Kurt Helin

Flip Saunders

NBA coaches will wear lapel pin honoring Flip Saunders

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The passing of Flip Saunders on Sunday caught the NBA off-guard. From his players, other coaches, other front office staffs around the league came stories with the universal theme of him being one of the good guys (and that was my experience in limited interactions with him).

This season his fellow NBA coaches will honor his memory in games, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

That’s a nice nod by the coaches to a fallen colleague.

What people around the league can do that would be even more appropriate is make a donation to cancer research (he died of Hodgkin’s lymphoma) and help us move a step closer to wiping that disease off the list killers in this nation (and around the world). It has robbed us of too many people who were too young.

Danny Granger will be final cut from Pistons roster today

Portland Trailblazers v Indiana Pacers
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Stan Van Gundy wanted to give Danny Granger a chance, to see if he could get healthy and be even a shadow of the former All-Star and Most Improved Player from his time with the Pacers, a guy who could help a rebuilding Pistons’ team.

But Granger has spent most of camp at his home in Arizona trying to recover from the multiple knee surgeries that have sidetracked his career. While it’s not yet official, Stan Van Gundy made it clear on Sunday that Granger would be the team’s final cut, as reported by Aaron McMann at Mlive.com.

The deadline to trim rosters down to 15 for the start of the NBA regular season is Monday and the Pistons, after the decision to waive guard Ryan Boatright and assign him to their D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids, currently stand at 16. Danny Granger is likely to be the last one cut, a decision that could come soon after Van Gundy said Sunday he remains at home in Arizona rehabbing his knee. About the possibility of trading him? “It’s doubtful,” he said. “We’re probably sort of at the end of the road with him. We took it as far as we could, hoping to get a look at him, but he hasn’t been ready to come back. So we’ll go with the 15 guys that are here.”

This is not a surprise in the least. Granger was traded from Phoenix to Detroit this summer as part of the Marcus Morris deal that was a salary dump by the Suns to make their run at LaMarcus Aldridge. Granger has a fully guaranteed $2.2 million contract he opted into, and the Pistons will pay.

It’s sad to see this happen, but at age 32 this is likely the last shot for Granger. Maybe if he takes a full season off, gets his knee right, and tries to make a comeback a team will take a look. Maybe he beats the odds. But this is a guy who has played in just 76 games over the last three seasons and not had a PER above 10.9 in any of them (and that’s the kind of number you expect in 12-minute a night guy at the end of the bench at best).  He’s going to have to show he deserves a roster spot more than a young, developing player, and that’s not likely anymore.

51 Questions: Who will win the East?

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Which teams make the playoffs, then who wins the East.

Here are our staff predictions:

Kurt Helin:

1. Cavaliers
2. Heat
3. Wizards
4. Bulls
5. Raptors
6. Hawks
7. Bucks
8. Pistons

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Wizards

It is the Cavaliers then everyone else in the East. Maybe, if they dial it back to keep LeBron James and others healthy for the playoffs the Cavs can be challenged or beaten for the top seed, but it will not matter come the playoffs if that pays off and everyone is on the floor. I’m higher on Washington than most, I think this is Bradley Beal‘s breakout season, but if the Bulls or Heat make the ECF I’m not going to be surprised. Also, I’m not sold Boston can replicate last season’s success, and I like the Pistons.

Dan Feldman:

1. Cavaliers
2. Bulls
3. Wizards
4. Heat
5. Raptors
6. Hawks
7. Bucks
8. Celtics

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Bulls

It’s the Cavs and then everyone else, including the Pistons, Pacers and Hornets, who could compete for home-court advantage. There’s a lot of wiggle room in those lower seeds. I like the Bucks’ and Celtics’ futures, but I’m only lukewarm on their ability to win big yet.

Sean Highkin:

1. Bulls
2. Heat
3. Cavaliers
4. Wizards
5. Hawks
6. Raptors
7. Bucks
8. Pistons

Eastern Conference Finals: Cavaliers over Bulls

I don’t really see the Cavs getting the No. 1 seed in the East — they’re starting off the year with too many key guys injured (Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert are out, and Kevin Love and Timofey Mozgov are still limited), and LeBron is at the point in his career where he needs to seriously think about going on the Dwyane Wade/Tim Duncan plan and sitting out back-to-backs. But even though the Cavs may not have the best regular-season record, if they’re healthy in the playoffs, nobody is on their level.

Hornets select Greensboro as home for new D-League fanchise

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The Charlotte Hornets will launch their own D-League team. Well, in a year, the start of the 2016 season, but they are getting one.

And they are keeping it close to home — the team will be based in Greensboro, reports the Greensboro News & Record.

The Charlotte Hornets have chosen Greensboro as the host city for a new professional basketball minor-league team in the expanding NBA Development League. A formal announcement is expected Tuesday at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, but officials with the Hornets and the D-league, as it’s called, have confirmed the move.

This is the third largest city in North Carolina, and while they have a facility — the Pavilion — it’s not a basketball gym and is going to need some upgrades, such as a permanent roof. And better locker rooms. But they have a plan and a year to get the work done and turn it into a fieldhouse-style facility.

Maybe the biggest challenge is there are no other D-League teams in the region right now. D-League teams are clustered in Texas, California and the West, plus in the NorthEast. The Miami Heat have their team in Sioux City, South Dakota. The Greensboro team is going to travel a lot for a few years, until the league fills out a little, and other teams move to the south.

As it stands now, this will bring to 20 the number of D-League teams next season, and they will all have one-on-one relationships with NBA teams. And this is a good move for teams — and a good one for Charlotte. It can give them a leg up in development of young players that could eventually be part of the big club. You know, a real minor league. That’s the goal.

Kings’ George Karl going to start Willie Cauley-Stein at at four

Kawhi Leonard, Willie Cauley-Stein
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Willie Cauley-Stein‘s seven-foot length and crazy athleticism let him cover up a lot of mistakes from high school and at Kentucky (John Calipari had him playing to his strengths). But the NBA game requires quicker recognition and a higher basketball IQ.

Cauley-Stein admits he’s adjusting to that, as reported by James Ham at CSNBayArea.com.

“I didn’t realize that there is so much to the game, besides playing the game, so that’s where I’m at now,” the former Kentucky star said. “From a mental standpoint of just understanding the NBA as a whole as a concept.”

He’s picked it up enough that George Karl is going to start him at the power forward spot next to DeMarcus Cousins, something the coach said after a recent practice.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Karl said. “I would say right now, Willie’s probably going to start. I’m not sure of that yet, but I think that’s probably where I’m heading.”

Part of that is that Cauley-Stein is athletic and can run the floor well, fitting better with the up-tempo style Karl wants to play. Plus he brings some shot blocking. Karl could have tried to start Cousins and Kosta Koufos, but that’s not exactly a running lineup. That said, I don’t expect to see heavy minutes for Cauley-Stein either (21-22 a game is my guess).

What I do expect to see more and more of from the Kings as the season goes on is small ball, with Rudy Gay and others playing a stretch four. Karl is going to massage lineups and figure out what makes them most competitive.