ORLANDO — Stan Van Gundy might be wearing two hats now as coach and president of basketball operations for the Pistons, but he is of one mind on free-agent forward Greg Monroe.
“I’m not hesitant at all about that. I didn’t mean to be. We want Greg Monroe back,” Van Gundy said Tuesday afternoon in a hallway of the Amway Center before the Pistons took on the Heat in the Orlando Pro Summer League. “It’s obviously got to be a mutual thing too. But there’s no hesitation there.
“From Day One, Greg can tell you, I went down and met with him. He was the first player I met with. I went down and met with him 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.”
The 6-foot-11 Monroe is a restricted free agent after averaging 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds for a dysfunctional Pistons team that finished with a 29-53 record. After the elite level of NBA free agents that includes LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, the 24-year-old is one of the hottest commodities on the market.
It’s expected that Monroe will eventually get an offer in excess of his $10.2 million salary cap hold. The Pistons can match any offer Monroe receives as a restricted free agent.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s been productive and good. There’s no doubt on my part, on the basketball side of things, that we want him back.
“It comes down to the business part of the game. … That’s always a different thing than just the coaching and playing side. There’s a business part of it and that’s where we are right now and these things are a big part of it. You take your summer and do your business and you go from there.”
Van Gundy refuted a story from last week that claimed Monroe had made it clear in negotiations that he wanted fellow forward Josh Smith traded or else he would only sign a one-year qualifying offer for $5.4 million and then became an unrestricted free agent next summer.
“It wasn’t true,” Van Gundy said. “We’ve been in constant conversation with Greg and his agent [David Falk]. 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 came out and you said it. But if you didn’t say it, it’s really troublesome and he’s never said that to any of us throughout this situation.”
Van Gundy would not go say for certain whether the Pistons would match any offer that Monroe might received from another team. A maximum contract offer for Monroe would be roughly $15.8 million next year.
“I’m not going to get into the business side of things and I’m certainly not going to help other teams in terms of building their strategy or anything else,” Van Gundy said. “I’m just going to say that Greg Monroe is a very important piece of the puzzle in Detroit and that we want him back very, very much, and we’ll see what happens over the next weeks, months, whatever it takes.”