Billy Baron to play for Detroit Pistons in NBA Summer League

By Nick Veronica

Former Canisius star Billy Baron will play in the NBA Summer League for the second year in a row, this season suiting up with the Detroit Pistons squad.

The news was first reported by Lithuanian site, an outlet that covers Baron’s European team Lietuvos Rytas.

The Canisius-Pistons connections are deep. Head coach Stan Van Gundy is former Canisius assistant. Assistant general manager Jeff Nix played at Canisius from 1976-79 and was later an assistant coach. Perhaps most importantly, Pistons general manager Jeff Bower coached one season at Marist and was impressed with Baron’s game.

Here’s what Bower told me about Baron’s NBA outlook in January 2014 during Baron’s senior season:

I think he’s terrific as a player now. I think the way he plays the game are things that a lot of teams will really like. I never slot a guy at this time of the year, honestly, because you don’t know the draft and how many people are going to be involved in it.

But I know this: He’s a winner. He’s got skills, he’s got size, he’s got deep shooting ability, he’s got playmaking ability, and he is a competitor. And I know those are all qualities that every NBA team would value and do their research and see. When it’s all said and done, I would expect him to be rated or ranked ahead of a lot of guys. I think he’s the type of kid that helps your team and is gonna have the poise to compete and help a team.

It’s too early, honestly. The people that are talking now are usually guys that aren’t involved in decision making, [guys] that are saying where people are going. But he would be a guy that a lot of people are excited about and want to dig very deep to find out about, in my opinion.

Summer League games begin next month. Here’s a game-by-game look at how Baron did last summer with the Chicago Bulls.

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Stan Van Gundy at #canisius

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NBA Summer League schedules & results: Billy Baron, Javon McCrea, Mitchell Watt, Jordan Heath

By Nick Veronica | @NickVeronica

Four local college products have signed on with teams for the NBA’s summer league. Teams are guaranteed at least four games.

Some games will be shown live on NBA TV while a package for every game can be purchased for $14.99 through NBA Summer League Live.

Schedules for the Big 4 products are listed below and will be updated with stats after each game:

Billy Baron (Canisius) — Chicago Bulls

Games in Las Vegas

Saturday, July 12 vs. Los Angeles Clippers — W 86-70, 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting in 19:06 off the bench; 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, no turnovers (box score). Also made summer league’s top plays with this shot:

Sunday, July 13 vs. Denver Nuggets — W 103-76, 3 points on 1-of-4 3-pointers, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 foul, no turnovers in 15:45 off the bench (box score).

Tuesday, July 15 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves – W 107-73, 8 points on 2-of-6 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, no turnovers in 17:02 off the bench (box score).


First round, Wednesday, July 16: First round bye

Second round, Thursday, July 17: Overall No. 1 seed Bulls vs. 16-Philadelphia 76ers — W 79-68, 3 points on 1-of-7 shooting, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls in 17:07 off the bench (box score).

Quarterfinals, Saturday, July 19: 1-Bulls vs. 8-Sacramento Kings, 8 p.m. – L 80-61, 3 points on 1-of-11 shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers in 23:02 off the bench (box score). Season over.

Final stats: 5.6 points per game, .257 field goal percentage, .263 on 3-pointers, 3.4 rebounds per game, 2.4 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game, 2.2 fouls per game, 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Averaged 18.4 minutes off the bench. (Excluding the July 11 game where he was 1-for-11 shooting and 1-for-7 behind the arc, Baron shot .333 from the field and from 3-point range.)

Javon McCrea (UB) — Dallas Mavericks

Games in Las Vegas

Friday, July 11 vs. New York Knicks — L 76-64, 2 points on his only shot in 4:31 of game time (box score).

Saturday, July 12 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves — W 93-85, 3 points on 1-of-3 shooting, 1-2 from the line, 1 rebound, 1 block, 1 steal, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls in 10:25 off the bench (box score).

Monday, July 14 vs. Toronto Raptors — W 88-57, 7 points on 2-of-5 shooting, 3-4 from the line, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 5 fouls in 16:41 off the bench (box score).


First round, Wednesday, July 16: 10-Mavericks vs. 23-Charlotte Hornets — L 82-81, 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting, 1 steals, 0 rebounds in 7:35 off the bench (box score).

Consolation round, Friday, July 18: Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns — W 88-62, 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting, 3 rebounds, 4 fouls in 18:40 off the bench (box score). Season over.

Final stats: 4.8 points per game, .625 field goal percentage, 1.4 rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game, 0.6 turnovers per game, 2.8 fouls per game. Averaged 11.6 minutes off the bench.

Mitchell Watt (UB ’12) — Golden State Warriors

Games in Las Vegas

Friday, July 11 vs. Charlotte Hornets — W 70-58, 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 turnovers, 3 fouls in 20:46 off the bench (box score).

Saturday, July 12 vs. Phoenix Suns — W 74-72, 3 points on 1-of-4 shooting, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 2 turnovers, 3 fouls in 20:31 off the bench (box score).

Monday, July 14 vs. Los Angeles Lakers — L 89-88, 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting, 5-8 from the line, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 7 fouls in 22:02 off the bench (box score).


First round, Wednesday, July 16: 11-Warriors vs. 22-Atlanta Hawks — L 68-65, 2 points on 1-of-3 shooting, 3 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 6 fouls in 17:40 off the bench (box score).

Consolation round, Friday, July 18: Warriors vs. Milwaukee Bucks — L 79-74, 6 points on 3-of-6 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal, 7 fouls in 19:58 off the bench (box score). Season over.

Final stats: 6.0 points per game, .480 field goal percentage, 5.6 rebounds per game, 1.4 blocks per game, 2.4 turnovers per game, 5.2 fouls per game. Averaged 20.2 minutes off the bench.

Jordan Heath (Canisius) — Detroit Pistons

Games in Orlando

Saturday, July 5 vs. Houston Rockets – W 95-89, did not play, coach’s decision

Sunday, July 6 vs. Memphis Grizzlies – W 85-82, did not play, coach’s decision

Tuesday, July 8 vs. Miami Heat – W 80-78, did not play, coach’s decision

Wednesday, July 9 vs. Boston Celtics — L 92-90, did not play, coach’s decision

Friday, July 11 vs. Orlando Magic (5th place game) — L 96-87, 6 points on 3-of-3 shooting, 3 rebounds, 3 fouls, 1 block in 16:10 of game time (box score).

[Note: this post originally overlooked Mitchell Watt, who graduated from UB in 2012. It has been corrected.] 

Billy Baron and Javon McCrea’s NBA Draft outlook

By Nick Veronica

Canisius’ Billy Baron and UB’s Javon McCrea have spent the last month flying across the country, giving workouts to as many NBA teams as possible.

If either player was able to impress a club, he’ll find out tonight during the NBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN).

While the most likely scenario is that both players go undrafted, that’s not the end of the road for either of their professional dreams. Both Baron and McCrea, the MAAC and MAC players of the year, respectively, could get a look in the NBA Summer League, where they’d have additional opportunities to prove they can play at the next level.

“I know I made a pretty good impression on a few teams so we’ll just leave it up to that,” Baron said in a recent interview with Big 4 Talk’s Johnathan Snyder. “If I don’t get drafted, it’s not everything in the world,” Baron added. “There are many routes to the NBA, it’s not just on Thursday.”

“With the NBA, you never know what’s gonna happen,” McCrea told WGRZ. “I hope my name’s called, and if not, I just have to work harder throughout the summer to make sure I’m playing in November.”

Baron worked out for 10 teams — one-third of the league — prior to the draft (Chicago, Atlanta, Utah, Milwaukee, New York, Cleveland, Houston, Washington, San Antonio and Detroit), while McCrea auditioned for seven (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas, Toronto, Memphis and Philadelphia) after a good showing at the Portsmouth Invitational, which Baron opted not to attend.

McCrea was linked to the Philadelphia 76ers late in a recent ESPN mock draft, if you’re looking for a guess on where he might end up. (You have to be an Insider to see the full mock, but Hustle Belt wrote about it here.) Philadelphia has an absurd five second-round draft picks, so I’m guessing that would make them less hesitant to go off the board a bit for a player like McCrea.

Baron’s most likely destination, if you’re trying to connect the dots, is the Detroit Pistons. Their general manager, Jeff Bower, coached at Marist last year and is a big fan of Baron’s game. Their coach, Stan Van Gundy, is a former Canisius assistant and a graduate of Brockport. He visited campus two years ago and met with Baron and the team.

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(Above: Stan Van Gundy at Canisius)

If you’re thinking these two have forgotten about Canisius now that they’re in the pros, think again. Jordan Heath worked out with the Pistons Wednesday and posted on Instagram that he was looking forward to Summer League. If he’s on their radar, you can bet Baron is too.

Detroit only has one draft pick (38th overall), so I don’t see them using it on Baron, but they could go after him later.

Baron’s agent, B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group, is a former Chicago Bulls point guard who also represents Derek Rose (Chicago), Al Horford (Atlanta), JaVale McGee (Denver), Gerald Henderson (Charlotte), Omer Asik (traded from Houston to New Orleans Wednesday night), Jason Terry (Sacramento) and several others.

McCrea’s agent, Mike Kneisley of The Neustadt Group, also represents Shelvin Mack of Atlanta and Darius Miller of New Orleans.

If Baron made it to the NBA, he would be the first Canisius player in the league since Mike Smrek retired in 1992. McCrea could become just the second UB player to make the NBA (Sam Pellom, 1979-83) and the school’s first draft pick. The only Big Four player currently in the NBA is St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson, who was selected 19th overall by Orlando in 2012.

Marist basketball coach resigns, likely headed back to pros

By Nick Veronica

Former Marist coach Jeff Bower.

Former Marist coach Jeff Bower.

Marist men’s basketball coach Jeff Bower resigned after one season on the job, the school announced Monday.

Bower, a former NBA head coach and general manager, is reportedly leaving to become the general manger of the Detroit Pistons.

Marist went 12-19 overall and 9-11 in the MAAC last season, finishing sixth in the conference before being upset by 11th-seeded Niagara in the play-in round of the conference tournament.

Marist returns swingman Chavaughn Lewis (17.3 ppg), who was second-team all-conference, and Khallid Hart (14.7 ppg), who was the MAAC Rookie of the Year. Center Adam Kemp is the only loss to graduation.

Bower, for what it’s worth, is a fan of Billy Baron’s game. That could be worth keeping an eye on as Baron hopes to land on an NBA roster. He has already worked out for three NBA teams in advance of this month’s draft.

Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy is a former Canisius assistant.

Related: Baron has third pre-draft workout