There was one bright spot for the Detroit Pistons last season: Christian Wood.
He was the rare waiver wire gem, a young, overlooked player who was claimed as more of a lottery ticket than a sure thing. Hell, he had to beat out Big3 GOAT Joe Johnson for a roster spot in the preseason.
But after emerging as a stat-stuffing, floor-spacing big in the latter part of the shortened season, Wood became a free agent. We know how that story went. Wood agreed a 3-year, $41 million deal with Houston Rockets and the Pistons added the 16th pick (which became Isaiah Stewart) via a sign-and-trade with Houston.
They followed that by signing Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee.
But, as fans bemoaned letting Wood walk, we never really knew the full story. Did Wood not want to play for a tanking Detroit team? Did he want the chance to team up with James Harden and Russell Westbrook (lolol)? Did he just want to secure the biggest bag possible?
The common theory — one without much factual backing — has been that Troy Weaver simply didn’t want him.
Turns out, that wasn’t true.
During this process, the Pistons also offered Wood a contract, per sources. Detroit wanted him to be part of this retooling, as well. However, there was a specific price in mind. Detroit had Wood’s “Early Bird” rights, which meant that if it were able to sign him to a deal that paid, roughly, $10 million annually, Wood’s salary would only count as $1.7 million against their cap. Anything more would count toward the cap in full. Per sources, Detroit didn’t offer more than the annual amount that it would take for the smallest cap hit. The priority for the Pistons under Weaver was to acquire Grant, who, especially defensively, fits more of the mold of what the revamped front office was looking for.
So it sounds like the best-case scenario was adding Grant, whom Weaver loved dating back to college, while retaining Wood for the max amount that would still allow the Pistons some financial flexibility.
Who knows if that pairing would have gelled, but in theory it would have been pretty, pretty good. Wood just wanted more money, and that’s totally reasonable.
Both Grant and Wood sit atop the race for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award. The Pistons are still rebuilding, sitting contently at the bottom of the standings, while Wood and the Rockets have dealt with more B.S. than any team in the league this season.
Sometimes, fans get so angry when players leave. It’s not always a shot at the city, nor the organization. It’s like any relationship — you can’t always provide what your significant other needs in that relationship, but you can still be friends.
I’m happy for Christian Wood, a journeyman who finally found his destination. I think we can all agree: the Pistons finding Jerami Grant has worked out pretty well, too.