Rodney McGruder

Central Notes: Caruso, COVID-19, Bridges, Joseph, McGruder

Guard Alex Caruso played 33 minutes in the Bulls’ Game 1 loss to the Bucks on Sunday. Coach Billy Donovan said Caruso has been dealing with back pain for several weeks and is trying to tough it out, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. He was limited to seven points and missed all but one of his five 3-point attempts.

‘‘He’s felt the best I think he has felt,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Is he 100%? No, but he’s a lot better than he was those games before he sat out. I do think with Alex [that minutes restrictions are] going to be somewhat important. I think if you start pushing him with his back up into the high 30s, I don’t think that would be really, really wise. You want to see how he’s feeling in the game. He kind of throws his body in there and plays incredibly hard and physical, so we’ll have to see how he responds.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are wary of how a positive COVID-19 test could affect their playoff run, coach Mike Budenholzer told Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He noted how Paul George missed the Clippers’ second play-in game after testing positive. “There’s been a lot of positive movement. You just don’t want to forget, you’ve just got to know it’s still out there,” Budenholzer said. “When we had the conversation what happened with the Clippers and Paul George had happened and the coaching staff with Chicago. I’m guessing those things pop up in conversations in the locker room or at baskets and things like that. It’s not good, but in the sense of it just being a reminder in conversation, I think it’s helpful. Certainly our guys are aware.”
  • The Pistons could have the most cap space in the league this summer but a giant offer sheet for Hornets restricted free agent Miles Bridges wouldn’t be a wise move, James Edwards III of The Athletic opines. Bridges’ best position is probably at power forward and putting him in that spot wouldn’t be a long-term upgrade over Saddiq Bey, who can play either forward spot.  If Detroit winds up with a top-three pick, the team will likely draft a power forward, which would force Bridges to play small forward with Bey moving out of position to shooting guard. The only way adding Bridges would make sense would be to trade Jerami Grant for a wing or to draft one with their lottery pick, Edwards writes.
  • Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press predicts that Grant, Cory Joseph and Rodney McGruder won’t return next season but that the Pistons will re-sign restricted free agent Marvin Bagley III.

Pistons Notes: Bagley, Livers, Cunningham, Blaha

Marvin Bagley III is headed to free agency but he seems intent on remaining with the Pistons, as he told James Edwards III of The Athletic.

Bagley has enjoyed his experience with Detroit since he was dealt by the Kings last month. He’s also been productive, averaging 14.1 PPG and 7.1 RPG in 27 MPG during his first 10 games with the Pistons.

“We’ve got some amazing talent here. Now, it’s about figuring out how to work together, gel together to do something bigger,” he said. “I’m definitely excited about it. I can’t wait to be around the guys even more, figure them out even more and make runs in the playoffs … even get some championships here. I’m excited about it.”

Bagley didn’t receive a rookie scale extension with Sacramento. His qualifying offer, which would make him a restricted free agent, will be $7.3MM since he won’t meet the starter criteria.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Due to injuries and illness, rookie wing Isaiah Livers received extensive playing time against Miami on Tuesday. He responded with 16 points in 31 minutes but his bigger focus was defense, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Livers, a second-round pick, spent the bulk of the season rehabbing from a foot injury. “Being out, definitely I was locked in, especially to my team,” Livers said. “I was seeing where we need that push and that shove. What I saw was defensive energy right away off the bench. That was my key right away to minutes off the bench.” Livers’ contract is guaranteed through next season with a team option in 2023/24.
  • Rookie of the Year candidate Cade Cunningham missed Tuesday’s game due to a non-COVID illness, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News“He started feeling bad (Monday) night and came to shootaround looking like death, eating crackers. So, he’s in pretty bad shape,” coach Dwane Casey said prior to the game. Hamidou Diallo (finger) and Frank Jackson (back) also missed the game and Rodney McGruder aggravated a hamstring injury during it.
  • Longtime broadcaster George Blaha underwent a heart bypass procedure on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets. Blaha is expected to return as the play-by-play announcer next season.

Central Notes: Diallo, McGruder, Bagley, LeVert, Brown

The Pistons won in Boston just before the All-Star break but they’ll be shorthanded when they visit for the second time on Friday. The team has ruled out starting center Isaiah Stewart and key reserves Killian Hayes, Hamidou Diallo, Rodney McGruder and Frank Jackson due to an assortment of injuries, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Diallo (finger sprain) and McGruder (hamstring strain) were injured during the loss to the Bulls on Wednesday.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Marvin Bagley III‘s athleticism has given the Pistons a new dimension, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. Bagley, who will enter either restricted or unrestricted free agency this summer, provides a major lob threat that the team was sorely lacking. “We’re really happy with the way he’s playing, the way he’s fitting in, and he’s creating a lot of options offensively, and defensively, he’s giving us another rebounder,” coach Dwane Casey said.
  • Caris LeVert won’t play against Miami on Friday but he’s making some progress from the right foot sprain he suffered last month. He went through a portion of the Cavaliers’ practice in Miami on Thursday and took some shots on the court afterward, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets.
  • Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff believes Moses Brown can help the team with his interior presence, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic tweets. Brown was signed to a 10-day contract on Thursday. “He’s long. He’s rangy. He has good athleticism,” Bickerstaff said. “He knows how to patrol the paint at both ends of the floor. Really good rim roller and lob threat, so he’s a similar build to what we have and what we value.”

Eastern Notes: Turner, Warren, McGruder, Randle, Barrett, Raptors

Pacers center Myles Turner, a prime trade candidate, is displaying significant progress from his foot injury. Turner, who is sidelined with a stress reaction in his left foot, had a scan which showed sufficient healing. He’ll ramp up his activity level, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. Turner has been out since January 14.

Pacers forward T.J. Warren had another scan on his left foot this week and will begin to play 1-on-1 for the first time since surgery over a year ago, Agness adds in another tweet. Warren appeared in just four games last season before he was sidelined.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Pistons swingman Rodney McGruder returned to Detroit after a trade with Denver fell through due to the Pistons’ medical concerns regarding Bol Bol. What could have been an awkward situation has instead led to more playing time for McGruder, Rod Beard of The Detroit News notes. “He came back here in the right frame of mind and attitude, and the basketball gods have been good to him because he has handled it properly,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said.
  • Could the Knicks soon be RJ Barrett‘s team? Newsday’s Steve Popper raises that possibility due to Julius Randle‘s struggles. Randle has not only played poorly, he’s feuded with fans, shunned the media and generally not acted like a leader after signing to a four-year, $117MM extension. Barrett is averaging 22.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 3.4 APG this month and the Knicks might ultimately decide to ride with youth.
  • What will the Raptors do before the trade deadline? The Athletic’s Eric Koreen and John Hollinger discuss potential moves, with Hollinger concluding that Toronto will hold onto its top players while seeking bench help and an upgrade at center.

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.”