Bulls Notes: Offseason, LaVine, DeRozan, Thompson

The Bulls‘ prolonged slump could affect offseason decisions if they can’t turn things around in time for the playoffs, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago was one of the league’s early-season surprises with new additions DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso meshing immediately and leading the team to the top of the Eastern Conference. But the Bulls have struggled amid a rash of injuries and are currently just one game away from the play-in tournament.

Cowley suggests an early playoff exit would make the front office more willing to part with one of its core pieces, such as center Nikola Vucevic, who will have an expiring $22MM contract next season. Cowley believes Chicago would have interest in Rudy Gobert if the Jazz make him available or Suns center Deandre Ayton, who is headed toward restricted free agency.

Another possibility is parting with free agent guard Zach LaVine, who will be a free agent this summer and is eligible to re-sign for five years at roughly $210MM. LaVine has experienced lingering pain in his left knee through much of the season, and Cowley thinks the Bulls might be open to a sign-and-trade if they decide to break up their core.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • LaVine is determined to stay in the lineup as he nears the first playoff appearance of his eight-year career, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape. LaVine visited a knee specialist just before the All-Star break, and the Bulls are managing his playing time to help him remain productive. “I’m doing everything I can,” he said. “People know I play through injury. I hate missing basketball games. I’m a team-first guy. Even when I’m not 100%, I’m helping the team. Obviously, I have to watch out for myself and do due diligence on my rehab and how I feel. I just have to maintain it and I will.”
  • It looks like DeRozan will miss just one game with the left adductor strain he suffered Tuesday. DeRozan sat out Thursday’s loss to the Pelicans, but he’s listed as probable for tonight’s contest in Cleveland, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Tristan Thompson received a $20K fine for “directing profane language toward a game official,” the league announced (via Twitter). Thompson was ejected after receiving two technical fouls in the closing seconds of Thursday’s game.
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