July 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

Greg Monroe's return to Pistons is no sure thing

'I'm not hesitant at all. We want Greg Monroe back. But it's got to be a mutual thing, too,' Pistons president Stan Van Gundy said. (Clarence Tabb, Jr. / Detroit News)

Orlando, Florida — The business started to flow fast and furious in the NBA over the weekend, almost minutes after LeBron James made his surprising choice to leave Miami and return to Cleveland.

But things have been quiet on the Pistons’ end concerning Greg Monroe. As time goes on, one can ponder the possibility of Monroe truly considering other options aside from returning to the Pistons.

Pistons president Stan Van Gundy slightly raised suspicions when asked about the Pistons’ willingness to keep Monroe, leaving the door open to Monroe possibly wanting a fresh start in another city.

“I’m not hesitant at all. We want Greg Monroe back. But it’s got to be a mutual thing, too,” Van Gundy said during summer league last week in Orlando.

Van Gundy refused to say if the Pistons would match any offer sheet for Monroe, even if it’s a max deal. Contrast that with the Jazz’s position concerning their restricted free agent, Gordon Hayward, as the Jazz made it known the franchise would match any offer — and the Jazz backed up their words when the Hornets signed Hayward to a max offer sheet.

Van Gundy has kept the option of a sign-and-trade open for Monroe if it’s equitable for both sides, while also trying to make clear they want him back next season and long-term.

Even if the Pistons gave Monroe a max contract now, the salary cap stands to rise exponentially two years from now, so it wouldn’t be as bitter of a pill to swallow because he wouldn’t take up such a huge chunk.

Public posturing is a necessary evil for people in Van Gundy’s position. He’s dealt with Monroe’s agent, David Falk, on other matters, considering Falk represents former Van Gundy coaching assistant Patrick Ewing, and Falk has wisely chosen to keep his plans close to the vest.

From Monroe’s side, he’s gone through four coaches in four seasons, numerous signs of instability and discord, and has had to change his position to accommodate teammate Andre Drummond’s ascension.

Add to it Van Gundy admitting he’s had to sell himself and his vision to Monroe since taking over several weeks ago, as well as Drummond’s subtle but clear recruitment of Monroe through social media recently.

Drummond told a local reporter more than a week ago, when Monroe came to visit the team’s summer league practices, he’d do whatever it takes to keep Monroe in town.

“It comes down to what he wants to do,” Drummond said in the interview. “I told him, ‘I can’t stop you if you want to go.’ But he loves it here (in Detroit), so I feel like he’s going to come back.”

Van Gundy has never coached two traditional big men together, so Monroe could have doubts about how he fits going forward; Van Gundy prefers space on the floor, and Monroe is not a shooter.

Van Gundy debunked rumors about Falk and Monroe demanding Josh Smith be traded before he commits to the Pistons long-term, and although Monroe has shown the ability to be more vocal as his career has progressed, such a demand seems to be out of character.

Monroe could be tired of the constant change, and could be hesitant to commit if he’s not sure of the team’s long-term prospects. He’s won in high school, played on very good teams at Georgetown, and the Pistons’ winning percentage of .362 since he was drafted in 2010 could be a frustrating factor, if he is indeed hesitant.

Taking the one-year qualifying offer of $5.4 million would likely be money he probably couldn’t recoup on the back end, but if freedom is what he wants, unrestricted free agency next summer would be at his doorstep — a risky proposition for a player who, aside from the first two games of his career when then-coach John Kuester kept him on the bench, has played 310 of 311 games.

Monroe could very well be allowing the Pistons to take care of other business in free agency, since they can go over the cap to keep him but not players the Pistons have the rights to. They reportedly did just that Sunday night, agreeing to deals with forward Caron Butler and guard D.J. Augustin.

Of course, his restricted free agency makes it a tough proposition. But as the past few days have shown, there are no sure bets in restricted free agency.

The Rockets declined a team option on promising second-year forward Chandler Parsons, making him a restricted free agent this summer as opposed to keeping him for another season on a bargain basement price — but he would’ve been an unrestricted free agent next summer.

It was widely assumed the Rockets would match any offer for Parsons, considering they opted to make him a restricted free agent this summer so they could control the process.

But when the rival Mavericks swooped in with a three-year, $46 million deal with a player option in year 3 and 15 percent trade kicker, the Rockets surprisingly declined to match, and the two teams could engage in sign-and-trade talks that would grant the Rockets a trade exception to use in a future deal.

Considering both sides have been quiet, and other suitors have not yet emerged as true contenders for Monroe, all options are open — even those that would result in the Pistons’ most consistent player donning another uniform this fall.

vincent.goodwill@detroitnews.com
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