Tom Gores

Pistons Owner Optimistic Despite Rough Start

The Pistons have the worst record in the NBA but it doesn’t seem as if owner Tom Gores is looking to make any changes to the coaching staff and front office.

Gores is happy with head coach Dwane Casey and GM Troy Weaver and believes the young core Weaver has built will eventually revitalize the franchise, as he told Mike Curtis of the Detroit News.

“We’re growing,” Gores said. “Right now, we have an amazing core group and a lot of confidence. We’re better than our record is. We’re much better than that and I like the way that this team has a lot of heart. I feel great about it. Dwane’s doing good work. Troy continues to think about growth and everything, so I feel great about it.”

Weaver has drafted six players in the first round in three years, including last year’s top overall selection, Cade Cunningham, who is sidelined with a shin injury that may require surgery. Both of the team’s lottery picks this June, point guard Jaden Ivey and center Jalen Duren, have displayed high promise in the first 18 games but the Pistons have only three wins to show for it.

The Pistons are also currently missing two other players, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, both of whom were selected during the first draft with Weaver in charge in 2020. Gores sees a silver lining, as other players get opportunities.

“What’s great is, it’s the next man up,” he said. “Everybody has to do their job. We’re a team, and injuries are a part of the game, so we have to know how to deal with that. Good luck, bad luck, we’ve got to make our luck.”

Gores is especially pleased with the addition of Bojan Bogdanovic, who recently signed a two-year extension. He leads the team in scoring (20.5 points per game) and gives the lineup a veteran presence.

“We’re lucky to have Bojan,” Gores told The News. “I’ll tell you what, he’s a tremendous veteran along with Alec Burks, as well. I think we’re very fortunate. We would be a different team without those veterans. The thing is, veterans bring a lot of experience, but both these guys can play, too. You can’t teach the young men unless you can play, also.”

Pistons Notes: Gores, Cunningham, Noel, Bagley, Livers

The Pistons have delivered only one winning season since Tom Gores became the majority owner. With the way general manager Troy Weaver has revamped the roster, Gores believes the franchise is ready to take off, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes.

“I’ve now owned the team for 11 years, and I’ve never felt this way,” Gores said. “This is a great foundation, it’s a tremendous foundation. Part of the reason I love the players on this team is that you have tremendous skill, but there’s a lot of humility here. With humility, you also reflect and that’s how you improve. I really love this energy. I love it, and I don’t say that often.”

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Cade Cunningham realizes he may have to make some individual sacrifices in order to become a true leader, as he told James Edwards III of The Athletic. “Right now, we’re still trying to figure it out and build our way up to being a winning team,” Cunningham said. “Everything that I’m doing, everything that the team is doing, should be with that in mind. Maybe, right now, I have to sacrifice some things. Maybe I have to sacrifice 50 shots a game to make sure the chemistry is good, we’re flowing, whatever. We need to know how we’re going to play. So, when it gets that time, everyone is confident, everyone is ready to go. That’s how I see things.”
  • Center Nerlens Noel, who has been working his way back from a foot injury since being traded from the Knicks, participated in his first practice on Tuesday, Edwards tweets. It would be surprising if Noel played this week, but he could get some rotation minutes while Marvin Bagley III recovers from a right knee injury, which is expected to sideline him for at least three or four weeks.
  • Along with Bagley, Alec Burks (left navicular fracture) and Isaiah Livers (right hip) are also listed as out for Wednesday’s season opener against Orlando, Mike Curtis of the Detroit News tweets.

Central Notes: Gores, Bucks, K. Martin, T. Brown

Speaking to Jabari Young of CNBC, Tom Gores admitted that he made a mistake early in his tenure as the owner of the Pistons by trying to take shortcuts to contention instead of being willing to be patient and endure some losing seasons while building the right way.

“I should’ve been better about the idea that you can’t always win, and you don’t win fast,” Gores said. “I think I’ve grown from that perspective. I’m not sure I understood the magnitude of the responsibility when you own a sports team in a town that is looking to you for inspiration.”

After spending several years in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference, Gores has embraced what general manager Troy Weaver calls a “restoration” of the franchise in the last couple years. The Pistons’ 20-52 record last season was their worst mark since 1993/94, but the team was able to add potential cornerstone Cade Cunningham to a promising young core this offseason, creating optimism for the future.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Bucks are on track to be a taxpayer for the second consecutive season in 2021/22 and could face some tough roster decisions a year from now, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic, who notes that Bobby Portis, Donte DiVincenzo, and Grayson Allen are all on expiring contracts and will be in line for raises on their next deals.
  • Following the trade of Edmond Sumner, there’s a clearer path to a regular season roster spot for Pacers wing Kelan Martin, but he’s not taking anything for granted, as David Woods of The Indianapolis Star writes. Martin has twice agreed to push his salary guarantee date back in the hopes of making Indiana’s 15-man squad.
  • Former 15th overall pick Troy Brown, who was traded from Washington to Chicago at last season’s deadline, is hoping to claim a bigger role with the Bulls in his first full season with the team, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. “I feel like me and Coach (Billy Donovan) have a good dynamic in the sense of me being like a Swiss Army Knife,” Brown said. “Whatever he needs on the court, that’s what I go do — whether it’s playmaking, rebounding, playing defense, hitting 3s. I feel like that’s my job on the team, and I just try to accept that role and do it as best as I can.”

Eastern Notes: Mobley, Gores, Wizards, Bonner

The Cavaliers fielded calls for over a month regarding the No. 3 pick in the draft. However the team’s brass was more excited about adding a rookie with a very high ceiling than reconstructing the roster, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. The Cavs selected USC big man Evan Mobley with the pick. “We were able to draft a transformative talent, whose versatility, athleticism and physical gifts are qualities we covet in a player. Evan Mobley checks each of those boxes,” GM Koby Altman said.

We have more from the Eastern Conference

  • Pistons owner Tom Gores calls top pick Cade Cunningham a natural leader and feels giddy about the team’s future, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com“I’ve never felt better,” Gores said. “I woke up this morning and felt like we won already. We haven’t won a game yet. We felt like we won. I feel excited about where we’re at, but I also know through my life experiences we’ve got to go to work. We’ve got a great foundation.”
  • Zach Guthrie and Mike Miller will be part of Wes Unseld Jr.‘s staff with the Wizards, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report tweets. Guthrie worked under Rick Carlisle in Dallas last season, while Miller is the former coach of the G League’s Westchester Knicks. Former Magic assistant Pat Delany had already agreed to join the Wizards.
  • Becky Bonner is expected to be a bench coach on Jamahl Mosley‘s Magic staff, Fischer adds in another tweet. She’s already the team’s Director of Player Development and Quality Control. Nate Tibbetts, Dale Osbourne and Kaleb Canales are expected to be on the front of Orlando’s bench assisting Mosley, according to Fischer (Twitter link).

Central Notes: Drummond, Holiday, Augustin, Gores

A nearly empty arena took away some of the excitement of Andre Drummond‘s return to Detroit on Saturday night, but the experience was still memorable for the Cavaliers‘ center, who spent the first seven and a half years of his career with the Pistons, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

“Overwhelming amount of feelings rushed through my body,” Drummond said. “Just being back in this building again, but on the other side, it was a lot of memories that just rushed through my head, hearing my name again in this arena. After that, the moment was over. Came out in the starting lineup, got ready to play and we came out with a great win.”

Drummond was a franchise cornerstone from the time he was taken in the 2012 draft, but he became expendable at the February trade deadline when Detroit decided to shed salary and embrace rebuilding. Pistons coach Dwane Casey has watched Drummond a few times since the trade and has noticed his growth on offense since arriving in Cleveland.

“Different seeing him on the other side,” Casey said. “I loved him. I got close to Andre and I took it as a project to try to work with him and develop him and put him in position to be successful. It was a business decision for us — the direction we were going in and the direction he needed to go in from an individual standpoint. Hated to see him go. (Owner) Tom (Gores) loved Andre. The whole organization loved Andre. He’s the Dennis Rodman of our game as far as rebounding. He has a knack and timing. Tried to develop some other skills and just didn’t have enough time to get there with him. He has a bright future.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Jrue Holiday is having the impact the Bucks hoped for when they made him the focal point of their offseason, notes Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Holiday was a difference maker in the Christmas Day win over the Warriors, contributing to 30% of the offense through the first three quarters and holding Stephen Curry to 6-of-17 from the field. “I just think our spacing we have, the athleticism that we have opens up everything,” Holiday said.Giannis (Antetokounmpo) and Khris (Middleton) demand so much attention, so just to be able to run in space, to correct spacing and really just go from there.”
  • Veteran guard D.J. Augustin made his Bucks debut Friday after suffering a calf strain during the preseason, Owczarski adds in the same story. Augustin credits the medical staff for making him take his time to recover.
  • Gores is rejecting a call to sell the Pistons because of his ownership of a prison telecom company that is accused of charging inmates up to $15 for a 15-minute phone call, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

Central Notes: Donovan, Temple, Turner, Warren, Gores

Bulls coach Billy Donovan is already building a strong foundation in Chicago, working to establish relationships with his players and instill a respected culture within the team, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes.

Donovan, who’s set to start his first season as head coach of the Bulls this week, spent the past five years coaching the Thunder. He led Oklahoma City to a surprising 44-28 record last season, good for the fifth-best in the Western Conference.

“He has a great track record with his players and he has done a great job so far of telling us what he needs out of us,” veteran forward Thaddeus Young said. “We had a meeting (early in camp) and he took time to really sit down as a team and tell us, ‘These are the things we need to do to win basketball game(s) and these are the things we need to do in order to fight through this thing.’ I think he’s done a great job so far.’’

Donovan hopes to guide the Bulls to their first playoff appearance since the 2016/17 season, leading a group that consists of Zach LaVine, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr., Patrick Williams and others.

Here are some other notes from the Central Division:

  • K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago examines how Garrett Temple could immediately help the Bulls in a separate story for NBC Sports Chicago. Temple, the team’s only acquisition in free agency, finished his first practice on Sunday after quarantining due to COVID-19. “Just talking guys through certain things that I see, whether it be defensive things, offensively or just making sure we stay together,” Temple said. “If a team goes on a 5-0 run, 10-0 run that we stay together and not put our heads down. Things of that nature are some things I think I can help out with right away.”
  • The Pacers expect to have Myles Turner and T.J. Warren available for their season opener against the Knicks on Wednesday, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes. Turner had been coping with a concussion, while Warren had been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. “They were in a full physical, contact practice today and they looked good,” coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “There was a lot on 5-on-5. That’s what I would expect. They’re getting the green light to get closer and closer to that.”
  • A criminal justice group has submitted a letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver with hopes of forcing Pistons owner Tom Gores to sell the franchise, according to Davide Scigliuzzo of Bloomberg (via The Detroit News). The group’s concerns lie with Gores’ financial interest in Securus Technologies Inc., which came under fire this year for charging prisoners as much as $25 for a 15-minute call, Scigliuzzo writes.

Pistons Notes: Gores, Weaver, Patton, Mykhailiuk

Pistons owner Tom Gores is confident that new general manager Troy Weaver is the right choice to work with coach Dwane Casey, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Ed Stefanski has been running the front office while Detroit has been without a GM for the past two years, and Gores envisions them all operating together.

“There’ll be a nice divide-and-conquer coming in and again that’s why I trust Troy to come in as someone smart enough to leverage resources,” Gores said. “At a high level, we’ll work all this out in the detail. Really, Troy and Ed and Dwane will work on a day-to-day basis with each other, and Troy will have normal — and even higher than normal — GM responsibilities and he’s got a lot to learn. He’s going to get on the ground and know each player well and connect with (Casey) and so on and then as it bubbles up to ownership, (vice chairman) Arn (Tellem) and I — if there’s big decisions that need to be made — we’ll all gather.”

The management team will face two chances to set the direction for the future this fall with the draft, where the Pistons have a shot at a high lottery pick, and free agency, where the team could have as much as $30MM in cap space.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • Weaver made his first move with the Pistons this week, signing former first-round pick Justin Patton to a deal that’s non-guaranteed for next season. Weaver also took a chance on Patton last summer when he was in the Thunder’s front office, points out Omar Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Injuries have limited Patton to just nine NBA games, but he remains an intriguing center prospect at age 23.
  • The Pistons used about half of their remaining non-taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Patton, tweets John Hollinger of The Athletic. That means they can offer a similar contract to another player before the NBA’s transaction window closes Tuesday night, if they so choose.
  • Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk developed into an important offensive weapon after moving into the starting lineup and appears to be part of the rebuilding process, writes Lauren Williams of MLive“Physically, right away you can see the things that he brings to the table, but I think he grew this year and sort of his mental approach, and also just his confidence that he can impact the game in more ways than just shooting,” Blake Griffin said. “I think next year will be a big year for him. He’s put in a lot of work and I feel like he’s taking that step.”

Weaver Will “Run Basketball Side Of Things” For Pistons

Pistons owner Tom Gores defined new general manager Troy Weaver’s role, saying that the former Oklahoma City executive “will run the basketball side of things” for the rebuilding franchise, Keith Langlois of the team’s website reports.

Senior adviser Ed Stefanski had been running the front office but will take a step back with Weaver in place. Gores also encouraged Weaver to receive input from vice chairman Arn Tellem, and coach Dwane Casey. The club is expected to hire at least one assistant GM.

“We want Troy to lead. He’s going to run the basketball side of things,” Gores said. “We have over 100 years of experience between Arn and Ed and Dwane to leverage. The smartest people in the world leverage whatever resources they have. I wanted to make sure he would leverage it.”

Weaver said he was “blown away” by Gores’ energy and enthusiasm in a video conference and was sold on taking the job “in two minutes.”

Weaver, who had been with the Thunder for more than a decade following a stint with the Jazz, most recently held the title of vice president of basketball operations after previously serving as the team’s VP/assistant GM. He was Sam Presti‘s top lieutenant in Oklahoma City and had been a candidate for other top basketball operations jobs around the NBA in recent years.

The Pistons pursued him for a front office role two years ago after Stefanski was hired. He wasn’t ready to leave OKC at that point. When the Pistons came calling this time, Weaver was more willing to make a career move.

“It’s all about timing. When this opportunity presented itself, I thought the timing was right,” he said. “I thought the fit was right and the loyalty that Mr. Gores and Arn and coach Casey and Ed have building made it attractive. My talents fit with those guys there to be collaborative.”

Though the team is focused on a youth movement, Weaver sees Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose as a big part of Detroit’s plans for next season, according to ESPN’s Eric Woodyard.

“We’re excited to get them healthy and help them move forward,” Weaver said. “We feel like we have a good mixture of young guys with those two staples to be able to start there, but obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do with the draft and free agency.”

Coronavirus Updates: Training, Gores, Taiwan, Testing

A 25-day program designed to get players back in action is one of the ideas being floated around as the NBA explores ways to resume its season, Brian Windhorst of ESPN reports. Players would undergo 11 days of individual workouts while maintain some measure of social distancing. A two-week training camp would follow with entire teams participating. NBA executives and training staff have expressed players would require approximately a month to get back into shape after such a long layoff.

We have more from around the league on coronavirus-related topics:

  • Pistons owner Tom Gores will purchase and donate 100,000 surgical masks for distribution among Detroit-area health care workers, according to a team press release. Gores is making arrangements to buy the surgical grade masks from a supplier in New Jersey. The masks are expected to be delivered by mid-week. Michigan has been hit hard by COVID-19 with the third-most deaths in the country due to the virus.
  • The NBA could learn some lessons on how to restart its season from Taiwan, believed to be the world’s only widely-recognized pro basketball league currently in operation, Marc Stein of the New York Times reports. Taiwan’s Super Basketball League is playing games in a gym with no fans in a smaller version of the “bubble” environment that the NBA will likely try to replicate, Stein continues. The only people allowed inside, beyond the teams and the referees, are camera operators for the television broadcasts, the scoring crew, and journalists.
  • Playing in a neutral quarantined environment, with players and personnel isolated from the rest of society and undergoing frequent rapid-response tests, are the most logical ways for the NBA to resume its season, according to Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press.

Gores: Struggling Pistons “Have To Assess Everything”

Speaking on Thursday night to reporters, Pistons owner Tom Gores said that winning is still his top priority, but admitted he wants more than a No. 8 seed and acknowledged that taking a step back in the short term could ultimately help Detroit achieve that goal, tweets James Edwards of The Athletic.

“We have to look at everything because we’re not winning, so you’re not winning, to me, you have to assess everything,” Gores said of his 12-23 squad, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “I think anybody would want to do that. And probably in the next month or so, we’re going to get together as an organization and just discuss things.”

Although Gores didn’t go so far as to say that the Pistons are seriously considering becoming deadline sellers or blowing up their roster, his comments reflect a change in tone. After the club was eliminated from the playoffs by Milwaukee last April, the Pistons’ owner stressed that he doesn’t believe in tanking and wants to establish a winning culture in Detroit. However, the organization’s win-now efforts have been largely unsuccessful.

The Pistons have made the postseason just twice in the last 10 years, both times as the East’s No. 8 seed. The team didn’t win a single game in either playoff appearance and appears on track to miss the postseason again in 2020, despite the fact that the eighth-seeded Magic are just 15-19 — the 11th-seeded Pistons are already 3.5 games back. Injuries have played a part in Detroit’s struggles this season, but Gores doesn’t want to use them as an excuse, as Beard notes.

“We expected to manage minutes and all of that stuff for our players but we’ve had some bad luck, but other teams had bad luck, too, and you’ve got to work through it,” Gores said. “I just think injuries happen. We’ve had more than our share this year, but we have to build a team that can handle it.”

While it’s probably too early in the season for the Pistons to shift into player-development mode, it was interesting that Gores’ comments came on a night when rookie Sekou Doumbouya – the NBA’s youngest player – received his first career start, as Edwards points out at The Athletic.

If the Pistons do become sellers at the deadline, Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, and Langston Galloway would be among the team’s trade candidates. Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson could be discussed as well, though they’d be trickier to move and the franchise would have to be willing to fully commit to a change in direction.