Pistons Monroe brushes off trade rumors, says he doesn’t want change

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It’s going to be an interesting season in Detroit.

Bringing in Josh Smith is a talent upgrade for the Pistons, a big one and an expensive one (four years, $56 million). But it’s also one that makes for some interesting matchups for new coach Mo Cheeks to deal with — Andre Drummond is the center of the future, Greg Monroe was the power forward of the future, and that means Smith is the three. But Smith shot 72 percent inside the restricted area last season, 32 percent in the rest of the paint, 30.5 percent from the midrange and 30 percent from three.

The Pistons now have three guys who need to work close to the rim to be efficient, which is going to get crowded and interesting.

Which is why there have been some Monroe trade rumors (possibly in a Rajon Rondo deal) — GM Joe Dumars said only Smith and Drummond are untouchables on the team. But speaking with Ben Goliver of Sports Illustrated Monroe brushed those aside.

“I have a very close relationship, as do most players who play for the Pistons, with the front office,” Monroe said. “They communicate with us very well. … There’s always going to be speculation, people are going to make up stuff, they’re going to hear stuff, they’re going to write it. I don’t worry about it. I’m very happy being a Piston and I hope they’re very happy with me. As far as I know, they like me….

“I think neither of us want a change,” Monroe said of his standing with the Pistons. “People are going to write stuff. I just laugh at it most of the time, because it’s foolish. That’s how people get paid nowadays. Guys like us have to live with it because we can’t comment on it. It’s going to happen. As long as I know the truth, I’m fine with it.”

If the Pistons can make this front line work it will cause problems for other teams because in an NBA where the trend has been to go small the Pistons are going big. Going against the grain can work.

If not, if the paint is just crowded and you can defend the Pistons by packing in the defense on them and getting Smith to shoot more jumpers, then those trade rumors are really going to heat up.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.