Alex Caruso

Lakers Notes: Pelinka, Roster Openings, Caruso, Vaccination, James

The Lakers have 13 players on guaranteed contracts and head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said the front office is looking to finalize its decision on the 14th spot prior to the start of training camp on Tuesday, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Pelinka plans to initially keep the 15th spot open, Michael Scotto of Hoops Hype tweets, due to tax implications and the flexibility it will give the club in the buyout market.

We have more on the Lakers:

  • Pelinka said he make a spirited effort to retain free agent guard Alex Caruso, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets. “We pursued him and wanted to keep him,” Pelinka said. The Bulls signed Caruso to a four-year, $37MM contract.
  • Pelinka expects the team to be fully vaccinated by opening night, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes. “On opening night when we play the Golden State Warriors, all of the players that are currently signed on our roster, on that night, will be deemed fully vaccinated,” he said.
  • LeBron James will hold a three-day team mini-camp in Las Vegas beginning on Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reveals on a Twitter video post. James did something similar prior to the championship 2019/20 season. With Russell Westbrook joining the lineup, James hopes to use this mini-camp prior to training camp as a “catapult” entering this season, Charania adds.

Central Notes: Bulls, Bucks, Cavs Coaches, Pistons

The Bulls made a splash in free agency this summer, signing several new veteran players. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago breaks down the specific ways that costly new additions Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso can help Chicago earn its first postseason berth in five years.

Schaefer notes that DeRozan boasted the 21st-best offensive rating in the league last season (110.4) and can help boost the Bulls’ offense in a variety of ways. DeRozan’s ability to get to the free throw line, protect the ball, and create offense when Bulls All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine sits will all help Chicago win, Schaefer contends. Ball should help expedite the pace of Chicago’s offense. On the other end, stingy pick-and-roll defender Caruso should help the team limit opponents at the point of attack.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks‘ offseason earned a B grade from Zach Harper of The Athletic. The Bucks upgraded their backcourt depth in signing veteran point guard (and former Milwaukee reserve) George Hill, as well as Tremont Waters. Harper suggests that Milwaukee also improved on the wing by adding solid veterans Grayson Allen and Rodney Hood, who should be able to recover still-injured swingman Donte DiVincenzo. Harper opines that the Bucks regressed in the frontcourt after letting defensive-minded forward P.J. Tucker walk in free agency. Meanwhile, the Bucks stayed the same while preserving their 2020/21 center rotation.
  • The Cavaliers have made some new coaching adjustments, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Dan Geriot, formerly an assistant on head coach J.B. Bickerstaff‘s bench, will become the head coach of the club’s NBAGL affiliate, the Cleveland Charge. Recent Charge head coach Nate Reinking, meanwhile, will join the Cavaliers as an assistant.
  • The rebuilding Pistons have some intriguing rotation decisions that could be informed by training camp performance, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Langlois recognizes that Detroit’s top six players appear to be fairly established, but that there is room for minutes for the club’s developing young players beyond that.

Eastern Notes: Goodwin, Bulls, Wizards, Knicks

Former Hawks guard Brandon Goodwin worked out for the Celtics this week, Chris Grenham of Forbes Sports tweets. There’s mutual interest in a training camp invite, though no contract has been signed. Goodwin saw action in 47 games with Atlanta last year, averaging 4.9 PPG and 2.0 APG.

He played on a $1.7MM contract last season and became a free agent when the team failed to extend a qualifying offer. He didn’t play in the postseason, partially due to a respiratory condition.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • While most of the rotation spots are a given, the Bulls will have a number of intriguing training camp battles, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes. Marko Simonovic could work his way into the mix at both power forward and center, while Troy Brown Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr. will compete for second-unit minutes at the wing. Free agent signee Alex Caruso and Coby White will fight for backcourt minutes once White fully heals from shoulder surgery.
  • Oddsmakers don’t think much of the Wizards, but they may be underestimating what the front office did this offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. PointsBet has a 34.5-win over/under line for the Wizards, 12th among Eastern Conference teams, and ESPN’s experts peg them as the 11th-best team in the conference. However, Washington improved its depth this summer and project to be an improved defensive unit, Hughes notes.
  • The Knicks get a B-minus from The Athletic’s Zach Harper as their offseason grade. While the backcourt was upgraded with the addition of Kemba Walker, Harper believes the small forward spot didn’t improve all that much by replacing Reggie Bullock with Evan Fournier. They also didn’t improve in the frontcourt spots, in Harper’s estimation.

Central Notes: Millsap, Bulls Offseason, Simmons, Ehambe

With Paul Millsap agreeing to join the Nets, the Bulls don’t have a lot of attractive free agent options to add to their frontcourt depth, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. Millsap strongly considered the Bulls but they now have to shift gears. They could bid for restricted free agent Jarred Vanderbilt, take a flier on D.J. Wilson or add an international player to fortify the power forward spot. They could also sign small forward James Ennis and use him in smaller lineups, Johnson adds. Otherwise, they may have to pursue a trade.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls improved their roster with their busy offseason but it’s fair to wonder whether all of those changes made sense as a whole, Zach Harper of The Athletic opines. While they have upgraded in the backcourt and the wing spots with the additions of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan, their frontcourt options have thinned.
  • Pursuing a trade for Ben Simmons doesn’t make sense for the Pistons, James Edwards of The Athletic contends. In a deal with the Sixers, Detroit would likely have to part with Jerami Grant and at least one of their top young players as well as draft picks, and adding Simmons’ contract would limit their flexibility to make other moves. It also wouldn’t help their issues regarding 3-point shooting, Edwards adds.
  • Moses Ehambe is grateful he got the opportunity to be an assistant with the Pacers, though he was not retained in the aftermath of Nate Bjorkgren’s departure, Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles writes. “This is where you want to be,” Ehambe said in the comprehensive interview. “Now it’s about staying.”

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Ball, Caruso, Simonovic

When DeMar DeRozan‘s deal with the Bulls first leaked, he seemed like an odd fit for a team that already had Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine in its backcourt. But DeRozan dismissed that concern during his introductory news conference in Chicago, writes Rob Schaeffer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I mean, it’s basketball. Lot of people I see criticizing, talking about ‘fit this, fit that’ have probably never even played basketball,” DeRozan said. “For me, if everybody (is) on the same page mentality and wants to win, it don’t matter about a ‘fit,’ because it’s all gonna come together how it need to come together and make it work. Because at the end of the day the common denominator is winning.”

DeRozan brings a lot of valuable assets to the Bulls that go beyond on-court fit, Schaeffer points out. He ranked eighth in free throw attempts per game last season with 7.2, a category in which Chicago was last in the league, and his turnover rate has been better than the league average in all 12 of his NBA seasons. In addition, DeRozan believes he can serve as a veteran leader, the way Chris Paul did in Phoenix.

“With the experience of the successes, the failures, everything that I went through,” he said, “just understanding going into the season from Day 1 to the last day what it takes to really go over those humps, the tough days where stuff is going bad. When a game or two is off track, how to put things back in place, how to get guys back together.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • When the Bulls reached an agreement with Ball, that gave DeRozan more incentive to come to Chicago, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic“Once Lonzo signed, that made it even more appealing,” DeRozan said. “You could see what they were working toward, and it was something I wanted to be a part of. It wasn’t too much of a pitch that they had to make after that.”
  • Alex Caruso will bring defensive toughness and championship experience to the Bulls, Schaeffer adds in a separate story. The former Laker said good defensive players have to show a willingness to be physical and “a little dirty” to be successful.
  • The contract for forward/center Marko Simonovic, a second-round pick in 2020, is worth $4.3MM over three years, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The first two seasons come with a full guarantee, but the final year is non-guaranteed. The Bulls used the remainder of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Simonovic, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link), who breaks down the minimum-salary deal at $925,258 for the upcoming season, $1,563,518 in 2022/23 and $1,836,096 in 2023/24.

Bulls Notes: Caruso, Dosunmu, Simonovic, Valentine, Williams, DeRozan

Alex Caruso‘s four-year, $37MM contract has a $3MM guarantee in the fourth season, ESPN’s Bobby Marks reveals in an Instagram video. The Bulls used up $8.6MM of their $9.536MM mid-level exeption for Caruso’s first-year salary, giving them just enough room to sign No. 38 overall pick Ayo Dosunmu, Marks adds.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Second-round pick Marko Simonovic had an impressive summer league debut, contributing 13 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes against New Orleans, Sam Smith of the team’s website writes. “This is everything new for me,” said Simonovic, a 6’11” power forward. “I’m coming from Europe and everything is different. But I feel really good and people tell me I look good. I think next season I can help the team.”
  • The Bulls have renounced their rights to Denzel Valentine and Cristiano Felicio, according to the RealGM transactions log. While that doesn’t rule out the possibility of re-signing those players, Chicago needed to renounce the rights to them and seven other players to complete all its off-season moves. Felicio signed with a club in Germany earlier this week.
  • Patrick Williams believes he can learn plenty from DeMar DeRozan, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes. “He’s a really good wing in this league. Mostly, I want to be at the level that he’s at,” Williams said. “When he gets here, I’ll definitely ask him some questions about how he plays in the mid-post and kind of what he sees after an important possession. I’m definitely excited to learn from not only him but everyone else as well.” DeRozan was officially acquired on Wednesday.
  • In turn, DeRozan is impressed with the talent level on the roster, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. “Great organization. The history behind it is definitely amazing. But for sure, the talent,” he said. “Looking at players like Zach (LaVine), I’ve been a fan of Zach since he’s been in the league. Just looking at the overall squad. Seeing (Nikola) Vučević there, that was my teammate in college. So, it’s been great.”

Central Notes: Cunningham, Sykes, K. Martin, Caruso

Cade Cunningham will have his first game as a pro when the Pistons begin Summer League play tonight, but James L. Edwards III of The Athletic cautions that fans shouldn’t expect too much right away. The No. 1 pick in this year’s draft went several months without playing five-on-five before Detroit’s team started practice this week. Edwards expects him to adjust to the situation gradually rather than try to dominate right away.

“I don’t want to come in and force anything,” Cunningham said. “I want to get a flow for the team. I want to get a feel for everyone on the team. I know what the No. 1 pick perception is coming in, so I think the biggest thing for me is coming and reassuring the team that I’m about playing winning basketball and not living up to the hype or whatever. I want to be able to blend in.”

Summer League may be crucial for Sekou Doumbouya after two up-and-down seasons, Edwards adds. The offseason additions of Kelly Olynyk and Trey Lyles will mean fewer minutes available in the front court, and Doumbouya may need a strong performance this week to show the Pistons that he should still be part of their future.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Summer League veteran Keifer Sykes hopes to show the Pacers that he’s worthy of a spot on their roster, writes Jonathan X. Simmons of The Indianapolis Star. Sykes reached an agreement on an Exhibit 10 contract this week, shortly after hitting a game-winning shot to wrap up The Basketball Tournament. “This is my fourth time in summer league, so I’m really excited after last year with COVID and we didn’t have it,” Sykes  said. “I’m just excited to continue to show people my game, and to continue to have endurance in my pro career while I’m getting into my prime.”
  • The guarantee date has passed for Pacers small forward Kelan Martin, so unless the two sides quietly agreed to push that deadline, Indiana will owe him $1.7MM this season, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. Martin played 35 games for the Pacers last season after starting his career with the Timberwolves in 2019/20.
  • Due to NBA rules regarding Base Year Compensation, the Bulls‘ trade exception in the deal that sent Daniel Theis to Houston will be his 2020/21 salary of $5MM instead of his new outgoing salary of $8MM+, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. That means Chicago will have to sign Alex Caruso outright, rather than arranging a sign-and-trade with the Lakers. The Bulls will presumably use their mid-level exception for Caruso, adds K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link).

Free Agency Rumors: Paul, Caruso, Birch, Green, Heat

The Pelicans offered Chris Paul a $100MM contract early in free agency, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on today’s episode of The Hoop Collective podcast. Windhorst believes the Pelicans’ offer helped convince the Suns to add a fourth year to their offer — that fourth year is not guaranteed, but it’s not clear if New Orleans’ offer would have been fully guaranteed either.

According to Windhorst, after new Pelicans head coach Willie Green tried to help recruit him, Paul entertained the idea for some time before ultimately committing to the Suns.

On the same episode of The Hoop Collective podcast, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne stated that Alex Caruso was willing to go back to the Lakers for three years and $30MM, but that the Lakers weren’t willing to higher than about $7MM per year for the veteran guard. Concerns about an exorbitant luxury-tax penalty factored into that decision, per Shelburne.

We have more free agency rumors:

  • Khem Birch could be nearing a return to the Raptors, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link). Grange reports that there’s “growing momentum” toward the two sides reaching a deal. The 28-year-old center was extremely productive in his 19 games for the Raptors after coming over in a trade, and has turned himself into a solid starting center over the last couple seasons.
  • Add the Cavaliers to the list of teams interested in Danny Green, reports ESPN’s Jordan Schultz. Schultz also confirms, in a follow-up tweet, that the Lakers remain interested in a reunion with Green, which Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports previously reported. It doesn’t appear the Lakers will be able to offer Green more than the veteran’s minimum though.
  • Following their deal with Victor Oladipo, the Heat remain interested in a low-cost veteran guard who will be healthy at the start of the season, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link), who names Lou Williams as a player who would “welcome” interest from the team.

Free Agency Rumors: D. Green, Hart, Cavs, Caruso, DeRozan

Free agent swingman Danny Green has been in contact with the Sixers multiple times over the past two days, according to Harrison Sanford, co-host of Green’s The Green Room podcast (Twitter link).

Sandford said that as of this afternoon, the two sides were nowhere close to a deal, and that the Bucks, Celtics, Bulls and Pelicans have all reached out as well. He adds in a separate tweet that Green has pre-existing relationships with both Ime Udoka of the Celtics and Mike Budenholzer of the Bucks from his time with the Spurs.

We have more free agency rumors:

  • The Cavaliers have had some discussions about the possibility of a sign-and-trade for Pelicans restricted free agent forward Josh Hart, sources tell Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Without a sign-and-trade agreement, Cleveland would be limited to offering Hart the full mid-level exception, which New Orleans would presumably match.
  • Alex Caruso agreed to sign with the Bulls for four years, $37MM, and according to Zach Lowe of ESPN (hat tip to RealGM), the Lakers‘ offer to keep him was nowhere close to what was offered by Chicago. Ramona Shelburne added that – before Caruso agreed to his deal with the Bulls – the Timberwolves inquired about acquiring him in a sign-and-trade that would have included Marc Gasol, but didn’t have any luck.
  • According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link), Bulls general manager Marc Eversley was crucial in securing a commitment from DeMar DeRozan, as the two had a long-standing relationship from when Eversley was the assistant general manager for the Raptors. The Bulls’ GM flew to Los Angeles to meet with DeRozan in person and had a “fruitful” two-hour meeting, per Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link).

Free Agency Rumors: Oubre, Mills, Dinwiddie, Carmelo, More

Free agent swingman Kelly Oubre received interest from the Heat after free agency began, but didn’t set a meeting with Miami because he is hoping to net a contract “well above” the mid-level exception, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (via Twitter).

Now that Miami has committed to using most of its mid-level exception on P.J. Tucker, Oubre is almost certainly off the table for the Heat, even if his asking price drops.

Here are more free agency rumors from around the NBA world:

  • Free agent sharpshooting combo guard Patty Mills has received interest from the Lakers and Nets, per Marc Stein of Substack (via Twitter). Anthony Slater of The Athletic adds (Twitter link) that the Warriors could also pursue Mills and posits that he may fetch a deal that within range of the taxpayer mid-level. Jordan Schultz of ESPN tweets that the Nets are apparently a distant third in the sweepstakes to sign Mills.
  • Jordan Schultz of ESPN reports (Twitter link) that free agent point guard Spencer Dinwiddie appears unlikely to sign with the Mavericks.
  • 37-year-old free agent forward Carmelo Anthony continues to weigh interest from the Lakers and Knicks, according to Marc Stein (Twitter link).
  • Before Alex Caruso finalized his four-year agreement with the Bulls, Caruso’s camp checked back in with the Lakers and was told L.A. wouldn’t be putting a counter-offer on the table, a source with knowledge of the situation tells Sam Amick of The Athletic.
  • Newly re-signed Nuggets reserve power forward JaMychal Green fielded richer offers in free agency than the two-year, $17MM contract he ultimately signed to remain in Denver, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Singer says the Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Spurs were the other teams most interested in Green.

Luke Adams contributed to this report.