The decision to cut Aaron Gray was both easy and tortured for Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower. The Pistons needed to cut somebody with a guaranteed contract to get to the 15-man limit and Gray's medical uncertainty made him the obvious target.
That became especially true after the Pistons brought in Joel Anthony to fill the role they thought they'd addressed by signing Gray early in free agency. Even if Gray were to clear the physical hurdles affixed to the cardiac episode he experienced in late August, there wasn't a need for both a third and a fourth center behind Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe.
But the same traits that made Gray the No. 1 candidate on Van Gundy's free-agent wish list for that role made it extremely difficult to part ways with him.
"It was actually fairly simple," Van Gundy said. "Either way, Aaron was going to get paid and take up a roster spot. To have to then cut another guy and pay somebody else not to play didn't make a lot of sense to us."
"It was hard in that we really felt bad for Aaron. Aaron worked really hard this summer. It's just really ironic because he probably got in the best shape of his playing career. It's really tough for him and we know that."
And because of that, they've let Gray know he has blanket access to their facilities while he awaits clarity with his medical condition in hopes of being cleared to play. Van Gundy suggested that possibly could happen later in the season, but the Pistons didn't have the luxury of waiting to add a spare big man, especially with Monroe already slotted to play considerable minutes at power forward in addition to being Drummond's primary backup.
"We really like him and a lot of the things he brings," Van Gundy said. "If he's thinking beyond the end of his career and is thinking about staying with basketball, we'd love to have him work with us during the year. Wer'e trying to create a situation that can be good for him and good for us. We had to make a decision to waive him, but we don't want to abandon a guy who made a commitment to us and has been a really good guy. And I hope that he sees that. We'd like to have him around."