Cameron Payne

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Payne, Dunn, Markkanen

It’s possible that Zach LaVine has played his last game of the 2017/18 season. As Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details, the Bulls announced on Wednesday that LaVine – suffering from tendinitis in his left knee – will be re-evaluated in five to seven days. If the Bulls don’t see enough progress by that point, they may shut LaVine down, but he’s hoping to avoid that outcome, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

“There are still some games to get in a rhythm before getting into the offseason and working out,” LaVine said. “I always want to hoop.”

It has been something of a lost season for LaVine, who missed the first half while he recovered from ACL surgery, and has only played 24 games for his new team. His .383 FG% in those games is easily a career low, but the Bulls probably don’t mind not getting much from LaVine this year — they acquired him with an eye on the future, and are still fully expected to lock him up to a long-term deal as a restricted free agent this summer. His modest 2017/18 showing may even keep his price down a little for the club.

Here’s more out of Chicago:

  • Cameron Payne didn’t fit well last year on a Bulls roster that featured Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, and Jimmy Butler, but he has looked like a better fit since returning from his foot injury this year, says K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Payne, who is under contract for 2018/19, says he’s still working to prove that he deserves a regular role on next year’s squad. “I have to keep showing people I belong,” Payne said. “Everybody had their opinions of me already. It’s tough to change someone’s opinion.”
  • While Payne figures to play a role next year, Kris Dunn is still viewed as the Bulls’ point guard of the future, Johnson writes in a separate article for The Tribune. “Just looking at that (December) stretch where we were playing really good, as well as anybody in the Eastern Conference for that time period, Kris was as good as anybody on our roster,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “So we really think he has a bright future with us.”
  • Dunn, LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen – the three players acquired from the Timberwolves in last year’s Butler trade – are viewed as the Bulls’ core building blocks, but they barely saw any action together this season, writes Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. According to Goodwill, in the limited minutes that all three players were on the court this season, they had an offensive rating of 97.5 and a defensive rating of 119.2, numbers which raise more questions than they answer.

Bulls Notes: Lineup Changes, Payne, Forman

With 25 games left in their season, the Bulls are focusing on the future, as VP John Paxson explained to reporters on Tuesday (link via Sam Smith of Bulls.com). That means that Cristiano Felicio will move into the starting lineup on Thursday in place of veteran center Robin Lopez, while David Nwaba will supplant Justin Holiday.

“The hard part from our standpoint is you can’t play 12 guys. Nine or 10 is the most,” Paxson said. “We’re going to start looking at blocks of games where we’ll be having a few guys who haven’t been playing much or at all have a significant role. The whole goal in our position is to evaluate what we have on this roster.

“The hard thing when you do things like this is you’re asking certain people to sacrifice roles and minutes,” Paxson continued. “It’s veteran guys. That’s never an easy thing. As I told them, I, along with [GM] Gar [Forman], we’re entrusted with the future of the organization. So these last 25 games, we’re going to evaluate what we have on this roster by playing more the guys we haven’t seen much this year.”

Let’s round up a few more Bulls notes…

  • Cameron Payne, who has missed the entire season with a foot injury, is set to make his 2017/18 debut on Thursday, writes Madeline Kenney of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne figures to cut into Jerian Grant‘s playing time.
  • With John Paxson once again addressing reporters on Tuesday, Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times explores where Gar Forman has been “hiding” this season. According to Cowley, Paxson comes across as more “honest and transparent” than Forman, which is why the VP has handled most of the team’s media responsibilities this season. However, Forman is still very much involved in basketball operations and is by no means being pushed out of the organization.
  • Justin Holiday is trying to take his reduced role in stride, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. “I have to deal with it, be professional about it,” Holiday said. “Regardless of the situation or the reason, I have to carry myself a certain way because that’s how I do things. How I react and carry myself in this will be a good leadership situation for the young guys to see and follow the example if it does happen to them.”
  • The $600K fine Mark Cuban received for publicly discussing the benefits of losing is exactly why Paxson and other members of the Bulls organization will dance around the subject of tanking, says Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago.

Central Notes: Bulls, Nelson, J.R. Smith, Pacers

The Bulls need to get more serious about tanking and start making moves to improve their lottery chances, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com argues. Cristiano Felicio, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh and Cameron Payne should receive a lot more playing time, while veterans like Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday should have their minutes reduced, Friedell says. Holding out Zach LaVine on the second game of back-to-backs would also facilitate the cause, Friedell adds.

Also around the Central Division:

  • Small forward James Ennis and point guard Jameer Nelson have jumped right into the Pistons’ rotation after being acquired just before the trade deadline. Ennis, who was traded by the Grizzlies for forward Brice Johnson and a future second-round pick, has averaged 9.5 PPG and 17.5 MPG over the past two games. Nelson, who was traded by the Bulls for Willie Reed and future draft considerations, has averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.0 APG in 19.5 MPG during his first two games with Detroit.
  • Nelson, 35, told Hoops Rumors and other reporters that he’d like to continue playing after this season. The Pistons point guard be an unrestricted free agent this summer.  “I never want to put a limit or a time frame on my career,” he said. “My body feels good, my mind is right. So I’ll just continue to work. My body and mind will tell me when it’s time for me to go. I think there will be a lot of teams that will need a guy like me next season.”
  • Pacers players lobbied GM Kevin Pritchard to stand pat during the trade deadline, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star relays. Pritchard was approached by six players, who told him they wanted to see what they could accomplish with the current mix. “They feel like they are overachieving and had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Pritchard said during a press conference. “They wanted to have the opportunity to finish this out and try to get into the playoffs. … That carried a lot of weight with me.”
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith held onto his roster spot and retained his starting job, but he admits he was sweating out the deadline, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports. “My name was being thrown around a lot out there, so it was nerve-wracking for sure,” Smith said. “When you see six guys getting traded and there’s still more than an hour to the trade deadline, there’s no telling what can happen.” Smith is owed $30.3MM over the next two seasons, which made his contract difficult to move, McMenamin notes.

Bulls Notes: Payne, Vonleh, Butler, Felicio

Cameron Payne, who hasn’t played since having offseason surgery on his right foot, is expected back after the All-Star break, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Coach Fred Hoiberg and VP of basketball operations John Paxson have stated that Payne will receive playing time whenever he is ready.

Payne has appeared in just 11 games for Chicago since being acquired from the Thunder at the 2017 trade deadline. He was assigned to the Bulls’ Windy City team in the G League earlier this week to shake off some rust before returning to the NBA club.

Taken 14th overall by the Thunder in the 2015 draft, Payne has yet to find success at the NBA level. He averaged 5.2 points and 1.8 assists last season in 31 games with Oklahoma City and Chicago.

There’s more tonight from the Windy City:

  • Newly acquired forward Noah Vonleh is sitting out tonight’s game and may not play until after the break, according to Friedell (Twitter link). Hoiberg wants him to get some practice time to get used to the Bulls’ system, and there may not be an opportunity for that until after Wednesday when the team will have eight straight days off.
  • Before the Timberwolves came to town Friday, Paxson discussed the Jimmy Butler trade, saying it has worked out well for both teams, Friedell relays in a full story. The Bulls sent Butler and Justin Patton to Minnesota on draft night for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. “We’re really happy,” Paxson said. “I won’t speak for Minnesota, but you got an All-Star player in Jimmy Butler that can go along with their young core. It seems to have addressed the desires of both teams. In this business, if you can do that, that’s a good thing.”
  • The lack of progress by backup center Cristiano Felicio has been puzzling, Sam Smith of NBA.com writes in a mailbag column. After two promising seasons, Felicio was rewarded with a four-year, $32MM deal last summer. But his numbers have gone down across the board, with averages of 3.8 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 13 minutes per night. Smith believes Felicio’s reluctance to shoot has hurt his game.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 2/5/18

Here are Monday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the NBA:

  • The Pacers assigned swingman Glenn Robinson III to their Fort Wayne affiliate on a rehab assignment and then quickly recalled him, according the team’s website. Robinson has appeared in two G League games and is close to returning after suffering a left ankle injury during the preseason.
  • The Bulls assigned guard Cameron Payne to the Windy City Bulls, the team tweets. Payne has not played for either team this season due to a right foot injury.
  • The Lakers assigned center Thomas Bryant to the South Bay Lakers, according the G League team’s Twitter feed. Bryant has already appeared in 22 games with South Bay, averaging 19.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG.
  • The Blazers recalled rookie forward Caleb Swanigan from the Canton Charge, The Oregonian reports. Swanigan has posted averages of 14.2 PPG and 11.9 RPG in 14 G League games.
  • The Spurs recalled rookie guard Derrick White from the Austin Spurs, according to a team press release. He’s averaged 15.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 2.6 APG in 13 games with Austin.
  • The Warriors assigned center Damian Jones to their Santa Cruz affiliate, per team release. Jones has started all 33 games for the G League team, averaging 15.3 PPG and  8.0 RPG.

Central Notes: Cavs, Payne, Bolomboy

The Cavaliers recently lost five of seven games and it’s not even the first time that the team has hit that milestone this season. Consider it a bump in the road that the team can live with, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes.

We know who we are now, what we want to do. Sometimes even when you know you still take some bumps along that road. That’s OK,” LeBron James said, adding that the team embroiled in a rough patch now is in a better place than the earlier version of the Cavaliers that stumbled at the beginning of the season.

Before Saturday, the Cavaliers had lost five straight on the road, a concerning slide considering that they have three more games left on their current road trip.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Injured Bulls point guard Cameron Payne has been cleared for increased activity, K.C. Jonson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. He adds that a final decision on Zach LaVine‘s return date will be made tomorrow.
  • While they haven’t said so specifically, the Bucks may have strategically converted and waived Joel Bolomboy earlier today to dissuade teams from scooping him up off of waivers, Matt Velasquez of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. As things stand, a team will need to sign him for the remainder of the season if they claim him.
  • The Cavaliers have no intention of using the $4.8MM trade exception created in the Kyle Korver deal last season, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. With no roster vacancies and a monstrous luxury tax bill as it is, such a revelation isn’t particularly surprising.

Bulls Notes: Payne, McDermott, Mirotic, Hoiberg

Doug McDermott‘s return to Chicago tonight as a member of the Knicks gave Bulls fans an unpleasant reminder of the Cameron Payne trade, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne appeared in just 11 games after being acquired from the Thunder in that five-player deal and hasn’t played at all this season as he recovers from offseason foot surgery.

Coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters tonight that an X-ray on Payne last week showed improvement, but he still isn’t able to run or cut and probably can’t play full-court games for at least six weeks. Cowley suggests it will take Payne at least a couple of weeks to get in shape after that, which pushes his return date back to sometime in mid-February.

“He came at a very difficult time last year with a veteran team, and just had his struggles,” Hoiberg said. “At the same time we’re competing for a playoff spot and it’s a tough time to come in and make an impact. For Cam, the big thing is to stay positive through this stretch, and to get him back and have some positive moments for us when we’re going down the stretch.’’

There’s more tonight from Chicago:

  • McDermott was surprised by the trade that sent him to Oklahoma City at last season’s deadline, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. He was in the middle of his most productive season, averaging 10.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game, when the deal occurred. “It was hard leaving because of all the people I liked here,” he said. “But I wish them the best. It was a great organization to play for.”
  • Now that Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis have put aside hard feelings over their preseason altercation, they should expect to remain teammates for the rest the season, Johnson writes in a mailbag column. The Bulls found a “non-existent” trade market for both players after Mirotic threatened not to return to the team unless Portis was dealt. The Bulls also found no interest in Mirotic when they shopped him prior to last year’s deadline, and no other organization offered him a significant deal as a restricted free agent this summer.
  • Rumors about Hoiberg’s firing have persisted almost from the time he became the Bulls’ head coach, but he is safe for this season, Johnson adds in the same piece. The front office likes how he has handled a collection of young talent, and he has done better with assigning roles and holding players accountable for their performance. Hoiberg has two more seasons left on his contract.

Bulls Notes: Dunn, Grant, Payne, Mirotic

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg declared an “open” competition for the starting point guard slot after tonight’s 32-point loss to the Thunder, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPN. Kris Dunn, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Minnesota, made his season debut after missing the first four games with a dislocated finger. Dunn fell on the finger, but Hoiberg said he was “fine” after the game.

Jerian Grant started his fifth straight game, but has been less than stellar as Chicago has compiled a 1-4 record. He was averaging 10.8 points and 7.3 assists coming into tonight, but was shooting 39.5% from the field and was just 1 of 10 from 3-point range. He missed all seven of his shots against OKC and finished with two points. Kay Felder, who was claimed off waivers earlier this month, is the third point guard.

There’s more news from Chicago:

  • Cameron Payne could become another candidate for that starting spot when he returns from offseason foot surgery. The Bulls’ decision to pick up his option Friday indicates they still see him as part of the future, notes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Payne saw limited playing time after being acquired from the Thunder at February’s deadline. “The thing with Cam, obviously came in during the middle of the season,’’ Hoiberg said, “came at a tough time. The biggest thing we saw, especially in the playoff prep when he was playing the role of Isaiah Thomas, he really showed an ability to get downhill, spray the ball out.’’ The team doesn’t expect Payne back on the court before the start of 2018.
  • Nikola Mirotic, who is still recovering from the damage caused by a punch from Bobby Portis, has been cleared for supervised activity at the team facility, but hasn’t started yet, tweets Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. Hoiberg said it may happen tomorrow or Monday.
  • David Nwaba, who won a roster spot after being claimed off waivers in July, is making a case for more playing time, writes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. The second-year guard is impressing teammates with his commitment to defense. “David is one of the best shot contesters I’ve played against,” said Justin Holiday. “Remember when he blocked [Kyle] Korver‘s shot? How many do you see block Korver’s shot?”

Bulls Exercise Options On Bobby Portis, Four Others

The Bulls have exercised options on all five of their eligible players, the team announced in a press release. That was the plan all along, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets.

Returning on third-year options in 2018/19 will be Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine while all of Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne and Bobby Portis will be back on fourth-year options.

While it makes sense for a rebuilding team to retain young players with promise, Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago tweeted on October 18 that the club hadn’t, at that point, made a decision about Portis.

Portis infamously hospitalized Nikola Mirotic in a team practice on October 17 and several stories have emerged in the last few days about internal doubts that the two will ever be able to co-exist in a Bulls locker room again.

As far as asset management goes, however, it makes sense for the Bulls to pick up the options on all of the capable young players as doing so doesn’t preclude them from making any moves with Mirotic, of Portis for that matter, in the future.

The exercised options of Dunn and Valentine are obvious choices. Both players, highly regarded entering their rookie campaigns in 2016/17, have shown flashes of why they were so revered in college. The raw but malleable assets are exactly the type of building blocks that a team in Chicago’s current position ought to be collecting.

In contrast, Grant, the club’s starting point guard thus far in 2018/19, is the most heavily utilized player of the bunch. Grant has posted averages of 10.8 points and an impressive 7.3 assists per game in a full starter’s workload through four games. He may end up ceding time and opportunity to Dunn, who is expected to return in a reserve role soon, but has done a fine job establishing himself in his third season.

The decision to exercise Payne’s fourth-year option seems natural considering that the team marketed him as a potential point guard of the future last season.

As the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson noted in a separate tweet, there remains internal belief that Payne could have an impact on the rebuilding team if he’s able to maintain his health. Payne has played just 88 games throughout the first three years of his career.

Bulls’ Cameron Payne Out For 3-4 Months

SEPTEMBER 8: The Bulls have provided another update on Payne, announcing today in a press release that he underwent successful surgery on his right foot on Wednesday. The point guard is expected to make a full recovery in three to four months, according to the team. That would put Payne on track to return in December or January.

AUGUST 31: The Bulls have issued a formal update on Payne, confirming that he’ll undergo surgery on his broken foot next Wednesday.

According to the team, a six-week period of rest in a boot was prescribed for Payne after he suffered the injury in mid-July, but the fracture hasn’t healed satisfactorily since then, resulting in a surgery recommendation.

AUGUST 30: Cameron Payne will undergo surgery on his right foot and his recovery is expected to keep him out of action until late November, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Payne dealt with injuries to the foot earlier in his career and he re-aggravated the injury this offseason playing for the Bulls’ Summer League team. It was his first offseason with Chicago, as the organization traded for him at the 2017 trade deadline.

The Thunder selected Payne with the No. 14 overall pick out of Murray State in the 2015 draft. In his two seasons as a pro, the point guard averaged 5.0 points and 1.5 assists in 13.2 minutes per game.