Dwane Casey

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.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Central Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:

Bruce Brown, Pistons, 23, SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $3.9MM deal in 2018
The Pistons will have a lot of tough decisions to make prior to the trade deadline and during next off-season. Guaranteeing Brown’s $1.66MM salary for next season will be the easiest one. Brown forced his way into the lineup last season as a defensive specialist. That’s still his calling card but he’s also shown he can play the point and his offensive game is developing. The 2018 second-round pick has averaged 16 PPG over the last three games. Coach Dwane Casey believes Brown’s offense will eventually catch up with his defense, which will make him a long-term starter in the league.

Kris Dunn, Bulls, 25, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $17.5MM deal in 2016
When Chicago acquired Tomas Satoransky in a sign-and-trade and drafted Coby White in the first round, Dunn entered training camp with no defined role. To his credit, the former lottery pick didn’t sulk. Otto Porter‘s injury has opened up steady playing time for Dunn in a smaller lineup. He’s an afterthought at the offensive end but he’s shown some defensive tenacity. This week, he hounded Bradley Beal into one of his worst shooting nights in recent years. The Bulls can make Dunn a restricted free agent by extending a $7MM qualifying offer (or $4.6MM if he doesn’t meet the starter criteria). That’s certainly not a given, but considering Dunn’s outlook in October, he’s at least positioning himself for a multi-year offer.

Jordan Clarkson, Cavaliers, 27, SG (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $50MM deal in 2016
Clarkson signed with superagent Rich Paul over the summer entering his walk year. That should help him land a multi-year contract when he hits unrestricted free agency in July. Clarkson is basically “doing his thing” again for the rebuilding Cavaliers, providing instant offense off the bench. He’s the team’s third-leading scorer (13.9 PPG) despite averaging just 22.7 MPG. Clarkson’s 3-point shooting (35.1%) is above his career average. If can become more consistent from long range, he’ll be even more valuable on the open market.

T.J. McConnell, Pacers, 27, PG (Up) – Signed to a two-year, $7MM deal in 2019
McConnell was a starter for Philadelphia at the beginning of his career. He’s now settled in as a solid second-unit floor leader. McConnell lacks a 3-point shot but he’s adept at breaking down defenses and finding his teammates. He’s averaging 4.9 APG in just 17.7 MPG. After a ho-hum stretch, he’s perked up the last three games, averaging 10 PPG and 5.7 APG. His $3.5MM salary for next season is partially guaranteed. It’s hard to see Indiana letting McConnell go at that modest rate.

Ersan Ilyasova, Bucks, 32, PF (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $21MM deal in 2018
The Bucks already have enough salary commitments next season to put them over the projected cap. Milwaukee will have to decide before free agency whether to guarantee Ilyasova’s $7MM salary for next season. It’s a safe bet the Bucks will seek a cheaper and/or younger backup to superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. Ilyasova’s 3-point shooting has picked up lately but he’s still a subpar 32.8% for the season. He’s averaging 16.3 MPG, his lowest figure since his rookie season. Ilyasova will hook on somewhere next season as a reserve stretch four but likely at a reduced rate.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Raptors Notes: Powell, Boucher, Gasol, Siakam

Raptors shooting guard Norman Powell has been playing some of the best basketball of his NBA career during his fifth NBA season, as Toronto Star reporter Doug Smith details.

Powell, in the second year of a four-year, $42MM extension with the team, also stands as one of the only Toronto players on a long-term deal. Before tonight’s win against the Pistons, Powell had been averaging career bests in points (14.6 PPG), rebounds (3.9 RPG), minutes (28.7), and field goal percentage (49.8%). 

“I’m just being able to read what the defense is doing,” Powell observed. “How they’re playing, where their bigs are at, whether it is a finish or a kick-out or a drop-off to the bigs, just … being aggressive.”

There’s more out of Canada:

  • In another piece, The Toronto Star’s Doug Smith notes that the play of emerging Raptors forward Chris Boucher has earned the Oregon alum more rotation minutes this season. A solid shot-blocker with good shooting range, the 6’9″ third year player has given head coach Nick Nurse reason to ponder making some lineup adjustments. “It’s not an easy thing to figure out,” Nurse allowed. “If you say you want to give someone more minutes that means you are taking some away from somebody else, and I don’t really know who that is right now.”
  • The Raptors’ latest victory may have come at a cost. Starters Powell and center Marc Gasol both suffered injuries, and will be reassessed in Toronto tomorrow. Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports that Gasol left the game with a strained left hamstring and Powell hurt his left shoulder on a Blake Griffin screen. Powell missed 21 games last season with a left shoulder subluxation against a Rudy Gobert screen.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News reports that Pistons head coach Dwane Casey did not anticipate Pascal Siakam‘s improvement from defensive role player to, now, one of the league’s best two-players. “I didn’t see that he would be a superstar and he is a superstar in our league right now,” Casey noted. “He started 38 games in his first year… Shooting was his last resort; it was his last offensive option.” The fourth-year forward is averaging 25.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, and 3.6 APG for the 19-8 Raptors.

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.