pay checks, with the last one issued on May 1. As a result, those players have already received their full salaries for the 2019/20 season and withholding part of their checks starting on May 15 isn’t an option.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN details, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Paul George – all of whom are making $33MM or more this season – are among the players who have already received their ’19/20 salaries in full.

Because those players – and several others – won’t resume receiving pay checks from their respective teams until the fall, they’ll essentially owe the NBA an IOU for each pay date this spring and summer (until the 25% agreement ends), Marks explains.

By the fall, the league should better understand to what extent players’ 2019/20 salaries have to be reduced, and players like James and Curry will have money taken out of their advances for 2020/21 (on October 1) and/or their ’20/21 pay checks (beginning on November 15).

As Marks notes, the amount of money that players ultimately have to give up for the 2019/20 season will depend on how many games can be played this summer if and when the season resumes.

Players could lose approximately 23-26% of their full-season salaries if games don’t resume, according to Marks. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that the NBA is able to play its remaining regular season games and playoff games in full, teams would be responsible for returning players’ full salaries to them.

Adjusting player salaries based on the amount of games that can eventually be played should help the league avoid a scenario in which the salary cap fluctuates significantly over the next couple years based on this year’s lost revenue, since the NBA and its players share roughly a 50-50 split of the league’s revenue.