Blake Griffin

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.

Central Draft Notes: Bulls, Bucks, Pistons

The Bulls have the pieces to move into the Top 5 of the draft but it’s unknown whether they like any prospect enough to do that, according to Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls could package their picks at No. 7 and No. 22 and power forward Bobby Portis to make a deal with the Hawks at No. 3 or the Grizzlies at No. 4. Memphis, though, might want to unload Chandler Parsons contract, in which case the Bulls probably wouldn’t have to include Portis, Strotman continues. With Lauri Markkanen the long-term solution at power forward, the Bulls can afford to deal Portis, who might become a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t receive a contract extension, Strotman adds.

In other draft-related musings involving Central Division clubs:

  • If the Bulls retain their No. 22 pick, they should avoid Duke sharpshooter Grayson Allen and Villanova big man Omari Spellman, Scott Phillips of NBC Sports Chicago opines. Allen’s temperamental behavior during his college career is something the Bulls don’t need with an already young roster, while Spellman’s skills do not complement Markkanen because he’s not a rim protector, Phillips continues. De’Anthony Melton (USC), Mitchell Robinson (Western Kentucky) and Anfernee Simons are three other late first-round prospects the Bulls should pass on, Phillips adds.
  • The Bucks could select Michigan big man Moritz Wagner with the No. 17 pick, Gery Woelfel of WoelfelsPressBox.com speculates. The Bucks need a physical frontcourt player who can shoot from outside and Wagner would bring that, Woelfel continues. While most draft experts peg Wagner as a late first- or early second-round selection, he could move into the middle of the first round because of his offensive skills, Woelfel adds.
  • Missouri State forward Alize Johnson and Purdue guard Dakota Mathias are two of the players the Pistons might consider with their second-round pick, according to Ansar Khan of MLive. Both players came in for workouts this week. Detroit traded away its first-round pick in the Blake Griffin deal with the Clippers.

Pistons Hosting Free-Agent Mini-Camp

While most NBA teams are spending their time hosting pre-draft workouts for draft-eligible prospects, the Pistons are concentrating their energy on the free agent market already, holding a free-agent minicamp today for multiple NBA hopefuls and a few former NBA players.

Bereft of a first round selection in the 2018 NBA Draft as a result of the club’s mid-season trade for Blake Griffin, the Pistons are surely hoping to get a jump start on the competition for the services of some lesser known free agents this summer.

Keith Langlois of Pistons.com provides a look at the minicamp roster, with the most well-known name having to be former No. 2 overall pick, Derrick Williams, who holds career averages of 8.9 PPG and 4.0 RPG in 428 career contests.

Other invitees with NBA experience include Williams’ former teammate with the Cavs during the 2016/17 season, Jordan McRae, as well as five-year veteran John Jenkins, the No. 40 overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft – Diamond Stone, and a 10-day contract recipient from this past season – Marcus Thornton.

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.

Pistons Notes: Van Gundy, Ennis, Tolliver, Griffin

For all the coaching news that has been made since the season ended, things have remained quiet in Detroit, notes Ansar Khan of MLive. Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy was scheduled to meet with owner Tom Gores this week in Los Angeles after missing the playoffs for the third time in his four years on the Pistons’ bench, but no update has come from those talks. Gores said he plans to evaluate Van Gundy’s coaching and front office roles separately, and there is speculation he could be asked to relinquish one or the other.

The delay may be a positive sign for Van Gunday, Khan wrote earlier this week, as teams tend to act quickly when making a coaching change to give themselves a shot at the best candidates on the market. Van Gundy, who has a 152-176 record in Detroit, has one season remaining on a five-year, $35MM contract.

There’s more tonight out of Detroit:

  • The Pistons like free agents James Ennis and Anthony Tolliver enough to try to bring both of them back next season, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com in a mailbag column. Ennis was a part-time starter after being acquired from the Grizzlies at the trade deadline and averaged 7.5 points in 27 games with Detroit. Tolliver, a veteran defensive specialist who signed with the Pistons last summer, can be had at or near the veteran’s minimum, Langlois adds, and Detroit’s front office will probably have time to evaluate its other moves before deciding whether to offer him a contract.
  • It’s still too early to gauge whether the Pistons gave up too much to acquire Blake Griffin, Langlois contends in the same piece. The price tag was Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and a pair of draft picks. The Pistons were willing to accept Griffin’s injury risk on top of a massive, newly signed contract, but Langlois states the gamble will be worth it if he can stay relatively healthy.
  • Don’t be surprised if the Pistons target a point guard in this year’s draft, Langlois adds. Ish Smith will be a free agent next summer and Reggie Jackson is under contract for two more seasons, so that could quickly become a position of need. However, because its first-round pick went to the Clippers in the Griffin trade, Detroit’s only selection is at No. 42.

Central Rumors: Tolliver, Griffin, J.R. Smith, Markkanen

Power forward Anthony Tolliver would like to stay put but his future with the Pistons is uncertain at best, Ansar Khan of MLive.com reports. Tolliver, 32, quickly emerged as a rotation player in his second stint with the franchise and posted career highs in field-goal percentage (46.4) and 3-point percentage (43.6), Khan notes. But Tolliver becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Pistons still have Jon Leuer, who missed most of the season with an ankle injury, and Henry Ellenson at that spot behind Blake Griffin“I’ve been here longer than anywhere else in my career and would love to keep that going,” Tolliver told Khan and other beat writers. “But at the end of the day, got to see what’s up this summer.”

In other news around the Central Division:

  • Griffin told his Pistons teammates during their postseason meeting that he wants to be the leader of the team, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com relays. Griffin arrived in a late January trade with the Clippers and feels he needs to take more responsibility. “It’s a role that he should and does embrace,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s not he and Chris Paul. Clearly, he’s the most accomplished guy on our team to this point. Five-time All-Star. Guys look up to him, so people are going to be looking at him and I think he wants that.”
  • Former starters J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson are candidates to return to the starting five for Game 2 against the Pacers, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue confirmed to Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and other media members. Smith scored 15 points off the bench in Game 1, while Thompson made just a cameo appearance. “We’ve been talking about it as a staff,” Lue said. “I just know those guys have been through everything with us the last four years and we won a championship, went to three finals. Tristan and J.R. played a big part of that. We understand that and trust me, we know that.”
  • Bulls rookie forward Lauri Markkanen will play for the Finnish National Team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers scheduled for the end of June, Sportando reports. He averaged 15.2 PPG and 7.5 RPG in 29.7 MPG during his first NBA 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:

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Ellenson, Jackson, Smith

The Pistons’ faint playoff hopes were officially snuffed out on Wednesday night, when Detroit’s loss to Philadelphia eliminated the club from postseason contention. While the Pistons don’t have a ton to play for in the season’s final four games, injured star Blake Griffin continues to push for a return from his ankle injury and Stan Van Gundy hasn’t ruled out that possibility, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Still, Detroit’s head coach doesn’t sound desperate to get Griffin back on the court.

“I don’t know if that’s going to come or not,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve only got six days left. Four games in six days. Whether we see him again, I have no idea. But it’s certainly no better than 50-50.”

With Griffin still on the shelf for now, expect to see plenty of Henry Ellenson down the stretch for the Pistons, writes Langlois.

Here’s more out of Detroit:

  • How different might the Pistons’ season have looked if Reggie Jackson had been able to stay healthy? As Ansar Khan of MLive.com notes, Detroit had a 25-16 record in games Jackson played, which is a stat Van Gundy could point to when he meets with owner Tom Gores after the regular season ends.
  • Although the Pistons are officially out of the playoffs, there are still some important developments to watch down the stretch, says Rod Beard of The Detroit News. As Beard observes, Ellenson, Luke Kennard, and Stanley Johnson should get a significant chunk of minutes in the club’s final four games — and the Pistons could get to .500 without compromising their lottery position by winning their remaining games.
  • Ish Smith has seen action with 10 different teams in eight NBA seasons, but he has finally found a home with the Pistons, Beard writes in another piece for The Detroit News. Smith has one more year left on his contract with Detroit after this season.
  • With the 2017/18 season now in the books for the Grand Rapids Drive, expect two-way players Kay Felder and Reggie Hearn to be with the Pistons the rest of the way, tweets Beard.

Injury Updates: Griffin, Fournier, Warriors, Wizards

While news of Joel Embiid‘s orbital fracture and surgery has dominated the conversation over the last 24 hours, we have injury updates to pass along on several other notable players around the NBA. Let’s dive in…

  • Pistons star forward Blake Griffin has been diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right ankle, the team announced today in a press release. Griffin will be re-evaluated in a week. With just 13 days left in the regular season and Detroit all but eliminated from the postseason race, it wouldn’t be surprising if Griffin doesn’t play again this season.
  • Evan Fournier, who has been on the shelf since March 7 due to a sprained MCL, is “unlikely” to return to the court before the end of the 2017/18 season, Magic head coach Frank Vogel said this week (Twitter link via Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel). Fournier will head into the summer preparing to enter the third year of his five-year deal with Orlando.
  • The Warriors can’t seem to get everyone healthy as the regular season winds down. As Connor Letourneau of The San Francisco Chronicle details, head coach Steve Kerr said Klay Thompson could return on Saturday from the thumb injury that has sidelined him for over two weeks. However, Andre Iguodala left Thursday’s game in the third quarter with a sore left knee, jeopardizing his short-term availability (link via ESPN.com).
  • The Wizards appear to have avoided disaster in the form of Otto Porter and Bradley Beal injuries, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. Beal was able to return to Thursday’s game after banging his knee, while Porter’s rolled ankle was dubbed just a “minor” sprain by head coach Scott Brooks.
  • The Nuggets, looking to stay alive in the playoff hunt, have a big game on tap Friday night against Oklahoma City, but Gary Harris will be unable to return from his knee injury to play in that game, as Gina Mizell of The Denver Post writes.

Central Notes: Jackson, Booker, Griffin, Blakeney

The return of Reggie Jackson has Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy feeling optimistic about the team’s future, as Ansar Khan of MLive.com details. Detroit is 3-1 since Jackson returned from a severe ankle sprain that cost him nearly three months of action. The addition of a starting point guard to go along with the big man duo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond makes the Pistons a dangerous team going forward, in Van Gundy’s mind.

“He was healthy his first full year here and we won 44 games and we didn’t have nearly the talent around him then that we do now,” Van Gundy told Khan and other media members. “And then last year he had to come back in the middle of the season [due to tendinitis in his knee] and then this year he started off and we were 19-14. We know, it’s been demonstrated. If we can keep him healthy, we got a chance to be really good.”

In other news from around the Central Division:

  • The Pacers will have to address the power forward spot even if Thaddeus Young opts in this summer, Scott Agness of Vigilant Sports opines in a mailbag column. Trevor Booker, whom the team recently signed as a free agent, could be an option, Agness adds. Booker is averaging 5.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG in 17.4 MPG over 10 games since joining Indiana.
  • Griffin sees similarities between joining the Pistons and getting drafted by the Clippers, as he explained to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. “For me, it was a cool challenge,” Griffin said of his Clippers experience. “I want to go there and be a part of something. Luckily, I was able to do that. I look at [Detroit] the same way. This is a franchise that has a history of winning a championship and they have an identity as a franchise. This is a place where I want to help get this franchise back to where it was and where it deserves to be.”
  • Two-way player Antonio Blakeney believes he established himself as an NBA player before the Bulls guard fractured his wrist, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. He averaged 7.9 PPG in 16.5 MPG in 19 appearances with Chicago. “I definitely think I showed a little bit of what I can do,” Blakeney said. “I have a lot more to show. I didn’t get to play many games this year.”