Pistons get aggressive in trade-deadline frenzy
Auburn Hills — Shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday, with just an hour left before the NBA's trade deadline, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy walked off the team's practice facility court and declared, "Time to get some lunch."
Turns out, he ordered a lot more than a sandwich.
In a wild-and-crazy, league-wide scramble on deadline day, the Pistons were front and center, acquiring potentially their new starting point guard Reggie Jackson, while also bringing back Tayshaun Prince, who can provide some help on defense.
Jackson comes over from the Thunder in exchange for forward Kyle Singler, point guard D.J. Augustin and a 2017 second-round draft pick, while Prince arrives from the Celtics in exchange for forwards Jonas Jerebko and little-used Gigi Datome.
The team also sent a 2019 second-round pick to the Jazz as part of the Jackson deal.
All across the NBA Thursday afternoon, trades came fast and furious, tone big one after another, especially in the final hour. Almost all teams made at least one trade, and more than 30 players found new homes. It led to a big-time backup in the league's New York offices, which is why the Pistons couldn't officially announce the trades until after 8 p.m.
Van Gundy left the Pistons' practice facility around 7 p.m. and will meet with the media Friday.
Earlier Thursday, though, Van Gundy emphasized that any move the Pistons would make would be about the team's long-term future, not about the present — and not about trying to keep up with moves made by other playoff contenders. If the visions happened to overlap, then so be it.
"They would love to make the playoffs," Van Gundy said of Pistons' ownership, which hasn't made the postseason in Tom Gores' tenure. "We all would. But they're on board with, you don't sacrifice what's going on because it's not the ultimate goal. The goal is to establish a team that can be a contender year in and year out.
"To do that, you can't sacrifice future stuff."
Still, the Pistons appear poised to make a run for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They're two games behind No. 8 Heat — who made a big splash Thursday, landing Goran Dragic from the Suns — entering the second half.
Jackson, 24, was the 24th overall pick by the Thunder in 2011, and has averaged 12.8 points and 4.2 assists this season. The Thunder and Jackson held extensive extension talks over the summer, but failed to reach an agreement by the Oct. 31 deadline.
He is believed to be seeking a near-max deal, around $15 million per year. It remains to be seen if the Pistons will go there, but they just might while still keeping free-agent-to-be Greg Monroe and maybe even make a run at former Michigan State standout Draymond Green. Because of big television revenue bumps in the NBA, the salary cap is set to skyrocket in 2016.
It'll all depend on whether Monroe sees a winner here, long-term.
Singler, 26, has a $1-million cap hit, and Augustin, 27, $3 million — while Jackson's is $3.2 million.
Singler was a second-round pick by the Pistons in 2011, out of Duke. In three seasons, he's averaged 8.7 points. Augustin, 27, has averaged 10.2 points and 4.1 assists over four years spent with five teams, including Charlotte, Indiana, Chicago and Toronto.
The Pistons signed him to a two-year, $6-million contract in July, one of Van Gundy's first moves with the Pistons. Singler is set to be a restricted free agent this summer, as is Jackson.
"Just woke up from my nap a #Piston #DETROITBASKETBALL!!!" Jackson wrote on Twitter on Thursday afternoon. He later tweeted, "Crying tears of joy." Interestingly, Jackson was spotted over All-Star weekend wearing a Detroit Bad Boys hat.
Singler and Jerebko also took to Twitter to thank the Pistons, with Singler saying to the fans, "your support is unmatched."
The deals caught many Pistons by surprised, including Andre Drummond, who said around 2:30 p.m. Thursday he didn't expect a trade, and said he believed the Pistons already had the pieces in place to make a run this season.
Van Gundy, team president, Jeff Bower, general manager, might've felt the pressure to do something, though, since the upcoming free-agent class appears thin.
With Augustin gone, Jackson almost surely becomes the starting point guard, with veteran John Lucas III and Spencer Dinwiddie vying for the main backup role.
For Lucas, that could be good news, given the Pistons have to decide whether to keep him real soon. He's working on his second 10-day contract; anymore than that, and the Pistons have to sign him for the remainder of the season.
Not that Lucas was getting too worked up over what the future holds.
"It's the business, you know," Lucas said. "You just gotta come in and do your job. You can't really worry about what happens upstairs.
"This is the business we chose to pursue as young kids."
Lucas has been traded before, but this was all new for Jerebko and Datome, who now are Celtics, one of the teams competing with the Pistons for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. (The Nets, another contender, traded Kevin Garnett to the Timberwolves for Thaddeus Young.)
Jerebko, who turns 28 on March 2, was a second-round pick by Detroit in 2009. He averaged 7.2 points and 1.5 rebounds. Datome, 27, like Jackson a native of Italy, played parts of two seasons in Detroit. This year, he saw just 17 minutes over three games.
They are restricted free agents, and their cap hit is around $7.7 million, almost identical to Prince, who has an expiring contract.
Prince, 34, a member of the 2004 Pistons championship, is almost assuredly in the twilight of his career. He's averaged just 23.4 minutes this season, his lowest since he was a rookie in Detroit in 2002-03, and is averaging 7.6 points. But he remains, at the least, an asset on defense, an area Van Gundy was emphasizing ahead of Friday's game against the Bulls at The Palace.
"We're gonna have to be really committed at the defensive end of the floor," Van Gundy said earlier Thursday. "The defense has got to come back, our defensive rebounding has to come back. We've dropped in those areas and we've got to improve."
This is likely the last stop for Prince, who spent the first 10-plus seasons with Detroit, which shipped him to Memphis in January 2013. It's the second time he's been traded this season, after going from Memphis to Boston last month.
This move might allow him to retire as a Piston, a seemingly ideal scenario, though given his career is winding down, he might've wanted to go to a team better poised to win now.
The Pistons might just sneak into the playoffs this year, but sneaking in isn't the goal. It's still all about the long-term future.
And, so, they got their guys Thursday — and Van Gundy still got his lunch.