Jaden Ivey

Central Notes: Pacers, Lillard, Middleton, Bulls, Pistons

With All-NBA Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo on the shelf for tonight’s Game 1 matchup against the Pacers, the team’s second- and third-most important offensive contributors, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton, are being expected to step up.

As Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes, Milwaukee will count on Lillard and Middleton to keep the team cooking with their distribution, not just their own shooting. Both are excellent when it comes to scoring in isolation, but the team as a collective will need to be strong, too.

“It’s the best team I’ve been on,” Lillard said. “So we’re capable. We can win games. And when we get (Antetokounmpo) back, we’ll be even better. So I think that’s that’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not looking at it like ‘Aw man. We can’t…’ We’ve shown it and I’ve been there before.”

Nehm notes that the team can go through major scoring droughts without Antetokounmpo operating as the fulcrum of the Bucks’ attack.

“We just can’t get stuck,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “When we get stuck, we have proven over years that we’re not great offensively. But when that ball is now there and we move it there and we get to the second side — or get to the second action, may be even a better way of saying that — we’ve proven that we’re really good. So we have to do that.”

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • For as long as Antetokounmpo is out in this series for the Bucks, the Pacers’ focal point on defense now becomes the team’s only other All-Star, Lillard. As Kelly Iko of The Athletic details, Indiana has already enjoyed some success in slowing him down during the regular season. In games played against the Pacers this season, Lillard’s field goal shooting declined to 32% from the floor and 26.5% from long range. “I’m not going to give away too many secrets,” guard Aaron Nesmith said of how the team defends Lillard. “They’re a very different team when we played them earlier in the year — different coaching staff, different roster a bit. There are things we’re going to do differently, but we’re excited — it’ll be fun.”
  • After missing the playoffs for a second straight season despite fielding a veteran-heavy team, Bulls team vice president Arturas Karnisovas conceded that personnel changes could be in order this summer. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic breaks down how he thinks Chicago can begin to construct a winning team culture.
  • After a 14-68 run in 2023/24, the Pistons face a lot of questions regarding their roster this summer. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscriber link) lists which players he deems most — and least — likely to return in 2024/25. Perhaps most surprisingly, he thinks 2022 lottery picks Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren could serve as intriguing trade chips for Detroit this summer. The Pistons are still looking to add a new lead executive in their front office, which obviously could dictate how the team moves forward in terms of its personnel.

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.com. 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: 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.

Central Notes: Mathurin, Gibson, Pistons Guards, Bulls

Losing Pacers reserve shooting guard Bennedict Mathurin for the year will have an intriguing ripple effect on the team’s bench as it prepares for the postseason, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

As Dopirak notes, Indiana is now without two of its top-scoring reserves from the start of the season, between Mathurin and Buddy Hield, who was dealt to the Sixers at the trade deadline. Forward Doug McDermott, the Pacers’ own sharpshooting acquisition added at the deadline, continues to rehabilitate his right calf strain, though he’ll be a big part of the bench when he does play. Rookies Ben Sheppard and Jarace Walker seem likely to get significantly more responsibility as the season winds down.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Workaholic new Pistons veteran power forward Taj Gibson, 38, is over a decade older than most of his new teammates. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press writes that the 10-53 club appreciates Gibson’s daily grind, even in his 15th NBA season, and hopes that he can inspire the Pistons’ young, talented lottery pick core. Gibson is on a 10-day deal, so there’s no guarantee he’ll remain with in Detroit for the rest of the season.
  • The Pistons’ decision to, at last, stagger young guards Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey so that one of them remained on the floor at all times seemed to work wonders on Thursday in a 118-112 win over the Nets, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. Head coach Monty Williams opted to employ a lineup of Cunningham alongside his second unit in the third quarter that really helped the club hold serve against Brooklyn.
  • Young Bulls guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu have each taken big leaps in their development this season, with White in particular enjoying a breakout year. A lot of their growth has happened with star shooting guard Zach LaVine, the team’s priciest player, sidelined due to injury. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic thinks the improvement of the young guards could be negatively impacted by a LaVine comeback next year, and wonders if the Chicago front office will look to offload the two-time All-Star.

Central Notes: Merrill, Haliburton, Bucks, Ivey, Duren

The Cavaliers have continued to fire on all cylinders with Evan Mobley and Darius Garland making their respective returns from injuries this week — they’ve won four games in a row and 12 of their last 13.

In a look at Cleveland’s hot streak, Joe Vardon of The Athletic highlights the role that sharpshooter Sam Merrill has played in the team’s recent success. The 27-year-old, who wasn’t part of the Cavaliers’ rotation earlier in the season, has made 3.4 three-pointers per game at a 43.5% clip over the club’s past 14 contests.

Merrill has a non-guaranteed minimum salary for 2024/25, so if he continues to produce for the Cavs in a part-time role, the team will certainly guarantee that money and consider it a bargain. The fourth-year wing will become eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2025.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Although Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle has confirmed that Tyrese Haliburton is on a minutes restriction following his return from a hamstring injury, Carlisle has declined to offer any details on the distribution of those minutes or explain why the star point guard hasn’t played in the fourth quarter of either of his first two games back, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. On both Tuesday in Boston and Thursday in New York, Haliburton was subbed out for good with about six minutes left in the third quarter — in each case, Indiana held a lead at some point after that, but faded down the stretch and lost the game.
  • The Bucks have made another addition to Doc Rivers‘ coaching staff, hiring Pete Dominguez as an assistant, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Dominguez previously worked under Rivers with the Clippers and Sixers.
  • Former eighth overall pick Marquese Chriss has joined the Wisconsin Herd, per an announcement from the Bucks‘ G League affiliate (Twitter link). The 26-year-old power forward last played in the NBA with Dallas in 2022.
  • The Pistons‘ two 2022 lottery picks, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, were named to the Rising Stars event for the second straight year, but both players have higher expectations for themselves going forward, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). “The goal is still to be an All-Star one day,” Duren said. “That’s what I want to come back for.”

NBA Announces Player Pool For 2024 Rising Stars Event

The NBA has officially revealed the 11 rookies, 10 sophomores, and seven G League players who will take part in the Rising Stars event at All-Star weekend in Indianapolis next month.

The following players, as voted on by NBA coaching staffs, made the cut:



G League Players

As was the case last season, the Rising Stars event will consist of four teams and three games. The seven G League players will comprise one team, coached by former NBA forward Detlef Schrempf. The other 21 players will be drafted to three squads coached by former NBA and WNBA stars Pau Gasol, Jalen Rose, and Tamika Catchings.

The four teams will be split into two first-round matchups and the winners of those two games will face one another for the Rising Stars championship. The two semifinals will be played to a target score of 40 points, while the final will be played to a target score of 25 points.

All three contests will take place on Friday, February 16 as part of All-Star weekend’s opening night.

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.

Central Notes: Ivey, Muscala, Gallinari, Giannis, White

It took nearly half a season, but Jaden Ivey is back to being a central part of the Pistons‘ offense, writes James L. Edwards of The Athletic. Ivey appeared headed for stardom after earning All-Rookie honors last year, but new head coach Monty Williams started the season with a clean slate and forced everyone to earn their playing time. Edwards observes that Williams seemed to have little patience with mistakes from Ivey, who rarely played more than 25 minutes in a game during the season’s first two months.

That changed with a recent injury to Cade Cunningham and an organizational meeting that resulted in a larger role for Ivey, Edwards adds. Over the last nine days, Ivey has the highest usage rate on the team at 31.8% and he tied a career high with 32 points Wednesday night.

“Like I said, I’m trying to learn,” Ivey said. “Each and every day is a learning opportunity for me. Like (Williams) is still trying to figure out everyone and the system, I’m still trying to figure out as much as I can. We’re growing as a team. Sometimes you find growth in the losses.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Williams expects newly acquired Mike Muscala and Danilo Gallinari to be part of the Pistons‘ rotation, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Gallinari didn’t play Wednesday, but Muscala made his debut with the team, taking James Wiseman‘s place in the rotation. “If you look around the league at young teams, what they’ve done is surround their guys with savvy, experienced players who can still play,” Williams said. “Anytime you do that with high-level, high-character guys like Mike and Gallo, it’s going to be a benefit to your team. It’s not just the in-game stuff. You get a chance to watch how these games work, how they prepare and understand why they’ve been around so long. It’s gonna be an asset to the organization and the program.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out Wednesday’s game with a right shoulder contusion, but the Bucks don’t expect him to miss much time, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. “Well, from what I’ve been told, he went through shootaround and then prior to the game tonight, he just felt that he couldn’t go,” coach Adrian Griffin told reporters. “So, we’re just being smart. And I don’t believe it’s going to be multiple games. It’ll just be day-to-day for now.”
  • In an interview with Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, Bulls guard Coby White talks about a spiritual transformation last summer that led to his breakthrough season.

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.”