AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Report: Pistons plan to match any Kentavious Caldwell-Pope offer sheet, even a max

1 Comment

Bad news for the Nets or any team planning to pursue Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in restricted free agency this summer.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons are prepared to match any offer sheet he receives, even if it produced a maximum contract, according to multiple persons with firsthand knowledge of the franchise’s thinking.

One person told the Free Press: “We can’t lose him.”

This is the right course for Detroit.

If the Pistons let Caldwell-Pope walk, they’d have just the $8,406,000 mid-level exception or so to replace him. That’d yield a far lesser player, which is untenable for Detroit with too many players – Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Jon Leuer – under contract and at least theoretically ready to win now.

The 24-year-old Caldwell-Pope should remain productive through his next contract, which makes paying him major money less risky. He’s a strong defender, solid 3-point shooter and fantastic transition threat. Teams can’t get enough two-way wings as small ball gains popularity. His recent DUI arrest is unlikely significantly affect his stock, because his blood-alcohol content registered barely above the legal limit and he has an otherwise solid reputation as a diligent worker.

Caldwell-Pope would likely  get max offers if he were an unrestricted free agent. By putting word out now, the Pistons might dissuade other teams from wasting their time pursuing him. More likely, Detroit opens the door to negotiating a five-year deal with Caldwell-Pope rather than matching a shorter offer sheet from another team, which can be for a max of four years.

Interestingly, the next Collective Bargaining Agreement bans teams from declaring an intent to match all offers for a restricted free agent. It’s unclear how the league will enforce anonymously sourced reports like this, because the Pistons have plausible deniability they didn’t provide Ellis the information. More importantly in this case, the next CBA has not yet taken effect. The Pistons have wide latitude for another couple months to publicly negotiate Caldwell-Pope’s next contract – a deal that increasingly appears will return him to Detroit.

Stan Van Gundy says Andre Drummond needs ‘sense of urgency’

Getty Images
2 Comments

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy has a reputation for candor, so when he was asked to evaluate the development of star center Andre Drummond, the Detroit coach’s matter-of-fact response was no surprise.

“I think that he needs to have a sense of urgency to elevate his game,” said Van Gundy, who is also the Pistons’ team president. “He’s been in the league five years now. He’s still young. He hasn’t turned 24. So he’s got time. He’s a very talented guy. He’s been one of the elite rebounders in the league. He’s got some great things to work with, but there’s more there. The sky is the limit for him.”

Van Gundy spoke for over a half-hour at a news conference Friday with general manager Jeff Bower. The Pistons just wrapped up a disappointing 37-45 season in which Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson were unable to lead the team back to the playoffs after Detroit made it in 2016. Although Van Gundy is still expressing confidence in his team’s core, it’s clear the Pistons believe some of their top players need to provide more in 2017-18.

Drummond’s scoring slipped this season, and the Pistons weren’t as imposing on the offensive boards as they’d been in the past. Jackson also struggled after a preseason setback involving the health of his knee. Van Gundy says he’s hopeful that Jackson can return to form next season.

Van Gundy sounded content with merely tweaking the roster this offseason instead of making a major move.

“I don’t think we’re broken,” he said. “I think getting our point guard situation back to where it was, or even better, is more than feasible, and I think corrects a great deal of the problems that we’re talking about. And then I think our roster’s pretty good from there. I really do.”

Guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a restricted free agent, and Van Gundy called him an important part of the Pistons’ core. Backup big man Aron Baynes can opt out of his contract, and if the Pistons lose him, center Boban Marjanovic could play a bigger role.

Van Gundy was asked about his dual responsibilities as coach and president. He said Bower plays an important role handling front office duties during the season, so Van Gundy can focus on coaching.

“This idea that I’m doing both jobs is in most ways not true,” Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy said one concern with having the same person in charge of coaching and the front office is that a coach can have a tendency to overreact – but he says Bower acts as a check against that.

“After every loss, you want to trade everybody. I’ve felt that way several times. I’ve directed Jeff to do that several times,” Van Gundy joked, drawing a laugh. “But he’s smart enough not to do that.”

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

The Palace of Auburn Hills: Where greats earned the crown

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
2 Comments

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Michael Jordan came through here. LeBron James came through here. The NBA itself came through here.

They were tested.

And they emerged stronger.

Late Pistons owner Bill Davidson built The Palace of Auburn Hills, a sparkling, privately funded arena years ahead of its time that opened in 1988. Lower-level suites and on-grounds parking generated millions. Davidson’s Pistons won three championships while playing at the venue.

But current Pistons owner Tom Gores wants to return the franchise to Downtown Detroit, where the Pistons will join the Red Wings – who leave Joe Louis Arena, which opened in 1979 and was years behind its time – in a new shared arena.

So, the stars of those Pistons title teams – including Isiah Thomas, Dennis Rodman, Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups – gathered one final time at their old home to celebrate and reminisce.

The Pistons leave The Palace with a whimper, a 105-101 loss to the Wizards on Monday. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game, here or anywhere, in nine years.

But The Palace will stand as a proving ground for the biggest stars of its generation.

Jordan started 1-6 in playoff games at The Palace, including 0-4 in a seven-game loss in the 1990 Eastern Conference finals. The Pistons double-teamed him, knocked him down, bullied him.

Finally, he and the Bulls turned all their frustration into Bad Boys-level competitiveness, paired it productively with their superior talent and swept the Pistons in the 1991 conference finals. Jordan won his first of six championships that year and became the greatest player of all time.

LeBron James was 1-5 in playoff games at The Palace when he scored the Cavaliers’ final 25 points in a double-overtime win over the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference finals. That 48-point game was the first we saw LeBron truly unleashed, and he finished off the Pistons a couple nights later to reach his first of seven NBA Finals.

The most infamous moment at The Palace, of course, came in 2004: the Malice at the Palace. As then-Ron Artest laid on the scorer’s table during type of player fight the Bad Boys normalized at the arena, a fan pegged him with a cup in the chest. Artest leaped into the stands looking for a fight, and Stephen Jackson followed. Fans and Pacers brawled on and off the court for an extended period.

It was a low point for the NBA, which was still trying to find its way post-Jordan.

But the league too became stronger than ever after facing peril at The Palace. The NBA committed to improving its image, and a deep group of stars have the league more popular than ever.

The post-Malice debates – starting with the dress code – weren’t always clean. There’s a tension in a league where most players are black and most paying customers are white.

That was particularly felt with The Palace – about 30 miles north of downtown, in the wealthier suburbs and literally one of the largest symbols of white flight in area still feeling the effects of the 1967 riots. Truthfully, Detroit was probably better off without a taxpayer funded arena. But the entire region, in and out of the city, has an attachment to the city of Detroit. People, especially an older generation, here like the idea of the Pistons playing downtown. It feels right to them.

The Pistons made Auburn Hills their home for 29 years anyway, and it worked, because, at their best, the Palace-era Pistons embodied the attitude Detroit. The Pistons might provided Jordan with an NBA education, but when the petulant student became the teacher, they darn sure didn’t shake the Bulls’ hands.

Respect wasn’t earned easily here. Jordan didn’t get it until years later – begrudgingly. Grant Hill, the Pistons’ own hotshot who bridged eras, was far too widely unappreciated here. The fans still paying attention are grumbling about Stan Van Gundy’s current group.

Yet, those who prove themselves are welcomed back forever. Rodman, who joined the Bulls after leaving the Pistons and then embarked on years of sideshow antics, drew one of the night’s biggest ovations when he delivered the game ball. Thomas, 23 years after his last game here, still drew the largest media swarm with his infectious smile. And Wallace paraded around as if he owned the place.

“When you’re in The Palace, you always feel like a king,” Wallace said, resting a Larry O’Brien trophy on his shoulder.

The Pistons were never the NBA’s darlings. They just beat the NBA’s darlings.

They outlasted Larry Bird’s Celtics and Magic Johnson’s Lakers and held off Jordan’s Bulls to win championships in their first two years at The Palace. In 2004, the Pistons upset the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant-Karl Malone-Gary Payton Lakers, becoming the only home team in NBA history to sweep the middle three games of a 2-3-2 NBA Finals and win a title on its home floor.

“Even though our team won back-to-back championships, their team was the one that really, I thought, put us in that elite class where we were able to keep the winning tradition,” Thomas said, “in terms of being thought of as a championship place.”

Bradley Beal posterizes Stanley Johnson and Tobias Harris with one dunk (video)

Leave a comment

John Wall and the underrated Otto Porter rested for the Wizards last night, so Bradley Beal was going to get his. And he did with 33 points, including this dunk on Stanley Johnson and Tobias Harris.

NBA Power Rankings Week 25: Warriors, Spurs, Rockets top final ranking of NBA season

Associated Press
5 Comments

This is the final NBA Power Rankings of the season, a fun exercise that is ultimately moot because the NBA has a playoff system and is too smart to use polls to pick which teams are in it. Meaning yes, these are moot, but it’s still an entertaining exercise (there’s just no reason freak out about then).

 
Warriors small icon 1. Warriors (66-14, Last Week No. 1). Golden State went 15-4 with Kevin Durant out, and they are now 1-0 with him back (no Stephen Curry in that game). Because we as fans want drama and unpredictability, we keep looking for reasons to doubt the Warriors — how healthy is Durant? Will he return mess up the flow of their offense? — when we all know the reality: This is the best team in the NBA, and if they stay healthy it’s hard to see anyone beating them four out of seven. The road to the title goes through Oracle.

 
Spurs small icon 2. Spurs (61-19, LW 2). Despite being locked in as the No. 2 seed in the West, Gregg Popovich said he’s not resting anyone the final couple games of the season (they got to rest, and they have days off between games). I’ll believe it when I see it. Once again, a great defense (best in the NBA) drives the Spurs and will drive them deep into the playoffs as well. Kawhi Leonard had a season good enough to win the MVP award almost any other year, but he seems destined to come in third this time around — then in the playoffs show everyone that was probably too low.

 
Rockets small icon 3. Rockets (54-26, LW 4). Going into the season, I said the Houston Rockets would go as far as their defense would take them. We knew the offense would be elite (second best in NBA), but the Rockets improved on defense, too, and finished 15th in the league. There’s a reason Mike D’Antoni should win Coach of the Year, but I would have Daryl Morey as executive of the year, too, for giving D’Antoni a team that fits his style of play (something the Lakers and Knicks failed to do).

 
Clippers small icon 4. Clippers (49-31, LW 6). Maybe this is ranking them a little too high, but Los Angeles is hitting it’s stride at the right time — they have won 9 of 11 and have the second best net rating in the NBA over their last 10 games. Maybe a little health, a little luck, and knowing this could be the final run for the Blake Griffin/Chris Paul era of the Clippers could propel this team to a deep playoff run. Then again, they get the Warriors in the second round.

 
Cavaliers small icon 5. Cavaliers (51-28, LW 9). Wednesday night they look like the unquestioned and unquestionable best team in the East, thrashing the Celtics. Then they drop back-to-back games to Atlanta and look terrible doing it. It’s easy to question this team’s lack of focus of late, its lack of depth up front (the Andrew Bogut injury was a setback), the fact they’re a little less versatile than a season ago, but who you going to pick to beat them four out of seven in the East?

 
Raptors small icon 6. Raptors (50-31, LW 5). Kyle Lowry is back, if shaking off a little rust, and with that Toronto may be the team best suited to beat both Boston in the second round and threaten the Cavaliers in the conference finals. Toronto has size up front with Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, versatility, and great guard play. The Raptors took the Cavaliers six games last season, added Ibaka (who is an upgrade for them at the four), and just feel like we are sleeping on how dangerous they might be.

 
Celtics small icon 7. Celtics (51-29, LW 3). They are tied with the Cavaliers and have a real shot at the No. 1 seed in the East with two games left to play. That is a huge credit to Brad Stevens and what he’s done getting the most out of this team, and to the improvement Isaiah Thomas has shown this year. That said, the way they lost to the Cavaliers and Hawks last week raises questions about how deep this team can go in the playoffs.

 
Jazz small icon 8. Jazz (49-31, LW 7). It’s hard to see them getting home court in the first round because, although they are tied with the Clippers, Los Angeles owns the tie breaker and the Jazz finish the season against the Warriors and Spurs. Without home court, it’s going to be difficult for the Jazz to beat the Clippers. That said, this season has been a big step forward for Utah — now can they keep Gordon Hayward this summer as he hits free agency?

 
Wizards small icon 9. Wizards (48-32, LW 8). Washington is locked into the four seed in the East, which likely means starting against the Hawks (although that is not set). Washington should advance out of the first round but they have been a terrible defensive team since the All-Star break, third worst in the NBA, and if they don’t turn that around their playoff run will be much shorter than they hoped or planned.

 
Thunder small icon 10. Thunder (46-34, LW 10). Russell Westbrook has made his MVP cast in recent weeks, not as much with the triple-doubles as with his clutch play leading the Thunder to comeback wins, such as scoring the final 13 points against the Nuggets Sunday. Oklahoma City will face Houston in the first round, and while the focus will be on Westbrook vs. Harden the real challenge for OKC will be depth and finding a second shot creator and scorer.

 
Blazers small icon 11. Trail Blazers (40-40, LW 11). Portland has gotten into the playoffs, aided by Damian Lillard going off for 59 points on the Jazz last week. He’s going to have to have another game like that for the Trail Blazers to steal a game from the Warriors in the first round. That said, there should be fireworks as this is a matchup of the teams with the two best point differentials since the All-Star break.

 
Bucks small icon 12. Bucks (41-38, LW 12). The Bucks may have stumbled a bit getting there in recent weeks, they are in the playoffs. While I love to watch their gambling, aggressive style of defense, it strikes me as a system that can and will get exploited in the playoffs by any of the top four teams. That said, who is not excited to see playoff Giannis Antetokounmpo?

 
Grizzlies small icon 13. Grizzlies (43-37, LW 14). Once again we get the Spurs and Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs, although this time Memphis will have a healthy Mike Conley and he’s the best point guard in this series. Marc Gasol is the best center in this series. This was a series the Spurs wanted to avoid because of the physicality, but it’s one that will be difficult for the Grizzlies to stretch beyond five because of their lack of depth and some rough matchups.

 
Hawks small icon 14. Hawks (42-38 LW 20). Last week they swept a home-and-home from the Cavaliers where Atlanta had none of their regular starters for the first game them came from 26 points down in the fourth to win the second. Insane. One more win, against Charlotte or Indiana this week, and the Hawks get the five seed and a shot at John Wall and the Wizards in the first round.

 
Pacers small icon 15. Pacers (40-40, LW 16).. They look bound for the postseason after beating Toronto and Milwaukee last week (although a spot is not locked up), and they are doing it on the strength of Paul George playing his best ball of the season — 33 points and nine rebounds a game, plus shooting 44 percent from three in his last five games. The Pacers also have gotten some timely defense. Indiana will have some decisions to make this summer if Paul George does not make an All-NBA team (he’s on the bubble), but for now they can enjoy the playoffs.

 
Bulls small icon 16. Bulls (39-41, LW 13). The Bulls had one of the easiest schedules in the NBA down the stretch, have the tiebreaker with the Heat and Pacers, and yet may not make the playoffs because they do things like lose to the Brooklyn Nets. Chicago can’t get out of its own way, but with home games against Orlando and Brooklyn it’s still hard to think the Bulls will miss the postseason. Talk about a team that has some serious decisions to make this summer, Chicago tops the list and it starts with “what kind of team are they trying to build?”

 
Heat small icon 17. Heat (39-41, LW 15). They have gone 5-6 without Dion Waiters (ankle) and in that stretch have gone from everybody’s favorite playoff Cinderella to a team that may well miss out on the dance altogether. Tough games against Washington and Cleveland this week don’t help their cause. Even if they miss the playoffs, EriK Spoelstra is going to get some Coach of the Year votes.

 
Nuggets small icon 18. Nuggets (38-42, LW 19). Westbrook being Westbrook eliminated Denver from the playoffs this year, but it was still a successful season for the Nuggets — they have found a star (Nikola Jokic) and a guard of the future (Jamal Murray), plus have established a style and culture. Now they need to add some defenders to the roster and this team could become something special going forward

 
Hornets small icon 19. Hornets (36-44, LW 18). While their defense took a step back, this was still the most unlucky team in the NBA this year, they had the point differential of a 42-38 team, but some ugly losses have them on the outside looking in at the playoffs. That shouldn’t undersell what a fantastic season Kemba Walker had, he took huge steps forward with his game and carried this team’s offense all season long.

Pistons small icon 20. Pistons (36-43, LW 21). . Road wins in Memphis and Houston last week remind us what a disappointing season this has been for a Pistons team that everyone expected to take a step forward off a playoff trip last season. But Andre Drummond was flat, Reggie Jackson started the season injured and seemed to regress, and Stan Van Gundy goes into the summer with some serious questions about what his team should look like next season, particularly in the backcourt.

 
Pelicans small icon 21. Pelicans (33-47, LW 17). One of the most interesting teams to watch this summer, the only thing we know for sure is there will be changes. Maybe to the front office and GM Dell Demps. Maybe to Alvin Gentry as coach. Certainly to the roster — can they re-sign DeMarcus Cousins? Putting aside the question of if Anthony Davis and Cousins can play together (it’s still too early to tell) this team desperately needs help on the wings, guys who can shoot threes and defend a little.

 
timberwolves small icon 22. Timberwolves (31-48, LW 23). After watching him in person Sunday night, it’s going to be two seasons tops before you can’t keep Karl-Anthony Towns off the All-NBA teams. He’s got to get better defensively, but he’s that good. Outside of Towns and Andrew Wiggins, the rest of the Minnesota roster has all the focus of a bunch of school-age kids three days before summer vacation right now, at least that’s how it looked to me at the Lakers’ game Sunday.

 
Mavericks small icon 23. Mavericks (32-47, LW 22). Tuesday night at home the Mavericks will honor former Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo by having him in uniform and on the bench for the teams’s final home game of the season. Insert your own joke here about Romo getting inured in warmups and not being able to play. Dirk Nowitzki will be back for one more season, but Dallas needs to be looking for the next star to go with Harrison Barnes, who had a strong season.

 
Kings small icon 24. Kings (31-28, LW 25). This is the 11th season in a row the Kings have missed the playoffs, and after the Cousins trade it’s hard to see them making for a few more years either. While maybe Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere have shown a little promise of late, Sacramento needs to add picks and start adding talent to this roster. Dave Joerger can coach, but the franchise needs to be patient and draft/trade for young talent. Do we really trust Vlade Divac to do that? Does ownership?

 
Knicks small icon 25. Knicks (30-51 LW 26). It’s not going to be simple to trade a guy who will make $26 million and has a no-trade clause, but it’s hard to see the Carmelo Anthony era in New York lasting past this season. Both sides are ready to move on. The Knicks also likely move on from Derrick Rose. The triangle offense will be in, but that means going out and getting specific players to run it, not just use stopgap measures.

 
Magic small icon 26. Magic (28-52 LW 28). The leaked whiteboard images got a little overblown, yes it was sloppy to allow it but there was nothing on that board that most teams don’t have on their brainstorming boards. That said, no GM is on a hotter seat than Rob Hennigan in Orlando (think of the Serge Ibaka trades alone and you see why), and with a front office change would certainly come some roster changes. Going to be an interesting summer in Orlando.

 
Lakers small icon 27. Lakers (24-55, LW 29). Winners of four in a row to end the season, they now have a less than 50/50 chance of keeping their first-round pick (if it is top three they keep it, four or later and it goes to Philly).I’m not sure if D’Angelo Russell is part of the long-term future in Los Angeles, but his shot to beat the Timberwolves Sunday was certainly one of the highlights of the Los Angeles season.

 
Sixers small icon 28. 76ers (28-52, LW 24). For a team finishing this poorly, they took a lot of strides forward this season — we know Joel Embiid can be a franchise player (if healthy), Dario Saric can put up points, and the team defended and played hard all season. They get Ben Simmons healthy next season, they will have new players (their first-round pick, plus the Lakers’ pick if it falls outside the top three), and next year it feels like this team can make another big step forward.

 
Nets small icon 29. Nets (20-60, LW 27). While they finish with the worst record in the league, the Nets quietly went 11-13 after the All-Star break and played pretty well. Part of it was Jeremy Lin getting healthy and providing some offensive spark, but credit coach Kenny Atkinson for getting this team to not just roll over, and this was a good offensive team after the break. They have a lot of money this summer, look for them to try and poach some restricted free agents with big offers (as they tried to do last summer with Allen Crabbe, for example).

 
Suns small icon 30. Suns (23-57, LW 30). The Suns went with the youth movement late in the season to see what they’ve got, but what they really have are questions about veterans: Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler, and Jared Dudley are all under contract for at least two more years — they all need to be shopped. Maybe Bledsoe stays to partner with Devin Booker in the backcourt, but this roster needs an overhaul and a direction.