Dwane Casey

Central Notes: Windler, Donovan, LaVine, Casey

Dylan Windler‘s return to the court has generated a buzz of excitement within the Cavaliers organization, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes.

Windler, who underwent season-ending surgery in January for a stress fracture in his left leg, has impressed coaches and teammates alike during the team’s mini-camp. The Cavaliers selected him with the No. 26 in the 2019 draft, with the 24-year-old not playing in a single game this year.

“It was amazing for us to see him out there. I know it felt good for him,” Collin Sexton said. “Everyone went crazy because they know how bad he wanted to be out there.”

In addition to Windler, the Cavaliers sport a young nucleus consisting of Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. The team also has a number of veterans – including a star frontcourt duo in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond – and the No. 5 pick in this year’s NBA draft.

“It was like, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy. I remember that guy,’” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said of Windler. “He knows how to play. Super efficient. Can really shoot. He’s always around the ball. He hasn’t been hurt in his entire life, so it’s hard to be off that long. He’s excited to be back, doing his thing and when that silky smooth 3-ball goes in we are doing little fist-bumps too. He still needs to get through this week healthy and his body needs to respond the right way and has to get to NBA games and compete there, but we’re excited about him.”

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic explores what kind of coach Billy Donovan might be for the Bulls. Chicago hired Donovan last week, with the veteran coach coming off a stint with the Thunder. “I look at it as a positive of coaching some different teams,” Donovan said, “because it forces you as a coach to constantly every year have to figure out ways to make the group better. In today’s day and age in the game of basketball, there’s going to be turnover. You want to be able to find a way, however long or short your time is, to make a player better.”
  • Bulls star Zach LaVine hopes Donovan can be a long-term fix at head coach, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. Donovan will be LaVine’s sixth head coach in seven seasons, and the team’s leading scorer hopes that rate of turnover won’t continue. “I was extremely happy,” LaVine said of the Donovan hire. “Somebody with his track record not just in the NBA but in college as well, a whole ton of players who are proven saying how great of a guy he is and how good of a coach he is. People like me, when you want to be great, you want to be coached extremely well. I gave him a text right when I heard the news. And I told him hurry to get after it. I’m extremely excited. I think the whole organization is.”
  • The Pistons have looked to create an atmosphere of intense competition in the team’s mini-camp, head coach Dwane Casey said, as relayed by James Edwards of The Athletic (Twitter link). “The one thing I’ve seen this week … we wanted the competition, and guys are competing hard, taking charges,” Casey said. “We wanted to create the atmosphere of competition. They’ve responded.”

Pistons Notes: Wood, VanVleet, Rose, Casey

The Pistons‘ offseason decisions will be heavily influenced by what happens with the NBA’s salary cap, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Originally projected at $116MM, there have been rumors that the cap for next season could remain at $109MM. That would limit the flexibility for Detroit, which has just four players under contract beyond this year.

That number will likely grow when Tony Snell exercises his $12.178MM player option, Edwards notes, and second-year guards Bruce Brown and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk are expected to be brought back for $1.6MM each, along with Khyri Thomas. That would leave the Pistons with a seven-man roster at roughly $76MM, giving the team nearly $30MM in cap room.

The top priority will be re-signing Christian Wood, who blossomed as a star after the trade of Andre Drummond. If a depressed market allows Detroit to keep Wood at a reasonable price — Edwards estimates around $12MM per year — the team could have enough left to make a serious run at Toronto guard Fred VanVleet. The downside, Edwards points out, is that the Pistons would have to fill out the roster with just a $4.8MM mid-level exception and minimum contracts.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Derrick Rose is likely to be moved sometime before next year’s trade deadline, Edwards adds in a mailbag column. It depends on Rose maintaining his health and high level of play after he turns 32 in October, but Edwards notes that the veteran guard is only under contract for one more year and Detroit doesn’t look like a playoff contender next season.
  • There’s little chance the Pistons would consider an early termination of coach Dwane Casey, even though the organization is in a far different position than when he was hired two years ago, observes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Casey seems to have accepted the challenge of a rebuild, just as he did in Toronto. He was also involved in the interview process that led to the hiring of new general manager Troy Weaver. “Dwane Casey is the rock of the organization,” senior advisor Arn Tellem said in a recent radio interview. “We were lucky to get him a couple of years ago when we went through this search. He’s a true leader of this organization.” 
  • Weaver penned a message to Pistons fans on the team’s website, discussing his decision to leave Oklahoma City and his long relationship with Tellem while acknowledging, “We have work to do to make the roster better.”

Pistons Notes: Brown, Thomas, Draft, Weaver, Casey

The Pistons won’t have to make decisions on three young players with non-guaranteed deals until October, James Edwards III of The Athletic notes.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pistons had to decide whether to pick up the contracts of Bruce Brown, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Khyri Thomas during the first two weeks of July with each player scheduled to make approximately $1.66MM next season. That date has been pushed back until after the playoffs are completed in Orlando.

It’s a given that Detroit will exercise its team option on Mykhailiuk and guarantee Brown’s contract, but Thomas’ situation is uncertain. He missed most of the season with a foot injury and returned to action shortly before the stoppage of play. The coaching staff believes Thomas can be a contributor, which helps his chances of getting his deal guaranteed, Edwards adds.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • New GM Troy Weaver has said he’ll be looking for a high-character player in the lottery. That increases the chances that the team will draft Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, USC’s Onyeka Okongwu or Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Though none are currently ranked at the very top of the draft, that trio consistently draws high marks among scouts, college coaches and NBA executives for their personality traits, Langlois adds.
  • The mutual respect between Weaver and coach Dwane Casey bodes well for the franchise’s future, Langlois writes in a separate piece. Casey has proven he can develop talent and he has full confidence that Weaver will acquire the type of talent that can lift the franchise back to prominence, Langlois adds.
  • Assitant GM Pat Garrity is leaving the organization. Get all the details here.

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.”

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.”

And-Ones: Ujiri, DeRozan, Tomjanovich, Bates

While he’s on good terms now with former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey after firing him in 2018, Toronto’s president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri admitted to TNT’s Ernie Johnson this week that he hasn’t been able to mend fences in the same way with DeMar DeRozan. Ujiri shipped the longtime Raptors shooting guard to San Antonio in a 2018 blockbuster that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto.

“With Casey, it has gotten so much better now with his family and him. With DeMar there is still plenty of work to be done,” Ujiri said, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “But, by the grace of God, it will all get better. We have to continue to make these decisions that are tough. But that’s the business of basketball, and the position that we are in.”

While recognizing that the NBA is a business, Ujiri said that making significant changes to a coaching staff or roster isn’t easy, especially when it means parting ways with someone he has gotten close to. “You feel it in your heart,” Ujiri said, per Bontemps.

“I always say that the two hardest things in our world, in our business, is trading a player and then when a player leaves, if a player leaves in free agency,” Ujiri said. “And it’s hard on both sides. When a player is traded, it is hard on the player side, and when a player leaves, like us (with Leonard last summer), it is hard on that side. I’ve experienced all of it, from wonderful people.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In a conversation with Michael Lee of The Athletic, former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich revisited some of the highlights – and lowlights – of his career and expressed gratitude at being elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month. “I had been through the phone calls several times and got the, ‘Sorry, not this year.’ And it was so good to hear them say, ‘Rudy, you’re in,'” Tomjanovich said. “Still getting use to it. Still bouncing on a cloud. I feel really good about it.”
  • After Emoni Bates became the first high-school sophomore to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Jared Weiss of The Athletic explores the 16-year-old phenom’s game and explains why NBA scouts are excited for his growth trajectory.
  • In the second installment of his breakdown of 2020’s free agent class for wings, Danny Leroux of The Athletic singles out Heat swingman Derrick Jones Jr. as one of the more intriguing options who will be available, since it’s rare for an established rotation player to reach unrestricted free agency at such a young age — Jones turned 23 in February.

Pistons Notes: Draft, Brown, Casey, TV Workers

If the Pistons win the lottery, Georgia guard Anthony Edwards would be their best hope of landing a potential superstar in this draft, according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic. Edwards’ “power athleticism” gives him a slight edge over LaMelo Ball, another point guard who played in Australia this season. Edwards, who is already 225 pounds at 18 years old, can be elite offensively if he’s willing to put in the work, Vecenie adds. The Pistons currently have a 10.5% chance of landing the top pick, so Vecenie and The Athletic’s James Edwards III run through a variety of draft scenarios and prospects from 1-7.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Second-year guard Bruce Brown will be focused on continuing to develop his jumper and improving his other ball skills during this offseason, Keith Langlois of the team’s website writes. Brown has already established himself as a solid and versatile perimeter defender and coach Dwane Casey views him in a secondary ballhandler role going forward. The franchise values Brown as a vital part of the future while reshaping many other parts of its roster, Langlois adds.
  • Casey has been spending extra time viewing film of not only NBA games but also draft prospects, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. The Pistons were one of the teams that went into self-isolation after the suspension of play. “Watching game film, trying to see what we can do differently defensively,” Casey said. “New ideas to experiment with for next year. Also watching a lot of draft film. Very unusual for this time of year.”
  • While the Pistons and other teams are giving assistance to arena workers and staff members during the hiatus, the team’s broadcasting crew is seeking financial help, Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press reports. Freelancers for Fox Sports Detroit — which also broadcast Red Wings and Tigers games — are not getting paid during the hiatus. FSD was one of the regional sports networks purchased by Sinclair Broadcast Group last year and haven’t been offered any assistance from Sinclair. Most FSD workers at Pistons home games, including stage managers, camera operators, audio technicians and editors, are freelancers.

Pistons Notes: Casey, Future Rosters, Wood, Lottery Odds

Coach Dwane Casey has embraced the idea of rebuilding, even though it’s not the situation he expected when he joined the Pistons two years ago, writes John Niyo of The Detroit News. Casey thought he was taking over a perennial playoff team, but injuries wrecked Detroit’s season and pushed the franchise in a new direction.

Pistons players have missed a combined 246 games this season, the third-highest total in the league. The most significant injury was the knee issue that forced Blake Griffin to have an arthroscopic procedure in January, his second knee surgery in nine months. That led to the decisions to trade center Andre Drummond, buy out Reggie Jackson and start building for the future.

Detroit will be one of a handful of clubs with cap space this summer, and Casey knows the team needs to use it wisely.

“Even though I want to go out and get every top free agent, we have to be smart,” he said. “It’s gotta be with the future in mind, the right decisions. And if the right free agent doesn’t come along, you don’t just go out and overspend because you have cap room. We have smart people upstairs and I understand that.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic projects which current players will remain with the Pistons over the next three seasons. He expects the front office to sign promising big man Christian Wood to a long-term contract this summer and sees few significant changes for next year. Edwards predicts Griffin will be traded before the 2021/22 season, which will be the final one for his current contract, while Luke Kennard will probably be shipped to a contender as well. Edwards believes the team will start moving back toward contention by 2022/23.
  • Wood has emerged as a potential star after being waived by the Pelicans last summer and having to win a training camp battle for the final roster spot in Detroit, notes Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. The Drummond trade created an opportunity, and Wood has responded by averaging 22.0 points and 10.2 rebounds in the 12 games since moving into the starting lineup.
  • With just one victory since the All-Star break, the Pistons are increasing their chances for the top pick in the draft, observes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. The three teams with the worst records have equal odds of winning the lottery, and Detroit, which has the league’s fifth-toughest schedule over the rest of the season, is just one game away from joining that group.

Pistons Notes: Casey, Walton, Hall, Doumbouya

Pistons coach Dwane Casey didn’t sign up for a rebuild, but that’s the situation he finds himself in, as James Edwards of The Athletic details. Casey will have three years remaining on his contract after this season and the front office has a plan in place for a turnaround. He did that with the Raptors and he hopes to get a chance to coach the finished product in Detroit. “You’d love to finish what you start building,” Casey said. “That’s what you want to be known for, and you want to have an opportunity to finish.”

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Point guard Derrick Walton Jr. hopes to stick with the club beyond the 10-day contract he signed on Friday, as he told The Detroit Free Press. Walton became a free agent when the Clippers dealt him earlier this month to the Hawks, who quickly waived him. “They like that I make shots, that I make other players better, that I think the game and overall, I’ve always been know as a great teammate, a great locker room guy,” said Walton, who grew up in Detroit and played four seasons for the University of Michigan. “I think that’s going to follow me wherever I go.”
  • Forward Donta Hall, who has been playing for the Pistons’ G League affiliate in Grand Rapids, also signed a 10-day contract over the weekend after Markieff Morris‘ contract was bought out. Hall will provide depth in the frontcourt, at least in the short run, Keith Langlois of the team’s website relays. “Being down Markieff, he gives us another long guy inside,” Casey said. “He’s been playing well, playing hard with our G League team, giving us everything. … Won’t hesitate to play him if the situation calls for it.”
  • Developing Sekou Doumbouya into a star, as the Bucks did with all-world talent Giannis Antetokounmpo, is one of seven ways the Pistons can emulate Milwaukee’s blueprint for success, Matt Schoch of the Detroit News writes.

Central Notes: Casey, Rose, Nance Jr., Young

The Pistons’ decision to hire Dwane Casey as head coach in June of 2018 was the right call, one that remains a smart choice even with the team’s current struggles, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes.

Detroit has lost three straight games and is just 14-27 on the season, dealing with a litany of injuries to key players such as Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard. Casey was hired after an outstanding 2017/18 season with Toronto that earned him Coach of the Year honors.

“It’s tough because I went through this about six or seven years ago in Toronto, the rebuild we did there,” Casey said, as relayed by Langlois. “I thought I had graduated from that, but we’re back here again – which is fine. I enjoy coaching. I enjoy teaching. There were no parameters put on what type of team it was going to be here. I expected it to be a playoff team and still want to win.”

Casey was hesitant to describe the Pistons’ current situation as a full rebuild, however, with the veteran coach still gunning to compete in the Eastern Conference and guide his players to new heights.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call it a rebuild, totally,” Casey said. “Not down to the nubs, the studs and to the foundation. But of our core, only Andre is still available and I would say Luke would be the other part of that. But then after that, it’s Sekou, Christian, Bruce. That’s the key. It’s shifted to that. Don’t want to call it a rebuild, but that’s where the focus is right now – with those guys.”

The Pistons are 5.5 games behind the No. 8 seed Nets, with Kennard expected to miss another month, Griffin rehabbing from knee surgery and Jackson still without a timetable for a return due to his back injury.

There’s more out of the Central Division tonight:

  • Pistons guard Derrick Rose has been fined $25K for throwing a pen across the court and into the stands on Monday, the league announced in a press release. The incident occurred with 37 seconds left in overtime at New Orleans.
  • Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. is set to make his return to the lineup on Tuesday against the Clippers, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Nance has been sidelined for nearly two weeks with knee soreness. The 27-year-old is holding season averages of eight points, seven rebounds and 24.3 minutes per game in 31 contests.
  • It’s time for the Bulls to do right by Thaddeus Young and trade the veteran forward, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times contends. Young signed with Chicago as a free agent last July, inking a three-year deal worth $41MM. Young and his camp initially thought he’d receive more minutes after choosing to join the team, but the 31-year-old is only averaging 22.3 minutes per game — the lowest since his rookie season in 2007-08.