Auburn Hills — With four of the Pistons' young starters locked up through at least the 2018-19 season, coach Stan Van Gundy is hoping to bring back the final piece: guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Caldwell-Pope — along with reserve forward Reggie Bullock — is eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension until the Oct. 31 deadline. Van Gundy said general manager Jeff Bower talks frequently with Caldwell-Pope and Bullock’s agents.
“We definitely have a desire to get something done with both of them,” Van Gundy said following Wednesday’s shoot-around. “I think both agents are clear on that from our side. It's a matter of two things — a matter of what they want to do and a matter of, obviously, money.
“So that's where the negotiations are but I think both their agents are very clear that we would prefer to get something done and that we like those guys and would like to extend them."
If the two sides are unable to reach a deal by Halloween, Caldwell-Pope and Bullock can become restricted free agents in July and test the market.
Van Gundy said he hasn’t talked to Bullock about his contract but did with Caldwell-Pope when the two had dinner before training camp started.
“I think, so far, (Caldwell-Pope) has handled it really well,” Van Gundy said. “Both of those guys, it's one of the reasons you want to extend those guys. Both those guys are team guys who really fit what we're trying to build in terms of not only talent, but in terms of work ethic and everything else.
“I don't anticipate any problems, but again we'll have more talk on that stuff if we get to the point that it doesn't happen. I'm still hopeful that we'll get something done. I’m optimistic.”
Caldwell-Pope and Bullock are both entering their fourth season. Caldwell-Pope averaged 14.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 76 games last year. He shot a career-best 42 percent from the field but a career-worst 30.9 percent on 3-pointers.
Bullock overcame a slow start to become a key contributor off the bench late during the Pistons’ playoff push. He averaged 3.3 points in 11.6 minutes and shot 41.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Starting forwards Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris are signed through the 2018-19 season, point guard Reggie Jackson through 2019-20 and All-Star center Andre Drummond through 2020-21 following his five-year, $127 million deal over the summer.
Center Boban Marjanovic has been as good as advertised in the preseason and camp since the Pistons signed him to a three-year, $21 million contract.
“He's been everything we thought he would be,” Van Gundy said. “Offensively, he's just a really tough guy to play. He makes great effort all the time, good rebounder due to his size and a really skilled offensive player. His defense has been much better than I thought it would be."
Marjanovic is shooting 77.8 percent from the field, 78.9 percent from the free-throw line and is averaging 7.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.8 minutes in four exhibitions.
“When he's got two feet in the paint at (7-foot-3), I just assume that he scores,” Van Gundy said.
For the second straight year, the Pistons close out preseason and open the regular season against the same opponent. Last season it was the Atlanta Hawks and this season it’s the Toronto Raptors.
"I don't like it,” Van Gundy said. “I would say that probably (Hawks coach) Mike (Budenholzer) would've told you last year that he didn't like it and I'm sure (Raptors coach) Dwane (Casey) doesn't like it but it's the way it is. For us, especially with Reggie being out and Marcus missing time, it's not about one game to open the season. It's about us getting better.”
… Backup center Aron Baynes had surgery on his broken nose Tuesday and was the only player unavailable for Wednesday’s exhibition finale against the Raptors. He’s expected to return later this week.
Baynes suffered the injury after taking an inadvertent elbow to the face from rookie Henry Ellenson during practice.
... Van Gundy said he didn't plan to play Harris, who suffered a broken nose in Monday's exhibition win over the Bucks, in the fourth quarter against the Raptors.