Ish Smith

Central Rumors: Griffin, Pistons, Giannis, Terry

The Pistons lost five of their last six games entering Monday’s contest against the Raptors but Hornets coach Steve Clifford endorses Detroit’s Blake Griffin gamble, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com reports. Griffin is the type of player who can make a difference in the postseason, according to Clifford. “The NBA is about winning in the playoffs, right? When you’re a coach, you look at it like this. Tie score in a Game 7, there’s 12 seconds on the clock, Blake Griffin’s one of the … I don’t know, 12 to 15 guys in the league that you can’t guard one on one,” Clifford said. “The guys they gave up are terrific, OK, but they’re not go-to, Game-7-of-a-series guys that are going to dictate a double team. That’s the number one thing you have to have to win big and that’s what they picked up.”

In other news around the Central Division:

  • The Pistons’ bench has been outscored by its counterparts by an average of 21.1 points over the last six games. Coach Stan Van Gundy has tried a number of different combinations but nothing has worked. Detroit’s reserve unit has struggled since point guard Ish Smith was forced into the starting lineup after Reggie Jackson suffered a severe ankle sprain in late December.  “The biggest problem is it’s become a lower-energy lineup,” Van Gundy told Hoops Rumors.
  • The Bucks have locked up Giannis Antetokounmpo through the 2020/21 season but he has no desire to go to a big city like Los Angeles anyway, as Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel relays. Antetokounmpo prefers the less hectic pace of a city like Milwaukee. “I love Milwaukee — it’s low-key,” he told Velazquez. “I can walk down the road, down the streets without anybody bugging me — nobody interrupts my conversation or anything. I love how quiet and calm Milwaukee is.”
  • Bucks reserve guard Jason Terry wants to play at least one more year in the league, which would allow him to reach another milestone in his long career, Genaro Armas of the Associated Press writes. “For sure, 100 percent, my goal is to play 20 seasons,” Terry said. “The organization understands that and I think the league is on notice.” Terry, 40, is averaging 2.6 PPG in 11.9 MPG. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Central Notes: Oladipo, Pistons Rotation, Griffin

Victor Oladipo knew a breakout season was possible after speaking with Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard on the team’s private plane prior to his introductory press conference last summer, as Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated divulges in a feature story. Pritchard assured Oladipo that the club truly coveted his services, rather than just matching up salaries to facilitate the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder. Indiana wanted to play faster this season. “This wasn’t a dump. We targeted you,” Pritchard told Oladipo, according to Jenkins. The All-Star shooting guard is averaging a career-high 24.4 PPG for the surprising Pacers.  “It was the first time in my career I felt like a team really believed in me,” Oladipo told Jenkins. “I was just thinking, Don’t mess this up.”

In other nuggets involving the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy will likely go with a 10-man rotation once Reggie Jackson returns from his Grade 3 ankle sprain, according to Ansar Khan of MLive.com.  Jackson would join a starting unit of Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. Ish Smith would return to his usual role as leader of the second unit with center Eric Moreland and forwards Anthony Tolliver and James Ennis getting steady minutes, Khan speculates. Luke Kennard and Langston Galloway would split time as the backup shooting guard, Khan adds.
  • Pistons owner Tom Gores invited Griffin and his business partners over to his California home immediately after the blockbuster deal with the Clippers, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details. Gores wanted to assure Griffin how badly the Pistons wanted him and address any concerns the five-time All-Star power forward might have, Langlois continues. The Pistons are 5-3 since Griffin joined their lineup. “We were very quickly on the same page with the same view of what we want to achieve and the approach to get there,” Gores told Langlois. “He’s definitely hit the ground running. It’s been great to see how his teammates, the whole organization and the fans have embraced him.”

Pistons Notes: Bradley, Leuer, Bullock, Galloway

Avery Bradley‘s role will change now that he’ll be playing alongside Ish Smith instead of Reggie Jackson until after the All-Star break, as he and coach Stan Van Gundy noted to me in a Detroit Free Press story.

The Pistons shooting guard returned to action on Wednesday after a seven-game absence due to a groin injury. While Bradley was on the mend, Jackson suffered a severe ankle sprain. Bradley will have to get used to quicker tempo and he’ll have the ball in his hands a little more. Van Gundy is running the offense more through the wings with Jackson on the sidelines.

“It’s going to change and I just have to make the adjustment,” Bradley said of his role. Bradley usually defended point guards with Jackson on the floor but those switched assignments will occur less often with the smaller Smith.

“The best part of Reggie Jackson’s defense is his post defense, so you could play him on a lot of bigger people,” Van Gundy said. “With Ish, that’s a lot different. So matchups will be a little bit different.”

In other Pistons developments:

  • Forward Jon Leuer, who hasn’t played since October 31st due to an ankle injury, could be headed to surgery if his condition doesn’t improve soon. Leuer received a joint lubrication injection for his sprained left ankle a month ago after suffering a setback. He was put on anti-inflammatory medication recently to aid the healing process. Van Gundy hopes that Leuer will show significant progress by next weekend. “I can’t tell him to play and I can’t tell him to go get surgery,” Van Gundy said. “At that point, if we’ve gone another 12 days and we haven’t had anything change, he’s going to have to make some decisions on what he wants to do.”
  • With Bradley returning to the lineup, Reggie Bullock and Anthony Tolliver will share a starting spot, depending on matchups. Against smaller lineups, Bullock will start. Against taller, more rugged power forwards, Tolliver will get the nod with Tobias Harris moving to small forward.
  • The backup point guard job spot behind Smith is up for grabs. Langston Galloway played most of those minutes the first game Jackson was out. Dwight Buycks, who is on a two-way contract, played 18 minutes at the point the following game.

Pistons Guard Reggie Jackson Out For Extended Period

Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson suffered a Grade 3 right ankle sprain against the Pacers on Tuesday and will be sidelined until after the All-Star break, the team announced on Wednesday. Jackson underwent an MRI on Wednesday, which revealed the extent of the injury. He will be re-evaluated in six to eight weeks, according to the press release.

Coach Stan Van Gundy said during his postgame press conference that X-rays were negative. However, Jackson was in severe pain when the injury occurred and couldn’t put any pressure on the leg.

Jackson had eight points and a season-high 13 assists prior to the injury. He missed the first 21 games last season with a knee injury but the club got off to an 11-10 start with Ish Smith running the offense. Smith will move into the lineup as long as Jackson is out. “Ish did a great job of taking over when Reggie went down last year, so we won’t miss a beat,” center Andre Drummond said after the game.

Langston Galloway or Dwight Buycks, who is on a two-way contract, will back up Smith while Jackson mends. Galloway, who inked a three-year, $21MM free agent contract during the summer, has played almost exclusively at shooting guard this season. Buycks appeared in his first NBA game on Tuesday since playing six games with the Lakers during the 2014/15 season.

Another option, as Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tweets, is to sign a player to a 10-day contract. Teams can add a player via a 10-day deal beginning on January 5th and Detroit has an open roster spot.

In the short run, the Pistons are without both starting guards. Shooting guard Avery Bradley has missed the last five games with a groin injury but he is progressing. The team is hopeful he can return next week, as Langlois tweets.

Central Notes: Pistons, Maker, Munford

Only two of the Pistons‘ opening day starters are set in stone, the other three have yet to be determined, Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes. With Avery Bradley at the two and Andre Drummond in the middle, head coach Stan Van Gundy is hard-pressed to figure out who will join them at tip-off.

Everything’s a consideration,” Van Gundy said, before implying that Tobias Harris would probably start for the Pistons but, then, again might not. “I thought he was good off the bench last year. I’m really not locked in to anything.”

As Langlois explains, what Van Gundy decides to do with Harris will impact the other decisions he’ll have to make with the Pistons’ lineup. If the 25-year-old forward plays the three, they’ll look to somebody like Jon Leueur to fill in at the four. If they pencil Harris in at the four, they could turn to someone like Stanley Johnson to man the three.

Another decision that the Pistons will need to come to terms on ahead of opening day is who to start at the point. On one hand the idea of a healthy Reggie Jackson working in tandem with Drummond is tantalizing but there’s no guarantee it plays out that way in the first game of the season.

Langlois writes that Ish Smith could get serious consideration to start for the Pistons. “We found out last year just about anybody’s going to play pretty well with Ish,” Van Gundy said.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Central Notes: Pistons, Pacers, Stephenson

After a disappointing 2016/17 campaign, the Pistons will look to shore up their three-point shooting. So says head coach Stan Van Gundy, at least. Aaron McMann of MLive wrote about Detroit’s goal heading into the offseason.

We’ve got to shoot the ball better, there’s no question about that,” Van  Gundy told the media following his exit interviews with Pistons players.

Not long after, he’d go on to complain about the team’s regression throughout the season, as has become somewhat of a custom for the Pistons bench boss.

We just talked about that with our team. I think a lot of that can be internal development. [The Pistons] had virtually an entire roster that took a step back in that area this year.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Pistons Notes: Jackson, Drummond, Van Gundy

The wheels are falling off for the 34-39 Pistons, who are 1.5 games out of the eighth seed following a 115-87 loss to the Magic. Reggie Jackson– who has been coming off the bench of late- said nobody’s job is safe.

“(Missing the playoffs) would suck — it sucks every year you’re not in the postseason and not one of the teams competing to be the last one standing,” Jackson told Rod Beard of Detroit News. “It’s tough. It’s a performance-based league so all our jobs are on the line. If we don’t get where we want to be, I’m sure coach knows as coach-president, he has a lot on the line. Myself, I was brought in to be the point guard and I have a lot on the line. We don’t know who’s going to be back next year or who’s going to be here tomorrow.”

Stan Van Gundy‘s Pistons have dropped six of their last seven, entering crisis mode in the middle of a playoff chase. If there’s one saving grace for Detroit, three of their next four opponents are fellow sub-.500 teams.

More from Detroit…

  • Van Gundy answered six postgame questions in a combined 55 seconds after Friday’s loss, Rod Beard of Detroit News reports. Video of the uncomfortable presser can be found on FOX Sports Detroit (Twitter link).
  • The Pistons are in “no-man’s land,” Brett Koremenos of RealGM writes. While Koremenos concedes basketball is too nuanced to blame problems on a singular figure, he has trouble getting past the faults of Jackson and Andre Drummond. Regarding Drummond- previously regarded as a ‘franchise player’- Koremenos writes “Drummond’s engagement defensively comes and goes almost on a nightly basis. He can be prone to lazily reach for steals in pick-and-roll defensively and could definitely get a lot from a class in the Marc Gasol school of defensive positioning and anticipation. And for all the talk of his athleticism, Drummond doesn’t deter opponents’ success near the rim.”
  • It doesn’t sound like Van Gundy’s decision to bring Jackson off the bench will be a permanent one, as the veteran coach called it a “decision for now…not a long-term thing,” when speaking to Rod Beard of Detroit News (Twitter link). Jackson likely doesn’t have to worry about Ish Smith taking his job, as Smith totaled just six points with three rebounds over 16 minutes in Friday’s loss. In Beard’s article linked above, Van Gundy noted “He’s [Jackson] handled everything this year like a true pro. It’s been a very difficult year for him in a lot of ways: the injury, trying to come back and not playing the way that he’s wanted to play, and now coming off the bench. He’s handled it all great and his priority is the team.”

Ish Smith May Replace Reggie Jackson In Starting Lineup

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is contemplating starting Ish Smith over Reggie Jackson, according to a report from Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Van Gundy has showed concern of his starting unit’s lack of energy and production, Beard reports, and has not been pleased with Jackson and Andre Drummond‘s defensive efforts.

“Those are the two guys [Jackson and Drummond]. The energy has got to go up,” Van Gundy said. “Andre picked up his energy the other night but that’s got to be on a consistent basis, and we need more energy out of Reggie.”

It’s been a slog for Jackson of late, averaging nine points on 32.6% shooting over his last four games. The 26-year-old still has plenty of upside, but has regressed in PPG, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage from 2015/16. Jackson was mentioned in rumors throughout the trade deadline, but stayed put due to Detroit’s high asking price, as well as his lengthy contract (Jackson is in the second season of a five-year, $80MM deal).

The Pistons enter a vital stretch of their season with just a one game lead over the eighth seed. Though Smith’s recent play has hardly been stellar- shooting 33.3% over his last five games- Van Gundy may give him the starting role in Saturday’s match-up with Philadelphia.

“We’ve got to get better energy off the start of the games,” Van Gundy said. “The last Philadelphia game was one of our better starts in each half. That’s got to get going — that’s not just him (Jackson). Anything’s possible right now, but we’ve got to get playing better and we’ve got to get our first unit playing more consistently and playing better.”

Pistons Notes: Jackson, Van Gundy, Trades

Although the Pistons maintain that Reggie Jackson is not on the trade market, rival teams get a sense that he’s more available than Detroit has let on, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com writes. It was previously reported that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has moved ahead of Jackson on the team’s list of untouchable players. KCP and Andre Drummond are reportedly the only players ahead of the point guard on that list.

The Pistons struggled while Jackson was sidelined with knee tendinitis and when he returned to the court, it didn’t help them improve as much as they anticipated.  The team owns a record of 19-24 and sits two games behind the Bulls for the eighth seed in the conference.

Here’s more from Detroit:

  • The Pistons aren’t likely to make a major deal before the deadline, David Mayo of MLive writes. Executive/coach Stan Van Gundy believes this year’s trade deadline will be different than it has been in the past. “You’re not going to get the deals, or at least very few of them, where people don’t want to pay people,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve been able to take advantage of that a little bit. With Tobias, [the Magic] wanted to be under the cap to do stuff next summer. We were able to do that with Reggie, same reason, [the Thunder] didn’t want to meet his price. I don’t know that those kinds of deals are going to come up now. They’ll be more straight, basketball-type deals.”
  • In the same piece, Mayo speculates that Beno Udrih and Aron Baynes could be trade candidates. Udrih would be expendable if the Pistons feel Jackson and Ish Smith can remain healthy for the season and Baynes is likely to opt out of his deal in the offseason, so getting value for him now may be a smart move.
  • Van Gundy said the Pistons won’t look to make a trade simply “for the sake of change,” as Rod Beard of the Detroit News relays (Twitter link). “It would have to be a deal that in our mind was a pretty obvious step forward,” Van Gundy said.
  • Van Gundy believes the Pistons need to play harder on defense, Beard passes along in a separate tweet. “It’s not enough to say they’re trying hard. That’s a start, but [that] should be a given. This isn’t the YMCA; it’s the NBA–you got to do both,” Van Gundy exclaimed.

Stan Van Gundy Ready To Shake Things Up

DECEMBER 19, 11:42am: While Van Gundy and the Pistons may shake things up at some point, it doesn’t appear it will happen tonight. The Detroit head coach told reporters today that there will be no lineup changes for Monday’s game, per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com (Twitter link).

DECEMBER 18, 9:44pm: A lineup change could be coming as early as Monday for the Pistons, coach Stan Van Gundy told the media after his team was blown out on consecutive nights this weekend. Van Gundy has been exasperated by his team’s inconsistent play and the return of point guard Reggie Jackson from knee tendinitis has only led to more choppy performances. “There’s no question we’ve not been as good,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve played eight games, seven of them against teams below .500, and we’re 3-5. So there’s no question we’re not as good as we were before. That’s just a fact. Now, is that all on him? No. No, we have a lot of guys not playing as well.”

While Van Gundy didn’t elaborate on the potential lineup change, he really has only two viable options:

  • He could reinsert Ish Smith, who started while Jackson was rehabbing his knee, at point guard. Van Gundy isn’t sure if that’s the answer. “Even before Reggie came back, that starting lineup with Ish was outscored by opponents, too,” he said. “Not by as much, but outscored by opponents. So that has not been as good a lineup. We were surviving basically because our bench was coming in and outplaying people.”
  • He could move power forward Jon Leuer into the starting five and have either Marcus Morris or Tobias Harris come off the bench. Leuer has arguably been the Pistons’ most consistent player, averaging career highs in points (10.8) and rebounds (6.4). However, Leuer missed the 105-90 loss to the Pacers on Saturday with back spasms.

It’s clear that Van Gundy doesn’t intend to sit back and wait for the team to come around. “We’ve definitely gotta look at some things, lineup and rotation-wise,” he said. “That unit is clearly not working. At least not right now. “

Van Gundy also criticized his team for playing too selfishly in recent outings, with players more concerned about getting shots than getting back on defense. The players held a team meeting after the Indiana game to address that, as well as other issues.

“We’ve got guys upset they’re not touching the ball, and everything else, so they’re not as engaged in the game on the defensive end of the floor,” he said. “There’s all kinds of things that have to go into the game, and the ball has to move. There has to be an unselfish offense, and a committed defense, and the last two nights, there have been neither.”

Detroit is still just one game under .500 and one of many Eastern Conference clubs trying to find a way to go on a hot streak. But heightened expectations for the Pistons, who made the playoffs last season, have led to frustration over their mediocre play through 29 games. What changes should Van Gundy make to get his team going? Take to the comments section and give us your input.