August 12, 2014 at 1:00 am

Source: Pistons' Greg Monroe OK with qualifying offer, free agency in 2015

Pistons center-forward Greg Monroe, left, said through Twitter he has not been offered five years at $60 million, as has been reported. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

The Greg Monroe watch is entering its seventh week, with another seven weeks remaining before there’s a guarantee his restricted free agency will be resolved, one way or another.

While the Pistons big man has not pursued an offer sheet from another team, he has pursued sign-and-trade possibilities, and Monroe is “definitely” willing to take the one-year qualifying offer worth $5.3 million from Detroit in order to ensure his unrestricted free agency next summer, a source familiar with Monroe’s thinking told The Detroit News.

The source requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the contract talks. Monroe has until Oct. 1 to agree to a deal or sign the qualifying offer.

Part of Monroe’s thinking could be the Pistons’ likely stance of matching any contract offer, even if the max is well above their reported offer of four years and $50-plus million, similar to the deal Josh Smith signed last summer. Through his Twitter account, Monroe has disputed being offered a deal with that framework, or the five years/$60 million that has been reported by other outlets.

“(I) can’t reject anything that was not offered to me,” Monroe wrote Sunday, shortly after returning stateside from a trip to Africa through the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program.

While taking the qualifying offer is a risk if he gets injured — he has missed just one of his last 310 games — it’s the biggest leverage he and his agent, David Falk, have.

If Monroe signs the qualifying offer, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent next summer, free to sign wherever he likes — and for the following season, he would have to approve any trade, as he likely would try to secure a long-term deal with any new team.

Suns guard Eric Bledsoe is the other big restricted free agents still floating in the land of uncertainty.

An NBA player typically goes through a contract stalemate with his team for one of two reasons: He wants a bigger contract than his current team is willing to pay, or he doesn’t want to return to the franchise that holds his rights.

Monroe reportedly doesn’t have anything against the Pistons or new coach/president Stan Van Gundy. In fact, the source said, Monroe “likes Van Gundy and likes what he says,” but added that Monroe “needs proof (of Van Gundy’s vision).”

The sum of Monroe’s time in Detroit has been marred by constant upheaval, drama and instability on the sidelines; Van Gundy would be his fifth coach in five seasons. It took John Kuester some time to realize the talent level he had in Monroe as a rookie, Lawrence Frank lost the team very early in his two-year tenure, and Maurice Cheeks was fired after 50 games last season.

“We have tried (to recruit Monroe). Look, right off the bat he was the first person we saw,” Van Gundy said the day the Pistons introduced Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin. “Then a lot of conversation — because that’s the way he wanted it for a while — went through his agent and we hooked back up in Orlando (Summer League) and tried to make a strong case for ourselves and our organization.”

While Van Gundy’s comments have been pro-Monroe, and Andre Drummond has made public pleas that the team retain Monroe, it would not be unreasonable to think Monroe might like a fresh start elsewhere, as opposed to taking a leap of faith with Van Gundy.

To make a long-term choice based on the possibility things would get better in the next 4-5 years is a risk Monroe might not be willing to take. And with the Pistons’ current logjam at the frontcourt positions, even if he does take a long-term deal, it doesn’t mean he’ll be in Detroit for the long run. The Pistons could try to trade him in-season.

“I would like to get him long term,” Van Gundy said. “I have great respect for him as a person and a player. I think we’ve tried to make him understand what we’re trying to do and why he’s an important part of it.”

Van Gundy’s dual titles bodes well for the stability of the front office and coach, but there’s no guarantee the Pistons will secure a playoff berth — a place they haven’t been since 2008-09, before Monroe was drafted in 2010.

The Pistons are aware of Monroe’s wishes, hence Van Gundy’s statements alluding to recruiting him, as well as his constant mantra of being prepared for any contingency, including him taking a qualifying offer.

“That’s always a possibility,” Van Gundy said.

vgoodwill@detroitnews.com
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