The Pistons and restricted free agent Greg Monroe (10) remain in a holding pattern. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
Orlando, Florida — The biggest domino for the Pistons is nowhere near the biggest piece for the NBA, so Stan Van Gundy knows Greg Monroe’s restricted free agency will take a backseat to some of the game’s bigger business.
Waiting on LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony to decide their destinations has kept the speculation wheel moving along, but the actual team-building has nearly slowed to a crawl in most places — the Pistons’ addition of Aaron Gray notwithstanding.
“It’s pretty much that’s how it always goes,” the Pistons president and coach said in a media scrum Tuesday at Amway Arena. “There’s things you end up waiting on in this process. Certain chips have to fall first.”
Van Gundy made Monroe his first visit after landing the Pistons’ all-everything title and despite words that could be interpreted as ambiguous concerning Monroe, he attempted to make it clear the Pistons’ intention is to keep him.
“I’m not hesitant at all. We want Greg Monroe back. But it’s got to be a mutual thing, too,” said Van Gundy, perhaps leaving the door open for other interpretations.
“There’s no hesitation there. From Day 1, Greg can tell you, he’s the first player I met with within the first few days of getting the job. We made it clear we want him back.”
It’s clear the Pistons and Monroe are in a holding pattern, and it can be for numerous reasons. Monroe could wait on the market to truly open up, so the plethora of teams with money to burn can begin to actively recruit the 24-year-old big man — after the pipe dream of landing James or Anthony falls to the wayside.
Conceivably, Monroe could be wooed by the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers, and considering that restricted free agency generally happens only once, he’ll weigh his options and the Pistons will have to be comfortable with that.
Of course, the Pistons could present Monroe with a max contract offer and perhaps shut the show down, but it’s likely they don’t want to pay him a dime more than another suitor would be willing to offer.
When directly asked if the Pistons would match any offer sheet for Monroe, the Pistons czar played coy — as he has in other situations that call for a “yes” or “no” answer.
“I’m not to go into the business side of things and I’m certainly not going to help other teams in terms of helping build their strategy,” Van Gundy said. “Greg is a very important piece to the puzzle and we want him back. We’ll see what happens in the next weeks, months, whatever it takes.
“We’re still in talks with Greg. I don’t know what else to say on that. We talk on a regular basis. There’s so many things that can happen with a restricted free agent. We want to get something that’s good for both sides.”
There’s always the possibility Monroe doesn’t want to come back, although he hasn’t given any outward indication of such, and there’s growing thought around the league he could take the one-year qualifying offer of $5.4 million just to hit unrestricted free agency next summer. But it would be difficult to recoup that cash.
He could have doubts about where he fits in the larger puzzle, with Andre Drummond emerging as the center of the future, Josh Smith still on the roster and Van Gundy’s previous preference of using one big man and spreading the floor with shooters — which everyone knows Monroe is not.
“There’s been a lot of back-and-forth and it’s been good,” Van Gundy said. “There’s no doubt on my part or our part on the basketball side we want him back.”
But Van Gundy also alluded to an order of doing things, an order that’s essentially determined by NBA rules. With the Pistons’ cap space whittling thanks to agreeing to terms with Jodie Meeks, Cartier Martin and Gray, it would behoove the Pistons to wait to sign Monroe because they can exceed the salary cap to keep him, if it came to that.
“You always deal with people and there’s certainly an order to get things done,” Van Gundy said. “The main goal is to eventually get to an agreement.”
And there’s also the possibility the Pistons could keep their remaining cap space after dealing with Monroe, in order to facilitate trades in the regular season.
“There’s a lot of ways you can go with that,” Van Gundy said. “You can go all in on one guy, split it up or have flexibility for trades down the line. It’s a lot about who you can make a play on that determines where you want to go.”