Isaiah Livers

Injury Notes: Anunoby, DeRozan, Bucks, Iguodala, Pistons

Raptors forward OG Anunoby returned to action on Thursday after missing 15 games due to a fractured finger. He immediately reentered Toronto’s starting lineup and scored 14 points in an important win over Cleveland.

While a current Raptor returned from an injury on Thursday, a former Raptor headed to the sidelines with an ailment of his own. Bulls star DeMar DeRozan missed the team’s game against New Orleans due to a left groin strain, one that head coach Billy Donovan referred to as “mild,” per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I think he was experiencing some tightness (there) for a little bit, but nothing more than tightness,” Donovan said. “And then I think — I don’t know if it was a specific play — but (he) definitely started to feel it a little bit more than just being tight after (Tuesday’s game).

“DeMar knows his body better than anybody else. I think he felt like, ‘OK this could get into something else a little bit more significant if I don’t take care of this.’ That’s why they wanted to do the imaging and they found out it’s a mild strain really all it is right now… We just don’t want it to turn into something bigger.”

As we wait to see if DeRozan will miss any more time, here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton has missed a couple games due to a wrist injury, but head coach Mike Budenholzer expressed optimism that Middleton will be available in Memphis on Saturday, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Budenholzer is less certain about Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s status for Saturday’s game after the Bucks star sat out on Thursday with right knee soreness, but said Antetokounmpo’s injury shouldn’t be “anything long-term or significant” (Twitter link via Nehm).
  • Andre Iguodala, who has missed the Warriors‘ last 19 games due to a back issue, has been upgraded to questionable for Friday’s game in Atlanta, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. Even if Iguodala isn’t able to play tonight, it sounds like he’s very close to returning.
  • Pistons rookie wing Chris Smith, who has spent the season on a two-way contract recovering from an ACL tear, is undergoing another surgery and won’t make his NBA debut this season, head coach Dwane Casey said on Wednesday (Twitter link via James Edwards III of The Athletic). Smith’s two-way deal runs through 2022/23, but that doesn’t guarantee Detroit will hang onto him for next season.
  • Pistons rookie forward Isaiah Livers entered the NBA’s concussion protocol and missed Wednesday’s game after bumping heads with Luka Garza in practice, per Casey (Twitter link via Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press). While Livers was diagnosed with a concussion and has been ruled out for Friday’s game too, Garza was OK and didn’t have to enter the protocol.

Pistons Notes: Bagley, Livers, Cunningham, Blaha

Marvin Bagley III is headed to free agency but he seems intent on remaining with the Pistons, as he told James Edwards III of The Athletic.

Bagley has enjoyed his experience with Detroit since he was dealt by the Kings last month. He’s also been productive, averaging 14.1 PPG and 7.1 RPG in 27 MPG during his first 10 games with the Pistons.

“We’ve got some amazing talent here. Now, it’s about figuring out how to work together, gel together to do something bigger,” he said. “I’m definitely excited about it. I can’t wait to be around the guys even more, figure them out even more and make runs in the playoffs … even get some championships here. I’m excited about it.”

Bagley didn’t receive a rookie scale extension with Sacramento. His qualifying offer, which would make him a restricted free agent, will be $7.3MM since he won’t meet the starter criteria.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Due to injuries and illness, rookie wing Isaiah Livers received extensive playing time against Miami on Tuesday. He responded with 16 points in 31 minutes but his bigger focus was defense, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Livers, a second-round pick, spent the bulk of the season rehabbing from a foot injury. “Being out, definitely I was locked in, especially to my team,” Livers said. “I was seeing where we need that push and that shove. What I saw was defensive energy right away off the bench. That was my key right away to minutes off the bench.” Livers’ contract is guaranteed through next season with a team option in 2023/24.
  • Rookie of the Year candidate Cade Cunningham missed Tuesday’s game due to a non-COVID illness, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News“He started feeling bad (Monday) night and came to shootaround looking like death, eating crackers. So, he’s in pretty bad shape,” coach Dwane Casey said prior to the game. Hamidou Diallo (finger) and Frank Jackson (back) also missed the game and Rodney McGruder aggravated a hamstring injury during it.
  • Longtime broadcaster George Blaha underwent a heart bypass procedure on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets. Blaha is expected to return as the play-by-play announcer next season.

Pistons Notes: Hayes, Livers, Casey, Grant

Coach Dwane Casey‘s experiment of moving Killian Hayes to the bench is working exactly as expected, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. The second-year point guard is a natural ball-handler, but he often wound up in a secondary role when the Pistons started him alongside Cade Cunningham.

Casey made the move on January 23 and Hayes’ all-around game has benefited, Sankofa observes. He’s running the offense with the second unit and is getting to the basket more often. He has been on the court at the end of games lately, and Casey is happy with the way he has responded.

“Him going to the bench was never anything about mistrust,” Casey said after Tuesday’s game vs. Washington. “It was about him fitting in with the second unit. He’s still going to be a part of our core. I think his decisions were good tonight. His defense was decent. Keeping (Wizards guard) Ish Smith in front of him is not easy. This is what this is about for him, growing.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • The opportunity that Isaiah Livers has been waiting all season for has finally arrived, per James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The 2021 second-round pick had foot surgery last April and was sidelined through the preseason. He made his NBA debut on December 16, but only played five minutes before the foot started hurting again. He and the Pistons agreed that more rehab was necessary, but now he says he’s fully healthy and ready to contribute. Casey was hoping to see him in action before the season ended and believes he has a bright future. “I think Isaiah’s going to be a player,” Casey said. “He’s a shooter, and you can’t get enough of those guys to stretch the floor. He has size, he’s smart. He’s the full package.”
  • Casey deserves credit for keeping his team focused and competitive even though wins have been rare, several players tell Edwards in a separate story. The coach has respect from his players for all that he has accomplished in his NBA career, and he gives them the freedom to talk openly about issues that affect the team.
  • Finally having a healthy roster is giving the Pistons a chance to enjoy a little late-season success, notes Lauren Williams of MLive. Detroit has won three of its last six games and was competitive in the three losses. “I think it just shows our progression as a team,” said Jerami Grant, who missed significant time with a thumb injury. “Earlier in the season we (would) win a game and then we lose a game by 20 or something like that. But I think it’s showing how much better we got it the team. Right now, we just got to pull out these wins and just keep moving forward.”

Central Notes: Carter, Pistons Rookies, Thompson, DeRozan

Jevon Carter, who was recently released by the Nets in order to sign Goran Dragic, plans to sign with the Bucks after he clears waivers.

It’s the second time the Bucks will have scooped up an ex-Nets player who was cut in the past few weeks, as the same thing happened with DeAndre’ Bembry following the blockbuster James Harden/Ben Simmons trade (Brooklyn received three players but sent out two, necessitating an incumbent player’s release). Eric Nehm of The Athletic explores what Milwaukee will be getting with Carter’s expected addition.

Carter, the 32nd overall pick of the 2018 draft, was the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season at West Virginia and his defensive ability is the primary reason he’s in the NBA. Carter is a tough defender with strong instincts who can be a pest to opposing point guards, Nehm writes.

Carter doesn’t provide much offensively, but he’s a career 36.9% three-point shooter (33.1% this season) and the majority of his shots come from beyond the arc. According to Nehm, Carter likely won’t be asked to do much beyond catch-and-shoot. Carter is unlikely to play a large role with Milwaukee, but he should provide capable regular season minutes while George Hill and Pat Connaughton recover from injuries, Nehm opines.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Dwane Casey says the team wants to get a good look at rookies Isaiah Livers and Chris Smith in the latter portion of the season (Twitter links via Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press). Livers has been slow to recover from right foot surgery, while Smith had a torn ACL last summer. Livers recently made his debut with Detroit’s G League affiliate, the Motor City Cruise. Smith is on a two-way contract, but Livers has a guaranteed standard contract for this season and next, with a club option in 2023/24.
  • Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham, who was recently named MVP of the Rising Stars event during All-Star weekend, said he was eager to prove himself on the big stage, as he told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “All this talent, I wanted to stand out for sure. It’s the All-Star Game weekend. Everyone is going to go out there and try to have fun. But everybody deep down still wants to be that guy. I knew that. I wanted to compete. I wanted to win. More importantly, I was happy to come out with a trophy, some hardware,” Cunningham said.
  • New Bulls addition Tristan Thompson believes he’ll fit in well with Chicago, as Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic relays. “I think I’ll mesh pretty well with this group,” Thompson said. He also believes DeMar DeRozan should be the MVP front-runner. “Right now, he’s the league MVP in my eyes, flat-out,” Thompson said, as part of a larger quote.

Eastern Notes: Rubio, Iwundu, Beal, Livers

Cavaliers guard Ricky Rubio, who left Tuesday’s game after injuring his left knee, will get an MRI on that knee today to determine the severity of the injury, according to ESPN’s Andrew Lopez and Adrian Wojnarowski.

Rubio has played a key role in the Cavaliers’ resurgence this season — although he hasn’t been in the starting lineup for most of the year, the veteran point guard has logged 970 total minutes, the second-highest mark on the team.

Rubio, who wasn’t able to put any weight on his left leg as he left the court on Tuesday night, tore his left ACL back in 2012, Lopez notes. The Cavaliers are holding their breath and hoping that this injury isn’t as serious as that one.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Hawks wing Wes Iwundu has exited the health and safety protocols, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). According to Woj, Iwundu will rejoin the team in Chicago on Wednesday ahead of its game vs. the Bulls.
  • Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who stated in September that he remained unvaccinated, has since received a COVID-19 vaccine, people familiar with the situation tell Ava Wallace of The Washington Post. Beal is currently in the health and safety protocols, but his updated vaccinated status was “welcome news to many in the organization,” says Wallace.
  • After growing up in Kalamazoo and playing his college ball at Michigan, Isaiah Livers appreciated the opportunity to stay close to home with the Pistons and tells James L. Edwards III of The Athletic that he had a sense entering this year’s draft that Detroit would try to land him. “(General manager) Troy (Weaver), we were talking. A lot of the pre-draft, he was very interested,” Livers said. “He told me straight-up that he was interested in me and talked about what I could bring to the table, to the team. Once he told me that, he was one of the few GMs to say that to me. I thought he was definitely going to grab me if he had the chance. I was ready.”

Central Notes: Vucevic, Donovan, Pickett, Livers, Markkanen

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is confident he’ll work his way out of a slump, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Vucevic most recently shot 3-of-15 in a loss against Miami, struggling to make shots inside the paint, in the mid-range areas, and behind the arc.

“I got some post-up and hook shots that I’ve made a career of, and nothing was falling for me,’’ he explained. “I look at all the games, and really I don’t have an explanation of what’s going on with my shot. It’s something I was always very consistent with and really good at my whole career – I was always a 50% shooter – so I don’t know.

“It’s just very disappointing for me because I’m trying to just be there for my team and do what I need to try and help us win, and I’m not doing that right now. I’m coming up short for my teammates and that’s the most frustrating part. When you lose and you don’t play well, you feel like it’s even more of your responsibility.’’

The Bulls are currently missing nine players due to health and safety protocols, meaning they badly need Vucevic’s production. The team acquired him and Al-Farouq Aminu (now a free agent) from Orlando last season, giving up Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and two first-round picks.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls coach Billy Donovan refuses to use COVID as an excuse, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. “We’re not the only team dealing with this,” Donovan said. While Chicago isn’t the only team dealing with an outbreak, the Bulls have certainly been hit the hardest. Nevertheless, the club has maintained a .500 record in its last 10 games and is currently 17-10.
  • The Pistons called up Jamorko Pickett and Isaiah Livers from their G League affiliate on Sunday, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tweets. The decision was made shortly after the team announced that Jerami Grant would miss at least six weeks with a thumb injury.
  • Lauri Markkanen‘s obligation to serve in the Finland military isn’t expected to impact his NBA availability, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype writes. Markkanen has started in 19 games for the Cavaliers, who own the fifth-best record in the East at 16-12.

Pistons Notes: Cunningham, Durant, Garza, Livers, Lee, Rotation

Kevin Durant offered high praise for top pick Cade Cunningham after the Nets’ narrow win over the Pistons on Friday, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press relays (Twitter links).

“I love Cade’s game. I think he’s going to be a tough, tough player for a long, long time,” Durant said. “I got to know him when he was in high school so we got to build a little relationship. To play against him in the NBA is sweet.”

Cunningham had a team-high 17 points in the 96-90 loss. He missed the first four games with an ankle sprain.

“We had a lot of conversations about being on this level and what it took,” Durant added. “To see him out here battling through some injuries in the start, but to come out here and play aggressive tonight and hit some big shots, I’m happy for him and looking forward to seeing his career.”

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Cunningham has shot poorly thus far but he’s not hesitant to take big shots and he shrugs off criticism, James Edwards of The Athletic writes. “I know what comes with being the No. 1 pick, the target on your back,” Cunningham said. “People want to see you mess up. I’ve always just been myself. I’ve never changed myself to feel like what people feel I should be like.” Cunningham is shooting 23.2% from the field and 14.3% on 3-point attempts.
  • The team assigned rookies Luka Garza and Isaiah Livers and second-year guard Saben Lee to the Motor City Cruise after Friday’s game, the team’s PR department tweets. The NBA team doesn’t play again until a road game against Houston on Wednesday.
  • Prior to the latest losses, coach Dwane Casey said he didn’t plan on making any major rotation changes in the near future, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News“We will look at things for 20-game increments to see why our young guys are and to see what we have and see how they react,” Casey said. “They’re our future, our foundation, so there’s no use of flipping the lineup or changing lineups trying to (fix things). Their growth is the most important thing and I think I’ve said it a million times.”

Eastern Notes: Cunningham, Livers, Gafford, Strus

Top pick Cade Cunningham made his belated NBA debut on Saturday against Orlando, then sat out Sunday’s loss to Brooklyn. The Pistons’ prized rookie won’t play in back-to-backs in the short term, coach Dwane Casey told The Detroit News’ Rod Beard and other media members (Twitter link). Cunningham missed the first four regular season games due to an ankle sprain. Cunningham is expected to suit up against Milwaukee on Tuesday.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Another Pistons rookie, forward Isaiah Livers, has been assigned to the team’s G League team, the Motor City Cruise, the team’s PR department tweets. Livers has been rehabbing from foot surgery, so that’s an indication he’s been medically cleared to at least practice. He was one of three second-round picks made by Detroit. Fellow rookie, center Luka Garza, and second-year guard Saben Lee have also been assigned to the Cruise.
  • Wizards big man Daniel Gafford returned to action on Monday, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. He suffered a right quad contusion against the Celtics on Wednesday. He underwent an MRI to ensure the injury was not more serious. He’s averaging 8.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG and 2.0 BPG.
  • Heat wing Max Strus has been diagnosed with a sprained left knee, Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald reports. An MRI on the knee returned negative results. Strus is expected to miss at least two weeks, but is relieved it wasn’t more serious after tearing his ACL in the same knee in December 2019. “There was a lot of anxiety. It was tough to sleep the night before,” he said. “But the training staff did a great job of getting me in as soon as they could to get the MRI. As soon as I heard those results, it was just a breath of fresh air.”

Central Notes: LaVine, Vaccines, Warren, Garza, Smith, Livers, Pacers

While the Bulls have yet to sign Zach LaVine to an extension, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promises that the organization is committed to their high-scoring wing, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The one thing we know is that we’re committed to Zach,’’ Karnisovas said. “We want him to be in Chicago for a very long time. I think the trade deadline and free agency moves kind of proved that.’’

That message is resonating with LaVine.

“It means a lot hearing that from them,’’ he said. “I think you guys know I’m a team-first guy, I’m excited with all the moves that were made, and really looking forward to getting into camp and getting to know these guys and getting the season started because we all have a lot to prove.”

LaVine was also asked for his input on offseason moves, Cowley tweets.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Karnisovas said the Bulls are not 100% vaccinated but “pretty close,” K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.
  • Pacers coach Rick Carlisle hopes T.J. Warren can make a swift recovery from the stress fracture in the navicular bone in his left foot, Akeem Glaspie of the Indianapolis Star reports. “Hopefully, it’ll be weeks and not months, that’s the hope,” Carlisle said. “It’s important for him to keep a very upbeat view of things. The healing process with people is always better and more aggressive when you have a great attitude about it and he has.” Warren has not suffered any setbacks but the location of the injury makes for a tricky rehab, Glaspie adds.
  • The Pistons converted rookie center Luka Garza‘s two-way contract into a two-year standard deal this week. It’s a minimum-salary contract, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets, The first year is guaranteed and Detroit has a team option for 2022/23. If it’s picked up, the second year will also be fully guaranteed.
  • Chris Smith, who suffered a torn ACL in January playing for UCLA, is looking at a couple more months before he’s back, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The Pistons signed the forward to a two-way contract in August. Another Pistons rookie forward, second-round pick Isaiah Livers, is aiming for clearance to return from his foot injury at the beginning of November, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets.
  • The Pacers’ arena has officially been renamed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, according to a team press release. It’s a multi-year partnership, replacing the former name Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Gainbridge, a Group 1001 company, is a self-managed digital platform providing clients with direct access to financial products to grow their savings.

Central Notes: Pistons Contracts, McConnell, Allen, Bulls

The Pistons‘ three-year deal with Kelly Olynyk has a partial guarantee in year three, with only $3MM of the big man’s $12.2MM salary assured in 2023/24, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link). Detroit also gave Trey Lyles a two-year, $5.125MM deal that includes a second-year team option, Smith adds (Twitter link).

While those contract details are similar to what was reported earlier in free agency, the specifics on the Pistons’ deals for Saben Lee and second-round pick Isaiah Livers didn’t surface until today.

According to Smith (Twitter link), the Pistons used cap space to give Lee a three-year, minimum-salary contract that includes two fully guaranteed years followed by a third-year team option. As for Livers, his new deal with Detroit is also for three years with a third-year team option, tweets Smith. The No. 42 pick got slightly more than the rookie minimum in his first year, followed by the veteran’s minimum in years two and three.

Here’s more from around the Central: