Michigan connections run deep for Magic with Wagners, Brazdeikis
Pistons coach Dwane Casey isn’t the first and won’t be the last to confuse the brothers Wagner — Moe (6-foot-11) and Franz (6-foot-10) — for one another.
Moe helped take the Wolverines to the 2018 Final Four and was a first-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers after coming out following his junior season. He’s led the Orlando Magic in scoring in both of their last two wins. Moe had 26 points in the victory at Charlotte and 23 in the most recent win against Chicago.
Franz was key in getting Michigan to the Elite Eight in 2021 as a sophomore before leaving and going No. 8 overall in the NBA Draft to the Magic — who played host to the Pistons on Friday night.
“We got ‘em mixed up this morning — Moe and Franz,” Casey said with a smile. “(Franz is) right there as one of the top rookies in our league right now the way he’s playing, and how efficient he’s playing with the ball, his passing, his movement, his activity, his speed and quickness.
"He should be a bright light, a big piece of Orlando’s future. So, love the way he plays, the passion he plays with, the way he shoots the ball. I just couldn’t say enough about him and the way he’s playing right now. The (Magic) fans should be excited to have him on their team.”
Franz is averaging 15.5 points, 4.7 assists and 3.0 assists.
Moe comes in at 7.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
Former Michigan players combined to score 52 points in Orlando’s Jan. 23 win over the Bulls with Franz getting 18 and Ignas Brazdeikis adding 11.
Brazdeikis, a second-round pick in 2019 after playing one season in Ann Arbor, also has played with the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers. The Toronto native (6-6, 221 pounds) is averaging 2.7 points and 1.4 rebounds off the bench.
John Beilein, the winningest coach in Wolverine history after taking them to a pair of NCAA championship games in 2013 and 2018, recruited all of them to Michigan. He’s now a senior advisor and director of player development for the Pistons.
Casey said Beilein has shared stories about them with him.
“He’s really proud of them,” Casey said. “He talked about how they worked to develop and their examples of development there at Michigan. And Coach B. is one of the best teachers in basketball. It’s old-school fundamentals and every young team — and they don’t want to hear it — they need fundamentals.
“With the AAU programs and the guys coming early out of college, they miss a lot of fundamentals. So, that’s something he brings to the table on our coaching staff.”
Brazdeikis was a one-and-done player for Beilein in his final season at Michigan. Beilein left to become head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2019-20, but resigned after a 14-40 start with a team that was rebuilding.
Grant trade talk thoughts
Pistons forward and leading scorer Jerami Grant (20.1 points per game) has been the subject of trade rumors heading up to the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline.
“I tell guys all the time: ‘If you don’t see your name in the paper, there’s something wrong," Casey said. "It’s a badge of honor that other teams and other people are talking about you. It doesn’t mean we’re out there shopping anybody, but he’s been a pro.”
Grant hasn’t played since Dec. 10 after undergoing thumb surgery followed by health and safety protocols beginning last week.
“He’s stayed back (in Detroit) with Coach Beilein and is working with him,” Casey said. “He’s been a trouper.”
Michigan State is represented on the Magic with guard Gary Harris, who had 28 points and six rebounds in their Jan. 8 loss to the Pistons in Detroit. Harris (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) is averaging 11.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
Josh Jackson ready for action
Casey said reserve forward Josh Jackson “is fine and able to go tonight” against Orlando. “He had a little back tightness, soreness,” Casey said, “but he’s OK.” Jackson played 6:21 in the last game with Denver, and is averaging 7.2 points and 3.1 rebounds.
Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.