Ed Stefanski

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

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 Would Move Assets For Impact Player

The Pistons are willing to move assets to become more competitive in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not inclined to make a trade simply to dump a bad contract. That’s what senior advisor Ed Stefanski told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press in a recent Q&A.

Second-year guard Luke Kennard and future first-round picks are the most likely enticements to acquire another impact player, Ellis continues. The Pistons are close to the luxury-tax line and won’t exceed it unless they can get that type of talent.

“(Pistons owner) Tom Gores would go into the luxury tax only — and I agree with this — if it would move the needle for us to be a team that would allow us to compete in the conference,” Stefanski said. “If we’re asked to give up a big asset like a first-round pick to help the growth of the franchise, we would consider it. … If we weren’t sure of that, to make a big commitment with assets, I think could really hurt us. We can’t make a deal to set the franchise back.”

The Pistons have shown a willingness to trade a first-round pick in order to get an All-Star caliber talent. They traded their 2018 first-rounder last winter as part of the Blake Griffin deal.

Here’s more from Ellis’ chat with Stefanski:

  • Using an asset in order to move forward Jon Leuer, who is making approximately $10MM, or guard Langston Galloway ($7MM) — both of whom are signed through next season — wouldn’t make much difference on the Pistons’ cap situation for the 2019/20 season. Stefanski explains they’d be better off retaining their mid-level exception. “We wouldn’t improve substantially (in terms of cap room), so to use assets to get off some of the contracts you may want to get off — I’m not saying we want to — but to do something like that? It still wouldn’t create a lot of room.”
  • Stefanski believes Kennard, who was sidelined by a knee injury in the summer and a shoulder injury early in the season, is ready to make a bigger contribution. “What Kennard can do is make plays for other people. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used now that he’s got his legs back. … We can’t have enough shooters and you need playmaking. I think Kennard provides both to the table.”
  • Reggie Jackson has underperformed in Dwane Casey’s system but Stefanski is optimistic that will change. Jackson spent most of the offseason rehabbing an ankle injury. “Our medical people said he would not be physically there until the end of the year, that he would still need time because when you’re off your feet that long and not playing basketball, it doesn’t just pop back on. This will get better and better.”

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Griffin, Jackson, Johnson

Pistons center Andre Drummond doesn’t plan to shoot a lot of threes but he’s thrilled that new coach Dwane Casey has given him the green light, as he told the Detroit Free Press. Casey believes if Drummond hits a couple of long range shots every game, it will create more space for everyone offensively. “The 3-point shot is something I’ve added six years ago,” he said. “I just never had a coach that allowed to me to shoot it. It’s something I’ve worked on consistently for a long time, so I guess now is my time to really showcase it.” Frontcourt partner Blake Griffin doesn’t want Drummond to stray from the basket too often.  “We still want to use Dre to his strengths because he’s one of the most dominant centers, one of the best finishers, one of the best rebounders,” Griffin said. “So it would be doing him a disservice to keep him away from the rim and doing the things he does best.”

We have more from the Pistons:

  • Both of Detroit’s top big men believe the team should set lofty goals. Griffin said homecourt advantage in the playoffs, at least for the opening round, should be the team’s regular-season aim. Drummond expects the Pistons to be serious contenders in the East. “The time is now,” he said. “We have everything we need to be great. There’s no reason why we can’t be a top team in the East or a top team in the NBA.”
  • Point guard Reggie Jackson (ankle), power forward Jon Leuer (knee) and shooting guard Luke Kennard (ankle) will be limited for the start of camp but all should be ready to play by opening night, according to senior advisor Ed Stefanski. “Those three are not in basketball shape,” Stefanski said.
  • Stefanski wouldn’t specifically address a question whether the team was interested in trading for Jimmy Butler but he noted the team has payroll limitations. However, he’s not averse to dealing for star players with expiring contracts. “That wouldn’t bother me,” he said. “It depends on what you have to give up.”
  • Small forward Stanley Johnson is eligible for an extension but the franchise is more focused on whether he’ll develop into a consistent performer. Johnson admits he still has a lot to prove. “(Owner) Tom (Gores) said, ‘I’m tired of hearing the word potential,'” Johnson said.

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.

Central Notes: Stephenson, Love, Polinsky, Evans

The Pacers offered a better contract to swingman Lance Stephenson than he received from the Lakers, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said on Friday (Twitter link via Mark Monteith). Stephenson agreed to a one-year, $4.5MM deal from the Lakers. A phone call from LeBron James influenced Stephenson’s decision to choose L.A., Monteith adds. However, the Pacers declined Stephenson’s team option of $4.36MM prior to free agency, so it seems odd Pritchard then turned around and offered more in the open market.

In other news around the Central Division:

  • The Cavs don’t plan on tanking or trading their top remaining player Kevin Love, Joe Vardon of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. GM Koby Altman said he’s intent on keeping the team competitive despite the loss of LeBron James“Kevin is an All-Star and you don’t get better by moving Kevin,” Altman said. “Kevin’s been incredible for us for four years and he wants to be here, and to me that’s a big part for guys that are here and the guys that we’re gonna acquire, is that they want to be here and be a part of this new chapter and culture that we’re creating.”
  • The Pistons have hired Nets executive Gregg Polinsky as their director of player personnel, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. Pistons senior advisor Ed Stefanski and Polinsky worked together in Brooklyn, Wojnarowski adds. Polinsky had the same title with the Nets but his role will expand in Detroit. Pat Garrity and Andrew Loomis, who were assistant GMs under former team president Stan Van Gundy, will continue in their roles, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. The Pistons could bring in another assistant GM to focus on analytics, Beard adds.
  • Tyreke Evans is content with coming off the bench for the Pacers, Monteith writes for the team’s website. Evans joined the Pacers on a one-year, $12MM deal. Pritchard didn’t have to coax Evans into being a sixth man. “Not one bit,” he said. “We told him, ‘Here’s your role, does that interest you?’ He said, ‘Yes, I’m in.’ I think in his mind he’s going, ‘Boy, I’ve been scoring a lot of points and doing a lot of good stuff against starters, this is going to be fun.'”
  • Tim Grgurich is likely to join Dwane Casey’s coaching staff with the Pistons, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Grgurich, 76, has a long career as an NBA assistant and most recently was a consultant with the Bucks.

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.

Pistons Notes: Beilein, Stefanski, Casey, Bullock

Interviewing for the Pistons’ head coaching vacancy was enough NBA experience for Michigan’s John Beilein, relays James Hawkins of The Detroit News. Beilein eventually pulled his name from consideration and agreed to a tentative extension with the Wolverines. He came away convinced that the college atmosphere is best for him.

“It was location, location, location,” Beilein explained in an interview on WBBL. “[Wife] Kathleen and I, we love it. … We wouldn’t really have to move. It was appealing to me and the interest was mutual to an extent, but they had some other great options and I had a great option. It didn’t work out, but I wanted to think it through. I don’t anticipate or plan on ever doing that again and I think people understand that. It’s not like I’ve been doing this every year.”

There’s more news out of Detroit:

  • Hiring Dwane Casey as head coach was the first step in what is shaping up to be an active summer, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Ed Stefanski, the new senior advisor to owner Tom Gores, is hoping to find a general manager in the next week or two. Stefanski could assume the lead role in the front office, either as president or GM, and hire someone younger he can mentor to eventually take over, Beard adds.
  • The team is expected to pick up its $2.5MM option on Reggie Bullock by the July 15 deadline, Beard notes in the same story. That will leave decisions on whether to fully guarantee a $1.8MM contract for Eric Moreland and a $1.6MM deal for Dwight Buycks.
  • The press conference to introduce Casey as head coach won’t take place until next week, Beard adds. The delay is believed to be a matter of coordinating schedules with Gores and some of the players. In the meantime, Casey is in Los Angeles to meet with several Pistons who conduct their offseason workouts there, such as Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard.
  • Forward James Ennis, who is headed for free agency, has decided to change agents, according to HoopsHype (Twitter link). He will be represented by Scott Nichols of Rize Management.

Pistons Part Ways With GM Jeff Bower

The Pistons have decided to cut ties with GM Jeff Bower, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Bower was hired to be Stan Van Gundy’s right-hand man when he took charge four summers ago. Owner Tom Gores fired Van Gundy last month and is currently conducting a search for a coach and front-office executive.

Ed Stefanski was hired last week as a senior advisor in charge of overhauling the team’s basketball operations. Van Gundy served as both head coach and president of basketball operations but Gores now wants separation between the two jobs.

Bower had continued his duties after Van Gundy’s departure but his contract was expiring at the end of June and Gores had to make a decision whether to retain him or move on.

Searches to fill the coaching and front office vacancies are ongoing.

On the coaching front, the team has lined up or already interviewed TNT analyst Kenny Smith, Heat assistant Juwan Howard, Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, Michigan coach John Beilein and former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.

Nets assistant Trajan Langdon , TNT analyst Brent Barry, Hawks executive Malik Rose, Grizzlies assistant Tayshaun Prince and ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups are among the candidates for the front-office job.

Southwest Notes: Stefanski, Gentile, Noel, Mavs Pick

The Grizzlies’ draft preparations won’t be interrupted by the departure of executive VP of basketball operations Ed Stefanski, according to Michael Wallace of the team’s website. Stefanski accepted a front-office position with the Pistons on Thursday.

“Our draft process moves forward at this time,” Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace told Michael Wallace. “In due time, we’ll get to if we’re going to do something else in our front office. But our draft (process) rolls on. And we know who (Stefanski) likes already.”

The Grizzlies didn’t get lucky in the lottery but still have the No. 4 overall pick, as well as the No. 32 pick in the second round.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Swingman Alessandro Gentile will play for the Rockets in the Vegas Summer League, he indicated in an interview with Il Corriere dello Sport that was relayed by Sportando. Gentile, who has been playing in the Italian League, will be a free agent this summer. The Rockets acquired his draft rights in 2014 after he was selected in the second round.
  • Signing Mavericks free agent Nerlens Noel might be a worthwhile gamble for the Hawks, Frank Urbina of Hoops Hype opines. Noel’s skill set could complement Atlanta’s promising power forward, John Collins, because of his defensive versatility. The Spurs, Wizards and Warriors are some other potential landing spots for Noel, who signed his qualifying offer after a disappointing foray into restricted free agency last summer.
  • It’s unlikely the Mavericks will trade the No. 5 overall pick, according to Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. They would have to get some prime assets to trade down below the No. 7 or No. 8 slot, Sefko continues. If Dallas wants to move up, it would likely have to give up a future first-rounder as well as the No. 5 pick and possibly one of its top young players, Sefko adds.