Bulls Rumors

Bulls' Front Office Seriously Concerned About Lonzo Ball's Knee?

  • Longtime Chicago media personality David Kaplan said during his ESPN 1000 radio show that the Bulls‘ front office has “serious concerns” about Lonzo Ball‘s left knee injury and that the issue could impact how the team approaches its offseason (link via NBC Sports Chicago). There have been no concrete updates on Ball’s troublesome knee injury since he said in late April that his rehab was “kind of at a standstill” and that he planned to visit a specialist.

White's Offseason Will Include Crucial Decision

Zach LaVine‘s decision to have knee surgery in the offseason shows his commitment to the game and the Bulls, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson. LaVine’s decision to play through his knee injury this season with Chicago heading to the playoffs proved how much he wanted to experience the postseason for himself and give his teammates a chance to do the same. He’ll still get paid this summer in unrestricted free agency, likely a maximum deal, Johnson adds.

  • Coby White‘s situation with the Bulls will be worth watching closely this offseason, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. If the team’s front office decides not to pursue extension talks with White, he could be one of their main trade pieces. White, who ended the season in a shooting slump, will be a restricted free agent next offseason if he’s not signed to an extension.

Zach LaVine To Undergo Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

Bulls star Zach LaVine will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the coming weeks, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). LaVine is expected to make a full recovery.

The news was anticipated, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times relayed at the end of April that a surgical procedure for LaVine was imminent after Chicago’s season ended. The Bulls reached the playoffs for the first time since 2016/17, but fell to the Bucks in the first round. It was LaVine’s first postseason appearance.

LaVine battled soreness in his left knee for most of the season. He missed 10 games in January and February while dealing with the injury and had fluid drained from his knee in early March, which is when he initially indicated that offseason surgery might be necessary.

Although LaVine said that he felt like he was still one of the best players in the NBA even at 70% or 80% of his usual self in March, a source close to the situation told Cowley that LaVine was “more like 50%, and that’s on a good day,” noting that the knee maintenance required to keep LaVine on the court was often an “all-day ordeal.”

There’s no sense that LaVine’s knee problem is degenerative or that it will affect him long-term, according to Cowley, so the hope is that he’ll be able to get back to his old self following the surgery. It’s worth noting that arthroscopic procedures are considered minimally invasive.

The 27-year-old is an unrestricted free agent for the first time this summer. Some around the league were somewhat surprised by comments LaVine made after the season ended, saying he was looking forward to the process and would go into it “open-eyed” and “look into everything.”

He was also noncommittal when asked if the Bulls were the clubhouse leaders to sign him, which has led to speculation he might join another team after it was considered a foregone conclusion that he would re-up with Chicago. Still, a new deal with the Bulls seems like the most likely outcome, given they have the ability to offer LaVine a projected $212.3MM over five years, while any other team would be limited to a max offer of $157.4MM over four years.

LaVine made the All-Star team both of the past two seasons and appeared in 67 games in 2021/22, averaging 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists on .476/.389/.853 shooting despite dealing with the troublesome knee.

Lonzo Ball Hopes To Get Past Injuries; Deadline Looms For Troy Brown QO

  • After playing just 35 games this season, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is focused on being healthier in the future, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Ball suffered a bone bruise, then had surgery for a torn meniscus and didn’t play after January 14.
  • The Bulls are unlikely to bring back Tristan Thompson and Matt Thomas next season, but they face a more difficult decision on  Troy Brown Jr., Johnson states in a mailbag column. They have a June 29 deadline to extend a qualifying offer to Brown to make him a restricted free agent.

Latest On Zach LaVine’s Upcoming Free Agency

Some executives around the NBA who once viewed Zach LaVine as a lock to re-sign with the Bulls are now less certain about what the All-Star guard will do this offseason, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said in his latest Hoop Collective podcast.

“Executives in the league kind of thought that Zach LaVine was off the market, was going to stay in Chicago,” Windhorst said. “And they really thought that after Zach, at midseason, got checked out for three or four days in Southern California and he pretty much admitted he probably needed knee surgery. … Executives in the league thought, ‘Well, if the Bulls and Zach are on the same page about him playing on a hurt knee, they must have an understanding that he’s going to get a contract.’

“… Subsequently, as I’ve talked to league executives, there’s now some belief that Zach could be in play, that what a lot of people thought was a foregone conclusion of Zach staying in Chicago – on whatever deal it was going to be – may not be the case.”

As Windhorst explains, much of that uncertainty among league executives stems from comments LaVine made after the season when he discussed his upcoming unrestricted free agency. The 27-year-old said he was looking forward to being a free agent and would be “open-eyed” and “look into everything.” He was also noncommittal when asked if the Bulls were the clubhouse leaders to sign him.

There aren’t a ton of teams that make sense as suitors for LaVine, since only a small handful of clubs will have significant cap space and most of those clubs don’t project to be contenders. However, Windhorst – noting that LaVine is from Seattle – points to the Trail Blazers as one possible wild card to watch.

Theoretically, the Blazers could clear enough cap space to offer LaVine a maximum-salary deal by waiving Josh Hart and Eric Bledsoe (whose salaries aren’t fully guaranteed), renouncing Jusuf Nurkic‘s free agent cap hold, and forfeiting their $20MM+ trade exception, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks stated on The Hoop Collective. Having that path to cap room could also give them leverage to try to negotiate a sign-and-trade deal with Chicago.

“I’m not saying that’s a done deal,” Windhorst said when his ESPN colleague Nick Friedell questioned whether the Blazers would really want to pair LaVine and Damian Lillard. “I’m just saying that as I’ve talked to league executives, when they saw what LaVine said and what they see the Blazers can do, that scenario has popped up.”

While it’s possible that the Blazers or another team will make a play for LaVine this summer, a new deal with the Bulls still seems to me like the most probable outcome. As Sean Highkin of Bleacher Report observes (via Twitter), it may be in the best interest of LaVine’s camp to float potential suitors like Portland in order to ensure that the Bulls offer him a max contract.

Chicago will have the ability to offer LaVine a projected $212.3MM over five years, while any other team would be limited to a max offer of $157.4MM over four years.

Deveney’s Latest: A. Davis, Schröder, Bulls, Knicks

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said last week that “numerous” league executives suggested to him that Lakers star Anthony Davis doesn’t have significant trade value due to his injury history. However, execs who spoke to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com scoffed at that idea.

One general manager told Deveney that there would be “29 teams ready with offers” if the Lakers made Davis available. An Eastern Conference executive said the idea of Davis not having much value is “crazy.”

“Look, it is beauty in the eye of the beholder. But he is an elite talent and he is 29 years old,” the East exec told Deveney. “Everybody wants him, everybody thinks that if they get their hands on him, they can keep him healthy, etc., etc.

“Now, can you get the kind of offer the Lakers gave up when they traded for him (in 2019)? No, of course not. But a team like Chicago, where he is from, they would bend over backwards to get him. Dallas, putting him with Luka (Doncic)? Of course, they would. Phoenix, Miami, any team that really wants to take that next step. The injury is a risk, but the payoff you get if you can keep him on the floor is worth it.”

While there seems to be no real consensus on Davis’ value, it may be a moot point this offseason, since there’s no indication the Lakers would consider moving him.

Here’s more from Deveney:

  • It’s possible the Rockets will re-sign free agent point guard Dennis Schröder and then look to trade him during the 2022/23 season, like Boston did this past year, a source tells Deveney. Although Deveney suggests Houston could use part of its mid-level exception to retain Schröder, the Non-Bird exception would allow an offer up to about $7MM, which could be enough. It’s also worth pointing out that signing a one-year deal with the Rockets would give Schröder the ability to veto a trade next season.
  • The Bulls are one team to watch as a potential free agent suitor for Schröder, but probably only if they trade Coby White, according to Deveney, who notes that Schröder had his best year playing for Billy Donovan in Oklahoma City in 2019/20.
  • Executives around the NBA believe the Knicks – who added Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker last summer – are more likely to pursue “young-ish” players with some upside this offseason rather than going after veterans again. Deveney mentions Tyus Jones, Mohamed Bamba, Chris Boucher, and Schröder as possible targets, though he acknowledges that some of those players aren’t particularly young.

Central Notes: LaVine, DeRozan, Holiday, Hill, Bucks, Pacers

Should the Bulls be worried about Zach LaVine going to another team as an unrestricted free agent this summer? Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic explores that topic, noting that while Chicago can offer LaVine more years and money (five years, $212MM) than other teams (four years, $157MM), the two-time All-Star was noncommittal at his end-of-season media session.

I’ve been here for the last five years, and I’ve really enjoyed my time,” LaVine said. “I think the city – and I hope everybody – understands how much I care about the Bulls and what I’ve done for the city and things like that.

Obviously, you guys have been a really soft spot in my heart, and I have to do this as a business decision as a man, not to just be viewed one way, and be, like, ‘I’m automatically coming back’ or ‘I’m automatically leaving.’ It’s unrestricted free agency. For my family and me, I have to go into this like it’s a decision where I have to be open-eyed.”

Here’s more from the Central:

  • In a question and answer session with Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said he thinks Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is the most underrated player in the NBA at the moment. “Wow, that’s a great one … most underrated … most underrated from my opinion and one of my favorite players to watch I would say is Jrue Holiday, yeah, Jrue Holiday,” DeRozan said.
  • Bucks veteran guard George Hill is listed as probable for Saturday’s Game 3 against the Celtics, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Hill has been dealing with an abdominal strain and has yet to play this postseason, but he was able to practice on Thursday and could see some action today.
  • Jamal Collier of ESPN lists four keys to the Bucks repeating as NBA champions this season. One key is making up for the production of injured star Khris Middleton, who’s sidelined with a sprained MCL. “Khris clearly is a huge part of what we do, but we have a lot of talented guys on our team,” Brook Lopez said. “We’re going to see a lot of different guys, I think, stepping up on different nights.”
  • Keifer Sykes recently spoke to James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star about his rookie season with the Pacers. Sykes was waived by the team just before the season ended. “I did everything that I could do,” Sykes said. “Even when I look up and think about the day I got cut, the night before, after that (last home) game, I was in the gym until like 12 or 1 a.m., so I squeezed everything I got out of the Pacers thing. That’s not gonna stop me from having camps back home and finishing it with this one. I’m very much at peace with the situation. … A lot of players don’t have peace in free agency.”
  • Sykes was waived to accommodate standard deals for undrafted Pacers rookies Terry Taylor and Duane Washington, who were both promoted from two-way contracts. Taylor said it was a dream come true, as Boyd relays in another story. “My agent called me and was like, ‘Yo, we’re gonna get this done Thursday (April 7),’ so he was telling me congrats,” Taylor said. “After we hung up the phone, I just prayed because it finally happened. My dream came true.”

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Roster Decisions, Offseason

Speaking today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter links), Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said his hope is to have Zach LaVine in Chicago going forward and that he’s confident the two sides can work out a new deal, given their strong relationship. LaVine will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Addressing LaVine’s left knee injury, which was a nagging issue for much of the 2021/22 season, Karnisovas suggested it’s unlikely to be a major factor in free agency negotiations and that a final determination hasn’t been made on whether the All-Star guard will require surgery. As Johnson notes, an MRI on the knee showed nothing structurally wrong that would create long-term concern, but surgery still appears likely.

In his own session with the media, LaVine confirmed that he’s going to meet with his doctor in Los Angeles to determine the best plan of action for his knee (Twitter link via Johnson). He also stated that free agency is a “big decision” for him and his family and that he intends to take his time to consider all his options (Twitter link via Johnson).

While LaVine said he’ll leave it to his agent and the Bulls’ front office to try to work out a deal, he admitted that being a maximum-salary player is important to him, tweets Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago: I see myself as a top guy in this league and I think I’ve proven that over the last four years.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Besides retaining LaVine, Karnisovas likes the idea of keeping the Bulls’ roster mostly intact and making minor changes around the edges, tweets Schaefer. Hopefully we can keep the core together and work around the margins,” Karnisovas said.
  • Lonzo Ball is on board with Karnisovas’ plan to maintain the current core, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com. “I would love to run it back,” Ball said. “I was unhealthy this year. (Alex) Caruso went down. Pat(rick Williams) was pretty much out all the way until the playoffs. Everyone knows Zach was playing hurt pretty much this whole year. If everybody can get healthy and come back, I don’t see why we couldn’t run it back.” DeMar DeRozan added that he has “the utmost trust and faith in the front office to do the job,” Smith writes.
  • In his Bulls offseason preview, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype examines LaVine’s free agency, a possible extension for Nikola Vucevic, and more.

Donovan Tries To Temper Expectations

  • Which players should the Bulls retain and which ones should they shed? Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic takes a closer look at that topic in a player-by-player breakdown. Mayberry’s position on unrestricted free agent Zach LaVine? He’s one of the keepers.
  • DeMar DeRozan said he’s open to recruiting players to Chicago, but Bulls coach Billy Donovan said no matter what happens in the offseason, expectations need to be tempered, Jon Greenberg of The Athletic writes. “I think you have to be careful, and what I mean by that is, we got off to a really, really good start this year,” he said. “And it was really impressive to me with a new group that hadn’t had a lot of time together that they could jell and mesh the way they did. We’ll actually have to work harder going into this offseason and next year to even get back to this point.”