Chicago Bulls Rumors

Central Notes: Scola, Bucks, Butler

November 26 at 12:53pm CST By Chuck Myron

LeBron James still hasn’t hit his 30th birthday, which comes next month, but there’s evidence to suggest that he’s already past his prime, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher examines. The four-time MVP hasn’t been able to carry the Cavs to the sort of performances they were expected to have so far this season, but he’s not the only one struggling for Cleveland, which is just 6-7. Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers power forward Luis Scola still thinks of what might have been if the Spurs, who drafted him in 2002, hadn’t traded his rights to the Rockets in 2007 before he joined the NBA, as Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News details. Playing with San Antonio would have meant pairing with Tim Duncan, whom Scola calls “my biggest hero,” and fellow Argentine Manu Ginobili. All three are set to hit free agency this summer, but there’s retirement talk surrounding Duncan and Ginobili, and Scola spoke of the chance to play with them as though it wouldn’t come again.
  • The Bucks are facing an 2017 deadline to break ground on a new arena, lest the league seize control of the team, but commissioner Adam Silver downplayed any urgency surrounding the situation as he visited Milwaukee on Tuesday. Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has the details. “I didn’t come here to announce deadlines,” Silver said. “We want to work in partnership with the city and the state to get a new arena built. We’re always going to be reasonable.” Silver, who advocated for the repeal of a “jock tax” in Tennessee, expressed measured support for such an arena funding source in Wisconsin, where a jock tax is under consideration, as Walker notes.
  • Jimmy Butler rejects the idea that he’s a marquee player, but Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is the latest to gush about the swingman poised for restricted free agency this summer, observes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com“He’s been incredible,” Thibodeau said. “He’s a star, and he does it on both ends of the floor. He’s just an amazing player. We’ve had him play the point, we’ve had him play the 2, the 3, and [Tuesday] he played the 4. And he hasn’t had any opportunity to practice the 4. So he just got out there, he’s smart, he’s tough, he does whatever the team needs, and he found a way to help lead us into coming back and having a shot at the end.”

Eastern Notes: Whiteside, Beal, Butler, Cavs

November 25 at 10:08pm CST By Eddie Scarito

League executives are confident that Bradley Beal will command a max extension from the Wizards, RealGM’s Shams Charania hears. Washington has made it known around the league that it intends to do whatever’s necessary to secure the shooting guard for the long term, Charania adds, echoing a report from last month indicating that the Wizards were already planning to ink Beal to an extension when he’s eligible for one in the offseason ahead.

Here’s more from the east:

  • The Heat see new signee Hassan Whiteside as a prospect they can develop for the long term, coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters, including Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. The center had worked out two times in three years for the team, including an audition last week, as Jackson writes in a separate piece.
  • Whiteside’s free agent deal with the Heat is for two years, and includes partial guarantees for each season, Charania reports (Twitter link). It’s presumably a minimum salary arrangement, since the Heat are limited to giving out no more than that.
  • The Bulls and Jimmy Butler failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension, setting him up to become a restricted free agent next summer. But Butler isn’t letting his contract situation distract him and is continuing to work hard, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com writes in his profile of the swingman. “I feel like I’ve never been the best player,” Butler said. “I’ve never been highly recruited, so I’ve always had all the chips stacked up against me and I’ve always found a way to make things happen. [The contract talk] is just another obstacle, another hurdle. But I think I’m in the right direction and if I keep my eye on the prize I think I’ll end up successful.”
  • Not all “superteams” are created equal, and it takes great sacrifices to make a combination of superstar players work, something the Cavs are finding out the hard way, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report writes. “I tell people all the time that it’s easy to say the word sacrifice,” veteran swingman Mike Miller said. “But to sacrifice, whether it’s playing time, shots, things like that, without knowing the outcome, it’s scary. And that’s what you’re asking players to do here in Cleveland again. You got young, talented players that are asked to sacrifice without knowing what the outcome could be. If you don’t win a championship, is it worth it?

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Central Notes: Butler, Knight, Gray

November 25 at 2:15pm CST By Chuck Myron

Few would have imagined that the Bucks, who had the worst record in the NBA last year, would have a better mark nearly a month into this season than LeBron James and the Cavs do, but that’s the case, with Milwaukee at 7-7, a half-game clear of 6-7 Cleveland. Still, it won’t be difficult for the Cavs to climb back into contention for a high playoff seed, since they’re only two games back of the Central Division-leading Bulls in the loss column. Here’s the latest from the Central:

  • Jimmy Butler tells Ben Golliver of SI.com that it was difficult to pass on an extension with the Bulls last month but that he turned down Chicago’s offer because he believed in his ability to improve his offensive game after a step back last season. Butler has proven wise so far, averaging 20.8 points per game on 49.7% shooting this season compared to 13.1 PPG and 39.7% shooting last year.
  • Brandon Knight has had three coaches in his four NBA seasons, but his relationship with new Bucks coach Jason Kidd has been positive so far, and a desire for stability is one reason why Knight wants to re-sign with the Bucks this summer, as Sean Deveney of The Sporting News examines.
  • Aaron Gray won’t play this season because of a heart ailment, and he acknowledges that there’s a chance that he’ll never be healthy enough to return, as he says to MLive’s David Mayo. Still, he’s not giving up hope, and a couple of weeks shy of his 30th birthday, Gray is serving as an unofficial assistant coach for the Pistons, who waived him last month in part because of his health, as Mayo details. “They brought me here for a service,” Gray said. “Even though I’ve been waived, the type of guy I am, I’m still getting paid for two years. I just wouldn’t feel right not contributing as much as I possibly could.”

Cavs, Wizards, Bulls, Spurs Still Eyeing Ray Allen

November 24 at 4:00pm CST By Chuck Myron

4:00pm: The Cavs remain the “undisputed favorites” to sign Allen, providing he decides to play again, writes Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

3:35pm: The Wizards haven’t checked in on Allen recently, but that doesn’t mean the team isn’t still interested in him, reports Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post (Twitter link).

12:59pm: The Cavs, Wizards, Bulls and Spurs are among a group of seven teams that maintain interest in signing free agent Ray Allen, tweets Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. Allen has been spending time in Miami and continuing to stay in shape, Broussard adds, but while it’s not entirely clear whether the Heat are one of those seven, the 39-year-old sharpshooter has reportedly ruled out a return to the franchise with which he’s spent the past two seasons.

The four teams Broussard identifies in his latest dispatch have all been linked to Allen over the past several months, with Cleveland most frequently mentioned in connection with the Jim Tanner client. A report earlier this month indicated that the Bulls remained in contact with Allen’s representatives, and Cavs GM David Griffin was reportedly speaking with Allen’s camp in early October, with the Cavs still seemingly the front-runners at that point. The Cavs maintained belief as late as mid-September that Allen would eventually sign with them, but Tanner denied a couple of weeks later that a deal between Cleveland and his client was imminent. That was one of several occasions since the start of free agency that Allen’s camp has shushed rumors, and whether Allen even wants to continue playing at all is still unknown.

The Spurs have the most flexibility to pay Allen among the teams Broussard lists, since San Antonio still has a $3.228MM slice of its mid-level exception left after using part of it to re-sign Aron Baynes. The Spurs would nonetheless need to unload a player on a fully guaranteed contract to sign Allen. The Wizards, Bulls and Cavs are limited to the minimum salary, but they all possess players on non-guaranteed contracts, and Chicago has an open roster spot, as our roster counts show.

And-Ones: Thompson, AK-47, Nets, Mirotic

November 23 at 9:06pm CST By Arthur Hill

After agreeing to an extension with the Warriors last month, Klay Thompson got some words of wisdom from his father, reports Billy Witz of The New York Times“I told him, with a contract extension like that comes a lot of responsibility,” said Mychal Thompson,  a former overall No. 1 draft pick and now part of the Lakers broadcast team. “Now you have to prove to people that you’re underpaid. That means showing up every night and playing at the highest level. Now you have to prove that you’re worth that.”  More from around the NBA..

  • The Warriors gambled by holding on to Thompson instead of trading for Kevin Love.  Right now, it looks like that gamble is paying off, writes Tim Bontemps of the New York Post.  Meanwhile, Thompson was happy to get an extension done.  “It was great,” Thompson said. “It was a big relief, but it was cool to see just how much the Warriors believe in me, and believe I’m a building block. It makes me want to go out there and play hard every day.”
  • There are “hints out there” that the market for Nets forward Andrei Kirilenko may be broader than reported, both in terms of teams interested and what Brooklyn could get in return, according to Robert Windrem of Nets Daily.
  • Nets guard Deron Williams wishes his team had the same approach to team building as the Spurs, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.  “[San Antonio] is a team you envy, because they’ve had a system, they’ve had a coach and pretty much the same group of guys for a long time,” Williams said of the Spurs.
  • Sam Smith of NBA.com is impressed with the play of Bulls rookie Nikola Mirotic.  Mirotic is a tremendous shooter at 6’10” and also boasts the ability to pass off the dribble.
  • Comparisons to James Harden might be a bit much, but basketball people are high on Duke star Justise Winslow, writes Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv.  “Top ten,” one veteran NBA scout told Zagoria “He is getting better, a little more experienced and he will slow down a little and soften his shot and watch out.”

Zach Links contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Smith, Moreland, Sampson

November 21 at 10:26pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Minnesota is the latest team to be besieged by injuries, with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin out indefinitely and Ronny Turiaf also expected to miss time. Also among the Timberwolves to sit on the sidelines in street clothes tonight is Nikola Pekovic, who has a sprained wrist. With the league-maximum 15 players on their roster, the Wolves would not be able to sign another player without being forced to release someone. But if at least three of the players miss three consecutive games and an independent physician declares that they and a fourth player are likely to continue to miss time, Minnesota could apply to the league for a hardship provision that would grant them the ability to temporarily carry a 16th player. Still, “they don’t hand those things out like candy,” as Flip Saunders noted of the league’s willingness to grant 16th roster spots, in spite of recent allowances for the Thunder, Pacers and Grizzlies, tweets Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • The Kings have sent Eric Moreland to the Reno Bighorns, the team announced. This will be Moreland’s second assignment to the D-League this season. The 22-year-old power forward has yet to make a regular season appearance for Sacramento
  • The Sixers have assigned JaKarr Sampson to the Delaware 87ers, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. This will be Sampson’s first trip to the D-League this season, and the rookie is averaging 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in nine NBA appearances.
  • Former Blazers first round pick Nolan Smith is headed back to the NBA D-League, Gino Pilato of D-League Digest reports. Smith had cut ties with Turkey’s Galatasaray back in October and intends to use the D-League to showcase his talents for NBA teams, Pilato notes. The D-League will assign Smith to one of its teams through its waiver system. The 26-year-old point guard spent 2011/12 and 2012/13 with Portland, averaging 3.3 PPG and 1.2 APG in 9.9 minutes per contest. Smith had received partially guaranteed offers from the Bulls and the Thunder this summer but instead chose to try his luck in Turkey.

Bulls Notes: Gasol, Butler, Point Guards

November 21 at 7:22pm CST By Eddie Scarito

With Kirk Hinrich out indefinitely with a chest injury, the Bulls are hoping that Derrick Rose can return to action by this Monday, or else the team will consider signing another point guard, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune reports (Twitter link). Rose has been sidelined with ankle woes leaving Aaron Brooks the only healthy point guard on the team. Chicago currently has only 14 players on its roster so no additional move would be required for the team to add another body.

Here’s more from the Windy City:

  • One of the best free agent signings of the summer not involving a player named LeBron James was the Bulls locking up Pau Gasol on a three-year, $22.3MM deal. Gasol left Los Angeles because he felt that he needed a change of scenery, Steve Aschburner of NBA.com writes. “Just a gut feeling that I needed to move on,” Gasol said. “I needed something different. I needed to be in a different position where I could be assimilated, where I could be motivated every single day, where I could be rejuvenated.”
  • Besides his on-court production, Gasol is also paying dividends in his mentoring of rookie Nikola Mirotic, Aschburner adds. “All the things Nikola is going through, Pau has gone through,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “More importantly, it’s what he does. There are a lot of guys who say all the right things and do none of them. Pau does all the right things. He comes in every day, takes care of himself. He studies. He prepares. He practices hard, he practices well, and then he goes out there and he executes. And he plays for the team — he’s not one of those guys pounding his chest, ‘Look at me, look at me.’ He’s one of those guys who’s ‘Let’s look at the team.’
  • In his weekly mailbag, Sam Smith of NBA.com opined that Jimmy Butler should have accepted the Bulls’ extension offer despite how well Butler is currently performing. Smith cites Butler’s young age and the need for long-term security, using Jay Williams’ career-ending injury as an example of how quickly things can change. Smith also added that it would be different if Butler had already had a big money deal during his career, but since he is only being paid rookie scale wages, taking the eight-figure deal would have been the safer play.

Eastern Notes: Anthony, McDermott, Haywood

November 20 at 9:12pm CST By Eddie Scarito

In an interview with Eli Saslow of ESPN: The Magazine (hat tip to Marc Berman of The New York Post), Carmelo Anthony said that coming to New York to play for the Knicks distorted his reputation and did not enhance it. “I’m more misunderstood than most people,” Anthony said. “As an athlete, you don’t really have a voice. Everything you say or do, people have a million opinions about it, so it doesn’t really get heard the way you want it to get heard. People are putting things on you and shaping your reputation, and you don’t really have control. People say I am all about more money, but it’s not like that. It’s about having the appearance of someone with success. Image and reputation matter to me. If you’re being honest, they matter to everybody. Money is about people thinking of you as someone who does well.”

Here’s more from the east:

  • Anthony also added that he isn’t fond of critics opining before each season on whether he will finally prove himself as a winner. “People say every year is the one that will determine if I’m great or terrible, if I’ve met expectations or been a disappointment,” Anthony said. “To be honest with you, I’m tired of it.” With the Knicks‘ record a disappointing 3-10, it doesn’t look like this will be the season ‘Melo silences his critics.
  • Despite entering the league with four years of college experience and having won numerous awards during that time, Doug McDermott admitted that it’s not easy being a rookie and that he is still trying to find his way with the Bulls, Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders writes. “I’m still kind of establishing a role to be honest,” McDermott said. “It’s still really early, and I’m just trying to get my feet wet and learn more things defensively and the playbook, and everything’s coming along great.  So I’m making steps, but I think it’s still early and I think I can have a really good role on this team, not just as a shooter, but overall just a good role.”
  • Brendan Haywood understands that the appeal of his non-guaranteed contract for next season makes him a more valuable trade asset than on-the-court contributor for the Cavs, Chris Haynes of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes. “I don’t worry about it because at the end of the day, I can’t do anything about it,” Haywood said. “If somebody views my contract as an asset or the team feels they can get something in that can help them or shed salary, they’re going to do what they’re going to do because that’s what they have to do.”

Offseason In Review: Chicago Bulls

November 20 at 1:54pm CST By Chuck Myron

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.

Signings

Extensions

  • None

Trades

  • Acquired 2014 pick No. 11 and Anthony Randolph from the Nuggets in exchange for 2014 pick No. 16, 2014 pick No. 19, and the less favorable of Chicago’s and Portland’s 2015 second-round picks.
  • Acquired the rights to Milovan Rakovic from the Magic in exchange for Anthony Randolph, the more favorable of Chicago’s and Portland’s 2015 second-round picks, the more favorable of Chicago’s and Portland’s 2016 second-round picks, and cash.
  • Acquired the rights to Tadija Dragicevic from the Mavericks in exchange for Greg Smith.

Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

The Bulls didn’t end up with Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Love this year, but they nonetheless made their most significant upgrades since Derrick Rose‘s MVP season in 2010/11. The past calendar year has featured upheaval in Chicago, starting with the January trade of Luol Deng, and the Bulls gave every indication that more changes were on the way heading into the summer. Their pursuit of Anthony was always fraught with pitfalls, thanks mostly to the salary cap chicanery that GM Gar Forman and executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson would have had to pull off to give him a contract anywhere near the max. It was Plan A, to be sure, but Forman and Paxson weren’t without intriguing alternatives that extended beyond what for the most part appeared to be a long shot bid to trade for Love.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at New York KnicksTo affect any of the major changes they sought, the Bulls had to unload Carlos Boozer‘s unwieldy $16.8MM salary. They held the amnesty provision in their quiver, but waiving him meant still having to pay him, even if he would vanish from the team’s cap figure. So, the Bulls sought to trade the power forward who’d never quite lived up to having been the team’s marquee signing from 2010, the last time Chicago made such sweeping changes.

Forman and Paxson kept the notion of a Boozer trade alive even as they neared a deal with Pau Gasol for more than they would have been able to pay if they had kept Boozer and remained over the salary cap. The Bulls had talks with the Lakers about turning the Gasol acquisition into a sign-and-trade that would have allowed Chicago to cobble together matching salaries to send out. Chicago also wound up giving Nikola Mirotic a deal with a starting salary at precisely the amount of the mid-level exception, the most the team could have paid him while remaining over the cap. Ultimately, no palatable trade for Boozer came about, forcing the Bulls to amnesty him. Chicago moved on from the idea of a sign-and-trade for Gasol and simply inked him outright into the cap space that the amnesty had created, using the rest of the cap room on Mirotic and a long-term deal for second-round pick Cameron Bairstow. Still, the Bulls caught a break when the Lakers claimed Boozer off waivers, defraying a $3.251MM portion of the cost of Boozer’s salary.

Gasol gives the Bulls a gifted passer and a player whose game is more multidimensional than Boozer’s, and coach Tom Thibodeau has already taken advantage of the opportunity to pair Gasol with center Joakim Noah in a twin-towers starting lineup. The Spanish center is an odd fit to a degree because of Taj Gibson, whose game continued to grow last season. Still, Gibson is seeing even more minutes per game this year than he did last year, though the maladies that have kept Noah and Gasol out of a few games have no doubt contributed to that. Mirotic plays power forward, too, so the Bulls wouldn’t have been in a bind without either Boozer or Gasol. Still, given the team’s title aspirations, a proven and still capable veteran with two championship rings trumps the intrigue of a rookie, even if that rookie was perhaps the best player who wasn’t in the NBA last season.

Mirotic has nonetheless seen 12.1 minutes per game so far this year, about the same amount of playing time that Thibodeau has given to small forward Doug McDermott, the 11th overall pick in this year’s draft. The Bulls saw fit to consolidate their pair of later first-round picks to move up for McDermott, even if it meant absorbing the guaranteed salary of Anthony Randolph to do so. Randolph complicated Chicago’s pursuit of cap flexibility until the Bulls attached him to a pair of second-round draft picks and cash in a trade that sent him to Orlando. That move, combined with the acquisition of McDermott, meant the Bulls had turned two first-rounders and two second-rounders into a single first-rounder, but the first-rounder the Bulls wound up with was the only lottery pick in the bunch. There are plenty of doubts about McDermott’s ability to translate his high-scoring college game to the NBA, particularly given Thibodeau’s defense-first approach, but contenders like Chicago rarely have a chance to add a player of his talent through the draft. It’s a risk worth taking, and it demonstrates that Forman and Paxson are thinking of the long-term future even as they try to win the title this year.

Still, the Bulls held the line with Jimmy Butler, reportedly offering him somewhat more than $11MM a year in extension proposals that the swingman turned down. The former 30th overall pick is off to a roaring start this season, averaging 21.3 points per game and answering the questions that surrounded his offensive capabilities, which had seemed to lag behind his defense. The Bulls may end up having to shell out much more than $11MM a year if Butler can keep it up, but the Happy Walters client has pledged to remain with the Bulls, and Forman and Paxson would no doubt be willing to pay a premium for a budding two-way star.

Key to preserving success in the near term and the long term is loyalty, and Kirk Hinrich showed his affection for the Bulls organization when he reportedly turned down better offers to accept the room exception from Chicago. The 33-year-old had spent nine of his 11 years in the NBA as a Bull, averaging as many as 16.6 PPG during the 2006/07 season. That scoring average was nearly cut in half two years later, and he’s spent most of his time since as an afterthought on offense. The former Kansas standout is never going to be an elite scoring force, but he might have had a much more significant role than the one he’s played in Chicago if he had signed with either the Hornets or the Jazz, the pair of teams that apparently challenged the Bulls for his services. Neither of those clubs would have given him his best chance at his first championship, however. Given the eternal questions surrounding Rose’s health, Hinrich’s ability to both fill in for the former MVP when necessary and play alongside him when not makes Hinrich more valuable to Chicago than his salary or his statistics reflect.

Yet the Bulls aren’t going to win the title if Hinrich, or fellow offseason signee Aaron Brooks, ends up starting at point guard. The Bulls rise and fall with Rose, and short of the acquisition of a star like ‘Melo or Love, that’s not going to change. Forman and Paxson did their best this summer to keep the Bulls in the title hunt this season and for years to come, but they remain beholden to the knees of the team’s former No. 1 overall pick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Eastern Notes: Rondo, Kidd, Butler, Sixers

November 19 at 7:27pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Executives from around the league tell Howard Beck of Bleacher Report that Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has remained resolute with them that he won’t trade Rajon Rondo at this point. Still, many of those execs think the Celtics are in a position in which they simply must trade the point guard to avoid seeing him walk in free agency this coming summer. Ainge nonetheless continues to look for upgrades around Rondo, as he tells Beck. “Philosophically, we know who the players are, we know who the guys are that we would love to get,” Ainge said. “But we also know that certain players don’t make as much of a difference. We can’t sell our stockpile of assets just to appease one player. We’ve got to be smart in rebuilding. And we do have to remain patient. And yet at the same time, be ready to jump into the fray and pay a high price for special players, transcendent players.”

Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Bucks’ roster features two starters who are 19 years old, a stark contrast to head coach Jason Kidd‘s Nets team of a year ago, which featured seven players 32 or older, Sean Deveney of The Sporting News writes. Kidd says it’s still just basketball to him, adding, “It’s just the age difference. They’re basketball players. This is a younger team, the team I had last year was vets. They knew how to play, a couple of them won championships so they knew what it took to win. We won a Game 7 on the road, so experience, time and minutes are probably the only thing that’s different.” The other difference for Kidd in Milwaukee is that he’s now coaching a team on the upswing rather than one constructed to contend for a single year like Brooklyn was last season, notes Deveney.
  • Jimmy Butler‘s decision to bypass a contract extension from the Bulls that would have netted him roughly $11MM per season could pay off handsomely if he continues his excellent play, Michael Lee of The Washington Post opines.
  • Former Sixer Evan Turner believes he can speak for those players unfortunate enough to be stuck in the middle of GM Sam Hinkie‘s rebuilding plan, writes Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald. Turner said of Hinkie’s approach, “It’s different. It goes the right way, or not. That kind of trend can make or break certain situations. Hopefully they don’t get penalized for what they’re doing, but if they do put the right guys on the team they can be really successful thanks to the leadership of coach [BrettBrown. The biggest thing is having the unity. That’s all you have and you have to stay focused on going to battle with who you have.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.