Blake Griffin

Pistons Notes: Jackson, Casey, Griffin, Wallace

Some time off has done a lot of good for Pistons guard Reggie Jackson, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. After missing 37 games with a severely sprained right ankle last season, Jackson mostly stayed away from basketball this summer. He talked with new coach Dwane Casey, watched the new assistant coaches conduct drills and spent time with teammates, but he didn’t subject the ankle to the stress of competitive basketball.

“Probably didn’t heal the way everybody thought it might once we had time off,” Jackson said. “Just haven’t been able to get on the court, but been doing everything I can to get healthy.”

Jackson didn’t need surgery, but he did undergo a process that he described as similar to the platelet-rich plasma injection he had on his knee two years ago. He said the rest has been good for the ankle, and there’s now a “night and day” difference compared to last year.

There’s more tonight out of Detroit:

  • Jackson is also touting the new system that Casey brought to Detroit, relays Nolan Bianchi of The Detroit News. During a public appearance today, Jackson said the abundance of wings on the Pistons’ roster will help with the transition to the new approach, which is based on quick ball movement and 3-point shooting. “Playing in this system, this new type of flow is going to take us some time to adjust,” Jackson said. “But I think it’s something that, as it shows promise for fans that the pieces can work well within what coach does, it’s going to be about getting acclimated, getting trust.”
  • Casey is impressed by the thorough nature that Blake Griffin takes to offseason workouts, Langlois adds in a separate story. Casey called Griffin a “leader by nature” and will be counting on him to assume a larger role in his first full season in Detroit. “Like [former coach/executive] Stan [Van Gundy] said last year, him coming in mid-season like that is almost impossible to come in and establish himself as a physical leader or leader by example or by your words,” Casey said. “He’s done a lot of things as far as this summer organizing workouts in L.A. and doing different things to show his leadership.”
  • Former Pistons star Ben Wallace has taken on a front office role as a part owner of the G League Grand Rapids Drive, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Wallace is returning to the game after several years away and hopes to eventually land a role with an NBA team. “I’m pushing all of my chips into the middle of the table,” Wallace said. “I definitely want to learn the business side of basketball. I’m working with a great partner in [Drive owner] Steve Jbara, who is teaching me a lot about the business side of basketball. I’m working guys out, I’m having executive meetings, I’m selling tickets, I’m doing the whole nine.”

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Rookies, Johnson, Bullock

There’s a good chance that Blake Griffin can return to elite status after a healthy summer and a few months of working to develop chemistry with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Griffin played 25 games for the Pistons after being acquired in a trade with the Clippers, and although his scoring and rebounding numbers declined from where they were in L.A., Griffin averaged a career-best 6.2 assists per game after coming to Detroit.

Beard also states that he doesn’t expect Griffin to be among the first players moved if owner Tom Gores decides to break up the team. Griffin signed a max extension with the Clippers last summer and is owed $141.6MM over the next four years, although the final season is a player option. That type of contract would be difficult to trade, Beard notes, and tough to get anything of value for.

There’s more today out of Detroit:

  • Dwane Casey’s history of giving minutes to young players in Toronto could be good news for Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown, but they’ll still face a challenge in cracking a talented rotation, Beard states in the same piece. The Pistons sent two second-round picks to the Sixers for the 38th pick in this year’s draft, which they used to grab Thomas, a shooting guard who specializes in defense. They took Brown, a wing who can also play the point, four picks later. Both were adequate but not overly impressive during Summer League, and Beard believes there will have to be injuries for either to get regular playing time as rookies.
  • The Pistons brought in Glenn Robinson III as insurance in case Stanley Johnson receives a huge offer sheet as a restricted free agent next summer, Beard adds. Detroit is already near the projected cap for 2019/20 and may not be willing to go into the luxury tax to keep Johnson.
  • Reggie Bullock‘s 3-point shooting prowess should keep him in the starting lineup, even though the Pistons’ coaches are strong believers in Luke Kennard, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Bullock, who shot a sizzling 44.5% from 3-point range last year, will be a free agent next summer.

Central Notes: Pistons Lineup, Griffin, Smith, Paxson

Determining the two starters who will join Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the lineup is one of the things to watch for during the Pistons’ training camp, according to Keith Langlois of the team’s website. Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are the three major candidates for those two slots. Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson and Zaza Pachulia will vie for the role of first big man off the bench, though Leuer’s status for training camp is uncertain due to recent knee surgery, Langlois adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Having Griffin as the focal point of their offense for a full season has created optimism around the Pistons franchise, Ansar Khan of MLive writes in his latest player profile. The Pistons had trouble incorporating Griffin into the offense following the blockbuster trade with the Clippers in late January. But he has developed his all-around game and become a better 3-point shooter and passer, Khan continues. New coach Dwane Casey plans on putting the ball in his hands more often, Khan adds.
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith was issued a desk ticket for misdemeanor criminal mischief after he allegedly tossed a fan’s cell phone into a construction site on July 26, according to an ESPN story. Smith spoke to police in New York City on Friday about the allegation and he will appear in Manhattan Criminal Court later this year.
  • Jim Paxson’s title with the Bulls has been changed from director of basketball operations to director of pro personnel, the team announced in a press release. The Bulls also promoted Brian Hagen to associate GM, Steve Weinman to assistant GM and and Miles Abbett to manager of minor league scouting and analytics.

Central Notes: Stephenson, Parker, Stefanski, Griffin

Lance Stephenson has left the Pacers again, but just like last time it may not be forever, writes Dana Benbow for The Indianapolis Star. Stephenson, who signed a one-year deal with the Lakers this summer, was asked about a possible return during a party he threw Wednesday to say goodbye to Indianapolis.

“Oh, of course. This is home. Of course,” he responded. “I would always want to come back here.”

Stephenson was among Indiana’s most productive reserves last season, appearing in all 82 games and posting a 9.2/5.2/2.9 line. His previous stints with other teams — the Hornets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans and Timberwolves — produced mostly disappointing results.

“We stayed in constant communication with him,” team president Kevin Pritchard said. “At the end of the day, Lance gave us some great years. We love Lance. We love Lance on the court, we love Lance off the court.” 

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Mike Budenholzer may be having “buyer’s remorse” over taking the Bucks‘ head coaching job after the loss of free agent Jabari Parker, suggests Gery Woelfel of WoelfelsPressBox in his latest podcast. He adds that the entire organization was counting on Parker to stay and never expected him to get an offer in the $20MM range like the Bulls gave him.
  • The Bucks are still hoping to make a deal before the season starts, Woelfel adds in the same discussion. He names John Henson, Malcolm Brogdon and Tony Snell as the players most likely to go, but says Eric Bledsoe has also been mentioned as a trade candidate.
  • Ed Stefanski has made a lot of progress in his first 100 days as a senior advisor to the Pistons, notes Chris Schwegler of NBA.com. The most significant moves were the hiring of reigning Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, adding Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown through the draft and signing free agents Glenn Robinson III, Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia.
  • Blake Griffin is looking healthy during his summer workouts at UCLA, relays Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. A knee injury limited Griffin to 58 games last year between the Clippers and Pistons, and he hasn’t played more than 67 in a season since 2013/14.

Pistons Rumors: Kennard, Ellenson, Smith, Projection

The Pistons have big plans for second-year guard Luke Kennard and he rates as a breakout candidate for the upcoming season, Ben Nadeau of Basketball Insiders writes. Kennard averaged 11.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 2.5 APG during the last 19 games of his rookie season and his role will expand under new coach Dwane Casey, Nadeau continues. Kennard has the ability to play three positions and he has the potential to become one of the league’s premier 3-point shooters, Nadeau adds.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Power forward Henry Ellenson has been selected for the USA National Team qualifying for the World Championships, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets. Ellenson has played sparingly in his first two NBA seasons after being chosen in the first round of the 2016 draft but his role is expected to expand during the upcoming season under Casey.
  • Point guard Ish Smith could be traded during the season, Ansar Khan of MLive.com opines. Smith is entering the final year of his contract and the Pistons also have Jose Calderon and Kennard available for that role, Khan continues. Otherwise, Smith will be the primary backup to Reggie Jackson. He improved his 3-point shooting toward the end of last season and is well-suited for the second unit due his energy, speed and ability to attack the basket, Khan adds.
  • The big man combination of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should be enough for the Pistons to secure the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype predicts. Sierra sees Detroit finishing third in the Central Division and eighth in the conference despite a lack of talent beyond the frontcourt duo.

Pistons Notes: Leuer, Griffin, R. Jackson, S. Johnson

Jon Leuer‘s knee surgery this week gives the Pistons a reason to worry about their frontcourt depth, suggests Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Leuer had a procedure done on his right knee Wednesday after suffering a medial meniscus injury. Although it’s considered minor, the team isn’t sure that he’ll be ready for camp, saying his condition will be re-evaluated in late September.

New coach Dwane Casey was counting on Leuer to be his primary reserve big man, backing up Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. But if Leuer’s recovery takes longer than expected, that gives greater responsibility to Henry Ellenson and free agent addition Zaza Pachulia. Ellis notes that Johnny Hamilton, a rookie from Texas-Arlington who was with the Pistons for Summer League, could also be in the mix if he performs well in training camp.

Injury misfortune continues for Leuer, who missed 74 games last season with a left ankle issue that also required surgery. The 29-year-old will make slightly more than $10MM this season and $9.5MM in 2019/20.

There’s more today out of Detroit:

  • There’s reason for optimism about the health of Griffin and Reggie Jackson heading into the new season, Ellis writes in a mailbag column. Neither player had injury issues this summer and they were able to keep up a full workout schedule. The switch to Casey may also help as former coach Stan Van Gundy was known for long, often draining practices. Griffin appeared in 58 games last year between the Clippers and Pistons, missing time with knee and ankle injuries, and hasn’t played more than 67 in the past four seasons. Jackson had a platelet-rich plasma treatment before the start of last season and managed just 45 games.
  • The Pistons may have plans to use free agent addition Glenn Robinson III and Stanley Johnson in the lineup together, Ellis adds in the same piece. Power forward could turn out to be Johnson’s best position, and there will be an opening if Leuer’s injury is worse than expected.
  • Former New Mexico State guard Zach Lofton is excited about the opportunity to join the Pistons for training camp, relays Mark Rudi of The Las Cruces Sun-News. Lofton confirmed the agreement today on Instagram. “I want to thank the Detroit Pistons for the amazing opportunity to be a part of the organization,” he said in a news release. “I also want to thank the amazing support system I’ve had through the years. I’m excited to start this new chapter.”

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.

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.