Rodney McGruder

Central Notes: Olynyk, McGruder, Giannis, Ball, Pacers

Pistons big man Kelly Olynyk played on Wednesday for the first time since November 10, making his long-awaited return from a knee injury. As Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes, Olynyk was thrown into the deep end immediately, logging 22 minutes in a dramatic road win over Sacramento and earning praise from his head coach, who said the 30-year-old had a “huge” impact.

“We need that – his experience,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “He reads situations. He made plays. When they busted up the first option, he automatically went to the second option. Just his IQ, offensive rebounds, right place, right time, taking what the game was giving him. All those things were great decisions on his part. To win in this league, we’ve got to have more of that.”

Detroit also got big minutes from Rodney McGruder, who has had his two best games of the season since returning to the team last week after his trade to Denver was voided. McGruder, who scored 19 points on Tuesday and 15 more on Wednesday, acknowledged the unusual nature of being a Nugget for three days before rejoining the Pistons.

“It was a lot of travel; it was kind of tough,” McGruder said, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “I met the (Nuggets) in Los Angeles and flew with the team to Denver and I was there about a day and a half. … (But) it just felt right back at home when I came back (to the Pistons). … The guys welcomed me back. It is a family and a brotherhood in that locker room, so even if the trade went through and I played in Denver, it still would have been all love and it still would have been the same when I saw those guys.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Despite only being in his ninth NBA season, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo was ranked the 24th-best player in the league history by The Athletic. Speaking to Eric Nehm of The Athletic as part of the feature, Antetokounmpo said he hopes he’s not even at the halfway point of his career. “I want to play 20 years,” he said. “Hopefully, I can play all 20 of those years with the Bucks.”
  • Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury could have a substantial impact on his 2021/22 earnings. As ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets, the Bulls guard is eligible to earn nine separate bonuses that add up to $1MM, but he must appear in at least 62 games to earn them. That may not happen, especially if he undergoes meniscus surgery.
  • Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files explores the impact that Myles Turner‘s injury will have on the Pacers and their trade deadline plans.

Bol Bol Trade To Pistons Voided

12:39pm: The Pistons announced that the trade was rescinded because “medical clearance was not received for all players involved,” tweets James Edwards III of The Athletic.


11:13am: The Pistons have reneged on a trade that would have would have sent Rodney McGruder and a second-round pick to the Nuggets in exchange for Bol Bol, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post.

Detroit cited an issue with Bol’s physical, Singer adds. He notes that Bol had foot surgery during college, but hasn’t experienced any injury problems during his three seasons in the NBA. Denver was surprised by the Pistons’ decision, according to Singer (Twitter link).

The 22-year-old Bol is an intriguing talent but hasn’t been able to firmly establish himself at any position in Denver. Other big men had moved ahead of him in the rotation, and the Nuggets are seeking veteran help for a playoff run. It’s not clear if Denver will try to work out another trade for Bol, who has a $2.15MM expiring contract.

Nuggets Trade Bol Bol To Pistons, Sign Davon Reed To Two-Way Deal

JANUARY 10: The Nuggets have officially acquired McGruder and the Nets’ 2022 second-round pick in exchange for Bol, the team announced today in a press release. Denver also confirmed Reed’s two-way deal and Cornelie’s release in a separate announcement on Sunday.


JANUARY 9: The Pistons will be sending veteran shooting guard Rodney McGruder and a future second-round draft selection to the Nuggets in exchange for intriguing young power forward Bol Bol, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The pick going to Denver in the deal will be a 2022 second-rounder that Detroit originally acquired from the Nets, per Woj and James Edwards III of The Athletic (Twitter link).

There is more personnel news out of Denver. The Nuggets will upgrade the contract of guard Davon Reed, currently signed to his third 10-day hardship exception contract, to a two-way deal, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. To make a two-way slot available for Reed, Denver will release current two-way player Petr Cornelie.

In 12 games with Denver, including two starts, Reed is averaging 4.4 PPG on a .457/.350/.800 shooting line, along with 3.0 RPG, 1.3 APG and 1.2 SPG.

Singer notes that Bol struggled to find a consistent position while with the Nuggets and thus toggled between spot minutes at small and power forward. Head coach Michael Malone and his coaching staff also apparently projected more upside out of big men Vlatko Cancar and Zeke Nnaji, who had moved ahead of Bol in the team’s rotation prior to Cancar’s recent foot fracture. Singer adds that the Nuggets plan to retain McGruder for the time being.

Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press opines that the addition of Bol will help a depleted Detroit squad up front, which Sankofa identifies as one of the 8-30 club’s key weaknesses. Woj writes in his piece that the addition of the 7’2″ forward will be an opportunity for the rebuilding Pistons to take a flyer on a young player with upside.

This season, Bol is averaging 2.4 PPG and 1.4 RPG in 5.8 MPG. Last season across eight games with the Windy City Bulls, the 22-year-old averaged 12.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 2.3 BPG. He recently had his best offensive game at the NBA level, scoring 11 points against the Rockets in 20 minutes on January 1.

ESPN’s Bobby Marks notes (Twitter link) that, by sending the expiring $2.15MM deal of Bol out in exchange for the $1.7MM expiring deal of McGruder, the Nuggets will carve out additional space below the NBA’s luxury tax. Denver is now $2.4MM under the tax line.

The 6’4″ McGruder has not made much of an impact during his time in Detroit. The 30-year-old re-signed with the Pistons on a veteran’s minimum deal this summer after spending the 2020/21 season in Detroit. This season, he is averaging just 2.5 PPG and 1.6 RPG in 9.5 MPG, across 17 of the club’s 38 contests.

Seven Pistons Exit Protocols, Nuggets’ Monte Morris Enters

Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Josh Jackson, Cory Joseph, Saben Lee, Trey Lyles, and Rodney McGruder have all exited the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the Pistons, James Edwards III of The Athletic relays (via Twitter).

All seven players are listed as out for Saturday’s contest against San Antonio due to reconditioning. The Pistons’ next game after Saturday will be Monday against the Bucks, when several of the players could return to action. Second-year big man Isaiah Stewart is now the lone player still in the protocols for Detroit.

In other COVID-related news, Nuggets point guard Monte Morris has become the fourth Denver player to enter the protocols in the past two days, joining Jeff Green, Bones Hyland, and Zeke Nnaji, per Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports (Twitter link). Morris has started all 32 of his games this season (30 MPG), averaging 12.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 4.3 APG on a .479/.380/.783 shooting line.

The Nuggets signed Davon Reed to his third 10-day hardship contract Thursday, and reportedly plan to sign Rayjon Tucker to a deal as well.

Four Pistons, Including Stewart, Enter Protocols

Pistons center Isaiah Stewart and guards Killian Hayes and Saben Lee have entered the league’s health and safety protocols ahead of the team’s game against Miami Thursday evening, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. Reserve swingman Rodney McGruder has also entered the protocols, The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III tweets.

Top pick Cade Cunningham entered the protocols on Wednesday. The Pistons, who have lost 15 of their last 16 contests, will obviously be severely shorthanded for the game.

Those players will be sidelined for at least 10 days, unless they can register two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests at least 24 hours apart during that span.

Stewart is averaging 7.9 PPG and 8.4 RPG. Hayes has started regularly as well, though he’s averaging just 6.4 PPG and 3.7 APG. Lee has come off the bench in 15 games and scored 16 points against the Knicks on Tuesday. McGruder has appeared in 14 games.

With Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk unavailable due to long-term injuries, the Pistons’ frontcourt is severely depleted with Trey Lyles and rookie Luka Garza the main options.

Central Notes: Okoro, Turner, Bjorkgren, Caruso, McGruder

Collin Sexton‘s season-ending surgery has thrust Isaac Okoro into the spotlight for the Cavaliers, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

The 20-year-old Okoro has had a terrible start to the season shooting the ball, with a slash line of .369/.176/.720 through 11 games. The team doesn’t expect Okoro to replicate Sexton’s offensive output; it’s not why they drafted him, and it’s not what he hangs his hat on, writes Fedor. The second-year wing is an athletic, defense-oriented hustle player who’s a good finisher in transition.

Coach J.B Bickerstaff says the Cavs aren’t concerned with Okoro’s poor shooting yet, but they need him to stay aggressive and make the right plays on offense to keep opposing defenses honest.

Not yet is there a level of concern,” Bickerstaff said. “We have to figure out how to help him. How do we put him in positions to be successful and what does he need to do to help this team? That’s the most important thing. We all need to make open shots. I think we have had open shots out there that we can knock down. But each guy has a different role. He has to make himself more difficult to guard. That’s something that we have been talking to him about. He is a really good mover, he’s a really good runner, he can catch and finish at the rim, he’s a good offensive rebounder. We have to get him to do more of those things. He just needs to impact the game the way he impacts the game. We don’t need him to score 20 points a night. We need to help this team win.”

The Cavs have lost four straight games and sit at 9-9. They’ve dealt with several injuries and illnesses to key players, including Okoro, who was sidelined for seven games with a strained hamstring.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers center Myles Turner recently spoke about what went wrong under former coach Nate Bjorkgren last season, writes Matthew VanTryon of the Indianapolis Star. “Being a first-year head coach, there’s a lot of ego that comes with that. You have a lot of this, ‘I know what I’m doing. I got this.’ But in a sense, you don’t always know exactly what you’re doing. You have to accept that,” Turner said on the Noble and Roosh Show. “He kind of tried to accept that later in the year, but throughout the year, he wouldn’t let go of that ego in a sense. That’s one of the things that hurt him in his tenure in Indiana.” Bjorkgren was fired after his lone season in Indiana.
  • Bulls guard Alex Caruso gave an interview with Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype that covers a number of topics, including his journey to the NBA, joining Chicago, his chemistry with Lonzo Ball, and more.
  • Pistons veteran Rodney McGruder is still popular in Miami, even as an opponent, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra isn’t surprised that Pistons coach Dwane Casey relies on McGruder for veteran leadership. “I don’t find it surprising at all, that Coach Casey has turned to him, because of that experience, because of his grit, toughness,” Spoelstra said. “He screams reliability and that plays well in this league.”

Central Notes: J. Jackson, George, White, Markkanen

Josh Jackson may be the most expendable player in the Pistons‘ training camp battle for roster spots, writes James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. When Hamidou Diallo re-signed last month, it gave Detroit 16 guaranteed contracts. Sources tell Edwards it took longer than expected to reach a new deal with Diallo, but he was always in the team’s plans.

Jackson is set to make $5MM in the final year of a deal he signed last offseason. The former No. 4 overall pick was productive in his first season with the Pistons, averaging 13.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 62 games, but Edwards notes that he’s just an average defender and an unreliable three-point shooter (30% last season). There may also not be enough minutes for Jackson, Diallo and Frank Jackson, who all play similar roles.

Edwards names Jahlil OkaforRodney McGruder and Sekou Doumbouya as other candidates to be traded or waived to reach the regular season roster limit of 15. Okafor will make $2.13MM in the final year of his contract, while McGruder has a $1.67MM expiring deal and isn’t expected to play much. Doumbouya is still on his rookie contract, but Edwards points out that he remains a raw prospect and is left over from the previous front office.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons have officially announced the return of George David as assistant general manager. He held the same position from 2012-14 before leaving for the Wasserman Media Group. “I’m excited to return to the Detroit Pistons and help Tom Gores, Arn Tellem and Troy Weaver in the restoring effort of the franchise,” David said. “Detroit has always been home for me and I know how passionate the city and region is about their sports teams.  Troy’s vision for building the roster aligns with the core values of Detroit Basketball and I look forward to playing a role in the continued rise of the organization.”
  • Even though the Bulls stocked up on guards this summer, there should be playing time available for Coby White once he returns from surgery on his left shoulder, states Jamal Collier of The Chicago Tribune. Collier sees White as a back-up to Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, and he may be on the court with Alex Caruso in three-guard lineups.
  • The Cavaliers will pay Lauri Markkanen $15,690,909 for the upcoming season with slight raises throughout his new four-year deal, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Markkanen will make $16,475,454 in 2022/23, $17,259,999 in 2023/24 and $18,044,544 in 2024/25, giving the contract a total value of more than $67MM, although only $6MM of the final season is guaranteed.

Pistons Re-Sign Rodney McGruder

AUGUST 11: McGruder’s one-year deal is worth the veteran’s minimum and is fully guaranteed, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.


AUGUST 10: Free agent swingman Rodney McGruder has re-signed with the Pistonsaccording to NBA.com’s official transactions page. It’s a one-year deal, per RealGM’s transactions log.

McGruder came over to Detroit during the 2020 offseason in the trade that sent Luke Kennard to the Clippers. The 29-year-old only played 16 games for the rebuilding team, averaging 5.7 PPG, 1.4 RPG and 1.0 APG in 12.1 minutes a night. His inclusion on a rebuilding Pistons’ roster would likely be in large part to serve in a mentor role to the team’s many young players.

Financial details of McGruder’s deal aren’t yet known. However, the Pistons waived him on Friday to avoid having his $5MM salary for 2021/22 become guaranteed, so it’s a safe bet his new salary will come in below that number.

The Pistons are currently carrying 14 players on guaranteed contracts, not including McGruder, restricted free agent Hamidou Diallo, or the team’s unsigned second-round picks (Luka Garza and Balsa Koprivica). As such, McGruder’s new deal may not come with any assurances of a regular-season roster spot.

Like McGruder, Cory Joseph has also re-signed with the Pistons just days after being released by the team. His deal is official now too, per NBA.com.

Pistons Waive Rodney McGruder

The Pistons have waived veteran wing Rodney McGruder, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic.

McGruder’s $5MM contract would have become guaranteed if he had remained on the roster through August 15 (Twitter links). By releasing him before then, Detroit won’t carry any dead money on its cap as a result of the transaction.

The move was expected, as the club needs to trim down its roster to officially add free agents and draft picks. McGruder was acquired in a three-team deal last November but played sparingly in his lone season in Detroit. He saw action in 16 games, including two starts, averaging 5.7 PPG in 12.1 MPG.

McGruder, 30, entered the league in 2016. He played three seasons with Miami and one for the Clippers before the trade last fall. He’ll look to latch on to another team as an unrestricted free agent.

Pistons Notes: Smith, Casey, McGruder, Weaver

Dennis Smith Jr. could follow the path of Josh Jackson on the rebuilding Pistons, Keith Langlois of the team’s website opines. Jackson is reviving his career after signing with the club as a free agent, as evidenced by his 28-point outing against the Lakers on Saturday. Smith, who was officially acquired from the Knicks on Monday, is another lottery pick who could get his career back on track in Detroit.

With lottery pick Killian Hayes out indefinitely, Smith will get playing time and he’s now in an organization invested in the futures of all its young players, Langlois adds. Smith could be a restricted free agent after the season if Detroit extends a $7MM+ qualifying offer.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Since Smith spent time at Orlando’s G League bubble, coach Dwane Casey anticipates the guard will have to quarantine a few days in Detroit, James Edwards of The Athletic tweets. If so, Smith won’t be in uniform on Tuesday against Brooklyn, Detroit’s first game since its 0-4 West Coast trip. He’s officially listed as questionable.
  • Casey didn’t sign up for a rebuilding project when he was hired by owner Tom Gores but he’s on board with the team’s rebuilding effort, Edwards adds in another tweet. The Pistons also acquired a second-round pick from the Knicks in the Derrick Rose deal. “It’s a direction, and it’s one needed for a long time with this organization,” Casey said.
  • Rodney McGruder has known GM Troy Weaver since childhood, as McGruder’s father grew up with Weaver in Washington, D.C., according to Langlois“Troy’s like an uncle to me. Grew up in the same neighborhood,” McGruder said. “I’ve known him all my life. That relationship, he’s family. We both want to see each other succeed.” McGruder’s $5MM for next season in non-guaranteed.