Bulls Rumors

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Bulls, Oladipo

Following last Thursday’s loss to the Wizards, Cavaliers players expressed disappointment that the team doesn’t seem to be making any positive progress, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details. Tristan Thompson suggested the club seems to be “at a standstill,” while Kevin Love said he feels as if the Cavs should be better than they are.

“We have to start trending in the right direction again because we felt like we were playing good basketball, even in a couple of the losses we had, and these are uncharacteristic — losing by double-digits to these two teams,” Love said following a series of Cavaliers losses to Chicago, New York, and Washington. “Nothing against them, we just feel like similar records and these are teams we can compete with, especially on our home floor. We should have a chance to really win.”

While the Cavaliers may shake up their roster a little prior to the trade deadline, there are no guarantees that veterans like Thompson and Love will be moved, so it’s no surprise they’d like to see the team become more competitive if they’re going to remain in Cleveland for the rest of the season. Things didn’t get any better on Saturday, when the Cavs lost at home to the Bulls to extend their losing streak to seven games.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times wonders if there’s any chance the Bulls could be buyers, rather than sellers, at this year’s trade deadline. Head coach Jim Boylen said those conversations haven’t taken place yet – at least not with him in the room – but he’d be happy if the team stands pat. “I love the guys we have, and we’re going to keep coaching and teaching the guys we have, and I’ve got a good group, a willing group, a coachable group,” Boylen said. “It’s going to be ‘we and us,’ and ‘we and us’ are going to keep working.”
  • Nathan Brown of The Indianapolis Star spoke to knee specialist Dr. Rodney Benner to get a sense of what Pacers star Victor Oladipo might look like upon returning from his year-long injury. “It’s going to be a little bit, trial-and-error isn’t the right word for it, but there’s going to be some adjusting of activity up and down to see what he can handle, just because it’s such an uncommon injury that it’s hard to predict,” Benner said of Oladipo, who remains on track to make his season debut on Wednesday.
  • In case you missed it, we passed along a handful of Bulls notes and Pacers items over the weekend.

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Young, Valentine, White

Lauri Markkanen‘s latest injury not only damages the Bulls‘ hopes of reaching the playoffs, it prevents the organization from having clarity on an important long-term decision, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Markkanen will miss the next four-to-six weeks after doctors discovered an early stress reaction of his right pelvis during an MRI. It’s the latest blow to a depleted frontcourt that is already getting by without Wendell Carter Jr., Daniel Gafford and Otto Porter.

The injury figures to complicate offseason negotiations for Markkanen, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension. Johnson notes that because of injuries, Markkanen and Zach LaVine have played just 106 of a possible 210 games together since LaVine was acquired in a trade with Minnesota.

Short-term plans are for Thaddeus Young to move into the starting lineup at power forward, but Johnson argues that Chicago still needs to explore trade opportunities for Young prior to the February 6 deadline. Porter hopes to return after the All-Star break, while Markkanen’s prognosis would sideline him for 10 to 17 games.

There’s more tonight from Chicago:

  • The Bulls need to find a taker for Denzel Valentine before the deadline, Johnson contends in a separate piece. Valentine has hardly seen any playing time this month after being productive while averaging 15.5 minutes per game in December. Coach Jim Boylen has been vague in his reasons for not using Valentine, who has fully recovered from reconstructive ankle surgery that forced him to miss all of last season. At least one team has expressed interest in Valentine, sources tell Johnson.
  • Boylen won’t alter his way of doing things despite fan criticism and a poor win-loss record, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley noted a lot of empty seats at United Center for Friday’s game with the Kings, but Boylen insists that support for him and the team hasn’t declined. “The fans have been great to me,’’ he said. “For the most part, they understand what we’re trying to do. There’s always going to be people that don’t like where it’s at or where it’s going. I can’t control any of that. All I can control is my attitude, my work, my connection to this team. That’s what I’m going to try and do.’’
  • Markkanen’s injury probably won’t mean more minutes for rookie guard Coby White, Cowley adds in the same piece. Even though the Bulls might need more scoring, the focus for White will remain on development. “His plan won’t change much,’’ Boylen said. “He plays a different position than Markkanen. We’ll get Coby involved and keep developing him as a guard that can lead the team, but also score the ball. Keep pushing him to be a two-way player, which I think is really important for him.’’

Lauri Markkanen Out 4-6 Weeks With Pelvic Injury

The Bulls‘ disappointing season has taken another unfortunate turn, as the team announced today in a press release that starting power forward Lauri Markkanen will be sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks. According to the team, an MRI on Markkanen’s hip revealed an early stress reaction of his right pelvis.

The seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft, Markkanen had a strong rookie season, but didn’t take a major step forward in his second season and has leveled off in his third year. His 15.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .424 FG%, and .344 3PT% in 46 games in 2019/20 are all career lows.

This is also the third consecutive season that Markkanen has battled health problems. He was limited to 68 games in his first year, then missed 30 total games at the start and end of last season due to an elbow injury and a heart issue.

The 22-year-old will become extension-eligible for the first time this offseason, so even if Chicago falls out of the playoff race, he’ll want to return sometime after the All-Star break and finish the season strong. Currently, the 17-29 Bulls are 2.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Nets.

With Markkanen, starting center Wendell Carter, and rookie big man Daniel Gafford all on the shelf, the Bulls’ frontcourt depth will be tested. The team figures to lean heavily on Luke Kornet, Thaddeus Young, and Cristiano Felicio for the time being.

Zach LaVine Would Like To Have Input On Bulls’ Roster Moves

Zach LaVine has arguably been the Bulls‘ most important player through the first half of the season. He’s a borderline All-Star candidate and any chance of Chicago making the postseason likely hinges on his success.

So does he expect to be involved in the team’s decisions leading up to the trade deadline? Not necessarily, though he would embrace that kind of power, as Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times relays.

“I mean if they come to me and let me know, I think it would be great,’’ LaVine said of the team speaking with him about potential moves. “If not I’m not taking offense to it either. It’s not something that I’m asking for.

“I know what I stand for. I’m trying to help us get there and I don’t think you can question what my intentions are.’’

Thaddeus Young and Kris Dunn could both be on the move. The Clippers have interest in each player, sources tell Cowley, though Los Angeles could simply wait until the offseason to pursue Dunn, as he will be a restricted free agent.

Johnson: Young, Valentine Most Likely To Be Traded

Thad Young Discusses Trade Rumors, Bulls’ Woeful Season

Thaddeus Young signed a three-year deal with the Bulls and it’s not certain that he finishes his contract in Chicago, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports writes.

“I’m just playing basketball. I’m a Chicago Bull. Whatever happens happens. I understand it’s a business,” Young told NBC Sports Chicago. “If I’m traded, I’m traded and have to go to the next city. If I’m not, then I’m here with my brothers, here with my teammates, and ready to fight.”

Young envisioned a different role with Chicago when he signed his three-year deal with the club this offseason, previously expressing mild discontent through the media. He anticipated playing more than the 22.4 minutes per game he’s currently seeing. He also anticipated having a larger role in crunch time.

The Clippers‘ interest in Young is legitimate, Johnson hears. Los Angeles had a scout at a recent Bulls game (the team doesn’t play Chicago until April). Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times previously reported that the Clippers may have interest in the veteran. A move to the West Coast likely won’t significantly increase his playing time, but being a part of a contending squad might make those concerns easier to deal with.

Young has done his best to ignore the trade rumors, instead remaining professional and focusing on how he can help the team he’s currently on.

“We’re very upset we keep losing games,” Young said. “It’s hard to win in this league. We have to understand that as a team. We have to face the hardness of the game and take advantage of the opportunities we do have. We need to play harder than other teams. We can play great for 38-40 minutes. But there’s an eight-minute span that can be detrimental to our team.”

Central Notes: Carter Jr., Giannis, McKinnie, Bulls

Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. believes he could return from his severe ankle injury ahead of schedule, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes.

Carter injured his ankle on January 6 and was initially given a four-to-six week timetable after undergoing an MRI. The 20-year-old was posting season averages of 11.7 points, 9.9 rebounds and 30 minutes before going down to injury.

“Definitely closer to the four[-week side],’’ Carter said on his potential return, as relayed by Cowley. “My progress has been really good lately, so definitely closer to the four than the six.’’

The Bulls have a 3-4 record since losing Carter, who emphasized that he’s been working on his upper-body strength and watching film during rehab. He’ll likely return just before All-Star Weekend, which is set to commence between on February 14.

“It’s still pretty frustrating, but at the same time, I think everything happens for a reason,’’ Carter said. “That’s something I strongly believe in, so it’s frustrating because I’m a competitor, but on the back end it’s like, ‘OK, this happened for a reason or it could have been worse.’ Just take it in and try to get it better every day.’’

There’s more out of the Central Division tonight:

  • Sam Amick of The Athletic examines how the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo have quieted speculation regarding his 2021 unrestricted free agency, where he’s expected to garner interest from multiple teams. Milwaukee has the league’s best record at 38-6, winning its last six games. Their success has been fueled by Antetokounmpo and his MVP-caliber season (30 PPG, 12.8 RPG, 5.5 APG on 55% FG).
  • Alfonzo McKinnie is fighting to prove he belongs with the Cavaliers on a 10-day contract, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. Cleveland is likely to sign McKinnie to a second 10-day deal after his current contract expires on Sunday, according to Fedor, with the 27-year-old originally signing on January 9. “I’m just excited for the opportunity,” McKinnie said. “Best league in the world so however you get in, you just have to go with that and try to stick. This is my first time ever signing a 10-day. It really ain’t no different mindset-wise. Just trying to put forth everything that you can do on the court to show the organization that you belong, that you want to be around. For me, every year that I’ve been in the league trying to solidify a spot that’s pretty much how I approach it. Just coming out and doing what I can do and leaving it all on the floor and then leaving it into the front office’s hands. Hopefully it’s good enough.”
  • The Bulls could look to ramp up trade discussions involving Thaddeus Young and Denzel Valentine as the February 6 deadline approaches, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Schaefer examined different trade scenarios with both players, evaluating Chicago’s potential options.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/17/20

Here are Friday’s G League assignments and recalls from around the league:

  • The Pacers assigned Alize Johnson and Edmond Sumner to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the team’s PR department tweets. Sumner did not play in the last two Indiana games, while Johnson has appeared in just one NBA game this month.
  • The Spurs recalled forwards Chimezie Metu, Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson from the Austin Spurs, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News tweets. With Rudy Gay sidelined on Friday, the NBA team was looking for added depth. Metu,  second-round pick in 2018, has appeared in 11 NBA games this season.
  • The Nuggets recalled forward Jarred Vanderbilt from the Windy City Bulls, the team’s PR department tweets. Vanderbilt, a 2018 second-rounder, has appeared in four NBA contests this season.
  • The Clippers assigned Derrick Walton Jr. and Terance Mann to the Agua Caliente Clippers, according to the team’s PR department. Both guards received garbage-time minutes against Orlando on Thursday and did not score.
  • The Warriors assigned rookie forward Alen Smailagic to their Santa Cruz affiliate, the team’s PR department tweets. The second round pick has appeared in nine Warriors games.

Daniel Gafford To Miss 2-4 Weeks With Dislocated Thumb

A right thumb injury suffered by Daniel Gafford in tonight’s game is expected to sideline the Bulls‘ rookie center for two to four weeks, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Gafford suffered the injury early in the first quarter when he deflected a pass, relays K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The thumb appeared to bend backward, and Gafford ran straight to the training room.

Gafford is averaging 4.9 points and 2.5 rebounds in limited playing time through 31 games, but he has taken over a starting role since the loss of Wendell Carter Jr., who is out for four to six weeks with a sprained right ankle. Gafford has been excelling on defense, with a streak of 12 straight games with a blocked shot coming into tonight.

Johnson notes that coach Jim Boylen turned to Luke Kornet after Gafford had to leave the game and used some lineups with Lauri Markkanen at center.

Examining Why The Bulls Should Trade Thaddeus Young

  • It’s time for the Bulls to do right by Thaddeus Young and trade the veteran forward, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times contends. Young signed with Chicago as a free agent last July, inking a three-year deal worth $41MM. Young and his camp initially thought he’d receive more minutes after choosing to join the team, but the 31-year-old is only averaging 22.3 minutes per game — the lowest since his rookie season in 2007-08.