Isaiah Livers

Central Notes: LaVine, DeRozan, Haliburton, Livers, Duren

Sunday’s loss to the Kings dropped the Bulls to 9-14 on the season, certainly not the start they had hoped for in 2022/23. Zach LaVine, who has struggled to find his All-Star form thus far after offseason knee surgery, scored a season-high 41 points, but he admits the losing has been getting to him, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

I’ve been frustrated for a little bit. Obviously, trying to get myself going. We haven’t been winning a lot. Sometimes that carries over when you care a lot,” LaVine said of his “feisty demeanor” in the 110-101 loss. “I put a lot of work into this. And when things don’t go right on the court and you feel like you’ve been either fouled or it’s a bad play or you miss a shot, sometimes your emotions come out.”

Still, LaVine is confident the Bulls will eventually turn things around, according to Johnson.

I always have personal belief in myself. And I think guys around the locker room have that same characteristic,” he said. “I think that leaks into the team and gives everybody confidence.”

Fellow star DeMar DeRozan said he’s glad that everyone in the locker room is taking the losses hard, because it shows they care — it’s just a matter of figuring out how to bounce back.

That’s the beauty of sports. When you’re down, how do you respond to it? A true competitor is going to pull through,” DeRozan said, per Johnson. “All these guys show frustration, show anger. And that’s a great sign.”

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton, the NBA’s leader in assists per game (10.9), missed his first game of the 2022/23 season on Sunday with a sore groin. He will also miss Monday’s contest at Golden State with the injury, as Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star relays. The Pacers have dropped four of five on their West Coast road trip and currently hold a 12-11 record.
  • Pistons head coach Dwane Casey recently provided some details on Isaiah Livers‘ right shoulder sprain, which the second-year forward sustained last week when Mavs center Dwight Powell committed an offensive foul, according to Mike Curtis of The Detroit News (subscriber link). “They cracked him on a screen. He went shoulder-first. …That was something that was unfortunate because Isaiah has quietly become one of our better on-ball defenders. We’ll miss him but now it’s an opportunity for somebody else to step up and take that role,” Casey said. There’s no timetable for Livers’ return.
  • Pistons center Jalen Duren has exceeded external expectations for his rookie season, but not his own, per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “I expect greatness out of myself,” Duren said. “I work hard every day. For me, it’s all about winning. If me on the floor is going to help us win, then cool. And if me on the bench is going to help us win, then that’s cool, too.” The 13th overall pick of June’s draft, Duren is averaging 6.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG and 0.9 BPG through 22 games (21.6 MPG).

Central Notes: Middleton, Mitchell, Rubio, Livers

Khris Middleton returned to the court Friday for the first time since the playoffs, and the Bucks responded with a season-high 129 points, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Middleton hadn’t played since suffering an MCL sprain to his left knee in the first-round series against Chicago. He also had wrist surgery in July.

“It felt really good to be back out there with the guys competing, playing,” Middleton said. “Just a range of emotions. Been through a lot these last couple months — happy, sad, anxious, nervous. To finally get out there and play and get a lot of those nerves past me, it felt pretty good.”

Milwaukee has the league’s second-best record, but ranked 17th in offensive efficiency without one of its most reliable perimeter scorers. Middleton reminded Bucks fans what they’ve been missing with 17 points and seven assists in 27 minutes Friday night.

“He makes the game look so easy,” Jrue Holiday said. “The way he plays, it’s kind of like nobody is out there, just him. It’s like a drill. It’s definitely good to see him back out there, wish we could’ve got the win for him. But he makes the game look effortless.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Donovan Mitchell feels like his career has been revived after an offseason trade to the Cavaliers, per Brian Dulik of The Associated Press. Mitchell is averaging 28.7 PPG through 21 games while shooting career highs of 49.4% from the field and 43.5% from three-point range. “This is no shot at my guys in Utah, but I’m having fun again and that goes a long way,” he said. “This group has a bunch of guys who want to learn and who want to be great. Sometimes a new beginning is all you need. I’ve fit in here because I’ve filled a void.”
  • Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio was able to play 3-on-3 this week as he recovers from ACL surgery, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “He’s got a doctor’s appointment coming up soon, where we’re looking to see where he’s at,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.
  • Pistons forward Isaiah Livers will miss some time with a shoulder sprain he suffered in Thursday’s game, according to James L. Edwards of The Athletic (Twitter link). Coach Dwane Casey didn’t provide a projected timetable for Livers, who has started the team’s last seven games.

Community Shootaround: Detroit Pistons

After going 43-111 over the past two years, tied with the Magic for the second-worst record in the NBA over that span, the Pistons are one of the rebuilding teams hoping to take a step forward in 2022/23. General manager Troy Weaver has completely reshaped the roster since being hired on June 18, 2020, and the trade for Bojan Bogdanovic showed Detroit is serious about improving in both the short and long term.

The starting lineup features several recent first-round picks, including Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart (Bogdanovic is the fifth starter). The reserves include a couple more recent first-rounders in Killian Hayes and Jalen Duren, plus veterans Cory Joseph, Hamidou Diallo, Kevin Knox and Rodney McGruder.

Marvin Bagley III (knee), Alec Burks (wrist) and Nerlens Noel (foot) are currently sidelined with injuries, but second-year forward Isaiah Livers (hip) has been removed from the team’s injury report and could make his debut in Saturday’s game against the Pacers, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The Pistons have gotten off to a 1-1 start thus far, with a close victory over Orlando and then a blowout loss to the Knicks. Ivey and Duren, both lottery picks this year (No. 5 and No. 13) have been surprisingly effective for rookies in the early going. Ivey has averaged 18.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 6.5 APG and 1.5 SPG on .519/.375/1.000 shooting (30.5 MPG), while Duren has put up 11.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 1.5 BPG in 22 MPG.

There’s definitely talent on the roster, with Cunningham, last year’s No. 1 overall pick, headlining the group. Bogdanovic helps improve the team’s shooting, which has been a major weakness (the Pistons finished 29th in both two-point and three-point percentage last season).

Still, the East is stacked with strong teams, including (in no particular order) the Celtics, Bucks, Sixers, Raptors, Hawks, Cavs, Heat, Nets and Bulls. I liked the Knicks’ free agent additions of Jalen Brunson and Isaiah Hartenstein, and the Wizards should be better than last season’s 35-win campaign if they’re healthy, so it seems like the Pistons might have a difficult time finishing better than 12th in the standings unless there is major internal development.

In our over/unders last month, 51.6% of our voters predicted the Pistons to finish with more than 28.5 wins (they finished 23-59 in ’21/22).

That brings us to our question of the day. What’s a reasonable goal for the Pistons this season? Do you think they have a shot at the play-in tournament if things go well, or is it a year too early? Would an incremental step forward, like winning 30 or so games, be considered a success?

Head to the comments section and let us know what you think.

Pistons Notes: Gores, Cunningham, Noel, Bagley, Livers

The Pistons have delivered only one winning season since Tom Gores became the majority owner. With the way general manager Troy Weaver has revamped the roster, Gores believes the franchise is ready to take off, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes.

“I’ve now owned the team for 11 years, and I’ve never felt this way,” Gores said. “This is a great foundation, it’s a tremendous foundation. Part of the reason I love the players on this team is that you have tremendous skill, but there’s a lot of humility here. With humility, you also reflect and that’s how you improve. I really love this energy. I love it, and I don’t say that often.”

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Cade Cunningham realizes he may have to make some individual sacrifices in order to become a true leader, as he told James Edwards III of The Athletic. “Right now, we’re still trying to figure it out and build our way up to being a winning team,” Cunningham said. “Everything that I’m doing, everything that the team is doing, should be with that in mind. Maybe, right now, I have to sacrifice some things. Maybe I have to sacrifice 50 shots a game to make sure the chemistry is good, we’re flowing, whatever. We need to know how we’re going to play. So, when it gets that time, everyone is confident, everyone is ready to go. That’s how I see things.”
  • Center Nerlens Noel, who has been working his way back from a foot injury since being traded from the Knicks, participated in his first practice on Tuesday, Edwards tweets. It would be surprising if Noel played this week, but he could get some rotation minutes while Marvin Bagley III recovers from a right knee injury, which is expected to sideline him for at least three or four weeks.
  • Along with Bagley, Alec Burks (left navicular fracture) and Isaiah Livers (right hip) are also listed as out for Wednesday’s season opener against Orlando, Mike Curtis of the Detroit News tweets.

Central Notes: Osman, Hill, Pistons Rotation

Cedi Osman has heard his name mentioned in trade rumors, including a potential deal involving Suns forward Jae Crowder. He’s trying to block out those distractions during training camp, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes.

“I’ve been hearing those things,” the Cavaliers forward said. “But I’m just focused on my basketball because you cannot control that. That’s why whenever I stepped on a court I was just working on my game and trying to get better. It’s been six years since coming over, six years in Cleveland. I’m happy here and this is my home.”

Those rumors persist and the franchise would like to upgrade at small forward, if possible, though the fact that Cleveland is close to the luxury tax line complicates the issue, Fedor adds.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • George Hill admits that enduring an injury-plagued season actually encouraged him to keep playing, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The Bucks guard had seriously considered retiring after last season. “I felt like I let the city of Milwaukee down last year not being able to perform the way I normally perform,” he said. “I let my teammates down being injured. And I thought about retiring. … but as a competitor I didn’t want to go out like that. So, had a great offseason for the summer, decided to come back and try to redeem myself and make myself better.” Hill signed a two-year, $8MM contract prior to last season.
  • With the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic, how will the Pistons’ frontcourt rotation shake out? James Edwards III of The Athletic projects the former Jazz forward to start alongside Saddiq Bey, with Isaiah Stewart at center. Edwards projects Marvin Bagley and Isaiah Livers as part of the second unit ahead of Jalen Duren, Nerlens Noel and Kevin Knox.
  • Will the Pistons’ drought without a playoff win extend to 15 seasons? That’s what John Hollinger of The Athletic anticipates. He sees this as a 28-win season in Detroit with the caveat that the team’s fortunes should improve sharply in the near future.

Central Notes: Ball, Clarkson, Bogdanovic, Livers, Vucevic, Caruso

There’s confidence that Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball will return at some point this season, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Ball underwent another left knee surgery on Wednesday and doctors are optimistic the issue has been fully addressed. However, he’s going to be out a number of months, Charania adds.

Ball was still unable to “run or jump” entering training camp despite a lengthy rehab from two previous procedures this year.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks showed a lot of interest in trading for the Jazz‘s Jordan Clarkson but the Jazz balked at Milwaukee’s proposal, Tony Jones of The Athletic said on the Bill Riley Show podcast (hat tip to HoopsHype). Utah was uninterested at taking back George Hill‘s contract, which Jones described as a non-starter in trade discussions. One of the league’s top scoring reserves, Clarkson averaged 16 points last season. He has two years left on his four-year, $51.52MM contract. Hill has an expiring $4MM contract, so Milwaukee would have still needed to send out more salary in a potential trade.
  • The Lakers and Suns were among the teams reportedly pursuing Bojan Bogdanovic but he wound up getting traded to the Pistons. The former Jazz forward says he wasn’t concerned where he ended up, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com“I didn’t have any preference,” Bogdanovic said. “There’s a lot of rumors. Who knows if that’s true or not? I’m super happy and excited to be part of the Pistons.”
  • Pistons forward Isaiah Livers wound up playing 19 games during his rookie season after recovering from a foot injury. He’s aiming to become a regular part of the rotation this season, he told James Edwards III of The Athletic. “I wanted to build off those last 19, 20 games,” the 2021 second-round pick said. “Coaches and everyone seemed to love the way that I was playing. It was working effectively.”
  • There was heavy speculation that Bulls center Nikola Vucevic would be part of a package to acquire Rudy Gobert during the offseason. Vucevic had serious doubts that would happen and was proven correct when Gobert was dealt to Minnesota, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “Rumors are a part of what we do,’’ said Vucevic, who is on an expiring contract. “Whether they’re true or not, it’s out of my control. I focus on what I can control, and, in the end, I had some fun with [the Jazz rumors]. At no point did I feel it was going to happen.’’
  • Bulls guard Alex Caruso is one of the candidates to replace Ball in the starting lineup as he mends from his latest knee surgery, but that’s not Caruso’s focus, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. “It won’t be a conversation I’ll have with Billy (Donovan). He might have it with me depending on what we need,” Caruso said. “But I’ve always been team-first trying to win games. If that’s me starting basketball games then that’s what we’ll do. If that’s me coming off the bench, that’s fine too. I’ve always been I’d rather finish games than start games.

Central Notes: Connaughton, Ball, Cunningham

Pat Connaughton believes he could have gotten more money in free agency but he wanted to stay with the Bucks. That’s why he exercised his contract option this summer before signing an extension, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes.

“I think I have the opportunity to potentially make a little bit more elsewhere, but for me, to prolong my career, how do you keep yourself in a position where they value what I do? I value winning,” he said. “I value my teammates and the culture that we’ve built, the organization, the management, the ownership, all of it.”

Connaughton, who received a three-year extension worth $28.3MM in July, added that the team is hungry after getting bounced in the second round of the playoffs by the Celtics last season.

“I think we have a group of guys that are excited to get back out there and excited to play with a chip on our shoulder and not have that same taste in our mouths,” he said. “It’s one of those things where I’ll never forget sitting in Boston after Game 7. You use that as fuel, you use that as hunger and you take a slow, methodical approach to this offseason to making sure you’re putting yourself in the best position to come out on top again.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls are expected to be without their starting point guard, Lonzo Ball, in the early portion of the season due to lingering pain in his surgically repaired left knee. ESPN’s Jamal Collier takes an in-depth look at Ball’s knee issues. Ball hasn’t taken the court since mid-January after originally receiving a projected recovery timeline of eight weeks.
  • The biggest question regarding Pistons guard Cade Cunningham this season is whether he can develop a consistent 3-point shot, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. Edwards also considers what second-year forward Isaiah Livers and lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren must prove in order for Detroit to be a surprise team this season.
  • In case you missed it, the Pistons officially signed Micah Potter to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Central Notes: Pistons, Turner, Bitadze

There are many ways Pistons coach Dwane Casey could go with his rotation next season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. In Langlois’ view, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Jaden Ivey are the only rotation locks, with Kelly Olynyk, Marvin Bagley III, Killian Hayes and Alec Burks “good bets” to join them. Beyond that, Casey has numerous choices between youth and experience.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons fans are brimming with optimism, though they’re realistic about next season’s prospects, The Athletic’s James Edwards III revealed in a fan poll. With nearly 2,000 subscribers weighing in, 98 percent professed confidence in the team’s direction and 64 percent said they were very confident in the front office. However, 72.5 percent voted that the team would only win between 26-35 games next season. Second-year forward Isaiah Livers received the most votes for “breakout” player.
  • Myles Turner‘s season could play out similar to the way Victor Oladipo departed from the Pacers organization in 2020, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files opines. Turner could get off to a good start and pump up his trade value. In the same mailbag piece, Agness speculates that Goga Bitadze won’t have a long-term role in the organization due to the team’s current playing style, along with the presence of Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith.
  • Earlier on Monday, Giannis Antetokounmpo stated he wouldn’t mind playing for the Bulls later in his career. Get the details here.

Eastern Notes: Bridges, Oladipo, Pistons, Harden

Hornets forward Miles Bridges entered a plea of not guilty to three felony domestic violence charges during his arraignment in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Wednesday, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Bridges’ next court appointment is on August 19, according to Holmes, who says a date for a preliminary hearing is set to be scheduled at that time. The L.A. District Attorney’s office has indicated that Bridges could face a maximum sentence of 11 years and eight months in prison if he’s convicted of the three domestic abuse charges he faces, tweets Steve Reed of The Associated Press.

The NBA will wait for the legal process to play out before determining whether to levy any penalties of its own against Bridges. As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the league wouldn’t have the ability to suspend Bridges if he’s found not guilty. However, a suspension is possible if he’s found guilty, he reaches a plea deal, or the charges are dropped.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Heat haven’t made any major outside additions to their roster this offseason, but if Victor Oladipo rounds back into form, that could represent a significant upgrade for the team in lieu of a trade acquisition or free agent signing, says Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. Oladipo has played just 12 games for Miami since arriving at the 2021 deadline, but should be healthier in 2022/23 than he has been at any point since originally injuring his quad tendon in early 2020.
  • Keith Langlois of Pistons.com takes a look at the Pistons‘ projected starting five, suggesting that Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey are locks to be part of that group and will likely be joined by Isaiah Stewart and Jaden Ivey. Several players could be in the mix for the fifth starting spot, according to Langlois, who views Isaiah Livers as the slight favorite over Marvin Bagley III, Alec Burks, and others.
  • Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores the new agreement between James Harden and the Sixers, wondering if the two sides have a wink-wink agreement to complete a lucrative long-term deal next summer or if Philadelphia is hedging its bets by not making a long-term commitment to Harden at this point.

Pistons Notes: Livers, Bagley, Ivey, Stewart, Duren

Pistons small forward Isaiah Livers, the No. 42 pick in 2021 out of Michigan, seems to be proving his mettle as an NBA-level talent during the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Edwards praises Livers’s abilities as a long-range shooter, and projects him to potentially make Detroit’s rotation during the 2022/23 NBA season.

Edwards also singles out Livers’s newly refined defensive skillset. Livers saw limited action in his rookie season with Detroit during the 2021/22 season. In 19 games, the 23-year-old averaged 6.4 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 APG and 0.7 SPG across 20.2 MPG. He posted a tantalizing shooting line of .456/.422/.857.

There’s more out of Detroit:

  • Former No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III was pleased to remain with the Pistons on a new three-year, $37MM contract, he told Cassidy Hubbarth of ESPN (Twitter link courtesy of the Detroit News’ Mike Curtis). “I was super excited,” Bagley said. “I love Detroit. I love the fans. I love being in that environment and when it was official, I was excited.”
  • After injuring his ankle during the first quarter of a Saturday Summer League contest against the Wizards, Pistons rookie shooting guard Jaden Ivey did not return to game action. However, concern seems low among Detroit’s brain trust about the injury, per Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Ivey, who was selected with the fifth pick out of Purdue in this year’s NBA draft, even weighed in himself on Sunday (via Twitter). “[Nothing] major.. I’m good,” he wrote.
  • The Pistons are hopeful that a starting frontcourt tandem of Isaiah Stewart and rookie center Jalen Duren, the No. 13 pick out of Memphis, can prove effective. The early results in this year’s Las Vegas Summer League have certainly been encouraging, writes Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press. The duo combined for 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting, 15 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in Detroit’s 105-99 victory over the Wizards on Saturday.