Bulls Notes: Williams, Future, Big Three, Caruso

Bulls power forward Patrick Williams has been re-enlisted as a starter with Javonte Green now hurt, though it seems that he will be demoted again when Green returns, writes Annie Costabile of The Chicago Sun-Times.

“We’ll probably put [Green] back in the starting lineup [when he’s healthy] to see what that looks like,” Chicago head coach Billy Donovan said. Even though Williams will be returning to the bench soon, teammates have noticed that he appears to be growing more assertive and confident of late.

“I made a joke one day, if he gets a tech in a game, I’ll pay for his tech… because he doesn’t make any expressions,” All-Star Chicago small forward DeMar DeRozan said, hoping to inspire some more on-court aggression from the 2020 No. 4 draft pick out of FSU.

There’s more out of Chicago:

  • At 10-14 on the season, the Bulls seem to be in a bit of a no man’s land when it comes to their short- and long-term futures, opines Bobby Marks of ESPN. After a successful roster overhaul in 2021 led to a fast season start, before major injuries to Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Zach LaVine sank the Bulls in the Eastern Conference standings. The team lost 15 of their final 22 games during the 2021/22 season. Marks notes that, with the Bulls now low on assets after offloading several picks in that eventful 2021 summer, the team is closer to the bottom of the East than the top, and may have more luck trading its best players to get worse than it would trading its limited future draft picks to get better.
  • The Bulls’ Big Three of LaVine, DeRozan, and center Nikola Vucevic all scored 25 or more points to help Chicago close out the Wizards yesterday. This collective success represents exactly what head coach Donovan had hoped when he issued a challenge to the team’s three top scorers last month to mount a simultaneous combined effort, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “We’re definitely capable,” DeRozan reflected. “There will be games where other guys come up big for us and take the weight off us having to score. It will vary. As long as we stay aggressive and compete our butt off, I think we’ll be fine.”
  • Caruso, recently elevated to the Bulls’ starting lineup ahead of second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu, has earned rave reviews from his coaches and colleagues, Johnson writes in another piece. “He changes the whole game,” DeRozan said. “AC could have four points. But take him out of the game and the game is completely different… He’s a helluva competitor and a helluva person. It’s hard to find teammates like that. The appreciation he has for the game is such a contagious thing. When you’re around him, you feel that joy.”

Wolves Notes: Reid, Garza, Gobert

Timberwolves center Naz Reid is adjusting to life backing up Minnesota’s All-NBA frontcourt of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, writes Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.

“Guarding different players and position,” Reid said of the change. “It’s very different actually.” With Towns sidelined indefinitely due to a right calf injury, the 6’9″ Reid will get additional rotation minutes as a reserve. “I wouldn’t say I can’t play the four… it’s a big role I’m going to be in within the next couple weeks. I’m excited to be in that role and excited to help our team.”

The fourth-year big man out of LSU is averaging 7.8 PPG on 52.8% shooting from the floor, along with 3.7 RPG and 0.9 BPG, across just 14.3 MPG.

There’s more out of Minnesota:

  • Two-way Timberwolves big man Luka Garza has recently shown out in his play for the team’s NBAGL affiliate, the Iowa Wolves. Hines wonders in another piece if the 6’11” center/forward can become a part of the team’s future. Garza’s 29.8 PPG, on 62.8% shooting leads the entire NBA G League, along with 9.2 RPG and 3.2 APG. “I love this system that we play with here,” Garza said of the coordinated approach of both the Iowa and Minnesota franchises. “We play a lot through the bigs, Karl and Rudy. It’s very evident and it’s kind of the same thing with me down there. We’re not only put in positions to score but make decisions and get guys involved.” Hine notes that Garza could get additional time at the NBA level with Towns unavailable.
  • Rudy Gobert‘s new teammates continue to learn about how best to fit in with his game, Hines writes in an additional article. That extends to how Gobert feels about help coverage around the basket — he is not a fan. “When someone drives on me, unless I fall down, which doesn’t happen, just let me make a play,” Gobert said. “Then if they score, I’ll take the blame.”
  • Following a largely successful nine-season run with the Jazz, Gobert was flipped to Minnesota in the offseason. Now, he is gearing up for his first game in Utah as an opposing player on Friday, Hine writes. “I just want to enjoy the moment,” Gobert said. “There’s a lot of people that I have a lot of love for over there. There’s a lot of great memories. … I just want to enjoy the moment and, of course, get a win.” Gobert won three Defensive Player of the Year awards with the Jazz, and made three All-Star teams. His teams failed to advance beyond the second round of the Western Conference Finals.

Pacific Notes: Okogie, JTA, Lakers, Fox

The Suns‘ last three games have represented reserve swingman Josh Okogie‘s three highest minutes totals of the season, and his doing his darnedest to capitalize on the extended run time, per Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports.

Okogie has gotten a bigger minutes load as a result to a variety of injuries up and down Phoenix’s roster. With Cameron Johnson and Torrey Craig both absent, Okogie has averaged 16.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.7 SPG, and a +14.7 plus-minus rating, in 25.7 MPG.

Bourguet notes that Okogie has especially shined defensively, a reality he himself has noticed and acknowledged.

“For me, it was just more so, like, ‘I’m not gonna get on the court scoring,’ you know what I’m saying?” Okogie said. “‘Cause we had so many people who could do that on the team. So he needed me to be on the court to play some defense and lock somebody up.”

There’s more out of California:

  • Lakers backup small forward Juan Toscano-Anderson exited the team’s 126-113 loss to the Raptors last night with a sprained right ankle. Jovan Buha of The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that Toscano-Anderson is expected to miss at least the next two weeks due to the injury, and will be examined by the club following that interim.
  • Following an exciting 8-2 ten-game run that seemed to salvage the Lakers‘ 2022/23 season, the team more recently has dropped two straight contests thanks to the injury absences of Anthony Davis (who played just eight minutes in the first loss), LeBron James (who only missed last night’s loss) and Wenyen Gabriel (who missed both games). Buha adds in a separate piece that it has become evident the team needs additional help up front.
  • Kings star point guard De’Aaron Fox has been hampered by pain in his right foot for over a month, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Fox’s shooting has taken a hit of late: across his past seven contests, the vet has made just 38.2% of his field goals and just 28.6% of his triples. Fox indicated that he is not risking aggravating the ailment through continued play, rather he is hoping to learn to tolerate the injury. “I’ve played well while it was hurting, so I’ll be fine,” Fox noted.

Hawks’ Dejounte Murray Out Two Weeks With Left Ankle Sprain

5:41pm: The Hawks have officially announced Murray’s injury, confirming that he will miss at least two weeks (Twitter link).

2:13pm: Murray is expected to miss two weeks due to the injury, sources tell Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic (Twitter link).

12:40pm: Hawks guard Dejounte Murray will undergo an MRI on Thursday to determine the severity of the left ankle sprain (Twitter link) that caused him to exit yesterday’s loss in New York after only four minutes of action, tweets Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Fellow starting guard Trae Young missed Thursday’s practice with an illness, per Williams. The Hawks are waiting to see if he recovers in time to play in tomorrow’s game at Brooklyn.

Atlanta is already down two starters at the moment. Power forward John Collins out at least one more week with his own left ankle sprain, while small forward De’Andre Hunter is dealing with a right hip flexor strain.

Hunter was set to be reevaluated today and was a partial participant in practice, according to Williams (Twitter link). His status for Friday’s game is unclear.

The Hawks traded two unprotected first-round picks (2025 and 2027), an unprotected pick swap (2026), and Charlotte’s 2023 top-16 protected first-rounder to acquire Murray, a first-time All-Star last season with the Spurs. Through 25 games in 2022/23 (35.6 minutes), he’s averaging 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.8 steals on .452/.366/.836 shooting for the 13-12 Hawks.

Jazz’s Collin Sexton Strains Hamstring, Out At Least One Week

Imaging has revealed that Jazz combo guard Collin Sexton suffered a mild right hamstring strain, the team has announced in a press release. Sexton will miss at least a week before the ailment is reassessed, according to the Jazz.

During his first season with Utah, Sexton has been averaging 14.3 PPG on .493/.362/.831 shooting splits across 27 games, mostly coming off the bench. The 24-year-old out of Alabama has also been chipping in 3.0 APG and 2.4 RPG.

Utah acquired Sexton in a sign-and-trade deal with the Cavaliers during the offseason, and has appeared reinvigorated with his new squad.

After a red-hot start to the season, Utah has cooled off lately due in part to the absence of another key backcourt player, starting point guard Mike Conley.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) reported earlier today that Conley, battling a left knee strain, is set to take the floor for the first time in nine games on Friday, barring any setbacks. With the 6’1″ vet sidelined, the Jazz have gone 3-6. For the season, the club still boasts a surprisingly solid 15-12 record.

Cavs’ Rubio, Bucks’ Ingles Making Progress In ACL Recoveries

Guard Ricky Rubio has been cleared to participate in 5-on-5 work, but the Cavaliers won’t rush his recovery from a torn left ACL, reports Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscriber link).

He’s back,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said following Thursday’s practice. “He’s going to start doing more and more. More 5-on-5 and those types of things. He’s been given the green light to do that. Now it’s the progression that he has to go through to get ready to play in an NBA game. It’s something we won’t rush. But he’s heading in the right direction.”

Rubio suffered the injury last December, in the same knee that he’d previously torn an ACL several years ago. The Cavs wound up trading his expiring salary to Indiana in the Caris LeVert deal in February, but he signed a three-year contract with Cleveland as a free agent this past summer.

Bucks fans also received some good news on Thursday, as free agent addition Joe Ingles was assigned to the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s G League affiliate, to get some practice reps in (Twitter link via Eric Nehm of The Athletic). Ingles sustained his own torn left ACL in January and had reconstructive surgery in February.

The last update on Ingles’ status came before the season started, when GM Jon Horst said the forward could return in December or January.

The Cavs are currently 16-9, the No. 3 seed in the East, while the Bucks are 18-6, the No. 2 seed, so neither club should feel any sense of urgency to get their respective veterans back. Still, the former Jazz teammates will provide a nice boost of leadership and play-making when they do return to action.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin Out At Least 2-3 Weeks With Fibula Injury

Forward Obi Toppin will be sidelined at least two-to-three weeks after sustaining a non-displaced fracture in his right fibula head, the Knicks announced (via Twitter).

Toppin suffered the injury in Wednesday’s victory over the Hawks, which led to an MRI earlier today. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report (Twitter link) that the 24-year-old would be reevaluated in two-to-three weeks.

Now in his third season, Toppin is averaging 7.7 points and 3.8 rebounds on .421/.351/.824 shooting through 25 games (17.1 minutes per night). The Knicks are currently 12-13, the No. 9 seed in the East.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters, including Ian Begley of SNY.tv (Twitter link), that RJ Barrett might be in line for minutes at power forward with Toppin out.

I like the idea of RJ being there some. I think he showed us last year how effective he can be at the four, so I think that can be a possibility,” Thibodeau said.

Another possibility could be a double center pairing. Thibodeau experimented with using Jericho Sims and Isaiah Hartenstein together at times earlier in the 2022/23 season.

Knicks Notes: Reddish, Rotation, Trade Interest, Grimes

After New York’s 113-89 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday, Knicks wing Cam Reddish was asked for his thoughts on being pulled from the rotation the past couple games, writes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscriber link). He says he did his best, but admits consistency was an issue.

I was doing what I could to the best of my ability on both sides of the floor,” Reddish said. “I’m gonna say it again, all of the other stuff is out of my control, whether I’m doing this or doing that on the floor, my role, all that stuff, isn’t necessarily up to me. I’m just coming in and doing what I’m told to do.

I mean, (my play has been) up and down. Just like everything else, just up and down. I just try to make the most of my opportunity while I was out there. And that’s that.”

Responding to a report that the Knicks are working with his representatives to find a new home for Reddish, the 23-year-old essentially repeated what he said in September, that he didn’t request a trade. The thing is, in neither instance did the reports indicate that he had formally requested a trade, just that his camp preferred a change of scenery.

Here’s more on Reddish and the Knicks:

  • The Lakers, Heat and Bucks are among the teams that have expressed interest in Reddish since the Knicks acquired him from the Hawks in January, though that interest isn’t necessarily recent, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Begley also reports that that the Lakers and Knicks explored a deal this month that “would have required a third team to complete,” but it’s unclear if those talks involved Reddish.
  • Second-year guard Quentin Grimes has taken advantage of his increased playing time recently, per Mike Vaccarro of The New York Post. After playing strong defense against the Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell on Sunday, Grimes helped limit Trae Young to 19 points on 20 shots on Wednesday and scored a season-high 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting, Vaccarro notes. “He’s huge for us,” Julius Randle said of Grimes. “He competes on the defensive end of the floor and that makes a difference.”
  • In case you missed it, we passed along several Knicks-related items yesterday, including rumors involving Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley and Evan Fournier, in addition to Reddish.

Timberwolves Sign Matt Ryan To Two-Way Deal, Waive Lawson

DECEMBER 8: The Timberwolves have put out a press release officially announcing that they’ve signed Ryan to a two-way contract and waived Lawson.

DECEMBER 6: The Timberwolves are signing forward Matt Ryan to a two-way contract, Shams Charania and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic tweet. Minnesota will waive A.J. Lawson to make room for Ryan, Krawczynski adds in another tweet.

Ryan was waived by the Lakers last week.

Minnesota ranks 28th in 3-point shooting at 32.6% and hopes that Ryan can help in that area. He joined the Lakers on a non-guaranteed minimum-salary contract in September and earned a spot on the regular season roster.

Ryan made 13-of-35 attempts 3-point attempts (37.1%) for L.A. this season but only converted 2-of-14 two-pointers. In total, he averaged 3.9 PPG in 12 appearances (10.8 MPG).

Ryan went undrafted out of Chattanooga in 2020 and eventually landed with the Grand Rapids Gold in the G League in 2021/22. He made his NBA debut with the Celtics this past spring.

Lawson appeared in just one game for the Timberwolves after signing a two-way contract in mid-November. He was playing for the Hawks’ G League affiliate prior to inking that contract.

It’s the second time Minnesota has waived Lawson. He was previously signed on a two-way deal in July. The Wolves initially waived him to add Luka Garza in mid-October.