Isaiah Stewart

COVID-19 Updates: Raptors, Thunder, Stewart, Freedom, Strus

After briefly having no players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the first time in weeks, the Raptors placed Svi Mykhailiuk and Yuta Watanabe in the protocols today, tweets Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (via Twitter), only three players on the Raptors’ roster have avoided entering the protocols in the last month. Two of those players – David Johnson (injury) and Goran Dragic (personal) – have been away from the team, leaving Chris Boucher as the lone active player not to be affected.

Here are a few more protocol-related updates:

  • Thunder guard Tre Mann and big man Darius Bazley have cleared the health and safety protocols, acting head coach Mike Wilks said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). That leaves rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as the only Oklahoma City player still in the protocols.
  • Celtics center Enes Freedom returned to practice today, having exited the COVID-19 protocols, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Aaron Nesmith is the only Celtic who remains in the protocols.
  • Isaiah Stewart has cleared the protocols and met the Pistons in Charlotte, tweets James Edwards III of The Athletic. It’s unclear if the big man will be available on Wednesday vs. the Hornets or if he’ll need more time to get back into game condition.
  • Heat guard Max Strus is no longer in the protocols, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Miami now has four players in the protocols, with six hardship additions on 10-day deals, so not all of those players will be able to be active going forward.
  • The full list of players in the COVID-19 protocols can be found right here.

Seven Pistons Exit Protocols, Nuggets’ Monte Morris Enters

Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Josh Jackson, Cory Joseph, Saben Lee, Trey Lyles, and Rodney McGruder have all exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the Pistons, James Edwards III of The Athletic relays (via Twitter).

All seven players are listed as out for Saturday’s contest against San Antonio due to reconditioning. The Pistons’ next game after Saturday will be Monday against the Bucks, when several of the players could return to action. Second-year big man Isaiah Stewart is now the lone player still in the protocols for Detroit.

In other COVID-related news, Nuggets point guard Monte Morris has become the fourth Denver player to enter the protocols in the past two days, joining Jeff Green, Bones Hyland, and Zeke Nnaji, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Morris has started all 32 of his games this season (30 MPG), averaging 12.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 4.3 APG on a .479/.380/.783 shooting line.

The Nuggets signed Davon Reed to his third 10-day hardship contract Thursday, and reportedly plan to sign Rayjon Tucker to a deal as well.

Four Pistons, Including Stewart, Enter Protocols

Pistons center Isaiah Stewart and guards Killian Hayes and Saben Lee have entered the league’s health and safety protocols ahead of the team’s game against Miami Thursday evening, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Reserve swingman Rodney McGruder has also entered the protocols, The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III tweets.

Top pick Cade Cunningham entered the protocols on Wednesday. The Pistons, who have lost 15 of their last 16 contests, will obviously be severely shorthanded for the game.

Those players will be sidelined for at least 10 days, unless they can register two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart during that span.

Stewart is averaging 7.9 PPG and 8.4 RPG. Hayes has started regularly as well, though he’s averaging just 6.4 PPG and 3.7 APG. Lee has come off the bench in 15 games and scored 16 points against the Knicks on Tuesday. McGruder has appeared in 14 games.

With Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk unavailable due to long-term injuries, the Pistons’ frontcourt is severely depleted with Trey Lyles and rookie Luka Garza the main options.

Los Angeles Notes: James, Westbrook, Anthony, Morris

LeBron James missed the Lakers’ game against the Knicks on Tuesday and felt his one-game suspension was unwarranted, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes. James struck the Pistons’ Isaiah Stewart in the face on Sunday and was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul. The league suspended James on Monday and handed Stewart a two-game ban for repeated “unsportsmanlike acts.” They were battling for position on a free throw attempt.

“When I swung down on his arm, he got off balance and the left side of my hand grazed his face. And I knew right away,” James said. “So, I knew right away I had caught some part of his head. So, I went over to apologize to him, and obviously, you guys saw what happened after that. But definitely accidental.”

We have more on the Los Angeles teams:

  • Lakers guard Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double against the Knicks and a near triple-double against the Pistons. Anthony Davis wants to see Westbrook play with an aggressive style, McMenamin relays in a separate story. “I tell him before every game: ‘Be nobody but yourself. That’s why we brought you here,'” Davis said. “I think a lot of times, he tries to go passive and to start passing the basketball, looking for other guys, which is great, but kind of takes him out of a rhythm. And he can do the same for guys while being aggressive.”
  • Carmelo Anthony is averaging 15 PPG in his new role as the Lakers’ top reserve. Anthony, who is playing for the veteran’s minimum, has proven he can be effective off the bench after being the No. 1 scoring option most of his career, as McMenamin notes at ESPN.com. “I’m still here doing it,” Anthony said. “I think that’s what I’m honestly excited about. I’m here in Year 19 still doing what I’m able to do. Still passionate about the game. Still passionate about coming to work every day and getting better.”
  • Marcus Morris felt good after playing 31 minutes for the Clippers on Tuesday, according to Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times. Morris had missed a month due to knee soreness. “Take a month off, I think I looked good myself,” he said. “Shots will come, rhythm will come, I’m a veteran, just felt great to be out there.”

James Suspended One Game, Stewart Gets Two-Game Penalty

Lakers superstar LeBron James was suspended one game without pay and Pistons center Isaiah Stewart will serve a two-game suspension for their altercation on Sunday, the league announced in a press release.

James was suspended for recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation. Stewart was given a bigger penalty for escalating the incident by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing James in an unsportsmanlike manner.

Stewart had to be restrained numerous times by coaches and players from retaliating after James struck him in the face battling for position as Jerami Grant attempted a free throw. Pistons coach Dwane Casey stated afterward he didn’t feel Stewart deserved an additional penalty besides the in-game ejection.

James, who has never previously been suspended his career, will miss a marquee matchup against the Knicks on Tuesday. Stewart will serve his suspension Tuesday against the Heat and Wednesday against the Bucks.

Pistons’ Casey: Stewart Shouldn’t Face Further Punishment For Altercation

Lakers star LeBron James and Pistons youngster Isaiah Stewart were ejected from Sunday’s game in the third quarter following an on-court altercation and could face further punishment from the NBA league office.

James struck Stewart in the face while the two players were battling for position on a Jerami Grant free throw, opening up a large cut near Stewart’s right eye. The Pistons’ center, with blood streaming down his face, tried to go after LeBron and had to be held back by several teammates and coaches (video link). James was ejected for a Flagrant 2 foul and Stewart was tossed for “multiple unsportsmanlike acts,” as our Dana Gauruder writes for The Detroit Free Press.

While it seems likely that James and Stewart will face fines, if not suspensions, for their actions, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said after the game that he didn’t believe Stewart should receive any additional penalties.

“He shouldn’t be facing anything,” Casey said, per Gauruder. “Not getting off the court in time, the league will have to decide on that. The man got eight stitches, or whatever the number of stitches it is, across his forehead. … He was upset, blood running down his face. I don’t see ramifications from the league from that standpoint, except for him just (not) leaving the court, maybe. I thought that’s why he got ejected out of the game. To me, that’s enough punishment.”

The Lakers and Pistons are both off until Tuesday, but if the NBA is going to assess fines and/or suspensions, an announcement will likely come at some point on Monday.

Here’s more on the fracas in Detroit:

  • Anthony Davis said after the game that James didn’t elbow Stewart intentionally and that he wanted to apologize to the 20-year-old. “Everyone in the league knows LeBron’s not a dirty guy,” Davis said, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “In fact, when he knew he hit him, as soon as he did it, he looked back at him like, ‘Oh, my bad. I didn’t try to do it.'”
  • Lakers guard Russell Westbrook also received a technical foul as part of the skirmish, since referee Scott Foster and his crew believed Westbrook was acting as “an escalator and not a peacemaker.” Westbrook didn’t realize he had been assessed a technical until after the game, writes McMenamin. “Why’d I get a tech? I didn’t know I had a tech. Wow. That’s interesting,” Westbrook said. “Well, you know, that’s just being Russell, I guess. When you’re Russell Westbrook, they just try to do anything, apparently. Well, whatever. … They had to put it on somebody. I’m the easiest person to throw s–t on. Why not me?”
  • While there may be an outside perception that Stewart, who also had a minor scuffle with Blake Griffin earlier this season, is a troublemaker, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic contends that couldn’t be further from the truth. Casey agrees with that assessment. “I told him, ‘Don’t let this define who you are. It doesn’t define your game whatsoever. Keep your head (up) and don’t get a reputation afterward,'” Casey said after the game. “I feel for the young man because he’s such a competitor and plays so hard. He’s a great kid. He felt like he got a cheap shot across his brow. On the street, it would be a different story. It’s no reflection on who Isaiah Stewart is whatsoever.”
  • The Lakers were down by 17 points following James’ ejection, but battled back without him in the fourth quarter for a victory. Bill Oram of The Athletic wonders if the comeback could be a turning point for a Lakers team that has been up and down so far this season.

Pistons Exercise 2022/23 Options On Hayes, Stewart, Bey

The Pistons have picked up their third-year team options on guard Killian Hayes, center Isaiah Stewart, and forward Saddiq Bey for the 2022/23 season, the team announced today (via Twitter).

Rookie scale option decisions for 2022/23 are due by the end of October, but the Pistons didn’t wait until the deadline to officially exercise the options for three players they selected in the first round of the 2020 draft. All three players’ salaries for ’22/23 are now guaranteed: Hayes at $5.84MM, Stewart at $3.43MM, and Bey at just $2.96MM.

Hayes was limited to just 26 games in his rookie season due to a hip injury and provided inconsistent production when he played, but he remains a major part of the Pistons’ future, having been the first player drafted by general manager Troy Weaver during his tenure in Detroit.

Stewart and Bey, meanwhile, made strong first impressions as rookies in 2020/21. Stewart averaged 7.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.3 BPG in 68 games (21.4 MPG), earning a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team. Bey made the All-Rookie First Team with averages of 12.2 PPG and 4.5 RPG, plus a .380 3PT%, in 70 games (27.3 MPG).

You can track all of the rookie scale team option decisions for 2022/23 right here.

Pistons Notes: Cunningham, Rotation, Jackson, Pickett

Top pick Cade Cunningham is dealing with an ankle sprain and has missed some practice time, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The medical staff is being very cautious with the Pistons’ prized rookie so that the injury doesn’t linger.

Cunningham has been doing some light shooting drills, Rod Beard of The Detroit News tweets. It appears unlikely that the rookie guard will play in the team’s preseason opener on Wednesday.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Head coach Dwane Casey will serve youth, mainly in the starting lineup, and rely on veterans on the second unit, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “I think we’re going to have probably two different units – one a younger unit that’s going to bring energy and the second unit will probably have more experience,” Casey said. Cunningham will likely be joined by second-year players Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes in the starting unit, as well as possibly Isaiah Stewart. Casey is still mulling whether to go with Stewart or free agent signee Kelly Olynyk as the starting center. Cory Joseph will likely be the second-unit floor leader with Hamidou Diallo, Josh Jackson, Frank Jackson and Trey Lyles fighting for playing time.
  • Frank Jackson, like Cunningham, is dealing with an ankle injury, Sankofa adds in a separate tweet. He was re-signed as a restricted free agent on a two-year, $6.2MM deal that includes a team option next summer.
  • Jamorko Pickett continues to earn the admiration of the coaching staff, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. “I’m really impressed with Jamorko Pickett, as far as his game, approach, maturity and communication,” Casey said. An undrafted forward out of Georgetown, Pickett recently had his non-guaranteed camp deal upgraded to a two-way contract.

Pistons Notes: Olynyk, Pickett, Rotation, Stewart

Kelly Olynyk has reached the point in his career where he wants to be a mentor as well as an on-court contributor, so the Pistons seemed like a perfect fit in free agency, writes Lauren Williams of MLive. The addition of Olynyk brings another reliable shooter and passer to Detroit’s frontcourt along with eight years of experience that he can share with the team’s young players.

“It’s just about I’m at the point in my career where I think I can really help a team like this young team with leadership on and off the court,” he said. “So just, teaching guys because I’m nine years in now. I kind of have those tricks of the trade. It’s time to pass them on. So I thought it was a great opportunity from that standpoint and also a great opportunity to come through and play.”

Through two days of training camp, coach Dwane Casey is still figuring out exactly what he wants Olynyk’s role to be. Casey is counting on having the ball in Olynyk’s hands frequently, whether he starts or comes off the bench.

“I think he’ll be a high usage rate guy with the second unit, first unit or who he’s playing with, just because of his ball skills and his ability,” Casey said. “And one weapon you can have in the NBA today is a five man that can shoot the ball from deep.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • The Pistons are excited about rookie swingman Jamorko Pickett, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Pickett earned a two-way contract with a strong Summer League performance, and Casey said at media day that he has a chance to be a good player for several years. Casey admitted he didn’t know much about Pickett heading into the draft, but general manager Troy Weaver and scout Jason Buckner were watching him closely in college.
  • Detroit will have more depth than in recent years, but Casey doesn’t plan to expand his rotation beyond 10 players, Edwards adds. The most intense competition figures to be at the backup wing, where Josh Jackson, Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo will all be fighting for minutes. “It’s crowded at the wing position,” Casey said. “There’s some healthy competition at that area. We’re going to need a couple different things; we’re going to need shooting, defense, with either unit. You want that balance, so we’re going to go with who gives us that balance at the wing position.”
  • Second-year center Isaiah Stewart is getting some valuable instruction from new Hall of Famer Ben Wallace, per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com“Today was probably the most I ever talked to him,” Stewart said after Tuesday’s practice. “I took advantage of the time and asked as many questions as I can. Hearing he’s going to be around more, I’m definitely going to be picking his brain. I hope he doesn’t get tired of that.”

Pistons Notes: Stewart, Cunningham, Hayes, Koprivica

Pistons center Isaiah Stewart is making progress in his recovery from an ankle injury he suffered as part of the U.S. Select Team, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. After a strong rookie season, Stewart was chosen to be part of the squad that helped Team USA prepare for the Olympics last month. Despite hurting the ankle during a scrimmage, he said it was a valuable experience.

“It was great,” Stewart said. “Just my name being selected on that USA Select Team. Being out there with the best of the best will definitely for sure boost your confidence. Just shows you that you belong. It was great to be out there. I learned from some great coaches while being out there, and I was just being a sponge.”

Stewart was in a walking boot for a while, but he has progressed beyond that as the ankle heals. He’s with Detroit’s Summer League team in Las Vegas, but isn’t playing as the Pistons are focused on having him fully healthy for training camp.

Stewart also discusses his heated high school rivalry with Cade Cunningham and what he believes the No. 1 pick can bring to the team.

“I see him fitting with me easy,” Stewart said. “I’m tough, hard-nosed, chip on my shoulder. I feel like he’s got that same thing even though he’s the No. 1 pick. I can just tell he’s a dog. I feel like in Detroit, that’s what this team needs to be surrounded by is tough, hard-nosed players who put they construction hat on, go to work every night. And I can see him meshing with the rest of the guys pretty well. That’s the culture we’re trying to build.”

There’s more on the Pistons:

  • Cunningham has looked like a star in the Summer League and turned in his best game in Friday’s win over the Knicks, per Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Cunningham went 7 for 10 from three-point range in a 24-point performance. “There’s a reason we drafted him at one,” said Summer League coach J.D. DuBois. “His ability to do multiple things, his ability to make tough shots, to want the ball. His leadership, both with his voice and his actions. He prepares at a high level every day. When you see him perform like this, you’re not shocked. He works really hard at it on a consistent basis.”
  • The Pistons have a good collection of young talent in place, but Killian Hayes looks like a question mark, observes Evan Sidery of Basketball News. The seventh pick in the 2020 draft, Hayes was limited to 26 games as a rookie because of injuries and has struggled with his shot during Summer League.
  • Second-round pick Balsa Koprivica was confident the Pistons would select him after a strong pre-draft workout for the team, Sankofa adds in a separate story.