Monty Williams

Pistons Notes: Langdon, Offseason, Williams, Draft, Gores

New Pistons president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon said he’s willing to use a chunk of his cap space to take on unwanted contracts from teams looking to shed salary. He’ll look for sweeteners as he tries to build assets during the franchise’s latest rebuild.

“One thing we are looking for with the cap space we do have is bringing in contracts maybe from other teams and gathering assets as well,” Langdon said. “Hopefully, with the players that come in, they can bolster the growth (of the younger players). If we can interweave those two things, that would make our summer successful.”

The Pistons could have more than $60MM in cap space to utilize. However, Langdon isn’t looking for a quick fix, even if the team’s fan base is weary of losing. Detroit hasn’t won a playoff series since 2008.

“I don’t think there’s a timeframe for us to get to the playoffs,” he said.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Team owner Tom Gores gave the green light to Langdon to dismiss head coach Monty Williams, even though Williams had five years and $65MM remaining on his contract. Gores had no qualms about eating that much money in order for a fresh start. “When you have to adjust, you adjust,” Gores said, per Omari Sankofa II of theDetroit Free Press. “This franchise means everything to me. It’s not like I didn’t think about it for a second, but the right thing has to survive. I think it was the right move for all of us, including for Monty, but it’s not like I didn’t think about it at all. It’s significant. We’ve just always got to do the best thing for the franchise.”
  • The Pistons will be picking fifth in this week’s draft, though Langdon is willing to move that selection if the right offer comes along, Sankofa writes in a separate story. “We like five a lot,” he said. “Obviously we’re going to look to be strategic. If someone comes along and blows us away for that fifth pick, I think we have to understand and analyze what’s the best decision. Do we pick at five, or do we move back? We’re not looking at moving out of the draft, but again, if decisions come and offers come that we think will make us better as an organization going forward, we’re going to have to look at everything. If we stay at five, we’ll find a good player.”
  • Langdon spoke about punctuality during Friday’s press conference, expecting players and employees to be on time and return phone calls and texts promptly. Those words rang hollow to the media, who waited for over an hour after the scheduled start of the press conference due to Gores being stuck in traffic, Shawn Windsor of the Free Press notes. It fed into the notion that Gores is disconnected from the franchise, something he denies. “I know some people think I’m not attached enough to the organization, that I’m detached. But I want to give this organization everything I can,” he said.

Stein’s Latest: Caldwell-Pope, Sixers, Westbrook, Paul, Clippers, Lakers

Current Nuggets shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will be among the top potential free agents this summer if he declines his $15.4MM player option for 2024/25. A three-and-D swingman still in his prime at age 31, Caldwell-Pope has been a starter on a pair of title teams this decade, with the 2020 Lakers and the 2023 Nuggets.

A pair of Eastern Conference contenders with major projected cap space have interest in the 6’5″ wing, according to Marc Stein (Substack link), who hears from sources that the Magic and Sixers are considering pursuing Caldwell-Pope.

Across 76 contests last season, the former Georgia standout averaged 10.1 points on .460/.406/.894 shooting splits, along with 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks a night.

Here’s more from Stein’s most recent NBA intel:

  • Should the Sixers be unable to add a top potential free agent like Paul George, OG Anunoby or Caldwell-Pope, Stein notes that Philadelphia could opt to trade for Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram or Heat wing Jimmy Butler, the latter a former Sixer. Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan, who could reach free agency should he not agree to an extension by June 30, is also an option, Stein adds.
  • Former MVP Russell Westbrook, now a bench guard for the Clippers, has a $4MM player option for 2024/25, but that may not stop L.A. from considering an upgrade at the position. The team has been linked to veterans Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry, both of whom are significantly better shooters and also more comfortable playing off the ball.
  • Stein hears that Paul would also draw interest from the Lakers if he reaches free agency, though the team’s interest in him may not be unanimous within the organization.
  • As far as the league’s two head coaching vacancies go, Stein reports that the Cavaliers are expected to make a decision soon, while the Pistons may wait until at least July to select their Monty Williams replacement. That would take Detroit through the draft this week and the start of free agency next weekend without a head coach.

Gores: Pistons “Needed A Fresh Start” In Hiring Langdon

The Pistons hired new president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon and moved on from former head coach Monty Williams this month, wiping the slate clean after a franchise-worst season. A year ago, the Pistons made Williams the highest-paid coach in the NBA at the time, circling back to him after he turned down their initial overtures. What followed was a year mired by injuries, plateaued development from the team’s young players outside of Cade Cunningham, and a lack of either spacing or a veteran presence on the team.

After assessing everything, I really felt the best choice for the organization was a fresh start,” owner Tom Gores said during Detroit’s official introduction of Langdon on Friday. “Our mistakes in the past has nothing to do with just one person. We needed a fresh start and we needed Trajan to lead with a fresh start.

According to The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III, the Pistons were impressed by Langdon’s willingness to bring in people around him who could cover skills he wasn’t as well-versed in. With the organization reportedly seeking synergy, hiring Langdon was a good start, Edwards writes.

Both Gores and Langdon expressed the need for Detroit to be more aggressive in bringing in outside help during free agency this offseason.

These young players, they need to play, but, yes, bringing in veterans who hopefully have a lot of know-how, some IQ and can shoot the ball, that’s going to be the target so that we can spread the floor and make it easier for the development of our young players,” Langdon said. “We’re going to look to do that, hopefully, through trade and free agency. That is how we’re going to attack this summer.

Meanwhile, Gores expressed disappointment with how last offseason went and how it was one of the main mistakes the team made last year (Twitter link via Omari Sankofa II of Detroit Free Press).

We have to have players who are active,” Gores said. “It’s not good enough to be a free agent, come over and not play.

As for who will take over for Williams in the head-coaching role, Langdon said the search won’t take a back seat to the preparations for the draft and free agency. As we wrote on Thursday, the Pistons plan to interview former Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney and Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori. James Borrego has also been listed as a potential frontrunner and is expected to get an interview.

Here are a few more notable quotes from Friday’s presser via Edwards, Keith Langlois from and Sankofa:

Langdon on the draft:

I think we’re going to get a good player at five. We like five a lot. We’re looking for the guy we feel has the best upside out of this draft and if that guy’s not there at five and there’s a team that’s willing to give us an asset value to flip back, then maybe that’s an opportunity, as well. But as of right now, our vision is not to be out of this draft. We want to draft a player and if we do flip back, it’s not going to be that far.

Langdon on bringing in front office executives Michael Blackstone and executive J.R. Holden:

Michael Blackstone … the thing I needed the most, especially coming into this situation, is a strategist, someone who really understands the cap. He has a big-time negotiating background and is very systematic and thoughtful in regards to what we need to from a roster and staffing standpoint.

“… J.R. Holden and I have a longstanding relationship from playing overseas. He understands what winning looks like and the culture and environment that we’re trying to create here. He’s cut his teeth here before with Stan (Van Gundy), in Philadelphia and the last five years in Brooklyn with Sean Marks.”

Gores on Langdon’s ability to turn things around:

I’m extremely confident this partnership with Trajan is going to work. That it is going to turn our franchise around. The mistake of the past is thinking a magic bullet will just handle things. As Trajan said, it’s about the details. It’s about everyday leadership. Greatness is built on the details and you can’t skip those. So I’m extremely confident. Trajan’s into details and he has an ability to be strategic and have vision and then an ability to speak with people and inspire them.

Gores on the franchise’s pecking order for decisions:

Trajan is the boss. He’s the president of basketball. He can come to me, he can get recommendations from [chairman Arn Tellem]. One of the things we needed was that single source of decision-making and have that person really pull together everything so that we can make decisions.

Latest On Pistons’ Decision To Move On From Monty Williams

The Pistons parted ways with Monty Williams on Wednesday morning following the franchise’s worst-ever season after signing him to a six-year, $78.5MM deal just one year ago.

The decision to move on from Williams came soon after hiring Trajan Langdon as president of basketball operations. According to reports, owner Tom Gores indicated Williams’ remaining money wouldn’t be an issue if Langdon ultimately decided to let him go, and the decision to move on from Williams came within the last 24 hours.

Pelicans assistant James Borrego, Mavericks assistant Sean Sweeney, Knicks assistant Johnnie Bryant, Timberwolves assistant Micah Nori, former Pistons assistant Jerome Allen, Heat assistant Chris Quinn and former Nets assistant Will Weaver are among the candidates for the Pistons’ head coaching vacancy, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic writes. In a tweet, Edwards added that he believes Borrego, Sweeney and Bryant are the three primary names to watch for the position.

Appearing on The Pat McAfee Show (Twitter link), Shams Charania suggested Borrego remains the favorite for the Cavaliers‘ vacant head coaching position. Borrego has also drawn interest from the Lakers, though it’s worth noting that the Pistons hired Langdon from New Orleans, where Borrego coached last season.

Sweeney served as an assistant on Dwane Casey‘s staff for three years in Detroit and helped develop Giannis Antetokounmpo while with Milwaukee. Helping the Mavericks to an NBA Finals appearance aids Sweeney’s case. Meanwhile, Bryant has been an assistant under Tom Thibodeau in New York since 2020 following a stint with the Jazz.

We have more from the Pistons’ decision to move on from Williams:

  • According to Edwards (Twitter link), the firing of Williams has no impact the team’s decision to bring in Fred Vinson as an assistant for next year’s staff. Vinson will be on the Pistons next season.
  • In order to fight to keep his job, Williams essentially went through an interview process with Langdon, Edwards writes in a separate story. The team was searching for complete synergy from its front office to its coaching staff, and wanted to know for certain if Williams was committed to coaching a rebuilding team. Ultimately, Langdon was given free rein, via Gores, to make whatever decision he saw fit, and the pair opted to clean house in tandem.
  • Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press echoes Edwards’ reporting in that Langdon and Gores were on the same page in regard to firing Williams (Twitter link).
  • Williams and Weaver aren’t solely to blame for Detroit’s woeful season, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports writes. There were “four factions” in the Pistons organization, with chairman Arn Tellem also serving as a prominent voice, according to Goodwill, who says that objective No. 1 this offseason should be getting everyone on the same page.
  • J.J. Redick could be a name to watch, Goodwill writes, but it’s unclear how much traction Detroit could gain with him since he’s widely viewed as the favorite for the Lakers’ position. Redick and Langdon have a Duke connection and crossed over briefly in New Orleans, though Redick’s time with the Pelicans didn’t end well. Tellem is also reportedly a fan of Redick’s.

Pistons Part Ways With Monty Williams

10:41am: The Pistons have officially confirmed that Williams won’t return as the team’s head coach in 2024/25, announcing the decision in a press release (Twitter link).

“Decisions like these are difficult to make, and I want to thank Monty for his hard work and dedication,” Gores said in a statement. “Coaching has many dynamic challenges that emerge during a season and Monty always handled those with grace.  However, after reviewing our performance carefully and assessing our current position as an organization, we will chart a new course moving forward.

“I have great respect for Monty as a coach and as a person and I am certain he will be successful in his future endeavors. I sincerely wish him and his family the very best.”

8:33am: The Pistons are making a head coaching change, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that the team has decided to dismiss Monty Williams just one season into his six-year, $78.5MM contract with the franchise.

Williams, who coached the Suns for four seasons from 2019-23, was let go by Phoenix last spring and appeared to be leaning toward taking a year off. After resisting Detroit’s initial overtures, Williams agreed to meet with Pistons owner Tom Gores and then-GM Troy Weaver and ultimately accepted a massive contract that was largest for a coach in NBA history at the time.

However, Williams’ first year in Detroit was a disaster from start to finish. The Pistons opened the season with 36 losses in their first 39 games, including 28 in a row, which set a new single-season record. The team – which entered the fall with aspirations of taking a step forward and vying for a spot in the postseason – had an overall record of 14-68, making it the worst season by winning percentage in the organization’s 76-year history.

The Pistons parted ways with Weaver earlier this offseason, replacing him with new head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon. Multiple reports since Langdon’s hiring indicated that the new president would be given free rein to make a head coaching change, despite the $65MM+ in guaranteed money left on Williams’ deal.

According to both Vince Goodwill of Yahoo Sports and James L. Edwards of The Athletic (Twitter links), Gores made the final call on Williams within the past 24 hours, with Langdon informing the veteran coach of the decision on Wednesday. Those reports don’t explicitly state whether or not Langdon recommended a change to Gores, but either way, the new top front office executive in Detroit now has the opportunity to bring in his own head coach for 2024/25 and beyond.

The Pistons will join the Lakers and Cavaliers as teams seeking new head coaches. While those other two clubs have been conducting searches for several weeks, Detroit is getting a late start, so we’ll see what sort of timeline the team has in mind for making a hire — the NBA draft is just one week away, while the Las Vegas Summer League schedule will get underway on July 12.

Some of the candidates under consideration for the jobs in Los Angeles and Cleveland figure to be on the Pistons’ radar. One notable name to watch, according to Goodwill (Twitter link), is Pelicans associate head coach James Borrego, who is viewed as a legitimate contender for both the Lakers and Cavs as well. Detroit will strongly consider Borrego if he’s available, says Goodwill. The Pistons have already poached one assistant from Langdon’s former team in New Orleans this offseason, reaching a deal to hire Fred Vinson.

It’s unclear whether Williams will become a contender for either of the NBA’s other head coaching vacancies or if he’ll take that year off that he didn’t get in 2023/24. Certainly, with $65MM+ in pay checks still coming his way, he’ll be feeling no financial pressure to get back to work anytime soon.

As a result of the Pistons’ dismal showing this past season, Williams now has a sub-.500 career record as a head coach, having posted a 381-404 (.485) mark across 10 years in New Orleans, Phoenix, and Detroit. He won five playoff series with the Suns and made the NBA Finals in 2021.

Stein’s Latest: Redick, Allen, Bronny, M. Williams, Hezonja

J.J. Redick appears to once again be the front-runner for the Lakers‘ head coaching job after Dan Hurley decided to remain at UConn, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column (subscription required). The ESPN broadcaster was widely considered to be the favorite before news of the team’s interest in Hurley became public last week.

Stein said one source told him on Friday, “You know who is getting the job,” while another pointed out that the Cavaliers‘ interest in James Borrego could leave Redick as L.A.’s only high-profile candidate. The Lakers are six weeks into their coaching search after firing Darvin Ham on May 3.

Stein also dismisses accusations that the Lakers and Hurley were somehow working together to help him get a better offer from UConn. Stein points out that the Lakers suffered embarrassment by losing out to a college team, and they created a more difficult situation for whomever they eventually hire because he’ll seem like a second choice at best.

Stein shares more inside information from around the league:

  • Sources tell Stein that the Cavaliers are unlikely to trade Jarrett Allen if Donovan Mitchell agrees to an extension because Mitchell likes having him on the team. That means Allen and Evan Mobley, who’s also eligible for an extension this offseason, will probably remain together, even if it’s sometimes an awkward fit. Numerous insiders confirm to Stein that Borrego is viewed as the most likely candidate to replace J.B. Bickerstaff as head coach.
  • The Mavericks have interest in drafting Bronny James, Stein hears, but he’ll likely be off the board by the time they pick at No. 58. After James had pre-draft workouts with the Lakers and Suns, his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, said sessions with other teams are unlikely, according to Stein.
  • Monty Williams remaining head coach of the Pistons is “the likely outcome,” a source tells Stein. The source said Friday’s report that Fred Vinson will leave New Orleans to become an assistant coach in Detroit is a “clear signal” that Williams will keep his job. Vinson previously worked under Williams from 2011-15.
  • Stein suggests Mario Hezonja could be back in the NBA next season after spending the last four years overseas. Hezonja was selected fifth by Orlando in the 2015 draft and spent five years in the league with the Magic, Knicks and Trail Blazers. He’ll be a free agent after playing for Real Madrid the past two seasons.

Pistons To Hire Fred Vinson As Assistant Coach

Longtime Pelicans assistant Fred Vinson is leaving New Orleans after 14 years with the organization, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, who reports (via Twitter) that Vinson will be joining Monty Williams‘ coaching staff with the Pistons.

A professional player in the NBA and several other leagues around the world from 1994-2007, Vinson transitioned into coaching in 2008, spending two years with the Clippers before joining the Pelicans (the Hornets at the time). He worked under Williams from 2011-15, then remained with the team under three more head coaches (Alvin Gentry, Stan Van Gundy, and Willie Green).

As Wojnarowski notes, Vinson is highly regarded for his expertise as a shooting instructor. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link) refers to the veteran assistant as one of the NBA’s top “shot doctors,” pointing to improvements made by Lonzo Ball and Herbert Jones, among others. New Orleans ranked fourth in the NBA this past season with a .383 3PT%.

While the hiring of Vinson looks like a strong signal that Williams will be coaching the Pistons next season, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter links) cautions not to read too much into it. As Edwards points out, new Pistons president of basketball operations Trajan Langdon is close with Vinson from their time together in New Orleans, and Detroit was in need of a shooting specialist.

Langdon has reportedly been given the green light to make a head coaching change if he decides it’s in the best interests of the franchise, despite the five seasons remaining on Williams’ six-year, $78MM deal. However, the deeper we get into the team’s offseason without a move being made, the less likely it appears that a change will occur before the 2024/25 season.

Central Notes: Bird, Pacers, Pistons, Portis

Six players who participated in a pre-draft workout for the Pacers on Wednesday were surprised when a Hall of Famer showed up to watch them, writes Zion Brown of The Indianapolis Star. Larry Bird, who was hired as a consultant last June, walked into the gym to observe the prospects, who noticed his presence immediately.

“It’s exciting,” Oakland’s Jack Gohlke said. “Obviously (he’s) an NBA legend, and a guy who has been with the Pacers organization for forever and a legend with the Celtics, too. So I think it’s just really cool. … I would say it’s almost easier to play in front of a sold-out arena than to have these guys sitting courtside, but it’s still a really cool experience.”

Bird has worked for the Pacers in several capacities over the years, starting as head coach in 1997. Tyrese Haliburton and Isaiah Jackson also made an appearance on Wednesday, but the focus was on Bird, even though the players at the workout were all born well after his playing career ended.

“Once he walked in I was like, ‘I recognize him,’” UC-Santa Barbara’s Ajay Mitchell said. “It’s amazing to see him here. Working in front of him, it’s a great opportunity and it’s a blessing to have him around.”

Also participating in the workout were Yongxi Cui of China, Thijs de Ridder of Belgium, TCU’s Emanuel Miller and Michigan State’s Tyson Walker. Indiana owns picks 36, 49 and 50 in this month’s draft.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers have another workout set for Thursday featuring Baylor’s Jalen Bridges, North Carolina State’s D.J. Burns Jr., West Virginia’s Jesse Edwards, Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves and Morehead State’s Kalil Thomas, the team announced (via Twitter). Indiana’s Xavier Johnson was a late replacement for USC’s Boogie Ellis (Twitter link).
  • New Pistons head of basketball operations Trajan Langdon has a challenge to try to fix an organization that has been sputtering for years, observes Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News. Wojnowski blames owner Tom Gores, whom he accuses of meddling too often, as well as the people he has entrusted to run the franchise. He criticizes former general manager Troy Weaver for his roster construction, particularly his willingness to take on big men who failed elsewhere, and coach Monty Williams for his insistence on playing Killian Hayes and his misuse of Jaden Ivey early in the season.
  • Bobby Portis should be thrilled by the return of Darvin Ham to the Bucks‘ coaching staff, notes Christopher Kuhagen of The Journal-Sentinel. Kuhagen recalls that after Milwaukee was eliminated from the playoffs in 2023, Portis sent out a social media message that read, “Only thing hurt us was D ham leaving. That ain’t talked about enough.”

Stein’s Latest: Lindsey, Williams, George, Bronny James, Cassell

The Pistons passed on Mavericks executive Dennis Lindsey and hired Trajan Langdon as their president of basketball operations. However, the Pistons would still like to bring in Lindsey for another front office role under Langdon.

Lindsey has been discussed as an ongoing target for the Pistons, Marc Stein reports in his latest Substack post. Lindsey was the other finalist for Detroit’s top front office job and met with team owner Tom Gores multiple times before Langdon was offered the position.

The Mavericks don’t want to lose Lindsey, who recently attended the NBA’s European draft combine in Italy with assistant GM Matt Riccardi.

Langdon is still mulling whether to retain head coach Monty Williams, who has five years remaining on his contract, Stein adds.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Paul George is a well-known free agent target for the Sixers if he fails to reach an extension agreement with the Clippers this month. George will have at least one Eastern Conference alternative in that scenario. The Magic will also be in the mix and Orlando additionally has designs on the Warriors’ Klay Thompson. How the Magic would fit George into their frontcourt of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner would be an intriguing side story, while Philadelphia has an obvious frontcourt need with Tobias Harris (and most of the rest of the roster) headed to free agency.
  • Bronny James worked out for the Suns on Wednesday and initially only made plans to visit the Suns and Lakers during the pre-draft process. However, that situation is fluid. Agent Rich Paul told Stein there are “a few more” workout invites under consideration.
  • Reiterating an item from last month, Stein says Bucks coach Doc Rivers will make a push to hire Celtics assistant Sam Cassell after the Finals. Cassell was one of the early candidates for the Lakers’ head coaching job.

Central Notes: Bucks, Pistons’ FA Targets, Williams, Donovan III

An expensive core of players will limit the Bucks‘ ability to add talent this summer, writes Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Although there’s a need to upgrade after a chaotic season that ended with a first-round playoff exit, the front office will likely be sorting through minimum-salary options to fill out the roster.

Milwaukee’s salary situation starts with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard, who are each owed $48.8MM next season, which combines for about 69% of the projected $141MM salary cap. Adding $31.7MM for Khris Middleton and $23MM for Brook Lopez puts the Bucks above $152MM, exceeding the cap with just four players.

Beyond that, Milwaukee will pay $12.6MM to Bobby Portis and $9.4MM to Pat Connaughton, plus minimum contracts for MarJon Beauchamp ($2.7MM) and Chris Livingston ($1.9MM). Andre Jackson Jr. only has a $946K guarantee on his $1.9MM salary until January, and A.J. Green‘s $2.1MM contract is non-guaranteed until July 8.

Keeping all those players would cost the Bucks about $180.85MM, Nehm adds, which puts them over the projected first tax apron of $178.655MM with at least four more slots that have to be filled. If Milwaukee holds on to its 23rd ($2.95MM) and 33rd ($1.16MM) picks in the draft and signs two minimum-salary veterans, the team will exceed the $189.485MM second apron without including $2.3MM in unlikely incentives for Middleton.

Nehm notes that the Bucks need to add point-of-attack defenders, help on the wing, and a backup center, but it will tough to find any of those things while operating under the apron restrictions.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Kings guard Malik Monk, Nets center Nic Claxton and Magic guard Gary Harris should be targets for the Pistons in free agency, James L. Edwards of The Athletic states in a mailbag column. Monk would provide much-needed three-point shooting and can attack off the dribble, Edwards notes, while Claxton would be a proven rim protector and Harris fills a need as a three-and-D wing. Edwards also expects Detroit to re-sign free agent forward Simone Fontecchio.
  • In the same piece, Edwards suggests the odds are about 50-50 on head coach Monty Williams remaining with the Pistons. Edwards states that it works in Williams’ favor that he still has five years remaining on his six-year, $78MM contract and he didn’t have a good roster to work with. However, he got 62 games out of Cade Cunningham and still produced fewer wins than Dwane Casey did before the last coaching change.
  • Billy Donovan III, the son of the Bulls‘ head coach, will be the next coach of the team’s G League affiliate, according to Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago. He’ll replace former Windy City Bulls head coach Henry Domercant, who could wind up on Chicago’s coaching staff, Taylor adds.