Money matters: Pistons will have offseason decision to make with Jerami Grant

Detroit News
By Steve Kornacki |  Special to The Detroit News

Detroit — The Pistons announced Monday night that leading scorer Jerami Grant will miss the final seven games of the season with a left calf strain. He was injured in the first quarter of Friday’s game with the Wizards and didn’t play Sunday against the Knicks.

Now, it remains to be seen if Grant, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 19.2 points and had five games with 30-plus points, has played his last game for Detroit.

Grant, the subject of heavy trade rumors before the Feb. 10 deadline passed, will be in the final year of a three-year, $60 million contract next season. He’ll likely bring less at next year’s trade deadline than he will in the offseason, and Pistons general manager Troy Weaver must weigh that factor should he decide it makes the most sense to not retain Grant beyond 2022-23.

Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, has impressed Detroit coach Dwane Casey and everyone in the organization since being acquired from Sacramento nearly seven weeks ago. Bagley scored 25 when replacing Grant on Friday and 27 in Sunday’s start. He’s averaged 17.8 points and 8.7 rebounds in six starts for the Pistons this month.

Still, Grant is just 28, a proven commodity and an explosive scorer. He tallied 21 in the third quarter Nov. 10 against the Rockets. He also averaged 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 35.8% on 3-pointers and 83.8% at the free-throw line in 47 games this season, having missed 18 games with a right thumb sprain.

Grant won a gold medal with the U.S. in the Tokyo Olympics, and is the nephew of 17-year NBA star Horace Grant, who won three championships with the Bulls and one with the Lakers.

More: Pistons’ Casey encouraged by signs of growth from team’s young players

Detroit acquired Grant from Denver on Nov. 22, 2020, and signed him to a lucrative contract some questioned. He didn’t average double-digit points until his fifth season, when he averaged 13.6 for Oklahoma City in 2018-19 before averaging 12 for Denver the following season.

However, he registered a career-high 22.3 points last season for the Pistons and 19.2 points this season, blossoming after getting the big money.

Still, it all comes down to economics. Bagley, who is enthusiastic about being part of the franchise, will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and Detroit can match any offer sheet he receives from another team.

What his salary will be next season and possibly beyond — should he sign a multi-year deal — remains to be seen. However, it’ll surely be less than the $21 million Grant will be due.

Starting both Grant and Bagley won’t happen with second-year center Isaiah Stewart establishing himself as a viable part of the future starting lineup. And paying both Grant and Bagley big money with the latter on the bench doesn’t add up to a good financial move.

So, stay tuned.

Blaha update

George Blaha, who has broadcast the Pistons on radio or TV since 1976-77, turned 77 Tuesday. He took a leave from Bally Sports Detroit earlier this month to prepare for heart bypass surgery. And, according to Pistons’ public relations, Blaha had the surgery “and has been doing well and recovering since.”

Upon announcing the need to take time off, Blaha said in a statement: “I’m grateful that they caught my issue early and they expect a full recovery. I look forward to getting back to full speed with rest and rehabilitation during the offseason and returning next year for my 47th season calling games for the Pistons.”

Blaha, born March 29, 1945 in Detroit, was raised in Grayling and Marshalltown, Iowa. He earned an economics degree from Notre Dame, an MBA at Michigan, and is also the radio voice for Michigan State football.

He broadcast his first Pistons game on WJR-AM from Cobo Arena on Oct. 23, 1976 with another legendary voice, Tom Hemingway. Blaha is in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

The best guess is he’ll be watching Tuesday’s game with Johnny Kane doing the play-by-play along with Blaha’s longtime analyst Greg Kelser. And when a Piston is fouled after scoring on a drive to the bucket, George will have to be thinking of saying, “Count that baby and a foul!”

After he blows out the candles on his birthday cake, of course.

Slam dunks

Stewart, 20, recorded his 1,000th career rebound Sunday against the Knicks, joining Andre Drummond as the only Pistons 20 or younger to reach that milestone.

… Cade Cunningham has led Detroit in assists in nine consecutive games played. The only franchise rookies to accomplish a streak that long are Isiah Thomas (10) and Dave Bing (nine) — both members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

… Second-year guard Killian Hayes needs 11 assists to reach 400 and 11 steals to have 100.

Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.

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