Dwane Casey

Central Notes: Mitrou-Long, Markkanen, Griffin, Drummond

Injuries have thrust Pacers two-way players Naz Mitrou-Long and Brian Bowen into action more than anticipated in the early going, Mark Monteith of the team’s website notes. Backcourt injuries forced Indiana to play Mitrou-Long 14 minutes on Saturday one night after he scored 28 points for its G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Bowen made a five-minute appearance in the loss to Milwaukee.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen hasn’t reached the 20-point mark since scoring 35 points in the season opener and shooting guard Zach LaVine is looking to change that, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “He just doesn’t seem in rhythm right now man. It’s a new offense. And I think it has a part to do with it,” LaVine said. “We’ve just got to help him find it.”
  • Injuries to Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose have contributed greatly to the Pistons’ 4-9 start. With some days off and both stars back in action, coach Dwane Casey is hoping to get things back on track, Keith Langlois of the team’s website writes. “We’ve got three or four days we can practice,” he said. “Before, there was one day in between.  … Sounds like an excuse. But it’s going to take a while for our guys to jell together, work together, learn each other. With Blake and Derrick back, for them to learn each other. It’s going to be a marathon.”
  • The Pistons will have to consider drastic changes if they don’t break the cycle of mediocrity soon, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. The trade for Griffin hasn’t resulted in a huge uptick in the team’s fortunes, Beard continues. Andre Drummond, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, hasn’t impacted winning significantly enough to warrant another long-term deal in many people’s minds, Beard adds.

Central Notes: Bitadze, Garland, Casey, Korver, LaVine

Pacers’ first-round pick Goga Bitadze will make his preseason debut on Tuesday, Mark Monteith of the team’s website relays. The Euro big man missed the first three preseason games with an ankle injury. He’s slated as the main backup at center with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis projected as starters. “That’s kind of where we’ve got him at,” coach Nate McMillan said. “We’ll see as we get into the season what the rotation is going to look like.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers rookie Darius Garland could wind up in the starting lineup with Collin Sexton in a dual point guard backcourt, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Garland has come off the bench thus far in the preseason but that could change with coach John Beilein continuing to tinker with various lineups. “If he’s able to practice enough and earn it, I have no qualms about that at all,” Beilein said. “But there’s a certain process you have to go through to be that starting point guard and whatever it’s going to take. We will get him in when we think it’s best for the team to win.”
  • Pistons coach Dwane Casey wants to see his team take 40% of its shots from beyond the arc, Keith Langlois of the team’s website relays. Like many teams, Detroit attempted a franchise record number of 3-pointers last season and Casey wants to continue that trend. Their backup bigs, including Markieff Morris, will help the Pistons achieve that goal. “We want to stay around 40,” Casey said. “We want to continue to get up more corner threes as much as possible. Our slot threes were up, but we were getting a fair amount of corner threes. We’ve got to continue to do that and put pressure on the basket.”
  • The Bucks added veteran guard Kyle Korver as another perimeter option but coach Mike Budenholzer sees Korver providing assistance in other areas, according to Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Korver signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal in July. “All the little things he does,” Budenholzer said. “Competing and screening. Getting hits on the defensive boards. I think we’re really excited about how he is going to make us better this year.”
  • Zach LaVine is eager to shed his reputation as a subpar defender, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times relays. LaVine has been challenged to become a better two-way player by Bulls coach Jim Boylen‘‘I’m just tired of people talking [poorly] about my defense,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I’ve always been a good on-ball defender. But there’s no reason I can be this good offensively and not be that good on the defensive end. So I’m taking more pride in it. I’m pretty sure it’ll show.”

Pistons Exploring Trades, May Keep Wood, Johnson

The Pistons are seeking a trade that would allow them to keep both big man Christian Wood and veteran forward Joe Johnson, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes.

That duo came into training camp vying for the final roster spot but circumstances may change.

Langston Galloway or Khyri Thomas are the most likely players to be moved in order to free up a roster spot, according to Ellis. The Pistons have 14 players, including Galloway and Thomas, with fully guaranteed contracts.

Wood’s contract guarantees at $822,679 if he makes the opening night roster, while Johnson would receive a $1.37MM guarantee if he’s still with the team coming out of training camp. Wood’s $1.65MM contract and Johnson’s $2.56MM deal become fully guaranteed if they’re still on the roster beyond January 10.

Wood was claimed off waivers from the Bucks and has put up impressive numbers in a couple of preseason appearances. Coach Dwane Casey has been impressed by the way Wood has conducted himself beyond the court. Wood would battle Thon Maker for backup duties at center if he sticks.

“Christian’s thing is just maturity,” Casey told Ellis and other reporters. “He’s done a great job of being on time, being where he’s supposed to be, doing what he’s supposed to do, being disciplined, because if he (had done it before), he wouldn’t be here. He’d still be with Milwaukee or somebody.”

Johnson, the MVP of the BIG3 league this summer, could provide depth at both forward spots. Detroit’s final two preseason games this week will help determine whether the Pistons keep both Wood and Johnson, according to the Detroit News’ Rod Beard, who also confirms the front office has been exploring the trade market.

Galloway has an expiring $7.33MM contract, which would hold some appeal. Thomas, a second-year player, is making $1.42MM. Galloway is considered a rotation player by Casey but the Pistons have numerous options at the wing positions and will also pair up point guards Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose at times.

Eastern Notes: Leonard, Fultz, LaVine, Johnson

New Heat center Meyers Leonard is ready for the new opportunity that awaits him in Miami, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

 “I know that I can impact the game every night… And I’m vastly improved compared to when I was younger and earlier in my career. The easiest way to put it is I feel really good about where I’m at. And I’m just excited for this new opportunity. The Heat saw something in me and I really appreciate it.”

Leonard, who becomes an intriguing stretch option in the frontcourt for head coach Erik Spoelstra, is confident in his ability to hit open threes and expand his game even further.

“I’m going to do what’s asked of me… If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it. That’s one thing I feel that, particularly last year, I started to do a better job of is take more contested shots…. I (also) feel that I’ve really expanded my game. I can get my shot off quicker. I feel good, even extended beyond the 3-point line. I really, really feel that I’ll be able to provide a very unique skill-set and the ability to roll all the way to the rim, to half roll and play-make or to pick and pop to three. So it’s something I’ve worked very, very hard on.”

 There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:
  • Magic guard and former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz has joined Roc Nation Sports, the 21-year-old announced on his own Twitter account.
  • The best-case scenario for Bulls guard Zach LaVine? He’s got All-Star potential, and should be an All-Star this season, writes Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. But, on the flip side, if he isn’t able to mesh better with Lauri Markkanen and improve on the defensive side of the ball, it may be another long season in Chicago.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News reports that Pistons guard Joe Johnson, who signed a partially guaranteed deal earlier this month, has impressed head coach Dwane Casey with his conditioning. “My main concern was Joe getting up and down and he showed that he can still run the floor and still be athletic,” Casey said. “He has it, even at (38).”

Pistons Notes: Beasley, Casey, Wood, Rose

As we noted when Joe Johnson agreed to sign with the Pistons earlier today, no roster move will be required to create room on the 20-man roster for the veteran forward.

Although multiple reports suggested that Michael Beasley would be waived, ESPN’s Bobby Marks confirms (via Twitter) that Beasley and the Pistons never officially finalized their reported agreement, so Johnson will simply take the spot on the roster that Beasley would have.

Of course, preseason rosters are generally fluid, so if the Pistons still want to bring the former second overall pick in for training camp, they could eventually do so — they’d just have to cut another camp invitee. However, a source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link) that Beasley is unlikely to be in camp with Detroit.

Beasley still faces a five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy, so if and when he signs with a new NBA team, he’ll have to miss his first five regular season contests for that club.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • A source tells Ellis (Twitter link) that Pistons head coach Dwane Casey was “very instrumental” in selling Johnson on signing with Detroit.
  • Marks provides an update on the guarantee details on Christian Wood‘s contract, tweeting that Wood’s $1.65MM salary will only become partially guaranteed for $822K if he’s not waived by October 23. Wood figures to be Johnson’s primary competition for a regular season roster spot in Detroit.
  • While Derrick Rose‘s goal of winning a championship with the Pistons is admirable, the former MVP’s top priority should be staying healthy, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
  • Keith Langlois of Pistons.com lauds the work that head of basketball operations Ed Stefanski has done in the last two offseasons to add young talent to the Pistons’ roster. Five players currently under contract with the team were drafted in the last two years, and that list doesn’t include 2017 lottery pick Luke Kennard, 22-year-old big man Thon Maker, or draft-and-stash prospect Deividas Sirvydis.

Raptors Notes: Finals, Leonard, Lowry, Ujiri

Having the Raptors in the NBA Finals will help significantly boost the league’s global ambition for success, Jerry Brewer writes for The Washington Post.

The NBA enjoys promoting the league and the sport of basketball as a worldwide activity despite having the most of its events in the United States, scheduling games in countries such as England, China and India in recent years. The entire country of Canada has rallied around Toronto in its pursuit of an NBA championship this season, with some dedicated fans even arriving to Sunday’s Game 2 more than 16 hours before doors opened.

“It’s overwhelming because you think, when I look at all the international players we have on our team . . . it’s really brought us together, and I think it says so much because that’s how our city is,” Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said, according to Brewer. “That’s how the country is, that we can all relate to the multicultural or the diversity of Toronto and Canada, and that’s how our team is. They talk in different languages on defense. They talk in different languages in the locker room, and it’s like that in our organization. And being international myself and being from Africa, I’m proud of that.”

The NBA has generated more of a global audience in recent years, and with the success of the Raptors, these numbers could continue to grow. Toronto finished with the second-best record in franchise history this season at 58-24, one game behind last season’s record of 59-23.

There’s more out of Toronto tonight:

  • Kawhi Leonard remains the mystery man for the Raptors both physically and vocally, something the team is perfectly content with, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes. “I just try to take my experiences and just keep moving forward and just have fun,” Leonard said. “Like I said, just basketball at this point. Win, lose or draw, I’m still going to be living, still got a family. This is all for fun. But for me, it’s just the way I play. Until we win the game or it’s all done, then I’ll show some emotion. But I want to stay even-keeled while I’m going through it.”
  • Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com explores how Kyle Lowry became the last Raptors player standing from when he first joined the team in 2012. Since then, Toronto has undergone a series of personnel, coaching and culture changes, culminating in a spot in the NBA Finals this season.
  • Masai Ujiri deserves a large portion of credit for getting the Raptors through the Eastern Conference, Washburn writes in a different story for The Globe. Ujiri attributed some of his team’s success to former head coach Dwane Casey and former Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan for helping jumpstart the winning process in past seasons. “To give Dwane Casey credit, he prepared us for this, too. This is not something that started in one year,” Ujiri said as part of a larger statement. “I want to say that Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan are a part of this, they are part of our journey and how far this has come.”

Pistons’ Players Give Dwane Casey Rave Review

Despite a sweep at the hands of the NBA-best Bucks, the Pistons’ first season under first-year head coach Dwane Casey was a relative success, as Detroit made the postseason for the first time since the 2015/16 season and posted a 41-41 regular season mark, the franchise’s third-best record in the last 12 seasons.

And according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, Pistons’ players were largely happy with their first season under Casey as well, as he received rave reviews from his roster after his stellar reputation around the league was found to be well-deserved.

“Talking to people (last) summer, you hear the same thing – that’s a really positive thing,” All-Star forward Blake Griffin said. “Consistency. One thing everybody talks about with coach Casey is the type of person he is: great guy, very disciplined and cares about his players. I saw that through the course of the season.”

Casey was also given high marks by his players for being able to hold them accountable for lack of effort and execution while simultaneously refraining from being so intense to the point of pushing guys away, no small task for a head coach in the NBA.

“Coach Case has this calm under pressure that is pretty cool,” reserve point guard Ish Smith said. “He had his moments, like any coach, when the players are not giving you what you expected out of them. But we dealt with a lot of adversity. He never got down, he never was frustrated, he never got mad. The end result was the playoffs and that’s a huge tribute to his personality.”

Coach Casey was also able to cultivate a positive relationship with Griffin, the team’s consensus best player, which is yet another important aspect for any NBA head coach.

“We are very, very lucky to have a coach like him,” said Griffin. “A coach who stands for and represents the things he does. He was great this season. I really enjoyed playing for him.”

Eastern Notes: Gasol, Hawks Workouts, Pistons, Williams

Raptors center Marc Gasol is excited about the prospect of playing for Spain once again in the World Cup at China this summer, according to a FIBA press release. Spain is ranked No. 2 by FIBA. In his last international appearance, he helped Spain to a third-place finish at FIBA EuroBasket 2017.

“I’m closer to the end of my international career than to the beginning, but the motivation is the same that I’ve had since I started playing with the national team,” the Raptors’ big man said. “I enjoy the moments with the guys, from the practice to the camaraderie and the competition. I want to help the national team try to have good runs and win more medals and titles before I retire from international duty. I take it step by step and my first focus after the NBA season is on the next FIBA World Cup.”

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Hawks are bringing in forwards Jordan Caroline (Nevada), Donta Hall (Alabama), Chris Silva (South Carolina) and Tre’Shawn Thurman (Nevada) and guards Kyle Allman and Markell Johnson (North Carolina State) for predraft workouts on Tuesday, according to a team press release.
  • All members of the Pistons’ coaching staff as well as their front office executives are expected to return, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Detroit reached the playoffs for just the second time since 2009 under first-year coach Dwane Casey and was swept by Milwaukee in the opening round.
  • Magic co-founder and Hall of Famer Pat Williams announced his retirement from the team on Monday after 51 years in the NBA, according to a team press release. Williams, who turns 79 this week, was GM of the Bulls, Hawks and Sixers as well as Orlando. He was promoted to senior VP of the Magic in 1996.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Drummond, Kennard

There’s still plenty of uncertainty regarding Blake Griffin‘s status for the opening round of the playoffs. While Yahoo Sports reported that the Pistons All-Star power forward would likely miss the series against the Bucks, coach Dwane Casey said after practice on Monday that Griffin could play as soon as Game 2 on Wednesday. Griffin sat out Milwaukee’s 121-86 blowout victory on Sunday with a sore left knee.

“We need all hands on deck. He wants to play,” Casey said. “So when his body says he’s ready, whether it’s Wednesday night or Saturday (for Game 3), whenever it is, he’ll be available.”

Griffin, who worked out with the training staff during practice, said after the game that he wanted to play but the medical staff nixed it. Casey confirmed that Griffin is eager to return.

“He’s lobbying. He wants to play,” Casey said. “It’s the medical staff, the doctors are the ones making those decisions. Not me, not Blake.”

We have more on the Pistons:
  • Casey doesn’t think Andre Drummond‘s ejection during the third quarter on Sunday was warranted. Drummond received a Flagrant Two foul for shoving Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo to the court after Antetokounmpo grabbed an offensive rebound. “I’ve seen worse,” Casey said. “What do you expect our defense to do when you’re driving through there 100 miles an hour? Just move out of the way and let you go where you want to go?” Drummond was tight-lipped about the ejection because “I’m not trying to get fined.” There hasn’t been any indication the league will discipline Drummond for the foul.
  • Drummond recorded a minus-45 in the plus/minus category before he was tossed. That was the lowest in playoff history since at least 2001, according to Basketball-Reference. “I was more than ready. Prepared, ready to go,” he said. “I just have to do it a step harder.”
  • Casey felt his team played like it was just happy to be in the postseason while Milwaukee acted as if it had waited all season for the game. “The moment, playoffs, atmosphere, whatever it is, got us out of sync,” he said. The lone bright spot was the play of reserve guard Luke Kennard, who scored a team-high 21 points. “Luke was probably the most aggressive offensively of everybody and he was making the right basketball play,” Casey said.

Eastern Notes: Ellington, Wizards, Cavs

Detroit remains in the playoff race in large part due to the addition of Wayne Ellington. The shooting guard has made 38.1% of his looks from behind the arc on 7.8 attempts per game since coming to the franchise. Coach Dwane Casey sees Ellington’s use of his speed as a major reason why he’s able to succeed from 3-point land.

“If he was slow coming off, teams would chase him over and get there. He really comes off with speed and he knows how to change speeds to get open. [Luke Kennard] could really learn from him as far as watching him work out. It’s not just for games. He does it every day in practice,” Casey said (via Keith Langlois of NBA.com).

The Pistons were in need of outside shooting after shipping Reggie Bullock to the Lakers at the trade deadline and the team is glad it was able to nab Ellington after the veteran agreed to a buyout with the Suns. The sharpshooter will again be a free agent at the end of the season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Wizards are working with prominent sports executive Mike Forde as the team looks to reset its front office, a source tells Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Forde is the CEO of Sportsology and was previously the director of football operations for Chelsea in the Premier League.
  • Bradley Beal has been a mentor to Troy Brown Jr. and the All-NBA candidate sees a bright future for the Wizards‘ rookie, as Zach Rosen of NBA.com relays. “I told him in the beginning of the year, you are going to see a lot of stuff throughout this year, and one thing I always tell him is, it is easy to just get caught up in the negativity but the more positive you stay and the more ready you stay, your name will eventually be called and sure enough, it was called and he performed,” Beal said. “He did excellent. He has been constantly growing. It is just a matter of him just getting more minutes.”
  • The Cavaliers‘ home arena will see a name change from Quicken Loans Arena to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, according to Tom Withers of The Associated Press. The venue is also undergoing “major” renovations.