Pistons fire Stan Van Gundy

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Pistons owner Tom Gores promised changes to the organization. Pistons president-coach Stan Van Gundy reportedly resisted Gores’ specific ideas.

Something had to give, and apparently it was Van Gundy’s job.

Pistons release:

The Detroit Pistons announced today that Stan Van Gundy will not return as the team’s President of Basketball Operations and Head Coach. The search process for new basketball leadership, including a new head of Basketball Operations and a new Head Coach, will start immediately.

“We have decided that this change is necessary to take our basketball organization to the next level,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores.  “This was a very difficult decision and we did not come to it lightly. I am grateful to Stan for everything he’s done for the Pistons and for the City of Detroit. He rebuilt the culture of our basketball team, re-instilled a winning attitude and work ethic, and took us to the playoffs two years ago. He went all-in from day one to positively impact this franchise and this community.

“But over the past two seasons our team has not progressed, and we decided that a change is necessary to regain our momentum,” Mr. Gores said, emphasizing that Mr. Van Gundy, who has a year remaining on his contract, wanted to return.

“Stan is a competitor and he wanted to finish the job,” Mr. Gores said. “He retooled a roster that we think can be very competitive in the East. I know he’s disappointed, and that he cares deeply about his players, his staff, this organization and this city.  He’s also a professional who will make sure this is a seamless transition, and someone I hope will be a friend and adviser to me long after this transition is completed.

“I have nothing but respect and love for Stan. I think he is a great coach and a great man, and his presence and leadership helped move this franchise forward,” Mr. Gores said. “Although we did not get the success both of us wanted, his efforts and leadership have put the franchise in better shape today than when he came on board.”

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Van Gundy joins Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Mike Budenholzer (Hawks) as coaches who recently lost front-office power, but unlike those two, Van Gundy also lost his coaching job at the same time.

After a highly successful tenure with the Magic, Van Gundy waited three years for the right job. Detroit created it by offering dual roles. Van Gundy has made clear through the years he doesn’t fear getting fired. He wants to work on his terms. It’s unsurprising he never gave in to Gores’ preferred revamped structure.

The Pistons are definitely justified to move on. They went 152-176 in his four seasons in Detroit, making the playoffs only once and never winning a single postseason game. To achieve that mediocrity, Van Gundy capped out the team for years to come and traded its 2018 first-round pick.

But it’s less clear whether this is about punishing someone for the Pistons’ struggles or setting them up for future success. Gores’ problem wasn’t the Blake Griffin trade. The owner already declared that a victory, not something he needed to see play out. Gores admitted Detroit’s biggest problem this season was Reggie Jackson missing 37 games due to injury. If Jackson stayed healthy, perhaps Van Gundy would still be in charge.

It seems silly to tie Van Gundy’s job to a point guard’s health. Either Van Gundy was best for the job or he wasn’t.

With Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the Pistons could easily make the playoffs next season. That might hinge on the upcoming coaching hire.

But reaching a higher upside with this capped-out roster? Van Gundy’s successor in the front office will have his hands full.

James Harden returns to 76ers Monday night, is on minutes restriction

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The 76ers were able to keep their heads above water. For 14 games, James Harden was out with a right foot tendon sprain — both Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey missed games in that stretch as well (Maxey remains out) — and Philadelphia went 8-6 with a +2.9 net rating and the best defense in the NBA over that stretch.

Monday night in Houston, Harden returns.

This wasn’t a surprise, nor is the fact Doc Rivers confirmed Harden will be on a minutes restriction at first.

Harden averaged 22 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds a game before his injury, and while his 3-point shooting percentage was down (33.3%) he was still efficient and finding his footing as more of a facilitator than scorer.

The 76ers are 12-11 on the season and sit in a three-way tie for fifth in the East (with the Pacers and Raptors). If Harden can spark the Philadephia offense there is plenty of time for them to climb into the top four, host a first-round playoff game and position themselves for a deep playoff run. But it starts with getting their starting guards healthy again.

Harden is ready to take that on.

Trae Young frustrated ‘private conversations get out to the public’ about missed game

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Rumors and chatter of tension in Atlanta — about how Trae Young was adapting to playing with Dejonte Murray, and his pushback on coach Nate McMillan and his efforts to get the ball moving more — have been all over the league since the start of the season. Over the weekend, a little of that leaked out, with reports Young chose not to come to the arena Friday after McMillan gave him a choice of participating in shootaround or missing the game.

Young addressed the report and seemed more concerned that it got out than the report’s content.

“I mean, it was just a situation. I mean, we’re all grown men here and there’s sometimes we don’t always agree. And it’s unfortunate that private situations and private conversations get out to the public, but I guess that’s the world we live in now. Yeah, I’m just gonna just focus on basketball and focus on helping my team win. And that’s what I got to be focusing on…

“Like I said, it’s a private matter, again, made public, which is unfortunate. And if it was to stay private, it probably wouldn’t have been as big of a deal. But like I said, it’s unfortunate in my job, and my goal is to win championships. And that’s what I focus on.”

Young went through shootaround  Monday and is set to play against the Thunder.

Murray has been professional throughout this situation, saying he didn’t see anything at the shootaround Friday and backing Young and McMillan when asked.

Bringing in Murray was supposed to take some pressure off Young and spread the wealth more on offense, ideally allowing Young to be more efficient. Instead, Young’s usage rate is nearly identical to last season, he is shooting just 30.3% from 3 and his true shooting percentage has fallen below league average. The Hawks as a team make the fewest passes per game of any team in the league (stat via NBA.com). The Hawks’ offense is still a lot of Young, but it’s not as efficient as it has been in years past.

Atlanta is still 13-10 on the season, has a top-10 defense and sits fourth in the East — they are not struggling. But neither have they made the leap to become a team that could threaten Boston or Milwaukee atop the conference, and that’s what the Hawks expected.

There could be personnel moves coming in Atlanta — John Collins is available via trade, again — but if the Hawks can’t smooth out their internal, existing concerns (and get Collins and DeAndre Hunter healthy) other roster moves will be just cosmetic.

Nike, Kyrie Irving part ways, making him a sneaker free agent

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Here’s the positive spin for Kyrie Irving: He will have the chance to remake his situation into something he’s more comfortable with during 2023. As a player, he will be an unrestricted free agent and can choose where he wants to play in coming seasons (how many teams are interested and for how many years will be interesting to see).

Irving also is a sneaker free agent — Nike has cut ties with him, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Irving is happy with this.

The separation is not a surprise. Nike suspended its relationship with Irving after he Tweeted out support for an antisemitic film, did not apologize (at first), and was suspended by the Nets. Here was the company’s statement at that time:

“At Nike, we believe there is no place for hate speech and we condemn any form of antisemitism. To that end, we’ve made the decision to suspend our relationship with Kyrie Irving effective immediately and will no longer launch the Kyrie 8. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by the situation and its impact on everyone.”

Nike founder Phil Knight said it was likely the end of the company’s relationship with Irving.

That’s not a small thing by Nike, Irving has had a signature shoe line since 2014 and is reported to have a deal with Nike worth more than $10 million a season because his shoes are popular. However, his contract with the shoe giant was set to end in October 2023, and there had been reports Nike did not plan to extend that deal before this current controversy started.

Nike is already looking in a new direction, at Ja Morant.

Irving now has the chance to choose his new direction.

 

Cavaliers’ Dean Wade to miss 3-4 weeks due to shoulder injury

NBA: NOV 06 Cavaliers at Lakers
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In Cleveland’s search for a fifth starter to play the three next to Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, Dean Wade might be the best of the group. Not that the numbers are great for him or anyone (Cedi Osman is the best statistically) but the eye test makes one think Wade could be the answer.

We’ll have to wait a while to find out as Wade will be out 3-4 weeks with an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder, the Cavaliers announced. Friday night against the Magic he suffered an aggravation to a previous injury.

Wade has been a quality floor-spacer for the Cavaliers this season, shooting 41.1% from three, and is averaging 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds a game, playing a little more than 24 minutes a night.

When he returns, hopefully coach J.B. Bickerstaff will give him a little more run with the rest of the Cavaliers core (when they are healthy).