Bulls Rumors

Central Notes: Turner, Pacers, Middleton, Caruso

It’s uncertain how changing agents will impact Pacers center Myles Turner this season, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack newsletter.

Turner, who is headed to free agency, still has fans within the Pacers’ organization, according to Stein. His name has been in the trade rumor mill for quite awhile, though his initial hope was to play out this season and then head to free agency, Stein adds.

It remains to be seen whether the Pacers will hold onto Turner through the trade deadline if they’re unable to sign him to an extension. He’s averaging 18.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game this season.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Even with Turner in the lineup, the Pacers are vulnerable to getting pushed around up front, Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star notes. That point was reinforced by the Clippers’ Ivica Zubac, who powered his way to 31 points and 29 rebounds on Sunday. “He had a great presence around the basket. We didn’t do a good job on him,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know what else there is to say.”
  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton was once again assigned to the G League’s Wisconsin Herd on Monday to get some practice time and then recalled, Eric Nehm of The Athletic tweets. When asked if Middleton might return to action on Wednesday, coach Mike Budenholzer remained vague. “We’ll just see how today goes,” he said. “We’re not going to put anything ahead of itself and just hopefully he has another great session today, see how he feels and just the old cliché take it day by day.” Middleton underwent offseason wrist surgery and has yet to make his season debut.
  • The Bulls are keeping a close watch on Alex Caruso‘s minutes, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. Caruso has been dealing with a right ankle sprain and hasn’t practiced in recent days. “Just trying to be conscientious of his minutes and those long stretches for him because he does play hard,’’ coach Billy Donovan said. “From my perspective, there are going to be some nights where he’s going to get over 30 minutes. For the most part, we’re just trying to manage how hard he does play and compete in relationship to the number of minutes he’s getting.’’

Bulls Notes: Williams, Caruso, Inconsistent Output

The play of 21-year-old Bulls starting power forward Patrick Williams has steadily improved month-over-month this season, and the 6’7″ forward out of FSU registered his excitement about that growth, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

As Johnson observes, Williams averaged 7.1 PPG and 2.0 RPG while shooting 35.3% on 2.4 threes per game in October. He is putting up 11.3 PPG and 5.2 RPG thus far in November, while connecting on 50% of his 3.3 long-range looks a night this month.

“I think I’m still figuring it out,” Williams said of his play. “But I’m 100 percent locked in on being the player that I want to be… I always felt I had what it took to be a really good player in this league. But now I’m starting to feel like I have what it takes to be a star and a superstar in this league. I’m kind of trying to take that role on and build on it day-by-day… Kind of trying to take it in my own mind now and show that on the court.”

There’s more out of Chicago:

  • Bulls reserve guard Alex Caruso sprained his right ankle during Chicago’s overtime loss to the Thunder on Friday. He sat out the contact components of a team practice Sunday due to the injury, and is now questionable to play for Chicago against the Jazz on Monday, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I just know there was a point in regulation where I could tell his foot was bothering him,” head coach Billy Donovan said regarding the timing of the injury. “The last 2 minutes of overtime, it looked like he planted and I could tell he winced pretty severely. He said, ‘You gotta take me out.’ He didn’t feel like he could move well enough.”
  • The 8-11 Bulls have had an up-and-down season thus far. Chicago is continuing to strive for steadier output this season, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley notes that the team’s middling record belies some of its more impressive performances, including a pair of victories over the Celtics and wins over the Bucks, Raptors and Heat. Losing several close games in 2022/23 has cost Chicago. “I think that’s just where we are,” All-Star small forward DeMar DeRozan said. “Kind of went through so many emotions already 20 games into the season. Sometimes you’ve got to soak in that hurt and kind of generate that to being competitors, and that’s where I think we are now.’’ The team is hoping to stack up some wins on the remaining four games of its road trip, but will have to do so against several postseason-contending Western Conference clubs in the Jazz, Suns, Warriors, and Kings.
  • In case you missed it, All-Star Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine was initially upset at being benched late in the fourth quarter last week, during an eventual 108-107 loss to the Magic. LaVine later clarified that he holds no ill will toward Donovan for the benching.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Vucevic, Williams, Drummond

It has been hard to know what to expect from the Bulls on a night-to-night basis so far this season.

After capping a four-game losing streak with a home loss to Orlando last Friday, the team had its two best wins of the season on Monday in Boston and Wednesday in Milwaukee. The win over the Bucks was Chicago’s best defensive outing of the year, as Darnell Mayberry wrote for The Athletic.

However, the Bulls followed up those two statement games with a letdown performance on Friday, falling in overtime to Oklahoma City.

According to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, head coach Billy Donovan had braced for some up and downs in the early part of this season as the club tried to move away from leaning so heavily on DeMar DeRozan‘s isolation-heavy offense and late-game heroics.

“DeMar took us as far as he can take us (last season), and we really have to look at, OK, how can we make another step or jump?” Donovan said. “If we get back to that, where it’s all (isolations) all the time, it just gets too easy to defend. This is going to take some time offensively for us to play the way we need to play, which is a little bit different.”

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • The 2021 deadline trade that sent Nikola Vucevic to Chicago has netted the Magic a pair of potential building blocks (Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr.), with another lightly protected first-round pick still to come. Still, Vucevic isn’t worried about the critics who wish the Bulls hadn’t made the deal. “I know some people want to bring back the trade, the picks that were given, but it happened,” Vucevic told Cowley of The Sun-Times. “If it didn’t, it’s not for sure the Bulls would have picked Wagner or hit on the pick. Who knows what would have happened?” As Cowley observes, without the Vucevic trade, it’s also not clear whether free agents DeRozan and Lonzo Ball would’ve chosen Chicago later in 2021.
  • It has taken some time for former No. 4 overall pick Patrick Williams to get comfortable at the NBA level, but the third-year forward finally seems to be finding a rhythm, according to Cowley, who writes for The Sun-Times that Williams hasn’t looked as passive recently as he did during the first few weeks of the season.
  • Although two-time All-Star Andre Drummond is averaging a career-low 15.4 minutes per game this season, he has no intention of pushing for more playing time as long as the Bulls believe his limited role gives them the best chance to win games. “I’m at a point now where I’m just focusing on winning,” Drummond said this week, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I told Billy and the guys when I came here from the beginning: ‘Whatever you guys need me to do to help win, that’s what I’m willing to do.’ If that’s to play eight minutes, 12 minutes, 30 minutes, I’m able to do that. I’m cool with the role that I have. I just have to maintain it.”

Conversation With Father Helped LaVine Move Past Friday's Game

  • Referring to Friday’s disaster as a “career-worst night,” Bulls star Zach LaVine said after a Monday win over Boston that a conversation with his father helped him move on from his 1-of-14 showing and a late-game benching, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “He gave it to me straight,” LaVine said. “‘You played like s–t. Go play better next game. It’s as simple as that. It’s one game. You’ve played 500 games in your career. You’re going to have another bad night. Just hopefully it’s not as bad as that one. Go play better next game.'”

LaVine Isn't Mad At Donovan

  • Zach LaVine said there’s no ill feelings between him and Bulls coach Billy Donovan, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. LaVine was upset when he was benched during a loss to Orlando on Friday. “Me and Billy talk all the time,” LaVine said. “It’s a tough decision. Obviously, I’m a competitive guy. I want to play. I just told him I feel like I’ve earned the right to go out there and try to play through a bad game. His decision was to try to do the best thing for the team, which I respect. If we won, obviously I would’ve been ecstatic. We lost, I wasn’t. I had a terrible game.”

Central Notes: LaVine, Donovan, Bey, Nesmith, Stewart

Bulls star Zach LaVine, who re-signed with the team this summer, let off some steam after getting benched in the late going of a loss to Orlando on Friday.

Donovan said on Sunday that LaVine and the the team’s other top players must live up to a standard to maintain their minutes, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago relays.

“There’s a lot he can do to get into the game. If the scoring isn’t there for whatever reason, we’ve got to have a group standard,” Donovan said. “And it wasn’t all about him. Clearly the whole group in the first half, (the Magic) scored 66 points and then we gave up 42 in the second half. That game was two halves. With the way the game was going, you get caught as a coach thinking, ‘We’ve got to do something different here.’ Sometimes those decisions work and sometimes they don’t.”

LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic need to get into a rhythm early in order for the Bulls to be effective, Donovan told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times and other media members.

“We’re never going to be as good as we can be as a team until those three guys really drive the opening part of the game. … Those three guys are important to our team, and if we’re working around them . . . I don’t know if we can ever get where we need to get to.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Saddiq Bey has his streak of 152 consecutive games played — the second-longest in the league — snapped when the Pistons forward sat out against Sacramento on Sunday. Bey tried to push through his ankle sprain and keep the streak alive, Omari Sankofa of the Detroit Free Press tweets. However, he was ruled out during warmups.
  • Aaron Nesmith scored a season-high 19 points for the Pacers on Saturday and forward Jalen Smith said his teammate was due for a big offensive game, he told Dustin Dopirak of the Indianapolis Star. “We all know what Aaron can do,” Smith said. “Aaron’s one of the best shooters on the team, arguably one of the best shooters in the NBA in my opinion. We knew that he was due for a breakout game some time soon. We kept telling him to keep trusting himself, keep shooting. It’s going to fall sometime soon. It can’t be off all the time.”
  • Longtime Bucks scout Ron Stewart passed away unexpectedly on Friday, the team tweets. Stewart scouted pro and college players for Milwaukee after previously serving as the head women’s basketball coach at Western Michigan.

Zach LaVine Frustrated By Late-Game Benching

Bulls star Zach LaVine was on the bench for the final three minutes and 43 seconds of the team’s 108-107 loss to Orlando on Friday and was “obviously frustrated” when he spoke to reporters after the game about the decision, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

LaVine had scored just four points on 1-of-14 shooting in his first 25 minutes and was a team-worst minus-19 on the night. When head coach Billy Donovan replaced him with Ayo Dosunmu, the Bulls were down 101-97. The team subsequently went on a 10-2 run before ultimately losing the game on a Jalen Suggs three-pointer with five seconds remaining.

“That’s Billy’s decision. He gotta lay with it,” LaVine said, per Johnson. “Do I agree with it? No. I think I can go out there and still be me even if I miss some shots. But that’s his decision. He has to stand on it.

“I’ve missed a lot of shots, man. But I’ve had a lot of games where I played terrible and in four to five minutes, I can get 15, 16 points. I just wasn’t able to shoot the next shot.”

In addition to his struggles on offense, LaVine looked “a step slow” on defense, according to Johnson. The two-time All-Star said he wasn’t sure whether he’d talk to Donovan to seek out an explanation for the decision, but the Bulls’ head coach offered one voluntarily during his own postgame media session.

“He had a tough night shooting and I thought that group really fought their way back into the game,” Donovan said, referring to the five-man unit of Dosunmu, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, Alex Caruso, and Javonte Green. “I played DeMar the whole second half. He seemed like he was fine physically. I came back to Zach and it was one of those games for him. He just didn’t have a great game. Great players, it happens. He cares deeply about the team. He just wasn’t playing well.

“… I’m sure he’s really disappointed. He’s a really, really competitive guy. I love working with him every day. He’s about the team. I know how much he puts into it and how much it means to him,” Donovan continued, adding that he wasn’t worried about the move having any long-term ramifications.

“The ramifications of him not being out there, to me, I was trying to do what was best for our team in that moment. That’s my job and my responsibility. I thought that was the best decision at the time. To me, I don’t look at it as anything else other than a one-off game. I know he wanted to be out there. There probably aren’t very many games in his career that he hasn’t been out there in those minutes. But that group was playing well.”

LaVine is coming off an eventful summer in which he underwent left knee surgery and also signed a five-year, maximum-salary contract worth approximately $215MM. He has missed a few games already this season as the Bulls manage his recovery from that surgery and has yet to fully hit his stride — his 20.7 points per game and 41.5% shooting percentage are his lowest marks since he averaged 16.7 PPG on 38.3% shooting in an injury-shortened 2017/18 season, his first year in Chicago.

Although LaVine wasn’t thrilled by having to watch the deciding moments of a close loss – the Bulls’ fourth in a row – from the sidelines, he said on Friday night that he’ll try to move past it.

“Obviously, I have to do a better job at the beginning of the game. I gotta make my shots,” LaVine said. “But you play a guy like me down the stretch. That’s what I do. Do I like the decision? No. Do I gotta live with it? Yeah and be ready to put my shoes on and play the next game.”

Injury Updates: Magic, Bulls, Celtics, Raptors, Heat, Hayward, More

The Magic will be getting some reinforcements for Friday’s game in Chicago, according to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Veteran guard Gary Harris has been cleared to make his regular season debut following offseason arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, Price reports. Additionally, starting center Wendell Carter Jr. will be back in the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game due to a strained right plantar fascia.

Orlando’s opponents also got some good injury-related news on Friday. As Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes, Bulls guard Coby White (left quad contusion) and forward Patrick Williams (right ankle sprain) both said at Friday’s shootaround that they’ll be able to play against the Magic. White has missed the last eight games as a result of his injury; Williams sprained his ankle on Wednesday, but it appears the injury won’t cost him any games.

Here are several more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • As expected, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon will be available on Friday vs. New Orleans after missing four games with a hamstring injury. However, the team announced that Marcus Smart (right ankle inflammation) will miss a second straight game (Twitter link).
  • The already shorthanded Raptors will be missing Gary Trent Jr. and Chris Boucher on Saturday vs. Atlanta due to non-COVID illnesses, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. However, Eric Koreen of The Athletic tweets that Dalano Banton‘s ankle sprain isn’t as serious as initially feared and Pascal Siakam (adductor strain) has resumed on-court activity. Another update on Siakam is expected in a week or so, Koreen adds.
  • Heat star Jimmy Butler (knee soreness) has been ruled out for Friday’s game against Washington and it’s possible that Bam Adebayo (knee contusion) won’t be available either, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Adebayo is currently listed as questionable.
  • Hornets forward Gordon Hayward, who has been on the shelf since November 2 due to a left shoulder contusion, has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable for Friday’s game vs. Cleveland, according to the team (Twitter link).
  • Pacers sharpshooter Chris Duarte isn’t expected to be available during the team’s upcoming four-game home stand, but could return from his ankle sprain at some point in the subsequent seven-game road trip, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. That trip begins on November 27 and runs through December 7.
  • Sixers guard Jaden Springer, currently assigned to the Delaware Blue Coats in the G League, will miss at least one week due to a right quadriceps strain, tweets Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com.

Central Notes: Crowder, Bucks, Lopez, Cavs, Duren, Bulls

After reporting earlier in the week that the Suns appeared to be making real progress on trading Jae Crowder – perhaps in a three-team scenario – Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports was hesitant to offer many specific details in the latest episode of his Please Don’t Aggregate This podcast on Thursday, noting that he has yet to confirm the exact framework of the deals Phoenix is discussing. However, Fischer was able to identify a presumed frontrunner for Crowder.

“The only other thing I really feel comfortable sharing and confident sharing is that people around the situation have said that Milwaukee is the most likely team to land him,” Fischer said. “I can say that.”

As Fischer notes, he reported last week that the Bucks – who have long been identified as a possible suitor for Crowder – were gauging Grayson Allen‘s trade value around the league. So if Milwaukee does make a deal for Crowder, it seems likely that Allen would be an outgoing piece, either to Phoenix or to a third team.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After missing most of last season due to a back injury, Bucks center Brook Lopez is healthy and making a significant impact on the defensive end this season, according to Nekias Duncan of BasketballNews.com, who argues that the big man should be in the early Defensive Player of the Year conversation. Lopez is on an expiring contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
  • Logan Murdock of The Ringer takes a look at the Cavaliers‘ recent slump and their efforts to become a title contender without LeBron James for the first time in the 21st century. “I think for all of us, everyone is preaching championship,” Cavs wing Caris LeVert told Murdock. “I’ve been around a lot of teams, and it’s a long season. A lot of things happen within the season. So I think for us, just staying focused on the day-to-day, getting the most of each day, trying to maximize our potential each and every day will take care of all the rest of the stuff.”
  • Pistons center Jalen Duren is the NBA’s youngest player and the only one who was born after LeBron James made his NBA debut in 2003, but his teammates and coaches have been impressed with his maturity, writes Jamal Collier of ESPN.com. “He don’t feel 18. He’s not built like he’s 18,” Isaiah Stewart said of Duren, who turns 19 on Friday. “He’s built like a grown man. He’s very mature for his age.”
  • In a pair of stories for The Chicago Sun-Times, Joe Cowley considers what’s next for the enigmatic Coby White once he gets healthy and wonders if some lineup changes are in store for the struggling Bulls.

Bulls Notes: Dosunmu, Markkanen, Williams, Ball, White

Second-year Bulls point guard Ayo Dosunmu wants his head coach Billy Donovan to hold nothing back in his approach, and Donovan has delivered, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Mayberry notes that Donovan is generally more conversant with younger Chicago players than he is with the team’s vets.

“He just wants me to reach my full potential,” Dosunmu said of Donovan. “He tells me a lot. He’s always coaching with tough love. I love that because that’s making me become a better player. I want to soak up as much information as I can to try to get better every game. Coach does that. He’s always on me when I do things positive and negative. And I think at the end of the day that’s going to make me become a better player and help our team become a better team.”

In his second NBA season, the 6’5″ guard out of Illinois is averaging 11.7 PPG on .488/.353/.923 shooting splits. He is also chipping in 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG and 0.8 SPG.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Seven-foot Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted by the Bulls with the No. 7 pick in 2017 out of Arizona, has enjoyed a breakout run with an upstart 10-5 Utah club thus far. Chicago can learn a lot from Markkanen’s growth into a fringe All-Star talent, especially with regards to the way the team handles raw third-year forward Patrick Williams, opines K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Although the Bulls are clearly missing the three-point marksmanship and perimeter defense of injured starting point guard Lonzo Ball, the team’s bigger problems will remain even after he returns, Johnson writes in a separate piece. The Bulls lack reliable volume three-point shooters and solid two-way players, which is part of the reason Chicago has is off to a middling 6-9 start this season.
  • Young Bulls role players Williams and Coby White are listed as questionable to play on Friday against a beatable 4-11 Magic team, reports Rob Schafer of NBC Sports Chicago. White’s status actually represents an improvement, as he has missed the last eight Chicago contests with a left quad contusion. Williams sprained his right ankle late in the Bulls’ 124-110 loss to the Pelicans on Wednesday.