Detroit Pistons

Latest On Kemba Walker Rumors

Kemba Walker was the subject of a Woj Bomb on Friday morning, with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reporting that the Hornets are open to the idea of moving their standout point guard. While there had been some speculation about Walker becoming a trade candidate with Charlotte struggling, Woj’s report represented the first time the 27-year-old’s availability had been confirmed.

Asked today about that report, Walker acknowledged that he’d seen it, but admitted to reporters that he’d be “pretty upset” if the Hornets dealt him, as AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today Sports relays. The former UConn star has spent his first six and a half NBA seasons in Charlotte and said today that he plans to continue putting his “heart and soul” into the team and the city.

“This is where I got my opportunity,” Walker said (video link via The Charlotte Observer). “Seven years in now, I’ve been here for seven years. I do a lot with the community, of course. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the fans. A lot of the fans have a lot of love for me, as well as I’ve got love for them. Of course I’m going to be tied to this place. This is kind of where I’ve grown up. This is definitely home.”

Here’s more on the Walker rumors:

  • Head coach Steve Clifford was also asked today about the report on Walker, and he sounded skeptical that the Hornets will move their best player within the next three weeks. “I’ll tell you the same thing I tell the players: Nobody has said anything about it here,” Clifford said of a Walker trade (video link via The Charlotte Observer). “It’s a rumor. … He’s our best player, he’s the face of the franchise, and I think it’d be very difficult to find a scenario where he’d get traded.”
  • The Pistons figure to have interest in Walker, with a source telling Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that Detroit will “certainly look at” the possibility of a deal. However, that same source cautioned that it will ultimately come down to the Hornets‘ asking price.
  • Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic examines Walker’s potential fit in Phoenix, exploring whether it would be worthwhile for the Suns to give up major assets for the point guard.
  • Scott Fowler is strongly against the idea of the Hornets trading Walker, making his case in a column for The Charlotte Observer.

Jon Leuer To Undergo Season-Ending Surgery

Pistons big man Jon Leuer has confirmed to Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link) that he’ll undergo surgery on his troublesome left ankle. The procedure, which will take place today, will sideline Leuer for the rest of the 2017/18 season.

Leuer, 28, was expected to be a key part of the Pistons’ frontcourt rotation after averaging 25.9 minutes per contest in 2016/17, his first year in Detroit. However, ankle problems have limited the veteran to just eight games this season. Leuer hasn’t seen the court since October 31, and while the injury wasn’t initially expected to be a season-ending ailment, it didn’t heal as the player and team had hoped.

The confirmation that Leuer will undergo season-ending surgery doesn’t come as a major surprise, considering word broke on Thursday that the Pistons had applied for a disabled player exception to replace Leuer. The club had to apply for that exception before a January 15 deadline, and it’s only granted to teams with an injured player who is deemed likely to be sidelined through June 15. So the Pistons were prepared for this possibility.

Should the Pistons’ DPE application be approved, they would be granted a cap exception worth about $5.25MM. That said, the provision wouldn’t give the team an additional roster spot, so the club would have to cut or trade one of its 15 NBA players. As we outline in our glossary entry, a disabled player exception allows a team to sign a player to a one-year deal or trade for a player in the final year of his contract. If the Pistons receive a DPE and don’t use it by March 12, it will expire.

As for Leuer, he’ll focus on getting back on the court for the 2018/19 campaign. He has two more years and $19.5MM left on his contract after this season.

Pistons Seek Disabled Player Exception For Jon Leuer

With Jon Leuer sidelined indefinitely, the Pistons have applied for a disabled player exception, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. Leuer was once regarded as a key rotation piece in Detroit’s frontcourt, but has been limited to just nine games of action this season.

The deadline for the DPE application was January 15 and the Pistons made their case for salary-cap relief, with the 28-year-old now considering season-ending surgery.

Should the application be approved, the Pistons would be granted an exception worth about $5.25MM. That said, the provision wouldn’t grant the team an additional roster spot. Since the Pistons currently roster 15 players, they would have to cut or trade someone if they intend to use a DPE.

As we outline in our glossary entry, a disabled player exception allows a team to sign a player to a one-year deal or trade for a player in the final year of his contract. If the Pistons receive a DPE and don’t use it by March 12, it will expire.

Kyler’s Latest: Jordan, Kings, Mirotic, Whiteside

The streaky Clippers, who lost nine straight games back in November, have now won a season-high six consecutive contests, re-inserting themselves in the playoff picture in the Western Conference. Even though DeAndre Jordan has been sidelined with an ankle injury for the Clips’ last three wins, the streak seems to bode well for his chances of sticking in Los Angeles through the trade deadline.

As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes, Clippers ownership and management doesn’t seem at all eager to blow up the roster. For now, the club is focused on seeing if it’s capable of competing in the West, preferring to wait until a bit closer to the deadline to evaluate all of its options.

If the Clippers do change course by February 8, the Bucks and Rockets figure to be among the teams with interest in Jordan, whose contract situation is worth monitoring. According to Kyler, there’s a belief that the veteran center won’t be able to top his $24.12MM player option as a free agent, meaning it’s possible he could decide to opt in for 2018/19. That possibility may affect how the Clippers and potential trade partners view Jordan at the deadline.

Here’s more from Kyler:

  • The Kings‘ veteran players are all potential trade candidates at the deadline, though some are more likely to be moved than others. George Hill, for example, won’t have much value, given his contract situation, his injury history, and his underwhelming play this season. Sources close to the situation tell Kyler that Sacramento seems to be trying to help its veterans find better situations as those players fall out of the team’s regular rotation.
  • Kyler hears that Nikola Mirotic‘s camp is pushing for the Bulls to pick up the forward’s $12.5MM team option for 2018/19. Until that team option is exercised, Mirotic has the ability to block a trade, giving him some leverage if Chicago wants to complete a deal. League sources tell Kyler that the Bulls have “gotten pretty far down the road” in talks with the Jazz and Pistons about Mirotic.
  • There’s “growing talk” around the NBA that the Heat would be open to the idea of moving Hassan Whiteside for the right mix of contracts and young players, Kyler writes. The Bucks and Cavaliers, both on the lookout for a center, would be obvious suitors, but it would tough for either team to make a deal, given Whiteside’s large cap hit ($23.78MM). John Henson, Mirza Teletovic, Tristan Thompson, and Iman Shumpert are among the players whose contracts might have to be included for Milwaukee or Cleveland to make a deal work, which doesn’t sound overly appealing for Miami.
  • The Mavericks are “dangling” some expiring contracts and appear to be seeking a promising prospect on a rookie scale deal, along with future picks, says Kyler. Dallas also has cap flexibility to take on a contract or two.

Pistons Notes: Trades, Tolliver, Bradley

The Pistons continue to evaluate trade opportunities and with the injuries piling up, it’s easy to understand why.

Reggie Jackson, who is expected to return after the All-Star break, remains out of the lineup with an ankle ailment. Stanley Johnson‘s hip is sidelining him, and Luke Kennard and Avery Bradley are both dealing with nagging injuries too.

Detroit began the season with 14 wins in its first 20 games, but it hasn’t enjoyed as much success lately — the team is currently clinging to the conference’s eighth seed with a record of 22-21. Still, there is no sense of urgency in making a transaction and the earlier-than-usual trade deadline isn’t causing any major changes to the team’s strategy.

“I don’t think [the volume of trade discussions] picked up any more,” coach/executive Stan Van Gundy said (via Rod Beard of the Detroit News). “[GM Jeff Bowers is] always talking to people and people are calling. I don’t think it’s changed a whole lot.”

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons used their bi-annual exception to bring Anthony Tolliver aboard this past summer and the veteran has contributed more than expected, Beard notes in the same piece. On a one-year, $3.3MM deal, Tolliver may hold decent trade value and the scribe wonders if the power forward will be dangled as a “sweetener” in a bigger deal.
  • Bradley, who played through a groin injury tonight against Toronto, will see a specialist on Thursday about the ailment, Beard relays on Twitter. The shooting guard will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Season-Ending Surgery A Possibility For Jon Leuer

  • Jon Leuer continues to battle ankle issues, having recently received a second injection in his ankle, according to Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy (Twitter link via Rod Beard of The Detroit News). Season-ending surgery looks like an increasingly likely possibility for the veteran big man.

Pistons Sign Reggie Hearn To Two-Way Deal, Waive Luis Montero

JANUARY 15, 2:43pm: The Pistons have made their deal with Hearn official, confirming in a press release that they’ve waived Montero. The team also announced Felder’s signing.

JANUARY 14, 1:26pm: The Pistons will waive Montero and sign both Hearn and Felder to two-way contracts, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Their pro-rated deals will give them each 22 days in the NBA.

12:50pm: The Pistons are close to finalizing a two-way contract with G League guard Reggie Hearn, tweets Marc Stein of The New York Times.

Hearn, who was in training camp with the Kings, has been playing for the Reno Bighorns and is averaging 14.7 points in 14 games.

The Pistons currently have Luis Montero filling one two-way spot and were reported yesterday to to be close to a deal with Kay Felder for the other one, so either the Felder deal fell through or some other roster move is in the works. Detroit converted Dwight Buycks‘ two-way deal to a regular contract on Friday.

Pistons Sign Kay Felder To Two-Way Deal

JANUARY 15: The Pistons have officially signed Felder to a two-way deal, the team announced today in a press release.

JANUARY 13: The Pistons will sign former Cavaliers and Bulls point guard Kay Felder to its open two-way contract, tweets Shams Charania of The Vertical. Felder’s signing comes just days after Detroit converted Dwight Buycks two-way contract to a standard NBA deal.

It is a homecoming for Felder, 22, who was born and raised in Detroit and attended college at nearby Oakland University, which happens to be located in the Pistons’ former home, Auburn Hills.

Felder was drafted 54th overall in the 2016 NBA draft, and most recently played for the Bulls before being waived last month. Felder averaged 3.9 points and 1.4 per game over 14 games for Chicago this season.

Felder Has Been Talking To Pistons Since Jackson's Injury

Zach LaVine will be in the starting lineup when he makes his debut with the Bulls tonight, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. LaVine’s recovery from a torn left ACL took about 11 months, which is about two months longer than originally projected, but Chicago wanted to be sure he was fully healthy before letting him play.

“Extremely excited, ready to get back to playing again,” LaVine said. “You wait all this time, do all this rehab. It doesn’t simulate actual games. Going through practices and scrimmages don’t give you that full itch. Now I have something I can go after.”

LaVine will take over the starting spot occupied by Denzel Valentine, who has started 31 of the team’s 42 games. Justin Holiday will stay in the starting lineup, but will move to small forward. Coach Fred Hoiberg said LaVine will be restricted to 20 minutes per game for about a week, then his playing time will slowly expand.

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic is refusing to discuss his trade prospects, writes Chris Kuc of The Chicago Tribune. Mirotic, who has been linked to deals involving the Jazz, Pistons and Trail Blazers, will become eligible for a trade Monday. “To be honest I don’t listen too much to what is going on outside,” he said. “I just focus on what is going on here and up to my last day try to be the best player possible and be professional and help this team to be able to win.”
  • Kay Felder, who signed a two-way deal with the Pistons today, has been talking to the organization for a couple of weeks, tweets Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. The Pistons first contacted Felder when starting point guard Reggie Jackson suffered a sprained right ankle in late December. Felder, who has previous NBA experience with the Cavaliers and Bulls, will have 23 NBA days under his new deal and may spend most of that time filling in for Jackson, who isn’t expected back until after the All-Star break.
  • Bucks ownership remains hopeful for a 50-win season despite an up-and-down first half of the year, relays Rich Kirchen of The Milwaukee Business Journal. The Bucks hit the midpoint at 22-19, but there are reasons for optimism with the expected return of Jabari Parker next month and a possible trade for a center before the February 8 deadline. “I think 50 [wins] is tough,” said co-owner Marc Lasry. “We’ll be over 45. Hopefully we get to 50. That would be great. I hope so, but it’s going to be hard.”

Pistons Convert Dwight Buycks To NBA Contract

The Pistons are converting the contract of guard Dwight Buycks from a two-way pact to a standard NBA deal, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. The team had an open spot on its 15-man roster, so no corresponding move will be required to create room for Buycks.

Buycks, 28, had been on a two-way deal with the Pistons all season but only saw his first NBA action recently, with Reggie Jackson sidelined. Buycks has served as Ish Smith‘s primary backup at the point over the last couple weeks. In his last six games, the veteran guard has posted 11.7 PPG, 3.2 APG, and a .509/.462/.833 shooting line in 19.5 MPG for Detroit.

Assuming the Pistons simply convert Buycks’ two-way deal, rather than signing him to an all-new contract, he’ll remain on track to reach unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2018. Ian Begley of ESPN.com wrote yesterday that Buycks’ play has impressed rival executives, adding that several execs view him as a player who will draw major interest this offseason from teams lacking significant cap flexibility.

With Buycks no longer on a two-way deal, the Pistons will open up one of their two-way slots. They’ll have until Monday to sign a new player to fill that opening.

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