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With this era’s flame still flickering, Pistons load bench with name recognition

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Just three teams have had the same trio of $16 million-plus-salary players each of the previous two seasons and next season:

Golden State won a championship, returned to the NBA Finals and enters next season with four-ish stars in a two-star league.

Detroit missed the playoffs, got swept in the first round and enters next season with, um, a reasonable chance at making the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Pistons’ expensive core has underwhelmed while limiting flexibility. Drummond and Jackson are paid too much to trade for value and too good to tank with. The best option is probably the least drastic, keeping this group together and hoping for the best.

Same story last summer. Same story this summer.

But maybe not same story next summer.

Jackson’s contract expires after next season. Drummond has a player option he sounds ready to decline. At that point, the Pistons must decide what to do with Griffin – keep his top supporting players, find new ones or trade him to kickstart a rebuild.

In the meantime, Detroit added yet another expensive potential starter and a few recognizable reserves. This far into the plan – no matter how lackluster the results so far – the present remains a high priority.

The Pistons turned Jon Leuer‘s deadweight contract and the No. 45 pick into Tony Snell, No. 37 pick Deividas Sirvydis, No. 57 pick Jordan Bone, the Trail Blazers’ 2023 second-rounder and $3 million. I would’ve rather kept Snell and the No. 30 pick sent by the Bucks for taking his undesirable contract (and Detroit’s original second-rounder, No. 45). But that wouldn’t have generated the $3 million cash.

Milwaukee dumped Snell because he’s too expensive for a fringe rotation player there and due $12,178,571 in 2020-21. Leuer’s contract was expiring. But the Pistons are so desperate on the wing, they might start Snell.

The Pistons also signed Derrick Rose (two years, $15 million), Markieff Morris (two years, $6.56 million) and Joe Johnson (partially guaranteed, surely minimum). That’s a former MVP, someone who finished fourth in Most Improved Player voting at age 24 and a seven-time All-Star.

But those likely backups are past their primes. Rose looked like he’d fall out of the NBA before a resurgent/outlier-shooting season last year. Though helpful more often recently, Morris didn’t crack the Thunder’s playoff rotation. Johnson has been playing in a 3-on-3 league for NBA retirees.

Expectations shouldn’t be too high. But there’s at least hope this group packs more punch than departed Ish Smith provided off the bench. More bench scoring could limit the load on Griffin, who – even in his best season in years – wore down by the playoffs.

Because of Rose’s injury history, it was important to sign Tim Frazier (minimum) as third point guard. Claiming Christian Wood off waivers was another a good under-the-radar move. But signing Joe Johnson will make it harder for Wood to make the regular-season roster.

If all goes well, Detroit’s best move of the offseason will be drafting Sekou Doumbouya No. 15. I rated him No. 7 on my board. But that was because I like his raw talent in a weak draft, not because I’m convinced he’ll become a good NBA player. It’ll take a while to assess that pick.

This summer wasn’t easy for the Pistons, but it was simple. Their status quo could change soon. If they play well next season, they’ll face difficult choices with Jackson and maybe Drummond. If they don’t play well next season, that’ll invite its own problems.

They’re hoping to face the play-well issues and built this team accordingly. But with limited flexibility, the outlook remains similar, with next summer looming as the major inflection point.

Offseason grade: C

Report: Pistons signing Joe Johnson, not Michael Beasley

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Remember when the Pistons were signing Michael Beasley to an unguaranteed contract? Well, they found a better option than a 30-year-old coming off a difficult season and facing a five-game suspension.

Detroit will instead sign a 38-year-old who has been dominating a 3-on-3 league for NBA retirees – Joe Johnson.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Bobby Marks:

A seven-time All-Star, Johnson is a bigger name. But not much should be expected of him anymore. He didn’t even play in the NBA last season.

Still, the Pistons could use another bigger wing. Johnson can still sometimes get buckets. There will be nights Johnson’s scoring would make a difference for Detroit.

Johnson is positioned to compete with Christian Wood for the Pistons’ final regular-season roster spot. Wood, who has an unguaranteed deal, is younger and probably better. But Johnson’s partial guarantee indicates Detroit’s interest in keeping him.

I wonder whether Beasley can still accept his reported $2.6 million-guaranteed offer in China. Not only might the interested team have already moved on, the Chinese Basketball Association is reportedly now barring its teams from signing players facing drug suspensions in other leagues.

If China doesn’t work out for Beasley, there’s always the Big3. As Johnson showed, that might be a pathway back to the NBA.

Dennis Rodman encourages gay athletes to come out

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Dennis Rodman keeps finding new ways to surprise.

The 58-year-old former NBA star built his own personal brand of flamboyant individualism well before social media made every pro athlete accessible to fans, and outside the traditional endorsements-and-corporate partnership framework. At the peak of his fame in the 1990s, Rodman pulled the spotlight toward himself by swapping out hair colors, adding tattoos and piercings, dressing in drag, and dating Madonna.

“I branded Dennis Rodman being different,” he says. “I was just being free … because I was becoming so bored about life and about playing the game of basketball, I had to do something to spark my life.”

After winning two championships with the Detroit Pistons and three with the Chicago Bulls, Rodman flamed out of the NBA in 2000. He spent years pursuing lackluster side hustles – and partying – then found his way back in front of microphones and cameras by forming a relationship with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Rodman’s spectacular personal highs and very public lows are the subject of the new ESPN “30 For 30” documentary “Dennis Rodman: For Better or Worse.” While making promotional rounds for the film, he wore a T-shirt depicting himself in a wedding dress at a 1996 book promo event.

Rodman spoke with The Associated Press about finding his niche as an entertainer, locker-room etiquette and President Donald Trump’s North Korea diplomacy.

AP: Sometimes being out of control led to the things that were best for you, and sometimes the worst for you. How do you think about that?

Rodman: I think the worst things that I was doing that people called bad – me drunk driving or me going to jail – was the best thing that happened to me. And all the good things that happened to me, I pretty much damaged those on my own because the way I was living and the way I was doing things in my life. But I think that title for the documentary is so appropriate: “For Better or for Worse.” Because when I was building this individual, Dennis Rodman, and I was building this brand – which I didn’t know was a brand back then – I did this all by myself. I don’t have anybody to help me, to make Dennis Rodman. Michael Jordan got Nike, Kobe got Nike. … One of the things I was proud of the most back then – I actually brought the gay community to the forefront for sports because of the things I was doing. I did a “Sports Illustrated” cover where I went in in a bathing suit and had makeup and stuff like that. And I was so flamboyant when I was doing it and stuff like that and people are like “Wow, we like this guy because he’s not afraid to go out the box.”

AP: Given what you did 20 years ago, are you surprised there still aren’t more out gay players in professional sports?

Rodman: I just think that percentage-wise in sports, I think there’s a lot. There’s probably more bisexual than gay in sports. I’m sorry guys, to expose everybody. I wish all of them would come out. It’s acceptable today. Just come out, man. Have a good time. Enjoy yourself.

AP: Did you see those conversations happening in the locker room? Were people having those talks?

Rodman: I don’t know any man on this planet – any man on this planet – that don’t go in the shower and look at another man. I don’t know any man that don’t do that. Gay or not gay, I don’t care who you are – a man is going to look at another man. I don’t give a damn how you look at it. He’s not gay though, but you got that pride and that image.

AP: (With North Korea), you weren’t intentional about necessarily going in order to make a name for yourself?

Rodman: It was a learning experience. It was a great experience. I mean a lot of people wish they can do what I did. I broke ground, I broke levels of leadership and stuff like that. And people don’t give me credit for it, which I don’t care. … I didn’t expect to be friends with this guy. Like I say, he hasn’t done anything to me, but to the world, he’s probably damaging to the world. But he respected me and I respected him in a friendship-type manner. … He was a very courteous, nice individual. Trump seems to want to do his political thing. You know like, `I’m saving the world for all of us.’ I said, Donald, don’t forget, I met him first. (Laughs.) I hope everything works out between North Korea and America. And it should in the future – unless someone mess it up. And it ain’t going to be me.

AP: Are you worried that Donald Trump is going to mess it up?

Rodman: It should work out. Let things pan out. I’m not going to mess it up, but I hope someone would just make sure that everything is cool. That’s it. Enough said.

AP: Do you consider yourself a Donald Trump supporter now?

Rodman: Nah. I like Donald no matter what. I mean Donald as president, I don’t care if he’s president or not, I just like him as a friend. That’s it. Now as president, I don’t know what he’s doing. As a friend, I just go shake his hand, we break bread. That’s it. I don’t hate nobody. I don’t care what you do, whatever. If you’re friendly to me, you’re nice to me, I’m good.

Cavaliers play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod dies at age 67

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Fred McLeod brought prestige, passion and curiosity to games he called. This is awful news for everyone who knew him or even just listened to him.

Cavaliers release:

It is with the most extreme sadness that the Cleveland Cavaliers share that Cavs and Fox Sports Ohio play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod died suddenly Monday evening. The entire Cavaliers organization mourns the loss of their great friend and teammate. Fred’s deep love for Cleveland and the Cavaliers was clearly evident in everything he did in and around the community and on-air during his more than 1,000 Cavalier game broadcasts. He was a true, heart-felt ambassador for the team, fans and entire greater Cleveland community.

McLeod, who previously called Pistons games, had an incredible career. Former Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien asked him about trades. Current Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert interned for him. While other outlets were packing up their equipment, McLeod had his cameraman remain the only one still shooting during the final play of the Stanford-Cal “The Band is on the field” game. There are so many great stories.

A Northeast Ohio native, McLeod clearly cared deeply about Cleveland. His emotional call of the Cavs’ 2016 championship – as shared by his wife, Beth – is such an incredible moment:

Joe Johnson reportedly to get have workouts with Pistons, Bucks, Nets

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Joe Johnson says he didn’t sign up for the Big3 this summer thinking of it as a springboard back to the NBA. He did it because he thought it would be fun.

However, after an MVP season and hitting the game-winner to lead his Triplets team to the Big3 title, there’s been plenty of interest in the veteran swingman with the sweet stroke. Early reports had him getting interest from the Clippers, Bucks, Nuggets, and Pelicans.

Now comes the new Johnson will workout this week for the Bucks, Nets, and Pistons, as reported by Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

Johnson, who last played in the NBA in 2017-18, will audition for three Eastern Conference playoff teams from a year ago in the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets, according to sources…

In his last NBA action, Johnson averaged 6.0 points on 38.1% shooting in 23 games for the Houston Rockets in 2017-18. In the 2018 playoffs, he saw his playing time cut to just 6.8 minutes per game as the Rockets advanced to Game 7 of the Western Conference finals before falling to the Golden State Warriors.

Johnson said that ending left a bad taste in his mouth and he would welcome another shot and a chance to leave the NBA on his own terms.

If Johnson, now 38, is moving well and has found his dangerous three-point stroke again he’s going to be able to help a lot of teams. Teams want to take a look because it’s a big leap from being able to put up numbers in the Big3 — a halfcourt game against players out of the NBA — and doing it in an NBA setting. But Johnson’s play has piqued the interest of teams.

Xavier Silas went from the Big3 to a 10-day contract with the Celtics. Also, Josh Childress went from the Big3 to a training camp invite in Denver, but he did not make the roster. That’s as close as anyone has come to making the leap. Johnson could change all of that.