Jason Maxiell has a player option for $5 million next season. Prior to this year many Detroit Pistons fans thought it was a foregone conclusion that the out-of-shape, under-performing Maxiell would exercise his option, cash in on his last big pay day and probably fall off of the NBA radar.
Whether it was a new coaching regime or the fact that it was essentially a contract year but Maxiell played hard, played well (enough) and earned a permanent spot in the starting rotation and consistent minutes.
Now the foregone conclusion has been replaced by intrigue and fear. Intrigue because if Maxiell opts out and goes somewhere else it could provide the little extra financial cushion GM Joe Dumars needs to seriously explore using his amnesty option and remaking the roster. Fear because if Maxiell opts out there is no saying that Dumars won't simply re-sign him to a three- or four-year deal and serve as Tayshaun Prince 2.0.
Vince Ellis in the Detroit Free Press has some Dumars comments I hadn't seen before that might shed a little light on the situation:
"It's a player option so that's totally in his hands," Dumars said. "Obviously we'd love to have Max back.
"I think clearly this was his best year. He was in the best shape of his life. He looked great."
Let's leave aside that this past season was, in fact, probably not Maxiell's best year. Part of this is usual GM speak. Dumars is obviously not going to say anything negative about a current player, and he is not going to give away the fact that he'd rather him move on to another team because if Maxiell and his agent decide there really isn't the market for his services he was hoping for then he will return and it would be ... awkward.
But there is hope in these brief comments (although I'm probably just reading into the latest scrap of Pistons news). I am relieved by the fact that Dumars says that essentially if Maxiell returns it is because he will have exercised his player option and not because the team will have signed him to a new long-term deal.
I'm not universally opposed to bringing him back for a couple more years, really, but the yearly commitment would have to be awfully low for it to make sense. The Pistons will likely select a big in the upcoming draft and they've already got young building blocks in Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko. There just isn't much room for Maxiell in the long term. Hopefully that is something Dumars and co. recognize.