Detroit — Acting coach Rex Kalamian cracked a smile when he was asked about the trade that sent veteran guard Rodney McGruder to the Denver Nuggets for Bol Bol.
Along with the smile came some effusive praise for McGruder, 30, who joined the Pistons in free agency before last season. Before Kalamian said anything about Bol, he wanted to give McGruder his due.
“This is the third time I’ve coached him: I coached him early in Oklahoma City. I had him with the Los Angeles Clippers a couple of years ago and now, here in Detroit, and he is the ultimate professional,” said Kalamian, filling in for Pistons head coach Dwane Casey, who is in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. “Just a classy guy, a hard worker, a team-first person, and a great individual. We’re certainly going to miss him, his spirit, his positive energy. I can’t say enough good things about Rodney.”
The Pistons announced the trade officially Monday, with McGruder and a 2022 second-round pick, via the Brooklyn Nets, going to Denver to get Bol, who is seen as a high-potential big man with a wiry 7-foot-2 frame.
McGruder, though, looks like he’ll stick with the Nuggets, at least for the time being. Teams value veteran experience in the backcourt, and with Denver missing Jamal Murray in the short term, McGruder can bring some experience for their push in the playoffs.
Although he didn’t play a ton of minutes with the Pistons, there were other things McGruder brought to the table, which proved beneficial with a young team, leaning primarily on a young backcourt.
“He’s just a great guy, and I used to tell him this all the time: ‘You’re going to make a great coach someday in your career. When your career comes to an end, you should think about coaching,'” Kalamian said. “I’m really going to miss him personally, because he’s one of the guys that I like to talk to as a player that you can bounce things off of and get a player’s perspective on what’s going on.
“From that perspective, he’ll certainly be missed. Bol Bol, I’m excited.”
Looking out for No. 1
It’s not Kalamian’s first rodeo with guiding the team in Casey’s absence. He’s still looking for that first win, which has proved elusive in the first few contests with him in the first chair.
“I would like to change the outcome. You know it’s funny, I talked to Coach Casey today multiple times and we just talked about how we want to progress and what we’re looking for,” Kalamian said. “Outside of winning and losing obviously, what types of things we’re trying to continue to build on and that sort of stuff; we’ll see.
“We talked about rotation a lot and who should be playing and what minutes, that kind of stuff. For us and for me individually, it’s about getting our guys to play together, play connected, communicate as much as possible and then continue to grow in 12-minute increments; quarter to quarter, and quarter to the end of the game.”
Pistons at Bulls
► Tipoff: 8 p.m. Tuesday, United Center, Chicago
► TV/radio: BSD-Plus/950 AM
► Outlook: The Bulls (26-11) have the best record in the Eastern Conference, and they were one of the hottest teams in the league until their nine-game win streak ended over the weekend. DeMar DeRozan is leading the team in scoring, averaging 26.4 points.