The Pistons executed the trade for Bol Bol out of their profound sense of where they are as a franchise on a constant hunt for young talent. It had nothing to do with looking to move on from Rodney McGruder, the exact type of jack-of-all-trades veteran a playoff team like Denver could use for the stretch and postseason runs.
So welcoming McGruder back into the fold – now that the trade has been rescinded due to issues with all sides passing medical examinations, reportedly on Bol’s end - won’t cause any uneasiness in the least from the Pistons side of things, Dwane Casey knows.
How the Pistons felt about McGruder was clear last season when general manager Troy Weaver spoke of his longtime association with McGruder and his family, how Casey marveled at his professionalism and willingness to not only accept any role but to take pride in thriving in it and how McGruder’s teammates valued his mentorship and wisdom.
It was evident again earlier this week when Pistons assistant coach Rex Kalamian sung McGruder’s praises when the deal became official and before Thursday’s reversal: “Just a classy guy, hard worker, a team-first person and a great individual,” said Kalamian, who was in Oklahoma City when McGruder participated in training camp and with the Clippers when McGruder wore their uniform. “We’re certainly going to miss his spirit, his positive energy. I can’t say enough good things about Rodney. Just a great guy.”
Kalamian went on to say he’s told McGruder that he’d make a great coach should he choose to pursue that path when his playing days end. If McGruder wants a job in basketball in any capacity, he’ll have no issues getting a foot in the door given the impressions he’s left in locker rooms and front offices across the NBA.
“Rodney’s a big-time pro,” Dwane Casey said Thursday. “Had a great conversation with him after the trade was made. He likes it here in Detroit, wanted to be here but understood the business of basketball. I see no issues with Rodney coming back. I know his teammates will be excited to have him back. We as a coaching staff and me, personally, my wife, will be excited to have him back.”
Rookies coming into the league never forget the veteran who organically morphs into a mentorship role. It’s certainly not a job that every veteran embraces and, in fact, there are often veterans that teams would actively try to steer away from mentorship. That’s easy enough to do on typical teams with three or four veterans for every rookie. For the Pistons the past few years the ratio of veterans to young players is more precarious and puts an even greater emphasis on the need for solid citizenship. Guys like McGruder and Cory Joseph become invaluable.
“That’s someone I talk to every day,” Isaiah Stewart said of McGruder. “He’s my vet, for sure. His presence here on the team, I felt that every day. To have him back, it’s definitely going to be good.”
Bol, 22 and in his third year with restricted free agency looming, has found little playing time in Denver with its deep frontcourt and postseason ambitions. The Nuggets could have gotten something of value for Bol in McGruder, whose versatility and ability to contribute even when used sporadically hold appeal to coaches of veteran, playoff-ready teams.
Bol was the 44th pick in the 2019 draft after his draft stock plummeted during his abbreviated freshman season at Oregon. Considered a potential top-five pick at the start of the season, Bol played just nine games before suffering a foot injury that clouded his status. Instead of going in the lottery, Bol fell to 44th in the draft. In three seasons, he played a total of 328 minutes over 53 games with Denver and eight G League games in 2019-20.
“We owed it to the organization to give a prospect like Bol Bol a look. Troy made the right decision in doing that,” Casey said. “But I don’t see any problem with Rodney coming back and fitting right in. I think it’ll be seamless.”