Ausar Thompson

Central Notes: Bucks, Middleton, Cavaliers, Donovan, Pistons

Bucks coach Doc Rivers responded to the team’s late-season swoon by holding a film session on Saturday, according to Eric Nehm and Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The meeting involved the team’s nine veteran rotation players — Giannis AntetokounmpoDamian LillardKhris MiddletonBrook Lopez, Malik Beasley, Bobby PortisPatrick Beverley, Pat Connaughton and Jae Crowder — and each of them was given the opportunity to share his perspective on the team’s recent slide and offer suggestions on how to address it.

“It’s only the start of these tough and necessary conversations,” a source told Nehm and Charania.

While the session may have cleared the air, it didn’t help Milwaukee end its slump as the Bucks fell to New York on Sunday while getting outscored 72-48 in the second half. Although they remain in second place in the Eastern Conference, the Bucks are now just one game ahead of the Magic and Knicks and a game-and-half up on the Cavaliers, as home court advantage in the first round is no longer a guarantee.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Middleton’s bad luck with injuries continued Sunday as he had to leave the game after being accidentally struck in the face by Donte DiVincenzo, Nehm and Charania add. Rivers said Middleton had to make an emergency trip to the dentist, which is why he didn’t return to the game. “You just feel bad for him. The guy can’t catch a break,” the Bucks‘ head coach said. “I mean, what are the odds you go into a game, ‘OK, tonight, it will be my tooth gets knocked out.’ He’s having one of those seasons right now, but that’s OK because it can all turn for him. I thought he came with great spirit tonight, too, so just tough luck.”
  • The Cavaliers had a disastrous end to their five-game Western swing as they let a 26-point lead slip away in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland went 1-4 on the trip and returns home in fifth place in the East. “Just a very disappointing loss,” said Isaac Okoro, who was able to return after missing four games with pain in his big toe. “Think we all know right now we need wins. Wanted this one bad.”
  • Head coach Billy Donovan admits that the Bulls aren’t having the type of season he expected, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago is just a game ahead of Atlanta for ninth place in the battle to host next week’s play-in game between the two teams. “I certainly didn’t come here [when I was hired in 2020] to say, ‘Hey, listen, let’s be a play-in team,’” Donovan said. “When I sat down first with [executive vice president of basketball operations] Arturas [Karnisovas] and [general manager] Marc [Eversley] about this, it was to try and build something. I still feel like we’re building something, but I don’t think anyone is happy with where we’re at.’’
  • James L. Edwards of The Athletic ranks the Pistons‘ best assets heading into the offseason. Not surprisingly, Cade Cunningham tops the list, with this year’s first-round pick coming in second, followed by Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey.

Central Notes: Haliburton, Cunningham, Duren, Thompson, Bulls, Garland

Tyrese Haliburton‘s offensive numbers took a dive this month, in part because he was still working his way back after a hamstring injury. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle believes his star guard is rounding back into form, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star tweets.

“He’s making constant progress,” Carlisle said. “It may not be huge leaps, but he is making progress. Big difference now between how he’s moving and how he was moving two, three weeks ago.”

It showed on Friday, as Haliburton had 26 points and 11 assists against Golden State.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • As if the Pistons didn’t have enough injury issues, Cade Cunningham sat out Sunday’s loss to New Orleans due to left knee injury management, James Edwards III of The Athletic tweets. “The medical team deemed he couldn’t play,” coach Monty Williams said. Center Jalen Duren missed his second straight contest due to back spasms, while starting forwards Ausar Thompson and Isaiah Stewart are already out for the season. Jaden Ivey was the only starter available.
  • With Pistons rookie Thompson out for the season due to a blood clot, Detroit Free Press beat writer Omari Sankofa II talks to medical experts about how the issue could impact the lottery pick’s career.
  • Defensive breakdowns have prevented the Bulls from moving up the standings, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Head coach Billy Donovan points to two major issues. “The two things that have hurt us have been the rebounding and also the fouling,” Donovan said. “Our first-shot defense has not been bad. It’s been pretty good. It’s been the second chance opportunities that have hurt us. And then also, I think, some of the fouling, the ability to go vertical and not try to reach (and foul).”
  • In a subscriber-only story, Chris Fedor of details Darius Garland‘s recent offensive struggles. The Cavaliers’ guard has 20 or fewer points in each of the last four games.

Pistons Rule Out Thompson, Stewart For Remainder Of Season

The Pistons will go without their starting forwards the remainder of the season, according to a team press release.

Lottery pick Ausar Thompson is being treated for a blood clot. He has been cleared to resume conditioning and will begin non-contact basketball activities at the conclusion of the regular season with a gradual ramp-up over the summer months. He’s expected to be fully healthy for the start of next season.

Isaiah Stewart suffered a right hamstring strain during the third quarter of Monday’s contest at Boston. He won’t recover in time for the season finale, per the team.

Thompson hasn’t played since March 9. The team had listed him as out due to an unspecified illness in recent contests. The No. 5 pick of last year’s draft was in and out of Monty Williams’ rotation but had received steady playing time since the trade deadline.

Noted for his defensive prowess and athleticism, Thompson averaged 8.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and a team-high 1.1 steals in 25.1 minutes per contest. He appeared in 63 games, including 38 starts. Thompson’s main issue was his perimeter shooting — he made just 18.6% of his 3-point attempts.

Stewart’s season was marred by a three-game league suspension for striking Phoenix’s Drew Eubanks during a pregame altercation prior to the All-Star break. He also missed a chunk of games due to toe and ankle ailments.

Stewart, who received a four-year extension last offseason, started all but one of the 46 games he played this season. He averaged 10.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30.9 minutes per night. He also displayed a much-improved 3-point shot (38.3%).

Central Notes: Antetokounmpo, Bucks, Pistons, LeVert

The Bucks won’t have their best player in uniform for their showdown with Eastern Conference leader Boston tonight. Giannis Antetokounmpo has been ruled out due to a hamstring injury, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Antetokounmpo also missed Sunday’s game against Phoenix. Bucks coach Doc Rivers stated earlier this week that his goal is to ensure his superstar is healthy for the postseason.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks still hold the rights to their first-round pick in this year’s draft and also owns Portland’s second-rounder. With that in mind, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm breaks down potential prospects participating in the NCAA Tournament who could be available late in the first round and early in the second.
  • The Pistons’ young core of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson, Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren have a fatal flaw that may force the front office to seriously consider whether they can succeed in the long run, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines: Detroit doesn’t have enough three-point threats within that group. Stewart has developed as a solid outside shooter but he lacks the upside of the other four building blocks. Cunningham has improved in that area but Ivey is subpar from deep and the other two aren’t three-point threats at all.
  • Caris LeVert is making a case for the Sixth Man of the Year award and Cavaliers teammate Tristan Thompson feels he needs to spread the word, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. “Gotta start the campaign,” Thompson said. “We don’t reward teams that are in seventh place. We don’t reward guys who start. Caris LeVert for Sixth Man. For real. Start pushing it.” LeVert is averaging 14 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 56 games.

Pistons Notes: Fontecchio, Fournier, Draft, Thompson

Simone Fontecchio has made an immediate impact since the Pistons acquired him from Utah at the trade deadline, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. The second-year small forward is averaging 15.0 PPG in his first 10 games with Detroit while connecting at 41.5% from three-point range. He has quickly earned the trust of coach Monty Williams, playing the entire fourth quarter Tuesday at Miami while contributing 22 points off the bench.

“I love the way he plays the game,” Williams said. “You talk about the offense, I thought his defense was rock-solid tonight. He doesn’t back away from a matchup. He’s not a guy that we have to worry about keeping in coverage, so he doesn’t have to guard a prime-time guy. He guards everybody. His ability to knock down shots, attack the paint, he’s an efficient passer. He’s been a great asset to our program and somebody we believe in going forward.”

Fontecchio will be a restricted free agent this summer, and Sankofa expects re-signing him to be a priority for a Detroit team that has lacked both shooting and defense. He had 20 points and nine rebounds in his first game with the Pistons, even though he hadn’t been through a practice or shootaround with the team. Williams inserted him into the starting lineup for a while, but moved him back to the bench when Isaiah Stewart returned from an injury and suspension.

“Honestly the more I play, the more I’m happy,” Fontecchio said. “As I said, I’m ready to do whatever to help the team, to help the second unit too. We’ve got a lot of young guys coming in from the second unit. Want to be a leader for them and help them play the right way.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Acquired from New York at the trade deadline, Evan Fournier brings an outsider’s perspective to the Pistons, Sankofa notes in a separate story. The veteran shooting guard said the collection of young talent reminds him of when he started his career in Orlando. “I was in this position my first year with the Magic,” he said. “We were a very young team, very inexperienced. Unfortunately you have to go through that to learn, because winning in this league is extremely hard. And I’m not talking about winning it all. I’m talking about winning one game. It’s extremely hard. Nowadays the level of skill and shooting on the floor is higher than ever, so there’s less room for mistakes.”
  • With no clear No. 1 pick in this year’s class, Sankofa breaks down Detroit’s draft options in an appearance on The Pistons Pulse podcast.
  • Ausar Thompson hasn’t been able to erase the doubts about his outside shooting in his rookie season, observes James L. Edwards of The Athletic. While Thompson’s mid-range offense has become reliable, he’s only shooting 18.3% from long distance. “When it comes to the mid-range shot, it’s my ability to repeat the same shot every time. I get surprised when I miss mid-range shots,” Thompson said. “With threes, I’m getting there. I just have to remain disciplined to shoot the same shot every time. That’s my biggest problem.”

Pistons’ Williams Blasts Refs After Loss For “Worst Call Of The Season”

Two weeks after narrowly losing a game in Houston following a blown last-second call, the Knicks benefited from a missed call late in a two-point home victory over Detroit on Monday.

As Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press and Tim Bontemps of ESPN detail, the Knicks were trailing 111-110 in the game’s final minute and lost control of the ball with 10 seconds left. As Pistons guard Ausar Thompson began dribbling up the court, Knicks wing Donte DiVincenzo dove into him, jarring the ball loose (Twitter video links). No foul was called on DiVincenzo as the Knicks recovered the loose ball and Josh Hart scored the game-winning basket en route to a 113-111 victory.

“Where’s the New York media now?” Pistons head coach Monty Williams said after the game. “The absolute worst call of the season. No call. And enough’s enough. We’ve done it the right way, we’ve called the league, we’ve sent in clips. We’re sick of hearing the same stuff over and over again. We had a chance to win the game and a guy dove into Ausar’s legs, and it was a no-call.

“That’s an abomination. You cannot miss that in an NBA game, period, and I’m tired of talking about it, I’m tired of our guys asking me, ‘What more can we do, coach?’ That situation is Exhibit A to what we’ve been dealing with all season long, and enough’s enough.

“You cannot dive into a guy’s legs in a big-time game like that and there be a no-call. It’s ridiculous, and we’re tired of it. We just want a fair game called. Period. And I’ve got nothing else to say. We want a fair game, and that was not fair.”

In the pool report conducted by Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press after the game, crew chief James Williams admitted that the officials got the call wrong.

“Upon postgame review, we determined that Thompson gets to the ball first, and then was deprived of the opportunity to gain possession of the ball,” Williams said. “Therefore, a loose ball foul should have been whistled on New York’s Donte DiVincenzo.”

Pistons guard Cade Cunningham described the team as “livid” after the game, while Thompson admitted he was surprised when the play continued without a foul being called.

“I was very confused when I was on the ground and the play kept going, I’m not going to lie,” Thompson said. “But, I mean, that’s how it goes.”

As Sankofa writes, the officiating has been a sore spot for Williams and the Pistons all season — the club has been whistled for an NBA-high 21.9 fouls per game while losing 49 of 57 contests. Still, Williams’ post-game comments on Monday were his strongest indictment yet of a game’s referees and seem likely to warrant the league’s attention.

Williams was fined last March when he was coaching the Suns for his comments about the officiating following a loss to the Lakers, but hasn’t faced any penalties from the league for his comments to the press so far this season. That could change as soon as later today.

Pistons Rumors: Core, Murray, LaVine, Bojan, Burks, Morris

The Pistons have already completed one in-season trade and are open to making more deals, but there are a few players on the roster who are considered essentially off-limits in trade discussions, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic.

According to Edwards, those players are Cade Cunningham, Ausar Thompson, Jalen Duren, and Jaden Ivey. There’s a belief that Detroit has no interest in moving any of those four youngsters in the immediate future and views them as the club’s “blue-chip pieces,” says Edwards.

While it’s no surprise that Cunningham, Thompson, and Duren in that group, Ivey’s inclusion was perhaps less of a certainty, given that his role has fluctuated under new head coach Monty Williams. However, the former No. 5 overall pick has received a minutes bump in recent weeks and is averaging 17.7 points and 4.8 assists per game in his last 14 appearances (all starts).

Here’s more on the Pistons and their trade deadline plans:

  • The Hawks initiated talks with the Pistons a few weeks ago about guard Dejounte Murray, according to Edwards, who says Atlanta was interested in Thompson and Ivey, among others. Detroit didn’t have interest in moving forward with those talks, given the Hawks’ asking price, sources tell The Athletic.
  • The Pistons have also spoken to the Bulls about Zach LaVine, but Chicago “appears to be locked in” on a package that would include Bojan Bogdanovic and one of those four young players Detroit doesn’t want to move, Edwards writes. While the Pistons wouldn’t want to make that sort of deal, they might have interest in LaVine if the Bulls lowered their asking price.
  • Although the Pistons aren’t actively shopping Bogdanovic or Alec Burks, they appear more open to moving the two veterans than they were a year ago, says Edwards. Bogdanovic has a $19MM partially guaranteed salary for next season, while Burks is on an expiring contract. According to Edwards, Detroit may end up pushing its decision on Bogdanovic to the summer and feels like it has a chance to re-sign Burks. However, neither player is off the table in the next couple weeks — Edwards believes an offer of at least two “really good” second-round picks would be enough for the Pistons to seriously consider moving Burks.
  • Monte Morris made his season debut for the Pistons on Wednesday and played well, registering seven points, three assists, and three rebounds in 11 minutes. The veteran guard said after the game that he felt good, though he believes he has room to improve (Twitter link via Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press). League sources tell Edwards that potential suitors have expressed interest in Morris and will want to see how he performs upon returning from injury. It’s not a given that Detroit will trade the guard at the deadline, Edwards notes.

Pistons Notes: Muscala, Thompson, Ivey, Cap Room

The Pistons got a strong performance from their new-look bench in Saturday’s loss to Milwaukee, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Alec Burks scored 33 points and teamed with newly acquired Mike Muscala to hit 11-of-18 shots from beyond the arc as Detroit’s reserves put up 85 points, the most of any team this season. Muscala has noticed a commitment to effort from his new teammates since being acquired in a trade last week.

“Guys play really hard here, and it’s an honor to be a part of that,” he said. “It was a good game today, we just couldn’t get it done, especially on defense. We get a chance to play them again on Monday, and obviously they’re a great team. They have a lot of weapons on offense, but I thought we battled hard today.”

Rookie forward Ausar Thompson, who started for much of the first half of the season, has also become an important part of the bench unit, and Sankofa notes that his rebounding and ability to attack the basket make him an effective complement to Muscala. Coach Monty Williams seems confident in his current bench group.

“Ausar coming off the bench and knocking down shots was huge for his confidence and huge for the development of our young group,” Williams said. “Having (Danilo) Gallinari and Mike out there, they’re seamlessly fitting in and figuring out how we play. Burks has been phenomenal. His ability to score the ball, his ability to communicate and help the young guys on the floor have helped us a ton. You don’t typically get that kind of bench production, but with the vets we have coming off the bench, it certainly helps us.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Jaden Ivey has excelled over the past two weeks with Cade Cunningham sidelined by a left knee strain, and he’ll continue to have a role in running the offense once Cunningham returns, Sankofa adds. “It’s good to see him not just score the ball. Like I said he’s defending, attacking the basket, knocking down open shots,” Williams said. “I think it’s going to be a good complement with those two playing together within the system.”
  • The Pistons could have $60MM in cap room this summer, and James L. Edwards III and John Hollinger of The Athletic look at how they might spend it, agreeing that it’s likely to be more useful in trading for big salaries rather than signing free agents. Hollinger speculates that the Pistons might have interest in Andrew Wiggins if the Warriors can’t move him before the trade deadline, although he’s a gamble with three years and $85MM left on his contract. Hollinger mentions a few other potential targets with long-term deals, including the NuggetsZeke Nnaji, the SunsNassir Little and the KingsDavion Mitchell.
  • The NBA has moved the starting time of the Pistons’ January 28 contest against the Thunder so it doesn’t conflict with the Detroit Lions’ playoff game on that Sunday, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Pistons Notes: Cunningham, Hayes, Sasser, Ivey, Thompson

A historically bad season in Detroit has the potential to get much worse. Cade Cunningham, who’s been one of the Pistons‘ few bright spots in this 3-33 campaign, left Sunday’s loss at Denver with a strained left knee midway through the second quarter, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press.

There wasn’t a single play on which Cunningham appeared to get hurt, which raises more concerns about the potential injury. Coach Monty Williams wasn’t able to provide any specifics after the game, and Sankofa states that the team can’t rule out the chance that Cunningham will miss more time.

“He’s important,” Williams said. “Our franchise player. A guy like that can’t play, it has a trickle-down effect across the board. We have different guys stepping up in the pecking order, having to handle the ball and make plays and that kind of thing. Pretty clear how important Cade is to our program.”

Amid the Pistons’ disastrous season, Cunningham has enjoyed a career year, averaging 23.4 points, 7.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds while appearing in all 36 games so far. The top pick in the 2021 draft has been playing his best basketball recently, Sankofa adds, scoring 30 points or more in six of his last nine games. He has also improved as a play-maker while reducing his turnover rate and has shown no lingering effects from the shin surgery that limited him to 12 games last season.

There’s more on the Pistons:

  • Killian Hayes replaced Cunningham in the starting lineup for the second half Sunday and Marcus Sasser was back in the rotation, notes James L. Edwards of The Athletic. They’re likely to have expanded roles if Cunningham is forced to miss games, and Edwards expects Jaden Ivey to be given more play-making duties. Edwards also notes that the Pistons are considered to be buyers rather than sellers as the trade deadline approaches, hoping to add veteran leaders to mentor their young talent, but a prolonged absence for Cunningham could make them reconsider that approach.
  • In an interview with Basket USA, Hayes expressed a desire to continue his career with the Pistons beyond this season. He’s headed toward restricted free agency after not reaching an extension with the team. “Right now, I’m in Detroit and we’re going to do everything we can to finish the season strong and then we’ll have discussions this summer,” Hayes said. “I’ve spent my entire NBA career in Detroit and it would be a pleasure to be able to stay. After all, it’s not just me who decides, but Detroit is my home. It’s been my home for three, four years and I hope to stay.”
  • Williams explained why rookie Ausar Thompson has seen a reduced role after a strong start, Edwards tweets. “Other guys are back and playing and, at the same time, every young player needs to process when they make repetitive mistakes,” Williams said. “There are a number of ways to develop players.”

Southwest Notes: Collins, Thompson Twins, Rockets, Pelicans

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said center Zach Collins could be sidelined “two to four weeks” with a right ankle sprain he suffered Friday at Portland, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. The team had Collins stay home for Sunday’s game rather than put more pressure on his ankle by attending to sit on the bench.

Collins began the season as San Antonio’s starting center before recently moving into a reserve role. He’s in his third year with the Spurs and has been able to revive his career after missing the entire 2020/21 season due to a fractured fibula.

Popovich also provided a medical update on Charles Bassey, saying he’s doing well after undergoing surgery to repair his torn ACL (Twitter link). Bassey suffered the injury last month in a game with the Spurs’ G League affiliate.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Amen Thompson and Ausar Thompson will have their first NBA meeting tonight when the Rockets host the Pistons, and Kelly Iko and James L. Edwards of The Athletic talked to the twins about the role that older brother Troy had in shaping their careers. “Without him, I don’t know if I’d like basketball as much as I did growing up,” Ausar said. “Troy always believed in us … ever since I was little, he always thought we were the greatest basketball players at our age that he had ever seen. He just didn’t think we could beat him. Having someone, and even my whole family, who believes in you like that, it makes you believe and keep going.”
  • With Detroit finally getting a win Saturday after dropping 28 straight games, it’s the Rockets who will come into tonight’s contest on a losing streak, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston has lost three in a row, all at home, and the defensive identity the team built early in the season is slipping. Feigen notes that the Rockets have the league’s worst defensive rating over their past three games and have allowed their last three opponents to shoot a combined 41.3% from three-point range. The defense might get a boost with the return of Jabari Smith, who missed Friday’s game with a sprained ankle but was upgraded to questionable on Sunday.
  • Zion Williamson believes the Pelicans‘ embarrassing 44-point loss to the Lakers in the semifinals of the in-season tournament might have been “one of those blessings in disguise,” per Christian Clark of NOLA. New Orleans has gone 7-3 since that game, including a 20-point win Sunday night in a rematch with L.A. “We went to Vegas hoping for a different outcome,” Williamson said. “I think it definitely brought us together more as a team. It definitely brought us closer as a staff. Everyone communicating. I feel like we have been playing great. We still have some things to figure out. But so does every other team.”