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Pistons look to Meeks for help

07/14/2014, 11:16pm EDT
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

Guard signs 3-year contract; averaged 15.7 points for Lakers last season


Jodie Meeks signed a $19.5 million, three-year deal with the Pistons. ASSOCIATED PRESS

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Kobe Bryant's injury problems gave Jodie Meeks an opportunity.

Meeks started 70 games last season, averaged a career-high 15.7 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range for the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Detroit Pistons are hoping for more of the same after signing the 6-foot-4 guard to a $19.5 million, three-year deal. Although it was an awful season for the Lakers, Meeks took advantage of the extra playing time — and extra shots — while Bryant was limited to six games because of Achilles tendon and knee injuries.

“Unfortunate for Kobe, but fortunate for me — I got to expand my game,” Meeks said. “Got a chance to run some point guard and really show people what I could do.”

The Pistons probably won't need him at the point much, but they were looking for help on the wing after last season's team floundered despite an impressive front line.

Only one Detroit player in 2013-14 — Kyle Singler — shot over 34 percent from 3-point range while playing major minutes. The Pistons couldn't take advantage of big men Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith because of the team's inability to produce outside the paint.

“From a skill standpoint on the perimeter, shooting was our primary focus, to the point that there really wasn't anybody we were interested in that wasn't a very good range shooter," said Stan Van Gundy, Detroit's coach and team president. "We really wanted to change that."

The Pistons also have agreed to deals with free agents Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin, according to a person familiar with the situation. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the deals.

Those players are expected to be introduced today. Monday was all about Meeks, who was the team's first big addition after Joe Dumars stepped down as team president this year and was replaced by Van Gundy.

“We're really excited," Van Gundy said. "Obviously, our first signing of the offseason — as a new management group, our first signing period."

Meeks, 26, also has played for Milwaukee and Philadelphia, but he set career highs last season in minutes and field-goal attempts — and the higher volume of shots didn't cause him to become less efficient offensively. He shot a career-best 46 percent from the field.

The Pistons should now have plenty of options on the perimeter, with Meeks, Butler, and Augustin joining holdovers Singler, Brandon Jennings, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

“You can never have too many shooters," Meeks said.

The biggest issue still facing the Pistons is probably the status of Monroe, who is a restricted free agent.

“The Monroe situation has taken center stage, remains center stage and will be center stage until it's resolved," Van Gundy said. "It's really not anything going on there right now. There's not really a whole lot more that can go on. We'll just see where the situation takes us."

BULLS: Chicago made two trades to clear salary-cap space, setting the stage for the addition of free-agent center Pau Gasol.

The Bulls sent forward Anthony Randolph, two second-round draft picks, and cash considerations to Orlando for the rights to Milovan Rakovic. Randolph was acquired in a draft-night trade with Denver that gave the Bulls the rights to high-scoring Creighton forward Doug McDermott.

Chicago also traded forward Greg Smith to Dallas for the rights to Tadija Dragicevic. The Bulls signed Smith in April after he was waived by Houston, but he never appeared in a game with Chicago.

The moves help make room for Gasol, who announced over the weekend that he planned to join the Bulls.

HEAT: Miami signed free-agent forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger, and brought back incumbent point guard Mario Chalmers.

All three deals were agreed to previously, but not signed until the Heat had more pieces of their salary-cap puzzle put into place. McRoberts signed a four-year deal that will pay him $5.3 million next season. Chalmers got a two-year deal that will have him earning about $4 million next season. Granger also has a two-year deal and will make just over $1 million next season.

McRoberts averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Charlotte last season. Heat president Pat Riley said McRoberts was one of Miami’s “main targets” in free agency.

Chalmers has been with Miami for all six of his pro seasons, helping win two championships. He averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 assists last season and shot 38 percent from 3-point range.

Granger has appeared in 556 career NBA regular-season games and averaged 17.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He’s been bothered by injuries for most of the past two seasons.

MAGIC: Initially, the shedding of veterans Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo seemed to be an abrupt shift away from that plan and toward youth. But with the addition of Ben Gordon last week and official signing of free agent veteran shooter Channing Frye on Monday, Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan said he is happy with how the summer is playing out.

In the 6-foot-11 Frye, that direction instantly gains an eight-year veteran and proven long-distance shooter with the ability to spread out defenses — a coveted commodity in the NBA.

He sat out the 2012-13 season after being diagnosed with an enlarged heart, and went through an intense eight-month stretch that included him wearing a heart monitor and having closely monitored activity in which he was only able to do minimal exercise.

The 31-year-old eventually worked his way back to the court, and played all 82 games for the first time in his career last season.

Frye’s deal is for four years, $32 million.

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Tag(s): Pistons