Tobias Harris

Central Notes: Harris, Cavs, Bucks

With just 2.5 games separating sixth place in the Eastern Conference from 10th, the eight-seed Pistons can’t afford to struggle down the stretch. On Friday it was announced that Tobias Harris would slide back into the starting lineup for the remainder of the season.

After months tinkering with the Pistons’ first unit, head coach Stan Van Gundy has come to the conclusion that the flip-flopping might not have helped. “Tobias (is starting) and we’re going to stay with that,” he told Rod Beard of the Detroit News. “We’re going to quit juggling them — I don’t think that’s helped.”

As we touched on earlier this month, there was a growing case for Harris’ return to the Pistons’ starting five; he was the club’s most dominant scorer.

Because of our offensive struggles, Tobias has been our best guy overall and a guy who generally gets going a little earlier,” Van Gundy explained. “We’re going to go with him.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Any implication that the Cavaliers front office isn’t doing everything within its power to help LeBron James and company win a second consecutive title is false, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. The Cavs, he says, have spent by far the most that any team has ever spent over a three-year span.
  • This upcoming offseason will be a critical one for the Bucks, Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders writes, but if they play their cards right the squad could be a serious contender in the future. Davies talks about players the club could target in the draft and what they might want to consider regarding extra backcourt depth.
  • With Dwyane Wade ruled out for the remainder of the Bulls’ regular season, Sam Smith of the team’s official website took a look at what could be in the cards for the franchise. Expect more from Denzel Valentine and Nikola Mirotic, he says, which gives the team a more natural pace and space lineup.

Central Notes: Bulls, Harris, Bucks, World Peace

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg will have to decide soon whether to emphasize making the playoffs or developing young talent, writes Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago. Chicago is coming off a terrible week, losing four straight games and slipping to 10th in the East. Hoiberg continues to experiment with different combinations, playing everyone but Nikola Mirotic in the first half of each game.

Last month’s five-player trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City clouded the team’s direction, Goodwill writes, with newly acquired Cameron Payne now the team’s third “point guard of the future” since Dwyane Wade signed last summer. “We’re doing everything we can to compete to win, at the same time we have some young guys we wanna get on the floor. It’s a balance,” Hoiberg said. “It’s guys, we want to get them out there and see how they play then make a decision in the second half.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons have climbed back to .500, sparked by the insertion of Tobias Harris into the starting lineup, notes Aaron McMann of MLive. Harris scored 28 points Saturday against the Knicks and helped Detroit build a comfortable early lead. “He came out really aggressive,” said teammate Marcus Morris. “It was good to have him back in the starting lineup. We know what he can do. We know how well he can score the ball. So, it’s not really surprising to us.”
  • The Bucks have named Steve Brandes president of their new D-League affiliate, the team announced on its website. The Oshkosh, Wisc., franchise will begin play next season.
  • At age 37, Metta World Peace has assumed the role of a mentor with the young Lakers. But the former Ron Artest still has strong regrets about the effect he had on the Pacers almost 13 years ago, writes Mark Montieth of NBA.com. Artest was suspended for the season after charging into the crowd in Detroit on November 19, 2004, to confront a fan. That effectively killed Indiana’s title chances and led to the breakup of a promising young team. “We were supposed to win a ring together,” World Peace recalls. “Everything revolved around me, because I was unstable. That’s what I feel bad about to this day. That’s something I can never, ever forgive myself for. It’s something I have to recognize. We were on our way. [GM] Donnie [Walsh] put a helluva team together. I wanted to win a championship here. That was a big thing to me. And to Reggie [Miller]. At my most unstable point, it was the end of Reggie’s career.”

Central Notes: Zipser, Portis, Harris

With Taj Gibson now a member of the Thunder, the Bulls have shifted Bobby Portis into his spot at power forward and rookie Paul Zipser into the sixth man role, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com. Zipser, a 23-year-old forward, has stepped up of late as a competent two-way player able to defend opposing team’s scorers while hitting the occasional big shot.

Smith isn’t the only one touting the rookie who returned to the lineup after a month’s absence. “He really kind of solidified himself as our sixth man (before the injury) and a guy who’s closing games for us,” Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told Mark Strotman of CSN Chicago. “We missed him, there’s no doubt about that. He’s got size, he’s got length, he can put it on the floor and he can really defend.”

The change in rotation goes to show that trades aren’t always about what a team acquires, Smith writes, but also about who they open up opportunities for. Portis has averaged 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game since stepping into the larger role with the Bulls seven games ago.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • All season long LeBron James commented that he’d like the Cavaliers‘ front office to go out and get a playmaker. Little did he know then that one would fall into their laps. In Deron Williams, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes, the Cavs got just what they wanted. In his first game with Cleveland, Williams became the first reserve to dish out more than four assists in a game all season (he managed seven).
  • The Pistons made the wrong choice when deciding to shake up their starting lineup, Stephen Shea of Basketball Analytics Book writes. A deep dive on Tobias Harris reveals that he is Detroit’s most efficient scorer and that the team performs better when he’s on the floor.
  • The 15-year-old son of Dwyane Wade won’t stop talking trash, Bulls teammate Jimmy Butler tells Alysha Tsuji of USA Today. Zaire Wade is highly regarded as a high school player. “When he makes it to the league, every single NBA player is going to try to score 50 on him,” says Butler.

 

Pistons Rumors: Drummond, Jackson, Johnson

The Pistons have “quietly explored” the trade market for Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, two of their roster’s centerpieces, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reports in his latest piece, which is a deep dive into the situation in Detroit. According to Lowe, the Pistons came away disappointed with what teams might be willing to offer for Drummond or Jackson, reducing the likelihood of either player being moved in the next eight days.

Still, while a Drummond trade remains an “extreme long shot,” a deal involving Jackson isn’t entirely off the table. Lowe suggests the Timberwolves, Magic, and Pelicans are among the potential suitors for the veteran point guard, if Detroit is willing to settle for a modest return. Per Lowe, Jackson’s value has “cratered,” and a player like Ricky Rubio is one of the few solid starters the Pistons could get in any trade package. Lottery teams seeking a long-term solution at point guard are unwilling to move their first-round picks for Jackson, and Detroit isn’t ready to simply dump him for a collection of expiring contracts.

In his attempt to find a potential trade partner for a Jackson deal, Lowe identifies the Magic and Nuggets, pointing to players like Elfrid Payton and Emmanuel Mudiay as possible trade pieces. However, while Mudiay is believed to be available, Denver doesn’t appear to have interest in Jackson. Lowe notes that Orlando is an “intriguing” possibility, since GM Rob Hennigan was in Oklahoma City’s front office when the team drafted Jackson.

Here’s more from Lowe on Jackson, along with a few other intriguing Pistons-related tidbits:

  • The Pelicans have kicked the tires on Jackson, but never engaged in serious talks, league sources tell Lowe.
  • According to Lowe, several Pistons players criticized Jackson during a December players-only meeting for his apparent lack of effort on defense. Drummond tells Lowe that the criticism “wasn’t cool,” since Jackson was coming off an injury and wasn’t yet 100%. However, both Drummond and Stan Van Gundy acknowledge that the team has struggled to adjust to Jackson’s presence on the court this year after finding a groove early in the season with Ish Smith handling the point.
  • According to Lowe, a fear that top free agents won’t come to Detroit has pushed the Pistons to acquire solid players on good contracts when they become available. Those players aren’t always a fit with Drummond and Van Gundy, which has contributed to some of the team’s roster issues.
  • Multiple teams, including the Spurs, made an effort to nab Stanley Johnson in a trade after Van Gundy publicly called out the second-year forward earlier in the season. Although the Pistons rebuffed those efforts, the team has been frustrated by Devin Booker‘s development in comparison to Johnson’s, since the draft room was “almost deadlocked” between those two players in 2015, says Lowe.
  • The Pistons are unlikely to make a major move until closer to the draft, since they want to make the playoffs and are reluctant to do anything that will adversely impact their odds of earning a postseason spot, says Lowe. The ESPN analyst notes that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s pending restricted free agency will be an interesting case to follow this offseason, since the Pistons may have to shed a salary – perhaps Tobias Harris‘ or Boban Marjanovic‘s – if they need to match a max offer sheet for Caldwell-Pope.

Central Notes: Dellavedova, Irving, Carter-Williams, Pistons

Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes the loss of backup guard Matthew Dellavedova has been the biggest change in the defending champion Cavaliers, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Dellavedova was involved in a sign-and-trade deal with the Bucks this summer after agreeing to a four-year, $38MM contract with Milwaukee. Cleveland has yet to find a dependable reserve point guard to play behind Kyrie Irving“Dellavedova’s absence jumps out,” Kerr said. “I think he’s been a big part of their team in the last couple years, so it’s a different look.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Irving says he is “naturally an Alpha,” but is willing to continue the current arrangement with LeBron James for as long as possible, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. The pairing has worked out well for the sixth-year point guard as he and James joined Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only players to win an NBA title and Olympic gold medals in the same year. “I just got to be great in the space I’m in for as long as I’m in it until there’s a change,” Irving said. “We all understand that as basketball fans, we want to see LeBron play for 10 more years and I would love to see that. I would love to play with Bron for 10 more years.”
  • After missing nearly two full months with left knee and left wrist problems, Bulls guard Michael Carter-Williams is expected to return Monday, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Carter-Williams has only played in three games since being acquired from the Bucks in a preseason trade. He was projected to miss four to six weeks after hurting the wrist October 31st, but had to have a cast put on it to help with healing.
  • Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris may alternate starts for the Pistons depending on the opponent, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Coach Stan Van Gundy has designated Jon Leuer as one starter at forward because of his defensive capabilities. Van Gundy apparently plans to use Morris as a starter when he needs better defense and Harris when he needs more offense. The coach had a talk with Harris after telling him he was coming off the bench just before shootaround Friday. “Tobias is a good man,” Van Gundy said. “He’s only 24; he seems older. He’s a mature man you can have honest conversations with and he’ll evaluate what you’re saying. There’s not a lot of excuses or anything. If you say something, he’s the kind of guy who’s going to think about it. May not always agree with you, but going to think about it and look in the mirror and try to get better. I appreciate that and I thought his character showed in his play.”

Stan Van Gundy Ready To Shake Things Up

DECEMBER 19, 11:42am: While Van Gundy and the Pistons may shake things up at some point, it doesn’t appear it will happen tonight. The Detroit head coach told reporters today that there will be no lineup changes for Monday’s game, per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com (Twitter link).

DECEMBER 18, 9:44pm: A lineup change could be coming as early as Monday for the Pistons, coach Stan Van Gundy told the media after his team was blown out on consecutive nights this weekend. Van Gundy has been exasperated by his team’s inconsistent play and the return of point guard Reggie Jackson from knee tendinitis has only led to more choppy performances. “There’s no question we’ve not been as good,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve played eight games, seven of them against teams below .500, and we’re 3-5. So there’s no question we’re not as good as we were before. That’s just a fact. Now, is that all on him? No. No, we have a lot of guys not playing as well.”

While Van Gundy didn’t elaborate on the potential lineup change, he really has only two viable options:

  • He could reinsert Ish Smith, who started while Jackson was rehabbing his knee, at point guard. Van Gundy isn’t sure if that’s the answer. “Even before Reggie came back, that starting lineup with Ish was outscored by opponents, too,” he said. “Not by as much, but outscored by opponents. So that has not been as good a lineup. We were surviving basically because our bench was coming in and outplaying people.”
  • He could move power forward Jon Leuer into the starting five and have either Marcus Morris or Tobias Harris come off the bench. Leuer has arguably been the Pistons’ most consistent player, averaging career highs in points (10.8) and rebounds (6.4). However, Leuer missed the 105-90 loss to the Pacers on Saturday with back spasms.

It’s clear that Van Gundy doesn’t intend to sit back and wait for the team to come around. “We’ve definitely gotta look at some things, lineup and rotation-wise,” he said. “That unit is clearly not working. At least not right now. “

Van Gundy also criticized his team for playing too selfishly in recent outings, with players more concerned about getting shots than getting back on defense. The players held a team meeting after the Indiana game to address that, as well as other issues.

“We’ve got guys upset they’re not touching the ball, and everything else, so they’re not as engaged in the game on the defensive end of the floor,” he said. “There’s all kinds of things that have to go into the game, and the ball has to move. There has to be an unselfish offense, and a committed defense, and the last two nights, there have been neither.”

Detroit is still just one game under .500 and one of many Eastern Conference clubs trying to find a way to go on a hot streak. But heightened expectations for the Pistons, who made the playoffs last season, have led to frustration over their mediocre play through 29 games. What changes should Van Gundy make to get his team going? Take to the comments section and give us your input.

Central Notes: J.R. Smith, Harris, Ish Smith, Pacers

Contract length was the sticking point more than salary in the long standoff between J.R. Smith and the Cavaliers, writes Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. Smith’s impasse ended Friday night when he agreed to a new three-year, $45MM pact with a non-guaranteed fourth season. Because of the luxury tax, Smith’s $12.8MM salary for this season will cost the Cavs about $39MM. The tax is why Cleveland didn’t match Milwaukee’s four-year, $40MM offer to Matthew Dellavedova, Pluto notes, as the front office decided it was too expensive to keep both.

Pluto also casts doubt on reports that the Cavs were motivated to get a deal done with Smith because he was negotiating with the Sixers, saying that Philadelphia had plenty of cap room to make Smith an offer any time during the summer if it had been interested and that Smith doesn’t fit with the rest of the Sixers’ young roster.

There’s more tonight from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons are optimistic that Tobias Harris will be even better with the benefit of a full training camp, according to Lang Green of Basketball Insiders. Detroit roared into the playoffs last season with a 17-11 record after the All-Star break, and a big reason was the acquisition of Harris from Orlando at the trade deadline. “Tobias has been great,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. “He came [into training camp] in unbelievable shape, worked really hard all summer and is just moving along playing two positions. Again, a guy that’s really tried to take to heart everything we’ve been talking about. He’s really been trying to work harder defensively, I mean, [he’s] exactly the kind of guy you want.”
  • New Pistons point guard Ish Smith says he wasn’t upset that the Sixers didn’t keep him, tweets Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly. Smith, who started 50 games for Philadelphia last year after a midseason deal, texted Sixers coach Brett Brown frequently during the offseason. “We were losing,” Brown said of Smith. “He gave us an injection when we needed it the most and he gave us hope.” (Twitter link)
  • With three new starters, the Pacers are using the preseason to help everyone get acquainted, writes Mark Montieth of NBA.com. Two offseason trades brought in Jeff Teague as the new point guard and Thaddeus Young as the new power forward. Second-year center Myles Turner has also been promoted to the starting lineup. All five played more than 32 minutes in Friday’s game with Orlando as the players learn to adjust to each other. “We have an open offense, where every player is a playmaker and every player has the ability to make plays,” said Paul George. “It might be my shots are going to come down, because it’s more of a free-flowing offense. That’s part of what I have to figure out. Do I try to remain consistent with my shots (from last season) or go with the game flow.”

Pistons Notes: Leuer, Smith, Johnson, Blake

Pistons players concentrated on recruiting this summer and wound up with two of their main targets, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy entered the offseason wanting an experienced backup point guard and a power forward with size who could make 3-pointers. Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson took care of the first one by convincing former teammate Ish Smith to come to Detroit. Tobias Harris landed the power forward through his connection to Jon Leuer, who broke into the league along with Harris with the Bucks in 2011/12. “Just having a good relationship with Tobias and knowing that he’s been with these guys and knows what it’s like in the locker room and what it’s like to play for coach Van Gundy, it had a big impact on my decision,” Leuer said. “Just somebody that I trust and know has a good sense of what would be good for me.”

There’s more news tonight out of Detroit:

  • Leuer and the Pistons didn’t fully commit to each other until Al Horford eliminated Detroit from his consideration, Langlois writes in the same piece. When Horford made Boston, Washington and Atlanta his finalists in free agency, the deal was finalized. “Once Al made his decision, it was, ‘OK, let’s figure out how we can get this done,’ ” Leuer said. “We actually came to an agreement before he even landed, so it was more of a celebratory lunch than a meeting.”
  • After a long learning experience during his rookie year, Stanley Johnson hopes to show the NBA what he is capable of, relays Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Johnson said being a first-year player is like going from kindergarten to being a high school senior. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 73 games, but he believes he can do better in 2016/17. “As much as athleticism is involved in the NBA game, it’s more mental than anything,” Johnson said. “You’ll see with the rookies when you watch them play, they’re not behind but they’re making plays slower than everybody because they haven’t seen it yet. That’s where I was last year — except I was playing, I was in the fire, I was in front of everybody and they were watching me make my mistakes on a grand scale.”
  • Steve Blake, who spent last season with the Pistons, has been working out at the Trail Blazers’ facility, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The 36-year-old point guard is staying in shape and hoping for another opportunity, she added.

Central Notes: Pacers, Maker, Drummond, Pistons

The Pacers seem ready to re-emerge as an elite team in the Eastern Conference, claims Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders. Indiana made several key additions this summer, swapping George Hill for Jeff Teague in a three-team deal, trading the 20th pick in the draft to Brooklyn for Thaddeus Young and signing free agent center Al Jefferson. The Pacers also have the security of a healthy Paul George, who showed during the season that he was fully recovered from a broken leg in 2014. In addition, Hamilton notes, Indiana has the flexibility for another major move or two this summer. The franchise is about $12MM under the cap and may have a $2.8MM room exception available. Looking ahead, the Pacers could have up to $50MM in cap room next summer if Rodney Stuckey and C.J. Miles opt out.

There’s more from around the Central Division:

  • The BucksThon Maker grabbed attention in the Las Vegas Summer League with Kevin Garnett-like size and Giannis Antetokounmpo-level speed, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com. Many observers were surprised when the Bucks drafted Maker 10th overall, but his athleticism may make that gamble pay off. “We thought he wasn’t afraid and had a little toughness to him,” said GM John Hammond. “That was the key to the draft pick — that we enjoyed him so much as a person and had toughness and wasn’t afraid. You don’t know what is going to go from there.”
  • The Pistons are reaping the benefits of Andre Drummond‘s decision to put off his extension until this summer, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Because Drummond waited on his big-money deal, Detroit had the cap room to trade for Tobias Harris during the season and then sign free agents Jon Leuer, Ish Smith and Boban Marjanovic“We either wouldn’t have been able to do Tobias during the year, or if we had done Tobias, we wouldn’t have been able to add the people we added this summer,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy. “It goes to Andre’s character, his true commitment to the Detroit Pistons beyond just getting the contract and [owner Tom Gores’] commitment and his relationship with Andre.”
  • Marjanovic’s three-year, $21MM contract will pay him $7MM each season, tweets Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. Smith will receive $6MM each year for three seasons (Twitter link), and Leuer’s four-year, $42MM deal starts at $11MM the first season and decreases (Twitter link). He also has $1MM in unlikely incentives.

Eastern Rumors: Butler, James, Jack, Wall

In an appearance Wednesday on ESPN’s “The Jump,” Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said he expected his partnership with Derrick Rose to be broken up, relays Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. It happened last week when Rose was shipped to the Knicks in exchange for three players. “I can’t say that I was surprised, but I knew that it had to be one of us, to tell you the truth,” Butler said. “Obviously, I enjoyed playing with him. I came into the league when he was the MVP. I’ve got so much respect for the guy. I have no bad things to say about him and I wish him the best moving forward.” Butler, who was the focus of draft night trade rumors involving the Celtics and Timberwolves, said he’s not certain he will still be with Chicago when the season opens.

There’s more tonight from the Eastern Conference:

  • The NBA’s “over 36 rule” is behind LeBron James‘ decision to decline his player option, explains Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. James would be subject to that rule if he signs a two-year deal just as he did last summer with the intention of opting out after one season. For players who have turned 36, their final annual salary in a four- or five-year contract is counted proportionally against the team’s cap each season. The rule was adopted to discourage teams from giving long-term contracts to players who are unlikely to be in the league for the entirety of them. The rule prohibits James from accepting a five-year, $200MM contract from the Cavaliers after this offseason because the pro-rated part would put him above the maximum salary. However, Zillgitt points out that the rule could be amended if the players or the league opts out of the current collective bargaining agreement in December.
  • The Cavaliers aren’t concerned about losing their stars, but they have decisions to make on six free agents, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Cleveland will have to determine how many years it wants to commit to J.R. Smith and whether it wants to outbid competitors to keep Matthew Dellavedova. Also, Richard Jefferson and James Jones have to decide if they want to play another season at the veterans minimum.
  • The Nets stretched the $500K in guaranteed salary owed to point guard Jarrett Jack when they waived him earlier today, tweets NetsDaily. The move will save the team $333,333 in cap space this offseason.
  • John Wall wants to see the Wizards adopt an aggressive attitude toward free agency, tweets Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post. “The organization’s got to be willing to step up to the plate and get what needs to be done, done,” Wall said.
  • The Pistons would like to add two more big men this offseason, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy said starting power forward Tobias Harris doesn’t really fit that description, and he wants to be sure the team isn’t short on size next year. “I think I wouldn’t be comfortable going with fewer than five, so we’ve got to go out and get two bigs – four, five, whatever,” Van Gundy said. “We need two bigger guys, even though Marcus [Morris] and Tobias will play there a lot. You just get into certain matchups.”
  • The performance of second-round pick Michael Gbinije in summer league will help determine the fate of Phil Pressey, Langlois writes in the same piece. Pressey is also on the Pistons‘ summer league roster, but his chances at winning a backup point guard spot for next season will decrease if Gbinije shows he can handle the position.
  • A stress fracture in his lower back will sideline Detroit’s Darrun Hilliard for the summer league and possibly longer, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. A 6’6″ reserve guard, Hilliard played in 38 games last summer and was projected to have a significant role on the Pistons‘ summer league team. “I just thought my back was tight and I just thought that I wasn’t stretching enough,” he said. “I was stretching and stretching and stretching, thinking it would get better and it never got better.”
  • Free agent swingman Evan Fournier said he wants to stay with the Magic, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Fournier, whose role likely increased with last week’s trade of Victor Oladipo to the Thunder, said he isn’t sure if his agent lined up meetings with any other teams. “Obviously, our priority is the Magic,” Fournier said. “I’ve said it many times: I feel great here.”
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