SVG: Pistons want Monroe back ‘very, very much’

Two days before free agents can start to sign NBA contracts, Stan Van Gundy made it clear that priority No. 1 for the Pistons is Greg Monroe
Scott Cunningham (NBAE/Getty)

ORLANDO – Summer League games remain important for the development of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – coming along just fine, thank you, after he drained a game-winning 3-pointer to cap a 24-point second half in Tuesday’s 80-78 win over Miami – and the immediate futures of Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell. And maybe they’ll open the door for a free agent like DeAndre Liggins, Brian Cook or Justin Harper looking for a job.

But the truth is that what’s taking place over cell phones and face-to-face meetings away from the court will have a far greater bearing on next season and beyond for Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons.

Thursday marks the first day free agents can sign contracts and the Pistons expect to make some news. But there has been no resolution to the issue Van Gundy freely admits is the priority.

“Greg Monroe is a very important piece of the puzzle in Detroit and we want him back very, very much,” Van Gundy said before Tuesday’s win over Miami. “We’ll see what happens over the next weeks, months, whatever it takes.”

Van Gundy reiterated what he said in late June regarding his front office’s response to Monroe, a restricted free agent, presenting an offer sheet to the Pistons from another team. In essence, they’ve prepared for every contingency and know what their response will be in each case.

“I think our strategy has been clear from the start,” he said. “We know exactly where we’re headed. We’re in touch with Tom (Gores, Pistons owner) every single day on this thing, so he knows exactly what’s going on and he’s had his ideas on it, too. This has been the major off-season issue for us as a staff and ownership’s been involved every step of the way and will continue to be.”

Van Gundy jumped all over a question that suggested he had been “hesitant” to state unequivocally that he wanted Monroe back.

“No, no – I’m not hesitant at all about that,” he said. “We want Greg Monroe back. But it’s got to be a mutual thing, too. There’s no hesitation. Greg can tell you – I want down and met with him (in Miami). He was the first player I met with within a few days of getting the job and made it clear to him that we want him back and we haven’t wavered on that at all. There’s been a lot of back and forth. I think it’s been productive and good and we continue to go there. But there’s no doubt on my part or on the basketball side of things that we want him back.”

Van Gundy also took issue with a recent report that said Monroe had made it known to Pistons management that he did not want to play again with Josh Smith.

“It wasn’t true,” he said. “We’ve been in constant conversation with Greg and his agent. Not one time have either one of them voiced any displeasure about Josh Smith. Not at any time has either one of them intimated that Greg didn’t want to play with Josh. So Greg was very bothered when that stuff came out, which I understand. Because it’s a teammate. You wouldn’t like it if it had come out even if you had said it, but if you didn’t say it, it’s really troublesome. And he has never said that to any of us.”

The options for Monroe are to (1) negotiate a long-term contract with the Pistons; (2) sign an offer sheet from a team with enough cap space to accommodate his first-year salary, which would give the Pistons 72 hours to either match or decline to match; (3) identify a team that wants to sign Monroe and could satisfy Pistons needs in a sign and trade; or (4) sign a one-year qualifying offer for a little more than $5 million and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

“He’s restricted, but he has options,” Van Gundy said. “I think he’s more important than anybody else on the free-agent market to us, the Detroit Pistons. We’re prepared for any eventuality in this, but there are obviously things we would rather have happen than other things.”