Detroit — The Bol Bol era with the Pistons ended before it even got started.
Pistons fans were looking forward to Bol’s debut after the trade this week that brought the 7-foot-2 forward to Detroit from the Denver Nuggets.
Not so fast.
The Pistons rescinded the trade on Thursday, “because medical clearance was not received for all players involved,” the team said in a statement.
A league source familiar with the situation confirmed to The Detroit News there were issues with Bol’s physical with the team. The Denver Post was first to report the news.
Bol was one of the top prospects in the 2019 draft, but his stock fell after he sustained a non-displaced foot fracture and played only nine games in his only season at Oregon. A projected first-round selection, Bol dropped to the second round, where the Nuggets selected him 44th overall.
Having a team void a trade after it’s announced is rare, but not unprecedented. Bol will return to the Nuggets and veteran guard Rodney McGruder will be back with the Pistons, who will retain the 2022 second-round draft pick via the Brooklyn Nets that was part of the original deal.
“I’ve been around (rescinded trades) before and I can’t comment on the medical report with Bol Bol, but I’ve been around, and it happens,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Things happen where it comes up in the physical, or information comes up that (the trade) can be changed. It’s not unusual.”
One of the most unique parts of a rescinded trade is players returning to their original team. There could be some animosity or hurt feelings about an attempted deal, and that player returning to the locker room.
In McGruder’s case, the Pistons don’t see that potentially awkward situation being a concern. General manager Troy Weaver has a good relationship with McGruder, which should help smooth over any potential issues.
“Rodney is a big-time pro and I had a great conversation with him after the trade was made,” Casey said. “He likes it here in Detroit, and he wants to be here in Detroit. He understood the business of basketball and I see no issues with Rodney coming back. I know his teammates will be excited to have him back. I know we as a coaching staff (will be) and I’m very excited …
“With Rodney, for me, it’s personal, but we owed it to the organization to give a prospect like Bol Bol a look, and Troy made the right decision and doing that. I don’t see any problem with Rodney coming back and fitting right in — I think it’ll be seamless.”
McGruder, 30, is valued for his veteran leadership and his ability to connect with the younger players on the roster. That connection has helped in the last two seasons in the Pistons’ rebuild, and he’s gained his teammates’ respect in the process.
“(Having McGruder back) is great. Obviously, the trade fell through and everything but (it was hard) when Rod first got traded, because that’s someone I talk to every day,” second-year center Isaiah Stewart said. “He’s my vet. His presence here on the team, I felt that every day. To have him coming back, and to be around, it’s definitely going to be good.”
Although McGruder has played sparingly this season, posting 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in 17 games, he has had stretches of strong play between his sporadic appearances.
The awkward part could be on the Nuggets’ end. Mike Singer of the Denver Post reported that after the Nuggets signed James Ennis III to a 10-day contract, they gave him the No. 10 jersey — the same number that Bol wore.
Shades of 2016
Trades are contingent upon all players passing a physical, to the receiving team’s satisfaction. The Pistons also were involved in a three-team trade with the Houston Rockets and Philadelphia 76ers that was voided. The deal would have brought big man Donatas Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton to Detroit in 2016, but there were concerns about Motiejunas’ back.
Motiejunas took to Twitter on Thursday to voice his displeasure with the Pistons, hearkening back to his failed trade.
“I was failed on physicals and told by Detroit doctors i will not play basketball again … 6 years laters (sic) i am still here and have many years to go,” Motiejunas posted. “They destroying young players names and futures in NBA by doing this.”
Motiejunas had back problems during that season, but he has continued to play professionally overseas. In additional tweets, he said his physical was done in a hospital and that he believes it’s the same doctors, and the Pistons followed what the doctors told them.
Motiejunas said that he hasn’t missed a game since that back injury.
Jackson out of protocol
Frank Jackson has exited health and safety protocols and is working his way back to being in the lineup. He was designated as “return to competition reconditioning” on the team injury report, which means he’s cleared COVID protocols and is able to work out with the team.
Jackson likely wouldn’t be able to play in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors, but he could be cleared in time to play in Sunday afternoon’s home game against the Phoenix Suns.
Raptors at Pistons
► Tipoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
► Outlook: The Pistons (9-31) have won four of their last seven games, their best stretch of the season. They’ve won four straight games against the Raptors (20-18).