Chicago Bulls

Bulls Notes: Front Office, Gasol, Mirotic

All indications are Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf remains confident in the front office duo of GM Gar Forman and executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson, writes Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com, who calls for them to make changes to the roster with the deadline less than a week away. Forman has reportedly signaled that he’s concerned about his future, but it’s instead the immediate situation in Chicago that has others worried.

“We got to find ourselves,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, according to Friedell. “I challenged them, whatever they got to do over the [All-Star] break, look themselves in the mirror, find a way to get committed to this team where we can come out and go on a run. And that’s all we can do right now is look forward. It’s been a bad, bad stretch of basketball. Hopefully we’ll get healthy and move forward.”

Hoiberg’s job is in no danger, Friedell confirms, advocating instead for the Bulls to deal away Pau Gasol. Two executives recently told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that they don’t think the Bulls are done testing the trade market for Gasol in spite of injuries to Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic. See more from Chicago, where the Bulls are in seventh place and just a game up on the ninth-place Pistons:

  • Mirotic will remain out for weeks, not days, as he continues to recover from a follow-up procedure to an appendectomy, tweets K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. The power forward had been targeting a return after the All-Star break.
  • The front office set a destructive tone when it undermined coach Tom Thibodeau last season, and it shows in the way the Bulls have responded on the court this season, contends Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Forman and Paxson told players last season that they didn’t have to buy in to Thibodeau’s coaching because the team planned to move on from him at season’s end, according to Cowley.
  • However, the negative effect Thibodeau had on the work environment in Chicago and the coach’s questionable substitution patterns are some of the reasons why it’s not as if his continued presence would have prevented the team’s problems this year, contends Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune. The Timberwolves are the latest team to emerge with apparent interest in the ex-Bulls coach.

Central Notes: Lue, Dinwiddie, Bayless

New Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, who is a student of Phil Jackson‘s coaching style, has no qualms about taking LeBron James to task for any mistakes, a practice that has been well-received by James thus far, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “The thing with Phil is he did all of his coaching in practice,” Lue said. “He always held Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal more accountable than anyone else on the team. It always starts at the top and trickles down to the bottom. If you can get the respect of your best players, everyone else will fall in line. That was the biggest thing with Phil, like, in a game he’d let you figure it out and let you play, but in practice he’s coaching.

As for James’ response to Lue’s methods, the coach told McMenamin, “It’s been good, so far. He understands what we’ve got to do to get to the point we want to get to. It’s not personal. It’s just teaching and correcting. If I can teach and correct him, like I said, other guys will follow in line. We can’t be afraid to do that and hold him accountable.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers coach Frank Vogel expects the team’s roster to remain untouched through the trade deadline, as he said Wednesday, according to Scott Agness of VigiliantSports (Twitter link).
  • Spencer Dinwiddie will be with the Pistons after the All-Star break instead of on D-League assignment, coach/executive Stan Van Gundy said, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter links). Dinwiddie said last month that GM Jeff Bower told him he’d be in the D-League the rest of the season. The Pistons recalled Dinwiddie on Tuesday, but that was so their doctors could look at his sprained ankle.“We’ll weigh what’s best for him and what’s best for us. Initially, we’ll bring him back. I’d like to see him now,” Van Gundy said.
  • Bulls power forward Taj Gibson believes this year’s Chicago squad has more talent than the one that made it to the 2011 Conference Finals but doesn’t play hard for each other the way the 2010/11 team did, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune tweets.
  • The Bucks coaching staff is pleased with the improvement combo guard Jerryd Bayless has demonstrated shooting the ball from beyond the 3-point line, Matt Velazquez of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. “He has worked extremely hard at it and put a lot of time into it,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He is not short on confidence, so right now he is shooting the three at a very high level.” Bayless, who is earning $3MM this season, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Timberwolves Speak With Tom Thibodeau

Some “cursory contact” has taken place between the Timberwolves and former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, sources tell Brian Windhorst, who made his report in an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Mike & Mike” show (video link). Wolves owner Glen Taylor told interim Wolves coach Sam Mitchell that he would have this season to work with and that he would evaluate him after that, as Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press said to Hoops Rumors in a recent edition of The Beat, so the team faces a decision about its coaching future this spring. Thibodeau has apparently long wanted the Knicks coaching job, and while that appears unlikely, he’s reportedly of interest to the Lakers and Nets and is linked to just about every coaching vacancy that arises.

Nearly half the Wolves roster has expressed concern about Mitchell’s job performance, Krawczynski reported late last month, though he picked up the endorsement of team leader Kevin Garnett. The Timberwolves won their 17th game of the season Wednesday with an upset of the Raptors, surpassing the 16 they won all of last season, but they still have the league’s fifth-worst record. That sets up Minnesota for another high first-round pick, making the job all the more attractive, as Windhorst discusses.

It doesn’t appear as though talks have become serious at all, though Thibodeau is anxious to return to coaching, Sam Smith of Bulls.com wrote recently, adding that he believes the former Coach of the Year would want personnel control. GM Milt Newton, like Mitchell, has no assurances beyond this season. The 58-year-old Thibodeau went 255-139 in the regular season and 23-28 in the playoffs with Chicago, which fired him this past spring.

Which team would be the best fit for Thibs? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Jimmy Butler To Miss Up To A Month

Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler will be out three to four weeks with a strained left knee, the team announced via press release. The ailment has forced Butler to miss Chicago’s last two games. The Bulls are already without Joakim Noah, who’s out for the season, and Nikola Mirotic, who’s reportedly set to return after the All-Star break, but they don’t have quite enough of an injury issue to qualify for a 16th roster spot via hardship.

Butler, fresh off re-signing with Chicago on a five-year, $92.34MM deal, is the team’s leading scorer by a wide margin at 22.4 points per game, though Derrick Rose, third in scoring on the team at 15.9 points a night, takes nearly as many shots. Regardless, the loss of Butler is a significant blow to the Bulls, who’ve lost five of six games to fall to seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just a game and a half up on the ninth-place Hornets in the race for the postseason.

The injury isn’t as troublesome as it might otherwise be, since the All-Star break starts later this week. It also comes just nine days in advance of the February 18th trade deadline. The Bulls reportedly sought an upgrade on the wing as they considered trades earlier this season, though that was before injuries to Noah and Mirotic that depleted a frontcourt that had been an area of strength. Also, Mike Dunleavy, the team’s starting small forward, made his season debut this week after recovering from a lingering back injury.

Central Notes: Sanders, Hoiberg, Christmas

Former Bucks center Larry Sanders plans to attempt an NBA comeback, but he wants to address other opportunities first, as he tells Shams Charania of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports. People close to the 27-year-old who abruptly walked away from the game in the middle of last season tell Charania that he’s serious about a return sooner rather than later, but Sanders said to the Vertical scribe that he has no timetable and first wants to continue growing his management company for artists, designers and photographers.

“Once my art, music and passions off the court feel stable, I will look into coming back,” Sanders said. “I still love basketball. I want stability around me, and part of my mindset to leave was not to put all my eggs in one basket. I feel highly valuable on any team. There aren’t a lot of people who can bring my game to a team. I still play basketball all the time, staying in shape. I will need to make sure the situation is right for me.”

Sanders was reportedly drawing preliminary interest from the Mavericks at the start of this past season. The Bucks are paying Sanders nearly $1.866MM each season through 2021/22 through the terms of the stretch provision and his buyout arrangement. See more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls are a flawed team, not the championship-caliber bunch that the front office thought, which makes it tough to figure why management and the players remain in place from last season instead of coach Tom Thibodeau, contends Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Still, Bulls players are taking the blame for their own inconsistency, and new coach Fred Hoiberg has support from key figures, including Mike Dunleavy, a coach’s son and respected veteran voice, as Tribune scribe K.C. Johnson details.
  • Cavaliers training camp cut Dionte Christmas has been released for a second time this season from an overseas team, international journalism David Pick observes (Twitter link). AEK Athens parted ways with the one-year NBA veteran swingman, the team announced today (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). The Greek club signed him last month shortly after Israel’s Hapoel Holon let him go, and Athens reportedly planned to keep him for the balance of the season as of just a few weeks ago.

Eastern Notes: Bulls, Knicks, Magic, Pacers

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has drawn criticism from his players at times, but his job is safe, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, adding that GM Gar Forman has been acting as though his own job might not be as secure. Forman has been working to distance himself from the team’s shortcomings lately in an effort to polish his resume for his next job, knowing that he wouldn’t win a power struggle with executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson if it came to it, Cowley wrote in an earlier piece. Former coach Tom Thibodeau, who notoriously feuded with management, had more respect for Paxson than Forman, feeling as though Paxson was more up front with him, Cowley hears. Still, both Forman and Paxson appear safe for the time being, Cowley adds. See more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Thibodeau has long had his heart set on the Knicks head coaching job, a source close to him tells Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com (Twitter link), as we passed along amid much more news in the wake of the team’s decision to fire coach Derek Fisher.
  • Carmelo Anthony has had not one but two MRIs in the past three weeks as his surgically repaired left knee continues to bother him, a team source tells Isola, but Anthony said Sunday that doctors have assured him the lingering soreness is simply part of the recovery process, notes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo‘s 10-day contract with the Knicks and Keith Appling second 10-day deal with the Magic expired overnight, making them free agents. New York can re-sign Antetokounmpo to another 10-day pact, but that’s not the case with Appling. Orlando can’t ink him to any more contracts this season without signing him for the balance of 2015/16.
  • Pacers coach Frank Vogel has been impressed with lottery pick Myles Turner, who’s tamped down fears over his running style and come a long way from a disappointing season at the University of Texas last year, as Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com examines.

Central Notes: Pistons, Bucks, Bulls

The Pistons seem less likely to make any sort of move before this year’s trade deadline for a variety of reasons that Keith Langlois of Pistons.com runs down. One of the main reasons why Langlois expects the Pistons to be quiet is because of the amount of moves executive/coach Stan Van Gundy made last year that have seemingly positioned the franchise to compete for the foreseeable future. What’s more, as Langlois writes, Van Gundy is fond of this team and there is not even  an injury at this time that warrants Detroit making a move.

“I think we’re at the point that it would have to be anything that we would view as almost a no-brainer, a major upgrade,” Van Gundy said. “We’re not going to make any moves that would be lateral and we’re not going to move things we consider assets for guys on expiring contracts to just try to chase it for one year and then lose a guy. We’re still in the building phase and we’re going to protect our assets going forward.”

Here is more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks have not had enough time to evaluate their current starting five, so it is unclear if they will add to their bench or make a bolder move as the trade deadline draws near, Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel details. The Bucks employed a new starting group this season of Greg Monroe, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Michael Carter-Williams. The Bucks are an interesting team because they made moves in the summer with the hopes of making it to the playoffs, but are 20-32. Milwaukee, as a midmarket team, must use the draft and trades wisely to build a consistent winner, Gardner writes.
  • Mike Dunleavy Jr., 35, made his season debut Saturday for the Bulls and scored five points in 14 minutes. Dunleavy signed a three-year, $14.5MM contract last summer with the final year non-guaranteed. “A little late to the party, but good to be back,” Dunleavy said, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com (ESPN Now link). “I felt quite honestly like I hadn’t played in eight months, but got a little better rhythm in the second half. And just testing out my hops again with that dunk.”

Central Notes: Lue, Smith, Butler

The Bulls locker room has become a fragmented one that is separated into cliques, Ben Dowsett of Basketball Insiders relays. One group, which includes point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah, is harboring lingering resentment with the organization over the ousting of former coach Tom Thibodeau, Dowsett notes. The other group includes Jimmy Butler, who despite the public support of Pau Gasol, has struggled to establish himself as a leader and voice of the team, the Basketball Insiders scribe adds.

The best squads in the league have a culture where veterans and rookies are able to criticize one another in the pursuit of greatness, Dowsett notes. This isn’t something that occurs within the Bulls’ locker room, according to coach Fred Hoiberg. “You have to have that,” Hoiberg told Dowsett. “It has to be something where the guys can look at each other in the face, and be able to hold each other responsible and accountable when they’re not doing it on the floor, and to be able to take that.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Otis Smith has rekindled his passion for the game coaching the Pistons‘ D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids, Tim Casey of USA Today writes. The former Magic GM had zero interest when offered a front office role by coach/executive Stan Van Gundy in 2014, but the opportunity to develop young players through coaching held great appeal, Casey notes. “I like to teach,” Smith said. “Coaching, to me, is just another aspect of teaching … Even when I was in the general manager role, it’s just a broader brush, but it’s all that. It’s all teaching guys how to be men both off the court and men on the court.
  • New Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue has risen through the coaching ranks quickly, but despite his relative inexperience, there is the general sense around the organization that the team is in better hands now than it was under former coach David Blatt, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe writes. One message that Lue is attempting to impart to the Cavs players is that they will need to be willing to sacrifice if they want to win a title, Washburn adds. “Winning takes care of everything,” Lue said. “Winning two championships with the Lakers for me, people probably wouldn’t even know who I was. I was the 15th man that first year and people love me in L.A. I was part of a team, part of a championship. It’s an unbelievable feeling.

And-Ones: Morris, Dunleavy, Korkmaz, Labor

Markieff Morris said he “never had a problem” with former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, observes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. The incident in which he threw a towel that connected with Hornacek after the pair exchanged words during a game in December, prompting a two-game suspension for the power forward, was “misperceived,” Morris said. With trade rumors continuing to surround the Suns, see more from around the NBA:

D-League Notes: Motiejunas, Dunleavy, Whittington

The NBA’s relationship with the D-League continues to grow, and this season a total of 19 NBA teams possess one-to-one affiliations with D-League clubs. Those 11 NBA teams without their own D-League squads this season have to assign players to D-League clubs affiliated with other NBA franchises. We at Hoops Rumors track all the NBA D-League assignments made during the course of the season and you can view the complete tracker, which is updated regularly, here.

Here are the D-League happenings for today:

  • The Pacers recalled center Shayne Whittington from their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Whittington has appeared in 24 games for the Mad Ants, averaging 12.0 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game during his four stints with the team this season.
  • The Bulls have recalled small forward Mike Dunleavy from the Warriors’ D-League affiliate, where the Bulls had sent him via the flexible assignment rule, the team announced via press release.
  • The Grizzlies recalled James Ennis and Jarell Martin from their D-League affiliate earlier today and later reassigned the pair to the Iowa Energy, the team announced. This will mark Ennis’ eighth jaunt to the D-League on the season and Martin’s fifth.
  • The Jazz recalled big man Tibor Pleiss from the Idaho Stampede, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.
  • The Rockets have reassigned Donatas Motiejunas to their D-League affiliate, the team announced. As was the case with his previous assignment this season to Rio Grande Valley, both Motiejunas and the NBPA had to sign off on the move because he is a fourth-year veteran.

Get the hottest NBA news and rumors before anyone else! Follow us on Twitter to stay updated: