CLEVELAND: Three days ago, Detroit Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy thought he’d added depth and shooting at the power forward spot. But Donatas Motiejunas didn’t pass the Pistons’ medical examination today, so the team had to ship him back to Houston.
“It’s disappointing because we saw the possibilities,” Van Gundy said today before the Pistons played the Cleveland Cavaliers. “But yeah, I would do it over again if it were out there. We did our due diligence. Just thought there was too much risk.”
Motiejunas, a 7-footer with three-point range, had back surgery a year ago and had played in only 14 games since. Had he cleared the medical examination, he would’ve helped offset the loss of Ersan Ilaysova, who was dealt to Orlando along with Brandon Jennings a day earlier for Tobias Harris.
Harris provides athleticism and versatility in a way Ilyasova did not, but Van Gundy wanted to replace Ilyasova’s ability to stretch the floor. Motiejunas would have done that.
Now, Joel Anthony returns – the more traditionally oriented power forward was sent to Philadelphia as part of the three-way trade with Houston that brought Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton to Detroit. Because the Pistons moved only one player in the deal – the Rockets were to receive a protected first-round pick from the Pistons – Van Gundy is now left to fill an open roster spot.
He could fill it with a stretch four like Andrea Bargnani, who was just released by the Brooklyn Nets, or wait to see who else might become available on the waiver wire. The team also could sign an NBA Development League player to a 10-day contract.
When asked if a move was imminent — the Pistons have 14 players on their 15-spot roster — Van Gundy said maybe.
“We are looking for somebody go give us more depth at the four spot,” he said.
In the meantime, with Anthony Tolliver expected to miss 2-4 weeks because of a knee sprain, Van Gundy will start Harris at the four and Marcus Morris at the three. Morris also could play some at the four spot to make room for Stanley Johnson at the three.
“Matchups change all the time,” Van Gundy said, but “we are going offensively, we will play Tobias at the four.”
Van Gundy said he could even use backup center Aron Baynes at the four spot against teams that don’t spread the floor as much.
He his hopefull Tolliver will return “sooner rather than later.”
As for Anthony, the team expects him back by Wednesday.
“I’ve never been through this situation,” Van Gundy said, where he traded a player only to get him right back, it’s a “little bit awkward. I’m just glad we are doing it with a guy who is as great a professional as Joel is.”