Luke Kennard

Central Notes: Bickerstaff, Smith, Griffin, Connaughton

Former Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff is “definitely interested” in the Cavaliers’ head coaching opening, he said in a SiruisXM interview with Mitch Lawrence, Zach Harper and Sarah Kustok (Twitter link). “It would be an honor to have an opportunity to work with that group,” said Bickerstaff, who was fired by Memphis two weeks ago. Bickerstaff is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar screen, though there has been no indication if he’ll be interviewed for the job.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Backup point guard Ish Smith is willing to return to the Pistons but it’s uncertain if there’s mutual interest, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports. Smith will enter unrestricted free agency this summer. “Obviously, if they call, I’m for sure going to pick up,” Smith said. “This has been home the last three years.” The cap-strapped Pistons could look to re-sign Smith at a lower cost than the $6MM he made this season. Otherwise, they might go with an in-house alternative, such as Luke Kennard or Bruce Brown.
  • Pistons All-Star forward Blake Griffin said he won’t get involved in personnel decisions this offseason unless his opinion is requested, Beard writes in a separate story. “I’m not here to make decisions; it’s the front office. (Senior adviser) Ed (Stefanski) and all those guys do a really good job, in the short time I’ve known them,” Griffin said. “They have plans and an idea and a direction. It might not happen overnight because of the (financial) situation. They have a great grasp on that. If they ask my opinion, I’ll, of course, give my honest opinion. I’ve never been the type of player to go in and make demands, just because sometimes as players and coaches, we’re all about winning right now, which is very important but not at the expense of the next year or however that may be.”
  • Bucks reserve guard Pat Connaughton hasn’t given up his dream to play major league baseball, as he explained to NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner in a Q&A session. Connaughton was a minor-league pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles system five years ago before choosing to pursue his basketball dreams. “Obviously I’ve wanted to be as successful at both sports as possible. You have to shoot for being an All-Star to have a chance to even make it in either, right? But I did think, “If I really went into baseball right now, if I dropped basketball when I was coming out of high school, I fully believe I’d have had the chance to be an All-Star, to be one of the top two pitchers on a championship team.” But something drew me to basketball, something drew me to having success in two sports,” Connaughton said. The Bucks have until July 1 to guarantee his $1.723MM salary for next season.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Drummond, Kennard

There’s still plenty of uncertainty regarding Blake Griffin‘s status for the opening round of the playoffs. While Yahoo Sports reported that the Pistons All-Star power forward would likely miss the series against the Bucks, coach Dwane Casey said after practice on Monday that Griffin could play as soon as Game 2 on Wednesday. Griffin sat out Milwaukee’s 121-86 blowout victory on Sunday with a sore left knee.

“We need all hands on deck. He wants to play,” Casey said. “So when his body says he’s ready, whether it’s Wednesday night or Saturday (for Game 3), whenever it is, he’ll be available.”

Griffin, who worked out with the training staff during practice, said after the game that he wanted to play but the medical staff nixed it. Casey confirmed that Griffin is eager to return.

“He’s lobbying. He wants to play,” Casey said. “It’s the medical staff, the doctors are the ones making those decisions. Not me, not Blake.”

We have more on the Pistons:
  • Casey doesn’t think Andre Drummond‘s ejection during the third quarter on Sunday was warranted. Drummond received a Flagrant Two foul for shoving Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo to the court after Antetokounmpo grabbed an offensive rebound. “I’ve seen worse,” Casey said. “What do you expect our defense to do when you’re driving through there 100 miles an hour? Just move out of the way and let you go where you want to go?” Drummond was tight-lipped about the ejection because “I’m not trying to get fined.” There hasn’t been any indication the league will discipline Drummond for the foul.
  • Drummond recorded a minus-45 in the plus/minus category before he was tossed. That was the lowest in playoff history since at least 2001, according to Basketball-Reference. “I was more than ready. Prepared, ready to go,” he said. “I just have to do it a step harder.”
  • Casey felt his team played like it was just happy to be in the postseason while Milwaukee acted as if it had waited all season for the game. “The moment, playoffs, atmosphere, whatever it is, got us out of sync,” he said. The lone bright spot was the play of reserve guard Luke Kennard, who scored a team-high 21 points. “Luke was probably the most aggressive offensively of everybody and he was making the right basketball play,” Casey said.

Eastern Notes: Ellington, Wizards, Cavs

Detroit remains in the playoff race in large part due to the addition of Wayne Ellington. The shooting guard has made 38.1% of his looks from behind the arc on 7.8 attempts per game since coming to the franchise. Coach Dwane Casey sees Ellington’s use of his speed as a major reason why he’s able to succeed from 3-point land.

“If he was slow coming off, teams would chase him over and get there. He really comes off with speed and he knows how to change speeds to get open. [Luke Kennard] could really learn from him as far as watching him work out. It’s not just for games. He does it every day in practice,” Casey said (via Keith Langlois of NBA.com).

The Pistons were in need of outside shooting after shipping Reggie Bullock to the Lakers at the trade deadline and the team is glad it was able to nab Ellington after the veteran agreed to a buyout with the Suns. The sharpshooter will again be a free agent at the end of the season.

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Wizards are working with prominent sports executive Mike Forde as the team looks to reset its front office, a source tells Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Forde is the CEO of Sportsology and was previously the director of football operations for Chelsea in the Premier League.
  • Bradley Beal has been a mentor to Troy Brown Jr. and the All-NBA candidate sees a bright future for the Wizards‘ rookie, as Zach Rosen of NBA.com relays. “I told him in the beginning of the year, you are going to see a lot of stuff throughout this year, and one thing I always tell him is, it is easy to just get caught up in the negativity but the more positive you stay and the more ready you stay, your name will eventually be called and sure enough, it was called and he performed,” Beal said. “He did excellent. He has been constantly growing. It is just a matter of him just getting more minutes.”
  • The Cavaliers‘ home arena will see a name change from Quicken Loans Arena to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, according to Tom Withers of The Associated Press. The venue is also undergoing “major” renovations.

Central Notes: Kennard, Porter Jr., Hutchison, Nwaba

Pistons fans may never forgive the previous regime for passing over Donovan Mitchell and taking Luke Kennard in the 2017 draft, but Kennard is doing his best lately to soften the blow. He has scored in double figures 10 of the last 14 games, helping the Pistons go 12-2 during that stretch. Opposing coaches have taken notice.

“Luke Kennard is really growing up right in front of us,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “The pick-and-roll game, shooting the ball. … You know you have respect when teams come out and double-team you. They were blitzing his pick and rolls. It’s a sign of respect around our league. He’s going to learn how to handle those situations and not let that take his confidence out of his shooting.”

Kennard will make $3.8MM next season and it seems like a mere formality the Pistons will pick up his $5.27MM fourth-year option before the October 31 deadline.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Casey feels the Bulls made a wise decision by acquiring small forward Otto Porter from the Wizards. He’s averaging 18.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.3 APG in his first 11 games with Chicago. “That was a smart move on Chicago’s part to bring him in and kind of set the tone for that team,” the Pistons’ head coach said. “You always want to have a guy that can shoot the ball and defend with his size.”
  • The Bulls’ prior starter at small forward could be done for the season, according to Sam Smith from the team’s website. Chandler Hutchison had a scan earlier this week on the toe injury to his right foot. The rookie first-rounder out of Boise State will be reevaluated in two weeks and a decision will then be made whether to shut him down. Hutchison, who was injured on January 25th, has not been able to work out because of a foot injury, Smith notes.
  • The Cavaliers should take a hard look at retaining guard David Nwaba, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Nwaba will be a restricted free agent this summer if the Cavs extend a qualifying offer of approximately $1.9MM this summer. Given his injury-riddled season and the fact the team was able to sign him to a minimum contract last summer, it’s hard to envision another team prying him away, Fedor notes. But Nwaba has the second-best plus-minus rating on the team behind only Kevin Love, Fedor adds.

Latest On Mike Conley

With three days to go until the trade deadline, the Jazz and Pistons remain the teams most frequently named as potential suitors for Mike Conley. Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Grizzlies are talking to both Utah and Detroit, adding that both clubs have made competitive offers for the veteran point guard (all Twitter links).

As previous reports have suggested, the Jazz’s offer for Conley centers around Ricky Rubio and a first-round draft pick, though at least one more player would need to be added for salary-matching purposes and Memphis may be seeking an additional pick.

According to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press, who confirms that the Pistons have engaged in talks with the Grizzlies, it’s fair to surmise that Detroit has offered Reggie Jackson and a first-rounder for Conley. However, a source tells Ellis that the Grizzlies would “want more.” Ellis wonders if adding Luke Kennard would be enough — and whether it’d be worth it for the Pistons.

Like the Jazz, the Pistons would also have to add at least one more player to their offer in order to match Conley’s salary. Many of Detroit’s most expensive contracts – including Jackson’s – are multiyear deals, while Utah has sizable expiring contracts like Rubio’s and Derrick Favors‘ available. The Grizzlies’ willingness to take on multiyear money is unclear, but those expiring deals would allow for more flexibility.

For their part, Conley and longtime teammate Marc Gasol are eager for answers about which team(s) they’ll be playing for on Friday, as Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press writes.

“You look forward to that deadline passing,” Conley said. “Either way it goes, you just want to get clarity and understand your situation going forward, and you try to block it out but it’s hard. Everybody who texts you or talks to you in person mentions something about it, so it’s hard to run from it. But you just hope for the week to get through real quick and get back to business, whether it’s here or anywhere else.”

Pistons Notes: Trade Deadline, Brown, Bullock

If the asset-strapped Pistons are going to make a splash at the NBA trade deadline they’ll have to get creative. As The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III writes, Detroit would presumably need to unload some sizable contracts if they brought back a significant package and the players currently making big money on their roster – outside of Blake Griffin – aren’t particularly desirable.

Edwards writes that Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski isn’t eager to give up a future first-round pick simply to alleviate the cap burden of its weighty contracts (Reggie Jackson‘s $17MM, Jon Leuer‘s $10MM, for example) but those picks could be in play if a solid star comes along. Edwards includes Bradley Beal as a hypothetical possibility that might warrant such a return.

The Pistons have some players that could be considered modest assets ahead of the deadline, including sophomore Luke Kennard and fourth-year forward Stanley Johnson. Ish Smith and Reggie Bullock, similarly, could draw interest from contending teams looking to shore up their rotations with veteran depth.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • While there are plenty of scenarios that could hypothetically jump-start a Pistons rebuild, Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes in a weekly mailbag that he’d wager the team stands pat at the deadline. The club may look to shore up its second-unit but lack draft assets to offer in trades.
  • Scrappy first-year guard Bruce Brown has struggled to showcase his elite defensive skills lately, something head coach Dwane Casey‘s believes could be attributable to a famous foe in the basketball world. “I don’t know if it’s a rookie wall or whatever, but just the concentration, the attention to detail,” Casey told Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “Those are mental things that young fellows usually make when they’re mentally fatigued a little bit.
  • In the same blog post, Langlois writes that Reggie Bullock practiced on Wednesday. The 27-year-old sharpshooter and potential trade chip missed Tuesday’s game with a sprained ankle that has plagued him and and off throughout the season. His status is uncertain for Thursday.

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.”

Central Notes: Bucks, Turner, Lopez, Kennard

The Bucks enjoyed a pivotal year in 2018, with a new coach, a new building, a roster upgrade and the emergence of an MVP candidate, writes Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As a result, the franchise finishes the calendar year with the NBA’s best record at 25-10.

“This is not a Bucks team that’s trying to compete for mediocrity,” GM Jon Horst said. “We’re not happy and satisfied with just making it into the playoffs, even though that’s always a great accomplishment in its own right. I hope that they see it’s a team led by a young superstar in Giannis (Antetokounmpo) that has high character and wants to win at the highest level with great people throughout the organization from the top down.”

Mike Budenholzer took over as head coach in May and the team added several shooters over the offseason to fit his philosophy that emphasizes the 3-pointer. The team drafted Donte DiVincenzo and signed free agents Ersan Ilyasova, Brook Lopez and Pat Connaughton.

“It’s amazing,” Antetokounmpo said. “Got a new building, a new facility, a new head coach, a new system, everybody’s having fun, new atmosphere – it’s been amazing. … Moving on to 2019, I hope we can do big things and accomplish big things with this team.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers center Myles Turner suffered a broken nose in today’s game and will be fitted for a mask tomorrow, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. “The hope is that he doesn’t have a concussion,” coach Nate McMillan said. “He can play with a mask.”
  • Bulls center Robin Lopez believes coach Jim Boylen has won over the players after some initial resistance, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago has put together a 5-8 record since he took over for Fred Hoiberg earlier this month. ‘‘I think we kind of are seeing some results,’’ Lopez said. ‘‘I do think we’re making progress. It feels like guys have bought in and are playing together in this system.’’
  • After a DNP last Wednesday, the PistonsLuke Kennard studied some film to help fix his shot, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Kennard has hit 63% from the field and 44% from 3-point range over the last two games and is back in the mix for minutes at small forward.

Central Notes: Kennard, Krauskopf, Evans, Dunn

Luke Kennard may be the latest Pistons wing to play his way out of the starting small forward spot, as I noted in the Detroit Free Press. Kennard has scored just 24 points over the last six games after a 28-point outing in Philadelphia. The second-year swingman out of Duke was benched during the second half of a 98-95 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday. Stanley Johnson and Glenn Robinson III were also ineffective in that role. “There’s nothing maddening about it at all (but) you want that person to step in and produce,” coach Dwane Casey said of finding someone to fill that slot. “Give some production, whether it’s energy defensively, energy offensively, running the floor, cutting, just playing basketball. That’s what you’re searching for in that position.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard said that hiring Kelly Krauskopf as an assistant GM had nothing to do with making history, according to Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star. Krauskopf became the first women to hold that NBA front office position in a modern-day format in that she will be involved in personnel decisions. “It’s going to be made a big deal about (her being a woman) and the truth is she is just the best person for the job, period, end of discussion,” he said. “It doesn’t matter (her) gender, race, anything like that. She was the best person for the job.” Krauskopf spent 17 years as GM of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.
  • Pacers guard Tyreke Evans has missed the last two games due to knee soreness and will be a game-time decision against Atlanta on Wednesday. Evans explained to Scott Agness of The Athletic that he aggravated an old right knee injury when the Sixers’ Joel Embiid fell on him during a collision. Fluid built up and Evans, who had three operations on that knee in 2016, needed to have the knee drained.
  • Bulls point guard Kris Dunn has taken a bigger offensive role with Zach LaVine sidelined by an ankle injury, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Dunn is averaging 17.8 PPG and 6.0 APG over the last five games with LaVine out of commission. “Whatever gets the win. If I’ve got to be aggressive on the offensive side looking at the rim a little bit more or getting my guys involved,” he said. “I’m a pass-first point guard but it’s the NBA.”

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 12/1/18

Here are Saturday’s G League assignments and recalls from across the NBA:

  • The Hornets sent forward Dwayne Bacon and guard Devonte’ Graham to the Greensboro Swarm, the team announced on its website. This is the first G League assignment of the season for Bacon, who has appeared in 13 games for Charlotte and is averaging 6.4 points per night. It’s the third time for Graham, who has gotten into eight NBA games.
  • The Spurs assigned Chimezie Metu to their Austin affiliate, according to the team website. He has appeared in 12 games with San Antonio.
  • The Pistons have recalled Luke Kennard from Auburn Hills, the team announced in an email. Kennard is recovering from an AC joint sprain in his right shoulder that has sidelined him for the past 15 games.
  • The Pelicans sent rookie Kenrich Williams to the G League, tweets Will Guillory of The Athletic. New Orleans doesn’t have a direct affiliate, so Williams has been assigned to the Westchester Knicks.
  • The Knicks called up center Luke Kornet from Westchester and placed him on the active list for tonight’s game, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News (Twitter link).
  • The Rockets recalled guard Brandon Knight from their Rio Grande affiliate, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston.