Arn Tellem

Pistons Notes: Blame, Losing Streak, Williams, Improvement

The Pistons are in the midst of the worst losing streak in NBA history and there’s plenty of blame to go around. However, The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie, writing with James L. Edwards III, says the brunt of the responsibility is on the front office. No one move is single-handedly causing this slide, but Detroit’s front office has made several moves that didn’t make sense, according to Vecenie.

One of the Pistons’ main issues on the court is spacing and, last trade deadline, they traded away Saddiq Bey, a career 35.9% three-point shooter, in a deal for James Wiseman. Vecenie also points out the Pistons hurt their future flexibility by trading a highly protected first-round pick (which features protections through 2027) for Isaiah Stewart.

Because of these moves, the Pistons simply don’t have the depth other teams do, Vecenie writes, which has been a factor in the losing streak. Vecenie doesn’t absolve coach Monty Williams, stating the rotations that put franchise centerpiece Cade Cunningham around non-shooters are confusing.

As for the team’s short-term future, the trade deadline is approaching, and Vecenie suggests the Pistons need to target a two-way, hybrid three/four wing like Torrey Craig to help their woes on the perimeter and should only sell Bojan Bogdanovic for a huge haul.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • The Pistons have bigger issues than their record-tying 28-game losing streak, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps writes. According to Bontemps’ sources, the Pistons are viewed as a team with “several stakeholders articulating different visions for the team.” Everyone from Williams to owner Tom Gores to general manager Troy Weaver to vice chairman Arn Tellem is said to have a different outlook for the organization, which hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008/09.
  • While all the Pistons’ power brokers hold some responsibility for the losing streak, The Athletic’s Sam Amick is less critical of Williams, to whom Detroit awarded a six-year, $72MM contract. Williams shouldn’t be in Detroit at all, according to Amick, who says the veteran coach instead deserved to remain in Phoenix, where he became a “fall guy.”
  • The Pistons almost defeated the Celtics on Thursday in a matchup between the teams with the NBA’s best and worst records. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated writes Detroit showed fight in the overtime loss. “I think it shows we’re on the same level of all the teams we’re playing against,” Cunningham said. “There’s no team I’ve ever come across where I felt like I was going into a slaughterhouse. I’ve never felt like that in my life going into a basketball game…there’s a lot of growth in tonight, some things we can learn from and definitely take into the next game.

Eastern Notes: Dinwiddie, Bol, Pistons, Harris, Heat, Maxey

Spencer Dinwiddie is eligible for an extension later this offseason and there’s support within the Nets organization to add years to his current contract, according to Ian Begley of SNY.TV.

Dinwiddie is entering his walk year with a cap hit of $20,357,143. After being reacquired from Dallas last season, Dinwiddie started 26 regular-season games and averaged 16.5 points and 9.1 assists in 35.3 minutes.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Magic have pushed back their decision regarding Bol Bol‘s contract, Jamie Seh of WKMG-TV tweets. Bol has a non-guaranteed $2.2MM salary for next season and the original deadline to guarantee his deal was Friday. If they don’t guarantee his contract, he’ll end up on waivers.
  • By trading for Joe Harris and his expiring contract rather than pursuing a high-level free agent, the Pistons are protecting the cap space for next summer while avoiding a potentially bad contract, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic. Handing a huge offer sheet to restricted free agent Cameron Johnson, as had been anticipated, would have meant overpaying for a role player. They could easily have $60MM in cap space to play with next summer for a better free agent market. Detroit won’t give up a player to the Nets in the trade for Harris, who will provide shooting and wing depth.
  • Agent Mark Bartelstein said Harris has spoken with Pistons GM Troy Weaver, coach Monty Williams and executive Arn Tellem, Mark Medina tweets. According to Bartelstein, the Pistons have wanted Harris “for a couple of years” and “he’ll have a great role there.”
  • The Heat only have veteran’s minimum contracts to offer to free agents, Barry Jackson of Miami Herald tweets. The cap-strapped Heat don’t have a trade lined up to clear enough cap space to use exceptions within league cap rules.
  • While the Sixers aren’t expected to pursue a rookie scale extension with Tyrese Maxey, they haven’t made him available in trade discussions, Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice tweets.

Stein’s Latest: Grant, Simmons, Fox, Millsap, McCollum

Some rival teams believe there’s something of a split within the Pistons organization on the idea of trading Jerami Grant, says Marc Stein in his latest Substack column.

Signing Grant was one of the first major moves made by general manager Troy Weaver when he took the reins in Detroit’s front office in 2020, and he’s had a “longstanding affinity” for the forward, as Stein writes. However, there’s a belief that Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem is more open to the idea of trading Grant before the deadline.

Echoing some previous reporting, Stein suggests the Pistons want a significant return for Grant, who in turn wants a significant offensive role and a contract extension with whatever team acquires him. Finding a trade partner willing to check all those boxes could be a challenge for Detroit, so there’s no guarantee the 27-year-old will be on the move by February 10.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Teams that have been in touch with the Sixers don’t believe Daryl Morey is bluffing about his willingness to hang onto Ben Simmons through the trade deadline, says Stein. However, clubs are less convinced about reports that De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton are off-limits for the Kings — according to Stein, there’s a sense among rival executives that Fox, in particular, could be had.
  • Paul Millsap is away from the Nets as the team seeks a new home for the veteran big man. Stein hears from sources that Brooklyn would ideally like to upgrade their perimeter shooting in the process of moving Millsap. That could mean either trading Millsap for a shooter or trading him and then signing a shooter using the newly-opener roster spot.
  • Anfernee Simons‘ emergence in Portland has sparked “some of the loudest speculation” that the Trail Blazers are finally prepared to break up their longtime backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Stein writes. There has been no indication that the team is interested in shopping the injured Lillard, so McCollum will be the trade candidate to watch. A Thursday report stated that he has been linked most frequently to New Orleans.

Pistons Notes: Tellem, Griffin, Wood, Patton

The Pistons are overhauling their front office this summer, hiring Troy Weaver as their new general manager and David Mincberg as an assistant GM, as former assistant GMs Malik Rose and Pat Garrity leave the organization.

Although Weaver is ostensibly atop the basketball operations hierarchy, basketball decisions figure to be something of a group effort. Senior advisor Ed Stefanski, who has served as the de facto head of basketball operations for the last two years, is still in the picture. And according to Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, sources around the NBA believe that vice chairman Arn Tellem “still has a significant voice in front office matters.”

The changing landscape in Detroit makes it unclear whose voice will be the loudest if there’s any disagreement on which player to draft in the lottery this fall. However, Vecenie – who has the Pistons picking seventh in his latest mock – suggests that Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton would be a nice fit, since he’s versatile to play alongside either Luke Kennard or Derrick Rose, if one of the two is traded.

Here’s more on the Pistons:

  • James L. Edwards III and John Hollinger of The Athletic examine the Pistons’ future, with Hollinger arguing there’s no urgency to trade Blake Griffin and suggesting that Detroit should be reluctant to re-sign Christian Wood if the cost is higher than about $15-16MM annually.
  • A first-round pick in 2017, Justin Patton has yet to enjoy much success at the NBA level, but the Pistons will give him a chance to earn a place on next year’s roster, as Keith Langlois of writes. While Patton is unlikely to replicate Wood’s success, Langlois points out that the signing of Patton is a low-risk, high-upside move not unlike last summer’s Wood waiver claim.
  • Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press revisits Detroit’s pick of Kennard at No. 12 in the 2017 draft, noting that the sharpshooter has been one of the team’s more productive draft picks in recent years, even if Pistons fans would rather have one of the two players selected right after him (Donovan Mitchell or Bam Adebayo).

Weaver Will “Run Basketball Side Of Things” For Pistons

Pistons owner Tom Gores defined new general manager Troy Weaver’s role, saying that the former Oklahoma City executive “will run the basketball side of things” for the rebuilding franchise, Keith Langlois of the team’s website reports.

Senior adviser Ed Stefanski had been running the front office but will take a step back with Weaver in place. Gores also encouraged Weaver to receive input from vice chairman Arn Tellem, and coach Dwane Casey. The club is expected to hire at least one assistant GM.

“We want Troy to lead. He’s going to run the basketball side of things,” Gores said. “We have over 100 years of experience between Arn and Ed and Dwane to leverage. The smartest people in the world leverage whatever resources they have. I wanted to make sure he would leverage it.”

Weaver said he was “blown away” by Gores’ energy and enthusiasm in a video conference and was sold on taking the job “in two minutes.”

Weaver, who had been with the Thunder for more than a decade following a stint with the Jazz, most recently held the title of vice president of basketball operations after previously serving as the team’s VP/assistant GM. He was Sam Presti‘s top lieutenant in Oklahoma City and had been a candidate for other top basketball operations jobs around the NBA in recent years.

The Pistons pursued him for a front office role two years ago after Stefanski was hired. He wasn’t ready to leave OKC at that point. When the Pistons came calling this time, Weaver was more willing to make a career move.

“It’s all about timing. When this opportunity presented itself, I thought the timing was right,” he said. “I thought the fit was right and the loyalty that Mr. Gores and Arn and coach Casey and Ed have building made it attractive. My talents fit with those guys there to be collaborative.”

Though the team is focused on a youth movement, Weaver sees Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose as a big part of Detroit’s plans for next season, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.

“We’re excited to get them healthy and help them move forward,” Weaver said. “We feel like we have a good mixture of young guys with those two staples to be able to start there, but obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do with the draft and free agency.”

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

And-Ones: All-Star Game, White, Holland, Carmelo

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he would discuss holding a future All-Star Game in the city of Detroit with Arn Tellem, the vice-chairman of the Pistons, Gregg Krupa of the Detroit News reports. The Pistons are playing their second season at Little Caesars Arena, which is also the home of the NHL’s Red Wings. “I’m sure we’ll be talking about it,” Silver said during a business trip to the city. The state of Michigan hasn’t seen an All-Star Game since 1979, when it was held in the Pontiac Silverdome. The Pistons’ former home, The Palace of Auburn Hills, never hosted the event.

We have more news from around the basketball world:

  • Former Heat and Cavaliers big man Okaro White is close to signing with Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv, according to a report which was relayed by Sam Amico. White appeared in six games with Miami last season after seeing action in 35 games with the Heat the previous season. The Cavaliers signed him to 10-day contracts last season but he didn’t play. He was waived by Cleveland in August and then by the Spurs in October after joining them for training camp.
  • The G League’s Austin Spurs acquired the returning rights to guard John Holland and a 2019 second-round pick from the Canton Charge, the Cavs’ affiliate, in exchange for small forward Jaron Blossomgame, according to a press release from the G League club. Holland had a two-way contract with the Cavaliers last season and played 24 games, posting an average of 2.3 PPG in 7.3 MPG. Holland appeared in one game this season with the Cavaliers before being waived on November 9th. Blossomgame, the Spurs’ second-round pick in 2017, spent the last two seasons with Austin but has yet to make his NBA debut.
  • The Warriors, Sixers, Lakers and Pelicans are the most likely landing spots for Carmelo Anthony once he’s waived by the Rockets, Matt Eppers of USA Today opines. Anthony could help each of those teams to varying degrees, mainly as a second-unit player.

Pistons Seek Experienced Exec To Replace Van Gundy

Former NBA agent and current franchise chairman Arn Tellem will be involved in the process and could have an expanded role in business operations but is not a candidate to replace Van Gundy as president or Jeff Bower as GM, Wojnarowski continues. Bower’s continuing role was apparently the main point of contention between Gores and Van Gundy, with Gores pushing for front-office changes and Van Gundy offering resistance.

Bower, who has run the day-to-day operations since Van Gundy took over, met separately with Gores last week, Wojnarowski adds. Like Van Gundy, he was also entering the final year of his five-year contract.

Brent Barry, currently a broadcaster with TNT, is a candidate for a front office role but it’s unlikely he would be hired to run the show, given Gores’ desire to hire a more experienced hand, according to Wojnarowski. The Warriors were interested in hiring Barry to a front office position last summer but his TV commitments prevented him from making the move, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reports. Once Barry’s TV obligations are fulfilled, the Pistons will have competition for his services, Lowe adds (Twitter link).

Pistons Have Interest In Billups For Front Office Role?

12:55pm: In the wake of Stein’s report, Billups said he’d “never push for a job with any NBA franchise that is not open,” while Pistons ownership and Platinum Equity spokesman Mark Barnhill simply called the report “false” (Twitter links via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated and Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press).

That’s no surprise, since – as Billups notes – those front office jobs aren’t currently open, so the team isn’t about to confirm its interest in other candidates.

12:05pm: The Pistons have expressed interest in hiring former All-Star guard Chauncey Billups for a basketball operations role, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link). According to Stein, Detroit is mulling the idea of having Billups work in tandem with Arn Tellem in a “totally revamped” front office.

Currently, Stan Van Gundy serves as both the head coach and the president of basketball operations in Detroit, with Jeff Bower handling day-to-day operations as the Pistons’ general manager. Tellem, a longtime agent, is the team’s vice chairman.

However, with the Pistons almost certain to miss the playoffs despite making a big midseason splash for Blake Griffin, a front office shakeup could be coming this offseason. There have been rumblings about the possibility of Tellem moving from the business side to the basketball side, and Billups would be a logical target to work with him, given his history with the Pistons as a player.

While Billups’ résumé for a top front office job may be somewhat lacking, he’s viewed as a future executive, and a pairing with an industry veteran like Tellem might be a nice fit. Billups nearly landed in Cleveland last summer when the Cavaliers targeted him as David Griffin‘s replacement. He ultimately withdrew from consideration for that GM job, with a below-market offer reportedly playing a part in his decision.

If the Pistons are to shake up their front office, it’s not clear whether Van Gundy would remain with the organization. Last year, Doc Rivers and Mike Budenholzer continued to coach the Clippers and Hawks, respectively, despite having their president of basketball operations titles removed. Theoretically, the Pistons could do the same thing with Van Gundy in the hopes that he could get better results from the club when he’s focused exclusively on coaching. It’s not clear if both sides would be on board with that arrangement though.

Agent Rob Pelinka Frontrunner For Lakers’ GM Job

With general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive VP of basketball operations Jim Buss having been relieved of their duties in the Lakers’ front office, new president of basketball operations Magic Johnson will call the shots in L.A. However, the club remains on the lookout for a new GM, and according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical and Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report (Twitter links), longtime player agent Rob Pelinka has emerged as a frontrunner for the position.

ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne first reported (via Twitter) that Pelinka, who represents Kobe Bryant and many current NBA players, was on the Lakers’ radar for a front office role. If the team decides to hire Pelinka, he would have to divest himself of his representation business, which would take some time, as Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter).

Several other rumors are swirling as the Lakers’ front office undergoes major changes, so let’s round them up…

  • Assuming the Lakers haven’t already decided on Pelinka, there are a number of other potential candidates believed to be on their radar, per Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter links). According to Amick, Blazers GM Neil Olshey, former Cavs GM Chris Grant, Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard, and Pacers VP of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie are worth keeping an eye on.
  • ESPN’s Marc Stein reports (via Twitter) that another veteran player agent – Arn Tellem – is also said to be a potential target for the Lakers. However, as Rod Beard of The Detroit News tweets, Tellem – who formerly represented Kobe Bryant – has been very involved in the Pistons‘ move to downtown Detroit and seems unlikely to bolt in the middle of that project.
  • Magic Johnson has previously talked about wanting Bryant to have a role in the Lakers’ front office. Shelburne tweets that the future Hall-of-Famer is “happy doing what he’s doing,” but would be available to the organization if needed.
  • Jerry West hasn’t been approached by the Lakers about a role in the team’s front office, tweets Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times. According to Ding (via Twitter), West won’t be a part of the club’s new management group.
  • According to Tim Kawakami of The San Jose Mercury News (Twitter links), one reason the Warriors were motivated to give GM Bob Myers a promotion and a raise last summer was to avoid making him a target for the Lakers.