Pistons Rumors

Pistons Add Kalin Lucas On Two-Way Deal, Waive Zach Lofton

The Pistons have signed Kalin Lucas to a two-way contract, waiving Zach Lofton in the process, Rod Beard of The Detroit News relays (Twitter feed). The now team has a bounty of guards after adding Isaiah Whitehead on a separate two-way deal earlier today.

Behind Reggie Jackson, the team has veterans Ish Smith, Langston Galloway, and Jose Calderon on the payroll. The Pistons also have rookie Khyri Thomas, who has seen court time in each of the last three games after playing sparsely in just seven of the franchise’s previous 39 contests.

After the Lucas signing, seven of the team’s 17 players man the point guard position. It’s possible that the club is preparing to make a trade and while that’s merely my speculation, the calculated roster imbalance suggests the Pistons are strategically planning something. It could be more lineups with two point guards or it could be a more drastic measure like shipping Jackson to a new team.

Detroit entered the day 10th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 18-24, just a game-and-a-half behind the eighth-place Hornets. Adding Lucas, who has appeared in just one NBA game since leaving Michigan State, won’t likely impact the team’s win total. However, with Lucas and Whitehead in the fold, the team has great depth at the position and it can now more easily swap a floor general for some needed wing support.

Pistons Would Like To Re-Sign Reggie Bullock, Ish Smith

Reggie Bullock and Ish Smith have been solid this season for the Pistons and would have some value on the trade market, given their modest salaries and expiring contracts. However, the club would like to re-sign both players during the 2019 offseason, if possible, tweets Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. That would throw a wrench into the idea of trading either player during the season.

Ellis notes that Bullock, in particular, is generating “strong” interest on the trade market. The sixth-year wing is having another excellent shooting season for the Pistons, making 39.8% of his three-point attempts. That’s nearly right in line with his 40.2% career rate, and would appeal to a ton of contenders — especially given his $2.5MM salary.

Pistons, Isaiah Whitehead Agree To Two-Way Deal

12:17pm: The Pistons will be removing Evans’ two-way deal from their roster to make room for Whitehead, tweets Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press.

11:18am: The Pistons have reached an agreement with free agent guard Isaiah Whitehead on a two-way contract, league sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Detroit will have to waive one of its current two-way players – Keenan Evans or Zach Lofton – in order to make the deal official.

Whitehead, 23, was selected by the Nets with the 42nd overall pick in the 2016 draft and spent two seasons with the team, appearing in 89 overall games. The former Seton Hall standout was a regular part of Brooklyn’s rotation in his rookie season, but saw his playing time cut back in 2017/18 as he spent more time with the Long Island Nets in the G League. Whitehead averaged 22.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG, and 3.5 APG in 30 games for the Nets’ NBAGL affiliate last season.

The Brooklyn native was was sent to Denver in an offerson trade and was waived a few days later, making him an unrestricted free agent. Whitehead quickly caught on overseas with Lokomotiv Kuban, but parted ways with the Russian club last week. Now, he’ll return to the NBA on a two-way deal.

Today is the deadline for NBA teams to sign players to two-way contracts for the 2018/19 season, so Whitehead’s deal should be finalized within the next several hours.

Latest Dennis Smith Jr. Trade Rumors

Trade discussions involving Dennis Smith Jr. have “accelerated” to the point that it would be surprising if the Mavericks don’t make a deal, a team source tells Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported on Monday that the Mavs’ trade talks for Smith had ramped up.

According to Townsend’s source, neither Smith nor his agent has requested a trade out of Dallas. “[But] if something is out there, they wouldn’t be opposed to it,” the source said of Smith’s camp. “I think this is kind of figuring out what the win-win is.”

Townsend writes that three primary factors are contributing to the Mavericks’ efforts to find a possible new home for Smith. Luka Doncic‘s rapid ascension is an important factor, as is the fact that trade offers for Smith have “escalated” recently, per Townsend. The third factor is Smith’s relationship with head coach Rick Carlisle. In his Monday report, Wojnarowski wrote that Carlisle and Smith “have struggled to find a common ground,” adding that the head coach has “often been frustrated” with the second-year guard’s decision-making.

“On a scale of one-to-10, it’s certainly not a zero,” one Mavericks source told Townsend, referring to the Carlisle-Smith relationship. “It not a zero with any player. But I wouldn’t say it’s a 10, either. It’s a factor, but it’s not something that can’t be figured out if we end up moving forward with what we have, which is honestly what we want to do.”

Wojnarowski’s initial report cited the Magic and Suns as two teams in the mix for Smith. Townsend agrees that Orlando is “heavily” involved, but suggests Phoenix is not. That echoes a report from John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7, who said on Monday night that the Suns don’t have any real interest in Smith.

A subsequent report identified the Pistons as another potential suitor for Smith, and Rod Beard of The Detroit News confirms (via Twitter) that there’s at least some “mild” interest from Detroit. However, Beard notes that the cost may be a first-round pick, plus other assets, and it’s not clear if the Pistons would be willing to surrender their 2019 first-rounder and more in a deal for the 2017 lottery pick.

Pistons, Suns, Magic Pursuing Dennis Smith Jr.?

9:19pm: The Mavericks are also searching for deals that would include veteran shooting guard Wes Matthews, who is making $18.6MM in the final year of his contract, Wojnarowski reports in a follow-up story. Also within that story, sources tell Woj that Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle has “often been frustrated with Smith’s decision-making.”

Meanwhile, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 says that Phoenix has no interest in Smith, despite Woj’s report that the Suns have been active in talks with Dallas.

9:00pm: The Pistons have also talked to the Mavs about Smith Jr., longtime NBA columnist Mitch Lawrence tweets.

8:30 pm: The Mavericks are ramping up trade discussions for point guard Dennis Smith Jr., ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. The Suns and Magic are involved in talks with the Mavs, Wojnarowski adds.

Smith Jr. has missed the last three games with a sore back.

There’s tons of buzz regarding Smith Jr., ESPN’s Zach Lowe confirms in a tweet. However, it’s unclear what kind of package the Mavs are seeking for the 21-year-old.

The ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft seemed like a star in the making during his rookie campaign. He averaged 15.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG and 5.2 APG in 69 games. The North Carolina State is shooting at a more efficient rate this season, improving his overall field goal percentage from 39.5% to 44.3% and his 3-point success from 31.3% to 37.5%. Still, his slash line of 12.6/2.6/3.9 reflects how he’s struggled to find chemistry alongside rookie sensation Luka Doncic.

Smith has also been turnover prone, coughing it up at a rate of 3.1 per game compared to 2.8 last season despite averaging two fewer minutes.

Poll: Nets’ Playoff Chances

Heading into the 2018/19 season, many expected the Nets to make another jump in the standings as a result of their players developing and the quality depth they added in the offseason. However, there were no expectations that at the halfway point of the season, the Nets would be sitting in the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference despite not having their best player available for the past two months.

The Nets are 21-23, which is even more impressive when you consider the fact that they were 8-18 in early December. Instead of focusing on getting the best draft pick possible, Kenny Atkinson continued to believe that his team could turn it around, and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Since December 6, the Nets own the league’s 12th-ranked offense and 15th-best defense.

D’Angelo Russell has made strides as a playmaker and scorer, Spencer Dinwiddie is a top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, and Joe Harris has provided elite shooting and floor-spacing.

Keep in mind that a lot of this recent run by the Nets has come without Allen Crabbe and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, not to mention Caris LeVert. The Nets use their depth and bench to their advantage on a nightly basis, which allows them to stay afloat when injuries strike.

With that being said, many still expect teams like the Pistons and Hornets to improve moving forward, while the Wizards have found new life since John Wall went down for the season. Do the Nets have enough top-end talent to lead them to the playoffs? Or will their strong bench and depth be enough for them to sneak in? Vote in the poll below and share your thoughts in the comments!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote

Blake Griffin Denies Snubbing Clippers’ Owner

Blake Griffin insists he wasn’t deliberately avoiding Clippers‘ owner Steve Ballmer when he sprinted to the locker room prior to this afternoon’s game in Los Angeles, relays Ben Golliver of The Washington Post. In a video that quickly went viral, Ballmer approaches his former player for a pre-game handshake, but Griffin turns and runs away.

“For nine years now, as soon as I’m done with my pregame shooting, I make sure there’s a path and I take off running to the locker room,” Griffin told reporters after the game. “I don’t stop running. A lot of you have seen me do that before. I don’t change that for anybody. To tweet out something like that, I thought was kind of bull—-. That’s what it was. Plain and simple. It wasn’t anything planned. Every single game I’ve done this for how long.”

Although he claims the Ballmer incident was a misunderstanding, Griffin was clearly motivated to send a message to his former team. He had a game-high 44 points, along with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals, in leading the Pistons to an important road victory. He also picked up some revenge against the team that traded him 12 months ago, not long after signing him to a five-year max deal.

Griffin has admitted he hasn’t been in contact with any members of the Clippers’ front office since the trade, and when asked after the game about L.A. coach Doc Rivers, Griffin responded, “He’s not my coach anymore.” Another reporter asked if he would be willing to shake hands with Ballmer if given another chance and Griffin said, “I’m honestly not here to answer hypothetical questions.”

Griffin had a friendlier reaction to some of his former teammates, according to ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz, who writes that he embraced Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell following the game, although he traded words with Patrick Beverley in the final seconds.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey said Griffin’s teammates understood how important the game was to him, adding that the Pistons are thrilled with how the trade worked out.

“We’re glad we got him,” Casey said. “He’s the foundation of our program going forward. He showed tonight how he’s playing at an all-pro — not all-star — all-pro level.”

Community Shootaround: Pistons Moves

Following a quick start, the Pistons have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments. They were 13-7 after 20 games but have nosedived since early December, dropping 16 of their last 20 games.

Their defense has been atrociously recently, as they got blown out by the LeBron-less Lakers on Wednesday and the Kings on Thursday.

A playoff spot seemed like a safe bet as long as Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson stayed healthy. None of them has missed a game due to injury and Griffin has played at an All-Star level on a regular basis. Yet the bottom line screams that something needs to change.
Drummond’s production has dropped lately and Jackson has underperformed throughout the season under new coach Dwane Casey’s system, which has de-emphasized the pick-and-roll.
The Pistons’ brass reportedly met on Friday to discuss moves to improve the team, with a point guard and creative wing player heading the wish list.
The imminent return of sixth man Ish Smith from an adductor tear should alleviate the point guard situation, which had 37-year-old Jose Calderon playing regular minutes in his absence. However, the wing players, with the possible exception of Reggie Bullock, have not provided consistent production.
The Pistons have a tricky cap situation, thanks to some bad contracts. Jackson can be included on that list which also includes Jon Leuer, Langston Galloway and Glenn Robinson III. Recent first-round picks Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard have not lived up to their draft status, though some rival executives might believe they have untapped potential. A package of Johnson and/or Kennard with a first-round pick or two may deliver a starter-quality wing.
A more radical move would be sending Drummond, the league’s leading rebounder, packing for a top-level wing player and a big man that could at least take his minutes. The Pistons only have Leuer and aging Zaza Pachulia as backup big men.
That leads us to today’s topic: Should the struggling Pistons trade Andre Drummond to shake up their roster? Or should they move other players and draft picks and keep the Griffin-Drummond frontcourt duo intact?
Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this discussion. We look forward to your input.

Brass Meets To Discuss Trades

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Gores, Smith

Pistons owner Tom Gores was able to see his team up close on Wednesday, with Detroit surrendering a 113-100 loss on national television to the Lakers. Detroit came into the season with somewhat high expectations, sporting a new head coach and talented frontcourt featuring the All-Star tandem of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but the team has recorded an underwhelming 17-22 record 39 games into the campaign.

“I like this team. I think they can work through the adversity,” Gores said during a halftime interview, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Whether we want to say it or not, this team expects to be in the playoffs. This team does expect excellence. You have Andre [Drummond] and Blake [Griffin] — and these are major, major players.”

Griffin has certainly put forth an All-Star caliber season, to Gores’ point, averaging a career-high 25.1 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Detroit made a blockbuster trade to acquire him last January, with Gores strongly reaffirming his desire to build around Griffin down the road.

“We couldn’t expect more from Blake than what he’s done,” Gores said. “He has done incredible work and everybody didn’t know what he could do — but we couldn’t expect more. Beyond his stats, he really has been a great leader. Do we want to build around him? Absolutely.”

Griffin, 29, is in the second season of a five-year, $173MM contract. The Pistons could work to build around him sooner by being aggressive prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, similar to the approach taken last season.

There’s more out of Detroit tonight:

  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic examined the Clippers-Pistons trade centered around Griffin from last year, giving viewpoints from several players and figures on both sides. Since being traded, Griffin has worked to improve in one major category: Leadership. “I’m definitely more vocal,” Griffin said of his current role. “I think I’ve done a lot more teaching. Not necessarily teaching, but pointing out things that I see this year as opposed to years before. Just out of necessity. I think our teams were so old in L.A. that every guy knew what we were doing. So it’s been a cool challenge to change that up and figure out a different way to lead.”
  • Ish Smith is getting closer to a return after missing 17 straight games with a right groin tear, Beard notes in a different story for The Detroit News. The Pistons are 4-13 in Smith’s absence, with the point guard reportedly ramping up more game-like drills on Tuesday. Head coach Dwane Casey said Smith should return either on Saturday or Monday, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com (Twitter link).
  • Griffin will return to Los Angeles and play the Clippers on Saturday for the first time in nearly one year, with last year’s reunion coming nine days after he was traded. “It was a weird game for me dealing with that within the first five games back,” Griffin said when asked about last year’s contest in Los Angeles, as relayed by The Detroit News. “I think this time around will be a little bit different because I’ve had so much time to process everything and talk to people.”