Chicago Bulls Rumors

Extensions Unlikely For Leonard, Butler

October 30 at 1:59pm CDT By Chuck Myron

THURSDAY, 1:59pm: Johnson suggests the potential remains that Friday’s 11:00pm Central time deadline will motivate Butler and the Bulls to strike a deal, but the Chicago Tribune scribe adds that the sides remain far apart in their proposals (Twitter link).

WEDNESDAY, 11:54am: Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are unlikely to sign extensions with the Spurs and Bulls, respectively, before Friday’s deadline, a source tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Leonard is reportedly seeking the maximum salary, and while a recent report indicated Butler and the Bulls were “millions apart” in talks, that sort of separation is not uncommon in the days leading up to the rookie scale extension deadline. Broussard also hears the Knicks won’t grant an extension to Iman Shumpert, advancing the reporting of ESPN colleague Ian Begley.

Bulls GM Gar Forman said earlier today that he’d met with Butler’s agent, Happy Walters, and that Butler’s left thumb injury wouldn’t affect negotiations, tweets David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. The injury is expected to keep him out no longer than three weeks, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune notes (Twitter links). It’s unlikely that the eye infection that plagued Leonard throughout the preseason and forced him to miss San Antonio’s opening night game Tuesday would affect an extension for him, either.

The Spurs and Brian Elfus, who represents Leonard, have reportedly met several times in the past few weeks but have made no progress, though the Spurs appear poised to match any maximum salary offer sheet that Leonard would sign in restricted free agency next summer. The reigning Finals MVP appears prepared to buck the tradition of San Antonio’s stars agreeing to discounts, though the Spurs could still prevail on Leonard to do so next summer even if they can’t convince him to take less in an extension by the end of Friday.

Butler expressed confidence just days ago that he and the Bulls would come to an extension, so presumably talks, which the swingman said a month ago were going in the right direction, have hit a snag. Chicago apparently had a preference to come to an extension rather than let Butler, who turned 25 last month, hit restricted free agency. The Bulls have about $60.2MM tied up for 2015/16, and Kirk Hinrich holds a nearly $2.9MM player option, so Chicago probably wouldn’t have the cap flexibility to replace Butler if he were to sign an offer sheet and Forman and company decided against matching.

Q&A With Former Bulls Guard Craig Hodges

October 30 at 10:30am CDT By Zach Links

Earlier this week, Phil Jackson hired old friend Craig Hodges to serve as an assistant coach for the Knicks’ D-League affiliate in Westchester.  A two-time champion as a player under the Zen Master, Hodges later reunited with Jackson as an assistant coach for the Lakers and added two more rings to his collection.  During his playing days, the guard led the league in three-point shooting percentage twice over the course of his ten-year career and established himself as one of the most consistent long-range threats of his time.

When the Bulls visited the White House after winning the 1992 NBA Championship, Hodges handed President George H.W. Bush a letter outlining his dissatisfaction with the administration’s treatment of disadvantaged black Americans.  That summer, he was waived by the Bulls and, surprisingly, was not picked up by another team, prompting him to later file a lawsuit against the NBA alleging that he was blackballed from the game.  He was unsuccessful in court but the experience hasn’t hardened Hodges and he is still very much an activist for the downtrodden.

When he’s not busy with the Westchester Knicks this season, Hodges will be working on his forthcoming book, which he expects to be released in January.  The NBA champion and the newest member of the Knicks D-League operation was kind enough to take some time and chat with Hoops Rumors on Tuesday.

Zach Links: How did the opportunity to join the Westchester Knicks coaching staff come about?  It was reported that you were initially among the head coaching candidates.

Craig Hodges: It actually was one of those things where it was a basic interview and they didn’t really tell me which job was available. Initially they talked to me in May and asked if I would be interested in working with the D-League team.  I got a call again in August to actually come and interview we’ve been going back and forth since then.   NBA: Utah Jazz at Chicago Bulls

ZL: How often do you and Phil Jackson talk?

CH: Well, with him, even when you don’t talk to him you know you’re still cool with him and I have a cool relationship with him.  He’s a great manager of people and his management style is that he understands what you do well, and if he sees something that you need help with, he’ll help you or find a person to help you. I’ve never felt uncomfortable around him, and I’ve been blessed to be one of the first players to win a championship [with him], and I was a coach on his staff when he won his last one, so hopefully we can make something happen here.

ZL: I know you just joined the staff, but do you have a sense of how closely the Westchester Knicks will work with the main organization?

CH: We’re going to function as their minor league team and we’re going to operate the way that they operate so that they can gauge the pulse of our players.  It’s a great situation and I’m looking forward to it.  We’ll also have an emphasis on getting guys accustomed to the triangle and ready to play in that system.

ZL: The D-League is very youth-centric, but what do you think of it as a tool for veterans to find their way back into the NBA?

CH: I think it’s good for both young guys and vets.  I don’t know how many vets look at it as an opportunity, but they should.  One drawback would be the money, but I think the opportunities that come from it would be worthwhile for guys trying to get back into the NBA and get their games back to that level. I think we have a great thing going in Westchester and, hopefully, guys will see it as a destination location.

ZL: In 1992, you brought a lawsuit against the league when you felt that you were blackballed from playing for expressing your beliefs.  Do you feel like in 2014 a player can take up a cause without repercussions, or do you think that could still be problematic career-wise?

CH: You’re always going to be sacrificing something if you speak out, but I think it’s important for people to do so when it comes to issues that are near and dear to their hearts.  If someone [takes a stand], they need to know that they’ve done critical studies on what they want to speak about.  I was the baby of the movement and my mission then [was], and it continues to be, ‘How can I help people who are less fortunate than me and help them move upward?’  Many people saw that as a militant stand to take, but I look at it as a cultural imperative.  Mentors in my life have always told me that you’re only as strong as the weakest of your people, and when I look at the condition of my people, especially in Chicago where the young people are killing each other and getting killed at a horrible rate, you just have to say something.  We have the opportunity as a nation to take the lead role in getting people to realize how important it is to teach young people.

ZL: Could you tell me a bit about your upcoming book?

CH: It’s not a book to bash anybody, but it’s a book to clear the air as far as the stuff that happened in my career and also what I see going on.  God blesses me and he blesses you with teachings, but not everyone is taught the same way and not everyone is passionate about the same things.  I think God has blessed us with a garden where we can have a lot of good people do a lot of good things and we can change the face of the Earth by doing so.  

ZL: Now that you’re actively working for the NBA again, will you be pulling any punches in the book when it comes to how your career ended, or are you putting it all out there? 

CH: I think it’ll be somewhat cathartic when I put it all on paper.  I’m just putting the facts out there and letting people study things for what they are, it’s not up to me to make judgement calls.  Everyone has their own reasoning and logic. … For me, I just want to make sure that I put it out there as a written history for my sons and my grandbabies, but I also want it out there for the overall legacy of it, man.  I think that it’s important that I took the stand that I did.  My mantra has been to help others ever since I was 8 years old.  My mom was a civil rights organizer who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and those ideals have been on my heart.  They haven’t diminished.

ZL: Do you have a publisher yet?

CH: We’re still shopping it and we have a few meetings over the next few weeks with publishers.  It’s been a cool experience and I’m looking forward to getting the book out there. It’s something I should have done a long time ago.  Having Daniel [Hazan, of Hazan Sports Management] to help me has been great.  I never had an agent for off-the-court matters [before], and looking back on my life, I wish I had an agent for that type of stuff. It would have made things a lot easier.

ZL: Do you have your eye on becoming a head coach in the NBA?

CH: [laughs] Not at all!  That’s the thing, I love what I do as an assistant coach.  The purity of the game is what I love.  I get to help make guys better and do as much as possible with their talent.  That’s what I like doing, so I haven’t thought about moving up the ladder.  I think in general if you do a good job, then opportunities open up, and then you can assess and go from there.  I’ve been trying to live more in the spiritual realm. I’m not looking forward or behind. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Central Notes: Gasol, Cavs, James

October 29 at 9:19pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Pau Gasol thought the Bulls were the best overall situation for him when choosing his free agent destination this summer, Zach Braziller of The New York Post writes. The veteran did give the Knicks some consideration before making his decision, saying, “I considered them just because of different factors, mainly Phil [Jackson] and Derek [Fisher] being involved, the Knicks being a great organization as wel. It would’ve been interesting, but I thought there were better situations for me.”

Gasol also added that it was possible that his brother Marc Gasol could end up in New York when he becomes a free agent, notes Braziller. “We’ll see what happens next year what he decides and hopefully he’ll have a strong year and all the options in the world because he’s one of the top centers, interior players in the league, so any team would be fortunate to have him,” Gasol said. “It’s a personal decision. I talked to my brother enough about Phil that he knows what he brings to the table.”

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls hold no ill will toward Carmelo Anthony for spurning them in free agency this past summer, Braziller writes in a separate article. “He made his decision, and like I said at the time, of course who wouldn’t want to play with a talent like that,” Derrick Rose said. “But he came back [to the Knicks]. You can’t get mad at him.” Chicago is perfectly happy with their roster as currently constituted and believe they have the depth to contend in the east, Braziller writes.
  • Even when things appeared to be at their worst Cavs, owner Dan Gilbert never believed his relationship with LeBron James was irreparable, Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal writes. “Unless you’re really doing some significant harm to another human being, I don’t think the bridge is ever burned,” Gilbert said. “We had a night where emotions were flying high on all sides. Things like that happen a lot in business where people have phone calls and heated exchanges and people are writing each other emails and letters, and then the next day they’re eating lunch and doing business. It’s not a be-all or end-all type thing.”
  • Veteran guard Mike James will be joining the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League in an effort to showcase himself for NBA teams, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports (Twitter link). James appeared in 11 games for the Bulls last season, and his career numbers are 9.9 PPG, 2.2 RPG, and 3.5 APG.

Eastern Notes: Wade, Jennings, Qvale

October 28 at 11:30am CDT By Chuck Myron

If the Bulls and Cavaliers meet in the Eastern Conference Finals this year, it should be a compelling affair, if evidenced only by the virtual dead heat between the clubs among Hoops Rumors readers who’ve weighed in on which team they think will win the NBA title. Still, the health of Derrick Rose is an X-factor after the point guard missed all but one game of the past three postseasons, and no one knows quite how the Cavs will come together with all of their new pieces, so there’s plenty of mystery surrounding the East this season. Here’s the latest from around the conference:

  • The idea of signing with the Bulls “played on my heart,” as Dwyane Wade told TNT’s David Aldridge, but the longtime Heat guard reiterated that Miami is his home, as Aldridge notes amid his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. The Bulls reportedly put out feelers to Wade this summer, and they also pursued him in 2010.
  • Former Pistons front office chief Joe Dumars took the fall, but Brandon Jennings tells Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press that he and Josh Smith simply didn’t perform to the level they should have after the Pistons committed a combined seven years and $78MM to the duo. “We did get a new contract, both of us, so the blame has to go to both of us, actually,” Jennings said. “I’m going to put myself in there because I’m the point guard. So if anything, I’m going to hold myself accountable first, before anyone else. I definitely didn’t do my job last year. It was one of the most embarrassing seasons ever, especially with the talent that we had, and I feel like we should have [gone] farther than we did. But I put that on myself. That really bothered me all summer. So I have a lot to prove this year.”
  • Hornets camp invitee Brian Qvale has signed with Tofas Bursa of Turkey, the team announced (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia, who was the first to report the deal, via Twitter). Charlotte waived the center last week.

Bulls Pick Up Option On Tony Snell

October 27 at 5:33pm CDT By Alex Lee

The Bulls have picked up their rookie scale team option on Tony Snell for the 2015/16 season, the team announced. The athletic third-year forward out of New Mexico will make just under $1.536MM next season, as our Rookie Scale Team Option Tracker shows. Snell, who the Bulls took with the 20th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, averaged 4.5 points in 16 minutes per game for Chicago in his rookie year. He was named First-Team All-NBA Summer League this summer after averaging 20 points and four rebounds over five games in Las Vegas.

Snell’s elite athleticism and defensive potential made him a popular sleeper in the 2013 draft, which was in many ways similar to how K.J. McDaniels was viewed by some this past June. As of four months ago, the Bulls still seemed sold on Snell as a rotation-caliber talent, though there was talk that he was dangled in trade talks prior to the draft. He’ll enter the season as one of many options off the bench on a deep Bulls team.

The move brings Chicago’s commitments for 2015/16 to $60.2MM. That’s fairly close to the projected $66.5MM salary cap, and that figure doesn’t include a new deal for Jimmy Butler, who’ll be set for restricted free agency if he and the Bulls don’t sign an extension by the end of Friday.

Central Notes: Melo, Amundson, Pistons

October 26 at 3:30pm CDT By Zach Links

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony wasn’t surprised to learn that his squad would be opening the season against the Bulls, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post.  Meanwhile, he says that his offseason flirtation with Chicago has given him insight into their team.  “I have a lot of insight [into that team],’’ Anthony said. “I can’t express that right now. I have a better understanding what they’re about. The organization, the players, Coach Thibs, the front-office ownership. [Thibodeau’s] knowledge of the game and what he brings to the game, his excitement and enthusiasm. It doesn’t get better than that. … I give them a lot of credit. They were very impressive.”  More from the Central Division..

  • Lou Amundson is likely to secure a regular season roster spot, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. The center position could be the one spot in the Cavs lineup to have minutes available due to Anderson Varejao‘s injury history and a lack of proven options behind him.
  • Turning the Pistons into a playoff caliber team starts with coach and GM Stan Van Gundy, opines David Mayo of MLive.com. Van Gundy understands the process of building a successful team having turned franchises around in Miami and Orlando. “There are habits to change,” he said. “When you’ve lost for a long time, you get into losing habits. Nobody wants to lose and a lot of times guys don’t even realize the habits they’ve fallen into because they’re still NBA players and they’re playing well. I think they want to change. It just has to be more consistent.”
  • Former Bucks forward Chris Wright has joined PGE Turow Zgorzelec of Poland, according to agent Misko Raznatovic (on Twitter, h/t to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando).

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Central Rumors: Thompson, Love, Pistons

October 25 at 9:04pm CDT By Cray Allred

Fearing a potential fine from the league, Bulls coach Tim Thibodeau decided to withhold his opinion when asked by Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com about proposed changes to the NBA’s draft lottery system. “The thing that I don’t like about it is it just seems like…I think it’s bad when…I guess it’s fine,” Thibodeau said, before adding, “I’ll try to save my money.” NBA owners voted down a proposal last week that would have shaken up the lottery, giving the league’s worst teams a smaller chance at the highest picks. Here’s more from around the Central Division:

  • There has been “zero discussion” on a contract extension for the CavaliersTristan Thompson, a source tells Chris Haynes of Northeast Ohio Media Group. Thompson, who like teammate LeBron James is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, would become a restricted free agent next summer if no deal is reached by Friday. Haynes says Thompson is invaluable to the team’s ongoing championship makeup, an opinion shared by teammate Kyrie Irving. “He’s very important to us,” Irving said. “That motor he has, it’s something that never stops. He’s always on the boards. We’re going to need that. He’s a big part of our team.”
  • It was a desire to win that brought Kevin Love to Cleveland, the star forward writes in a piece for The Players’ Tribune (H/T Dan Labbe of the Plain Dealer). In the first-person essay, Love explains why he agreed to the summer trade that brought him to the Cavaliers from the Timberwolves. “I’ve never played in a playoff game,” Love writes. “I came to Cleveland because I want to win. I’ll grab a broom and sweep the floors if it gets me an NBA title.” Love also thanked Timberwolves fans and referenced the “crazy summer” of overall No. 1 draft choice Andrew Wiggins, who went to Minnesota in the blockbuster trade.
  • Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy told David Mayo of MLive.com that he will make his final roster decisions this weekend, well before Monday’s deadline. Mayo cites Aaron Gray, Tony Mitchell, and Luigi Datome as possibile cuts, all of whom are on guaranteed contracts. Unless Detroit can send out a player in a trade, it will have to take the hit on one of its 16 guaranteed deals to get under the roster limit before the season starts.

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Central Notes: Thompson, Gilbert, Butler

October 25 at 3:47pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

The Cavs and forward Tristan Thompson have until October 31st to come to terms on a contract extension or Thompson becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer looks at the options for both the player and the team and compares Thompson’s numbers against other forwards who have recently inked new deals.

Here’s the latest out of the Central Division:

  • In an interview with Pluto, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said, “I look at the last four years as a payment for the next four to six years (when the Cavs begin to win again).” The last four seasons sans LeBron James have seen the franchise go a combined 97-215, and Gilbert discussed how difficult those seasons were, how he and James mended fences, as well as his expectations for the future of his franchise.
  • In his Central Division preview, Adi Joseph of USA Today says the division will come down to a battle between the Cavs and the Bulls. Another interesting storyline, according to Joseph,  is how the Pacers will fare without Paul George and Lance Stephenson after capturing the division crown a season ago.
  • With the deadline quickly approaching, Jimmy Butler remains confident that he can work out a contract extension with the Bulls in time, reports Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com. First-round picks like Butler who are heading into their fourth season have until Oct. 31 to come to terms. Butler, who missed Chicago’s final two preseason games with sprained ligaments in his thumb, isn’t worried about the deadline. “I think we’re going to figure it out,” he said. “My main focus is now of all time is to get healthy. If you’re healthy, you’ll get paid anyway. That’s all I’m worried about it.” 

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Eastern Notes: Butler, Wizards, Maxiell, Inglis

October 24 at 3:59pm CDT By Chuck Myron

The Bulls and Jimmy Butler are “millions apart” in extension talks, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, and while the precise gap is unclear, it’s not uncommon for sides to be as far apart as the Bulls and Butler are even a week before the extension deadline, Johnson writes. The team and Butler’s representatives at Relativity Sports this week had their first extensive talks in awhile, Johnson adds. Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • The Wizards recently tried to pry Julyan Stone out of his contract with Reyer Venezia of Italy, reports Shams Charania of RealGM (on Twitter). The point guard has an escape clause in the pact, according to Charania, who suggests that Stone would be disinclined to leave the team since he’s seeing heavy playing time. It’s unclear if the Wizards maintain interest after signing John Lucas III earlier this week.
  • Jason Maxiell will remain with the Hornets on opening night in spite of his non-guaranteed contract, coach Steve Clifford confirmed today to reporters, including Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).
  • Bucks rookie Damien Inglis will miss at least another six weeks because the right foot he broke during a predraft workout for the Thunder has not healed, tweets Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Bucks drafted Inglis 31st overall in June. His deal is guaranteed for this season.

And-Ones: Hawks, Motum, Crawford

October 22 at 10:28pm CDT By Eddie Scarito

Outgoing Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson has the power to force as much as 60% of the team to be sold, even though he and his partners have only 50.1% of the team, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The NBA appears to be pressuring all of the other owners to sell so that the entire franchise can change hands, Vivlamore adds. All of the team’s owners still have yet to meet to discuss how much of the franchise they’re going to sell, and so far, their only action as a group has involved preparation for vetting prospective buyers, though vetting itself has yet to begin, as Vivlamore explains.

Here’s more from around the league:

      • When Jordan Crawford signed with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association for $1.4MM it wasn’t because he didn’t receive any NBA offers. The Kings had tried to sign Crawford this summer, but he wasn’t comfortable with a backup role in Sacramento, David Pick of Eurobasket reports (Twitter links). Crawford also relayed that he felt “overlooked” by the league, and that’s what led him to China, Pick notes.
      • Brock Motum‘s one year, minimum salary deal with the Jazz is non-guaranteed, as is reflected on the Basketball Insiders salary page for Utah.
      • Many of the teams that joined the Sixers in a voting bloc that scuttled immediate lottery reform are nonetheless miffed about Philadelphia’s stripped-down roster, as Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes. Teams voted down lottery changes in part because they feel too much is in flux, and that includes the unknown of just how or whether the league will phase in the substantial increase in the salary cap that the league’s enhanced TV revenues will bring about, Lowe adds. Some influential agents oppose the idea of any phase-in, preferring that the cap simply leap in the summer of 2016 based on the idea that teams might be uncertain of how to handle the changed landscape and hand out contracts they’ll later regret, according to Lowe.
      • The surging salary cap projections have some small-market teams worried about how they’ll manage in a league where $100MM payrolls are the norm, in spite of the TV money that would make that sort of spending more palatable, as Lowe writes in the same piece. Small-market teams also fear that they’ll become slightly profitable and lose the benefit of tens of millions in income through the league’s revenue sharing program, the Grantland columnist explains. The Lakers handed out $50MM, the Knicks $27MM and the Bulls $17MM in revenue sharing last season, Lowe reports.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.