Tom Gores

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Gores, Smith

Pistons owner Tom Gores was able to see his team up close on Wednesday, with Detroit surrendering a 113-100 loss on national television to the Lakers. Detroit came into the season with somewhat high expectations, sporting a new head coach and talented frontcourt featuring the All-Star tandem of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but the team has recorded an underwhelming 17-22 record 39 games into the campaign.

“I like this team. I think they can work through the adversity,” Gores said during a halftime interview, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Whether we want to say it or not, this team expects to be in the playoffs. This team does expect excellence. You have Andre [Drummond] and Blake [Griffin] — and these are major, major players.”

Griffin has certainly put forth an All-Star caliber season, to Gores’ point, averaging a career-high 25.1 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Detroit made a blockbuster trade to acquire him last January, with Gores strongly reaffirming his desire to build around Griffin down the road.

“We couldn’t expect more from Blake than what he’s done,” Gores said. “He has done incredible work and everybody didn’t know what he could do — but we couldn’t expect more. Beyond his stats, he really has been a great leader. Do we want to build around him? Absolutely.”

Griffin, 29, is in the second season of a five-year, $173MM contract. The Pistons could work to build around him sooner by being aggressive prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, similar to the approach taken last season.

There’s more out of Detroit tonight:

  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic examined the Clippers-Pistons trade centered around Griffin from last year, giving viewpoints from several players and figures on both sides. Since being traded, Griffin has worked to improve in one major category: Leadership. “I’m definitely more vocal,” Griffin said of his current role. “I think I’ve done a lot more teaching. Not necessarily teaching, but pointing out things that I see this year as opposed to years before. Just out of necessity. I think our teams were so old in L.A. that every guy knew what we were doing. So it’s been a cool challenge to change that up and figure out a different way to lead.”
  • Ish Smith is getting closer to a return after missing 17 straight games with a right groin tear, Beard notes in a different story for The Detroit News. The Pistons are 4-13 in Smith’s absence, with the point guard reportedly ramping up more game-like drills on Tuesday. Head coach Dwane Casey said Smith should return either on Saturday or Monday, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com (Twitter link).
  • Griffin will return to Los Angeles and play the Clippers on Saturday for the first time in nearly one year, with last year’s reunion coming nine days after he was traded. “It was a weird game for me dealing with that within the first five games back,” Griffin said when asked about last year’s contest in Los Angeles, as relayed by The Detroit News. “I think this time around will be a little bit different because I’ve had so much time to process everything and talk to people.”

Pistons Would Move Assets For Impact Player

The Pistons are willing to move assets to become more competitive in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not inclined to make a trade simply to dump a bad contract. That’s what senior advisor Ed Stefanski told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press in a recent Q&A.

Second-year guard Luke Kennard and future first-round picks are the most likely enticements to acquire another impact player, Ellis continues. The Pistons are close to the luxury-tax line and won’t exceed it unless they can get that type of talent.

“(Pistons owner) Tom Gores would go into the luxury tax only — and I agree with this — if it would move the needle for us to be a team that would allow us to compete in the conference,” Stefanski said. “If we’re asked to give up a big asset like a first-round pick to help the growth of the franchise, we would consider it. … If we weren’t sure of that, to make a big commitment with assets, I think could really hurt us. We can’t make a deal to set the franchise back.”

The Pistons have shown a willingness to trade a first-round pick in order to get an All-Star caliber talent. They traded their 2018 first-rounder last winter as part of the Blake Griffin deal.

Here’s more from Ellis’ chat with Stefanski:

  • Using an asset in order to move forward Jon Leuer, who is making approximately $10MM, or guard Langston Galloway ($7MM) — both of whom are signed through next season — wouldn’t make much difference on the Pistons’ cap situation for the 2019/20 season. Stefanski explains they’d be better off retaining their mid-level exception. “We wouldn’t improve substantially (in terms of cap room), so to use assets to get off some of the contracts you may want to get off — I’m not saying we want to — but to do something like that? It still wouldn’t create a lot of room.”
  • Stefanski believes Kennard, who was sidelined by a knee injury in the summer and a shoulder injury early in the season, is ready to make a bigger contribution. “What Kennard can do is make plays for other people. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s used now that he’s got his legs back. … We can’t have enough shooters and you need playmaking. I think Kennard provides both to the table.”
  • Reggie Jackson has underperformed in Dwane Casey’s system but Stefanski is optimistic that will change. Jackson spent most of the offseason rehabbing an ankle injury. “Our medical people said he would not be physically there until the end of the year, that he would still need time because when you’re off your feet that long and not playing basketball, it doesn’t just pop back on. This will get better and better.”

Pistons Notes: Thomas, Scouting, Gores, Brown

The Pistons were looking to add depth at the wing spots and got two players who will compete for minutes next season, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. Detroit didn’t have a first-round pick but traded away two future second-rounders to the Sixers to nab Creighton’s Khyri Thomas at No. 38, then chose Bruce Brown of Miami (Fla.) four picks later with their own selection.

“You never know how the draft’s going to go,” senior advisor Ed Stefanski said. “It didn’t look like we were going to be able to move like we did. People were asking for some big asks, but as the night went on it got much better and we were able to make the move. … We need some young guys, especially, to play that position.”

Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are projected to eat up most of the minutes at those spots but Thomas and Brown could get into the mix if an injury strikes.

In other news regarding the Pistons:

  • Stefanski notified the team’s scouting department that their contracts would not be renewed at the end of the month, Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated tweets. The team’s front office is undergoing a complete makeover after head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy and GM Jeff Bower were dismissed. The team is still seeking one or more young executives to take front office roles. Spurs executive Malik Rose has been offered a front office job. New head coach Dwane Casey is in the process of building his staff. The team reached an agreement with Bucks assistant Sean Sweeney to join its staff.
  • Top players Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson were asked for their input when owner Tom Gores was conducting the coaching search, Langlois writes in a separate piece“I did consult with them, (though) they weren’t making the decision,” Gores said. “I texted Reggie, Andre, Blake. ‘What kind of coach do you want? Let’s check the boxes.’ I did engage with them. I know them pretty well. Meeting Dwane, he really did check all those boxes.”
  • Bruce Brown underwent season-ending foot surgery in his final season with the Hurricanes but he has no restrictions this offseason, as he told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press and other media members. “I’m good to go,” Brown said. “I’m fully cleared. All my medicals look fine at the combine so I’m ready to go 100 percent.”

Pistons Part Ways With GM Jeff Bower

The Pistons have decided to cut ties with GM Jeff Bower, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Bower was hired to be Stan Van Gundy’s right-hand man when he took charge four summers ago. Owner Tom Gores fired Van Gundy last month and is currently conducting a search for a coach and front-office executive.

Ed Stefanski was hired last week as a senior advisor in charge of overhauling the team’s basketball operations. Van Gundy served as both head coach and president of basketball operations but Gores now wants separation between the two jobs.

Bower had continued his duties after Van Gundy’s departure but his contract was expiring at the end of June and Gores had to make a decision whether to retain him or move on.

Searches to fill the coaching and front office vacancies are ongoing.

On the coaching front, the team has lined up or already interviewed TNT analyst Kenny Smith, Heat assistant Juwan Howard, Spurs assistant Ime Udoka, Michigan coach John Beilein and former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.

Nets assistant Trajan Langdon , TNT analyst Brent Barry, Hawks executive Malik Rose, Grizzlies assistant Tayshaun Prince and ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups are among the candidates for the front-office job.

Van Gundy Disappointed, Wants To Coach Again

7:52pm: Van Gundy was willing to give up his front office duties and just coach the team next season, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets.

“When it came down to this, I was perfectly willing to only go in one role and to give up the front office and go into (just) coaching. I didn’t fight to hang on to that at all,” he told Beard.

5:40pm: Stan Van Gundy said he’s disappointed but not bitter that the Pistons cut ties with him on Monday, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Owner Tom Gores parted ways with Van Gundy as both head coach and president of basketball operations when they couldn’t come to an agreement on proposed changes Gores wanted to make.

Van Gundy, who was entering the final year of his five-year contract, admitted he wanted to fulfill the rest of the contract and sees how much the team could improve next season with Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson playing together regularly. The Pistons traded for Griffin in late January when Jackson was sidelined with an ankle injury and Griffin sat out the last eight games with an ankle injury. The trio only played four games together.

“To not get a chance to coach a full season after the (Griffin) move we made is disappointing to me. I’m not bitter and I was treated well,” Van Gundy told Ellis. “I’ve got no complaints.”

Van Gundy also said he would like to coach again if he found something to his liking. “If the right situation came along, I wouldn’t dismiss it,” he said. “I’m not going out on the terms I would like.”

That comes somewhat as a surprise, considering that Van Gundy told Hoops Rumors and other reporters in April that he was set for life and would probably retire if he didn’t return next season.

Pistons Seek Experienced Exec To Replace Van Gundy

Former NBA agent and current franchise chairman Arn Tellem will be involved in the process and could have an expanded role in business operations but is not a candidate to replace Van Gundy as president or Jeff Bower as GM, Wojnarowski continues. Bower’s continuing role was apparently the main point of contention between Gores and Van Gundy, with Gores pushing for front-office changes and Van Gundy offering resistance.

Bower, who has run the day-to-day operations since Van Gundy took over, met separately with Gores last week, Wojnarowski adds. Like Van Gundy, he was also entering the final year of his five-year contract.

Brent Barry, currently a broadcaster with TNT, is a candidate for a front office role but it’s unlikely he would be hired to run the show, given Gores’ desire to hire a more experienced hand, according to Wojnarowski. The Warriors were interested in hiring Barry to a front office position last summer but his TV commitments prevented him from making the move, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reports. Once Barry’s TV obligations are fulfilled, the Pistons will have competition for his services, Lowe adds (Twitter link).

Central Notes: Pistons, T. Young, Free Agents, Bucks

If the Pistons are going to make changes to their coaching staff or front office, they will probably happen in the next 10 days, writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Preparation for the draft begins to intensify with the lottery on May 15, followed by the opening of the combine two days later. The Pistons will want to have their management issues resolved by then, even though their first-rounder is headed to the Clippers without some lottery luck.

GM Jeff Bower met with majority owner Tom Gores on Thursday, Ellis adds, amid reports that structural changes are being considered to the front office. Bower and coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy, who also met with Gores this week, are both entering the final year of their contracts.

Ellis speculates that the longer the situation drags on, the less likely it is that Van Gundy returns for another season. He notes that Gores is unhappy about the way the team has managed its salary cap, particularly with generous contracts for role players Jon Leuer [four years, $42 million] and  Langston Galloway [three years, $21 million].

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Watching the Eastern semifinals has been a painful experience for Thaddeus Young and his Pacers teammates, relays Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype. The Indiana players are still reeling after dropping a tough seven-game series to the Cavaliers, and they believe they could be on their way to the conference finals if they had gotten by Cleveland. Young adds that he hasn’t decided whether to opt out of a $13,764,045 salary for next season, but he believes the Pacers are headed for even better things. “Man, I think the sky is the limit for us,” he said. “As a team, we’re already pretty good, but I think we’ll be so much better entering next season because we’ll all have another year of experience under our belt and we won’t be a new-look team that just got together anymore.”
  • The Pacers need to add a 3-point shooter in free agency, observes J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star, who examines potential targets for this summer. Indiana should have roughly $10MM to spend, even if Young opts in, which could be enough to land Wayne Ellington, Joe Harris or Marco Belinelli.
  • The Bucks are in position to trim some money from their roster heading into free agency, according to Fox Sports Wisconsin. Brandon Jennings [$2,222,803], Tyler Zeller [$1,933,941] and Malcolm Brogdon [$1,544,951] all have non-guaranteed contracts for next season, although Brogdon, a former Rookie of the Year, is expected to be brought back.

Pistons’ Gores, Van Gundy Meet Monday Night

Pistons owner Tom Gores and coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy will meet this evening to begin discussions on the franchise’s future, including Van Gundy’s job status, Vince Ellis of Detroit Free Press tweets.

This will be the first of what will likely be several meetings between Gores and Van Gundy, Ellis adds.

The Pistons have failed to qualify for the playoffs in three of the four seasons with Van Gundy running the show. Gores could opt to stick with the status quo regarding Van Gundy’s coaching and front office duties, bring in another executive to run the show while retaining Van Gundy as head coach, or let Van Gundy go and seek a new direction.

The mid-season acquisition of Blake Griffin from the Clippers could work in Van Gundy’s favor, as the Pistons didn’t have the services of point guard Reggie Jackson at the time. The Pistons are hoping that the trio of Griffin, Jackson and the NBA’s top rebounder, Andre Drummond, can lead them back to prominence. They only played four games together after Jackson returned from a high ankle sprain, as Griffin missed the last eight games with a bone bruise on his ankle.

Gores told reporters during the team’s final home game that he would meet with Van Gundy after the season to determine what changes, if any, would be made. Van Gundy has one season remaining on his five-year, $35MM contract.

The Pistons finished 39-43 this season, ninth-best in the Eastern Conference.

Pistons Owner Still Mulling Van Gundy’s Status

Pistons owner Tom Gores is still undecided whether he’ll retain coach and team president Stan Van Gundy for the final year of his contract, Rod Beard of the Detroit News reports.

Gores met with the media during the team’s home finale on Monday night. The team has failed to make the playoffs in three of four seasons with Van Gundy running the show. Gores reiterated he would make the final decision after a postseason meeting with Van Gundy.

“We’re going to meet next week and discuss what’s going on. At the same time, he’s dedicated the last four years and Stan and I are partners,” Gores told Beard and other media members. “There’s no way I would make a decision without talking to Stan and he’s been really busy with the season. That’s a decision Stan and I make.”

Gores vowed to make some changes, even if Van Gundy is retained. But Gores still likes the idea of having a coach with personnel power.

“We’re not winning. It’s just that simple,” he said. “Whatever mistakes we’ve made or why we haven’t won, we have to evaluate that. I see value in the front office and the coach being connected.”