Fred Hoiberg

Bulls Notes: Valentine, Hoiberg, Parker, Mirotic

Denzel Valentine has yet to appear in a game this season for the Bulls, and his 2018/19 debut isn’t imminent. As The Chicago Sun-Times relays (via Twitter), executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson indicated on Wednesday that Valentine’s left ankle isn’t responding well, prompting the team to pump the brakes on his rehab and rule him out indefinitely.

With Valentine still on the shelf, the team figures to continue relying on rookie Chandler Hutchison in a regular rotation role. Chicago also appears to qualify for the hardship provision, which allows an injury-ravaged team to add a 16th man to its 15-man roster when it’s missing at least four players. Valentine, Kris Dunn, Bobby Portis, and Lauri Markkanen are all in the midst of extended absences for the Bulls, but there has been no word on the team applying for or receiving that roster exception.

Here’s more from out of Chicago:

  • It looks like there’s a real possibility that the 2018/19 season could be Fred Hoiberg‘s last with the Bulls, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. If that happens, GM Gar Forman should follow Hoiberg out the door, Cowley argues.
  • Hoiberg had a heated discussion with Jabari Parker during Wednesday’s loss, according to Cowley, who notes that Parker jogged down the floor on back-to-back defensive possessions before Hoiberg called timeout and had words with him.
  • Bulls center Wendell Carter, a former Duke Blue Devil, raved about his alma mater’s 2018/19 roster, suggesting that he believes Zion Williamson will “translate perfectly” to the NBA, as Cowley details. However, Carter doesn’t want to see the Bulls go into tank mode to try to land one of those top Duke prospects in next year’s draft. “I feel like we’ve just got to try to win every game,” he said. “If we lose, but we’re playing hard, that’s one thing, but I wouldn’t feel good losing games on purpose.”
  • In yet another article for The Sun-Times, Cowley revisits Nikola Mirotic‘s time in Chicago, suggesting that the front office “couldn’t wait to deal him” and some of his teammates “weren’t exactly sad” that Bobby Portis punched him during a practice last fall. Hoiberg and Robin Lopez spoke highly of Mirotic, however.
  • Sam Smith of Bulls.com explores where things stand for two-way player Tyler Ulis, who finds himself on the Windy City Bulls after spending the last two seasons as an NBA rotation player.

Central Notes: Pistons, Cavs, Nance, Portis, Hoiberg

Assuming they’re all healthy to start the season, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, and Reggie Jackson are locked in as three of the five players in the Pistons‘ starting lineup. However, head coach Dwane Casey hasn’t tipped his hand on which two wings will be joining them, per Rod Beard of The Detroit News.

“Guys are competing and it’s not going to be a quarterback controversy at all. We’re going to put the right people in the right positions, whether it’s the starting group or the second group that fit,” the Pistons’ new coach said. “That’s something we’re going to be watching over the next couple weeks to see. We have a good idea but nothing is concrete right now. There are guys who are defensive-minded and great defensively and guys who can shoot the lights out. We just have to figure it out.”

According to Beard, the early thought is that Casey will go with Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson. There are other contenders, including second-year sharpshooter Luke Kennard and newly-signed wing Glenn Robinson III, but Kennard is still recovering from a knee injury and Robinson will have to develop chemistry with his new teammates.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers announced a series of promotions and hirings within their ranks this week. Among other moves, Cleveland named Dan Geriot and Mike Gerrity assistant coaches and added Andrew Olson as a shooting coach.
  • The Cavaliers are confident about their chances of securing Larry Nance Jr. to a long-term deal prior to the October 15 deadline for rookie scale extensions, tweets Tom Withers of The Associated Press.
  • Speaking of rookie scale extension candidates, Bobby Portis is also eligible for a new contract up until October 15. The Bulls big man appears set to enter the 2018/19 season as the club’s sixth man, a role he’s comfortable with, as Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago details.
  • With the Bulls‘ still in the midst of their rebuilding process, top executive John Paxson declined to name a win total when asked about the team’s expectations earlier this week. However, head coach Fred Hoiberg knows he’ll be expected to show positive steps forward during the fourth season of his five-year contract with the franchise, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Bulls Forward Paul Zipser Doubts He’ll Return

Forward Paul Zipser doesn’t believe he’ll be back with the Bulls next season, he told a German newspaper in a story that was relayed by BlogABull.com.

Zipser has a non-guaranteed contract of approximately $1.545MM next season that becomes guaranteed if he remains on the roster through July 18th.

Zipser said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Bulls decide to let him go before the guarantee kicks in. Even if they do guarantee his salary, he doubts they’ll keep him.

The 6’8” Zipser saw his playing time dip in his second NBA season. He averaged 4.0 PPG and shot just 34.6% from the field while playing 15.2 MPG in 54 appearances. In his rookie campaign, he averaged 5.4 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 19.2 MPG while playing 44 games.

Health is also a concern, as Zipser had surgery to repair a broken left foot last month. According to Zipser, the injury was a stress fracture.

Zipser told the Rhein Neckar newspaper that foot pain was a major reason for his dropoff in performance.

“If your foot hurts, you simply can’t play as hard as normally. You don’t want to suffer a serious injury and be out for some time,” Zipser said according to the English translation provided by BlogABull. “It was difficult to focus on the game – I didn’t manage that very well.”

Zipser also said the Bulls’ decision to go into tank mode caused great consternation, though he didn’t have an issue with coach Fred Hoiberg.

“That finally destroyed the morale of the players. But even before you could notice that some decisions didn’t make any sense with regards to having a successful season,” he said. “The conversations with the coach were always very honest, I really appreciate him.”

Bulls’ Paxson Talks Roster, Hoiberg, Lopez, Draft

With the Bulls’ 2017/18 season officially over, executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson spoke today to reporters about a handful of topics in his end-of-season press conference. Notably, while Paxson called the coming offseason “as important a summer as we’ve had in a long time,” he said he expects the majority of the current roster to be back, since the team is “headed in the right direction” (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune).

The Bulls don’t have any unrestricted free agents on the roster, and none of their players have the ability to opt out this summer, so Paxson’s comments about roster continuity don’t come as a surprise. The most important free agent decisions for the Bulls figure to come in restricted free agency — Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, and Noah Vonleh can all become RFAs.

Let’s round up a few more of Paxson’s noteworthy comments from today’s presser:

  • Head coach Fred Hoiberg will “absolutely” be back with the Bulls next season, per Paxson (Twitter link via Johnson). Unlike fellow Eastern lottery coaches Frank Vogel and Jeff Hornacek, Hoiberg was always considered very likely to return, but Paxson’s public confirmation makes it official.
  • Although Robin Lopez doesn’t necessarily fit the development timeline of core pieces like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and LaVine, the Bulls continue to talk about him as a potential fixture. Paxson said today that the veteran center is “an important part of our future” (Twitter link via Johnson). Lopez is under contract for one more year at a cost of about $14.36MM, so it’s not clear if Chicago envisions keeping him beyond the summer of 2019.
  • After finishing in a tie for the sixth spot in the lottery standings, the Bulls are assured of a top-10 pick in the 2018 draft. Paxson said today that the club may target a wing with that lottery selection. “That would be an ideal spot,” Paxson said, per Johnson (Twitter link). “Size and length and a shooting and defensive component at the wing.” Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is one potential option who would fit that description.

Central Notes: Booker, Green, Kilpatrick, Hoiberg, LeBron

Despite playing a limited role – only 16.0 minutes per game – the Pacers believe that recently-acquired forward Trevor Booker is an important piece of Indiana’s chances come playoff time, reports Mark Montieth of Pacers.com, especially with big man Domantas Sabonis missing six of the team’s last seven games with an ankle injury.

Booker was brought in to back-up Thaddeus Young at power forward, but has filled in admirably for the Pacers while Sabonis has been out.

“He brings a physicality to the floor,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “With these injuries and teams playing smaller fives, we’ve had to play him there some, and he’s done a good job for us. It allows us to make adjustments. He’s a power forward, but he plays bigger than that.”

“He’s a hard-nosed guy who’s going to go out and rebound the basketball,” says Young, the Pacers’ starting power forward who Booker backs up. “He has the ability to score on the block. To make a few jumpers here and there — not consistently, but he gives us the energy and the poise and the passion that we need. When he’s stepping out there with that second unit he does a really good job of carving out space and putting guys in the right place.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Jeff Green has been starting for the Cavaliers lately while the team has been dealing with injuries to Kevin LoveLarry Nance Jr., and Tristan Thompson, but Joe Vardon of The Plain Dealer wonders whether he has a place in the lineup once playoff time comes and the bench shortens.
  • Despite recently receiving a three-year, $6.2MM contract from the Bulls, guard Sean Kilpatrick still views every game in the NBA as an audition, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “That’s how I looked at things, and that’s how I viewed things since I got into this league, and that’s why I think I’ve had some type of success in that area.” Kilpatrick said.
  • It appears as though the Bulls plan on keeping head coach Fred Hoiberg around for a fourth season, Cowley opines in another pieceI’ve gotten unbelievable support from everybody throughout the year, going back to what I thought was a great offseason and training camp,” Hoiberg said.
  • The Rockets’ James Harden is far and away the favorite to win MVP this season, but he wouldn’t get a vote from Cavaliers‘ superstar LeBron James, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Asked who he’d vote for, James unabashedly said himself. “I would vote for me. The body of work, how I’m doing it, what’s been happening with our team all year long, how we’ve got so many injuries and things of that nature, guys in and out, to be able to still keep this thing afloat, I definitely would vote me.”

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: Mirotic, Portis, Butler, LaVine

The lingering tension between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis continues to loom over the Bulls, with the team finding it harder than ever to support both players. As K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details, Mirotic remains upset about the situation, particularly since he’s still recovering from the injuries he sustained when he was punched by Portis, who has returned to the court following his eight-game suspension. Mirotic’s camp has made it clear to the Bulls that he doesn’t feel like he and Portis can coexist going forward, Johnson notes.

Portis seems more willing to bury the hatchet, suggesting on Tuesday that he wants to “let bygones be bygones.” Although Portis is aware of the reported ultimatum from Mirotic’s camp, he recognizes that the team’s decision on whether to trade one player or the other is out of his control, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details.

“I want to rekindle our relationship, try as best as possible, but I don’t control that right now,” Portis said. “I’m here to play basketball.”

In a separate report, Cowley suggests that the Bulls’ locker room seems to favor Portis over Mirotic, citing two players on the team who say that the ultimatum from Mirotic’s side is carrying “zero weight.” Reports out of Chicago since the incident last month have indicated that members of the Bulls believe Mirotic is partially to blame for the altercation with Portis, and it sounds as if at least a couple of his teammates believe Mirotic needs to move past it. “This is Niko’s problem now,” one Bull told Cowley.

As we wait to see how the Bulls handle the situation, let’s round up a few more notes out of Chicago…

  • Jimmy Butler admitted to Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine that he felt like the Bulls would eventually move on from either him or Fred Hoiberg, and wasn’t surprised by their decision. “I said from the beginning it was either gonna be me or the Fred Hoiberg route,” Butler said. “And rightfully so, they took Fred. Good for them.”
  • While he’s happy with how things turned out, Butler is also looking forward to his first game against the Bulls, as he tells Alipour: “I got that game marked on my calendar. February 9, baby — I’m back. Oh, man, they better hope I go 0-for-30, ’cause every basket I score, I’m looking over at the bench and I got something to say.”
  • Barring any setbacks, Bulls guard Zach LaVine is on track to begin taking contact in about two weeks, Cowley writes for The Sun-Times. LaVine, who continues to recover from last year’s ACL injury, hopes to return to action within the next month or two.

Bulls Notes: Wade, Hoiberg, Forman, Dunn

Dwyane Wade hasn’t contacted the Bulls’ front office about his desire for a buyout and is hoping the team makes the first move, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Wade made his feelings clear that he doesn’t want to be part of a rebuilding project after Chicago traded Jimmy Butler to Minnesota in June. However, he is reluctant to give up much of the $23.8MM salary for the upcoming season that he opted into and apparently believes he can get a better deal if Bulls management takes the initiative on buyout talks.

A recent report said Wade hasn’t been in contact with anyone from the front office since the Butler deal and that he felt misled because he was given assurances that the Bulls would try to remain competitive before he opted in. At 35, Wade is by far the oldest and most expensive player on Chicago’s roster and he clearly doesn’t fit the team’s youth movement. How far each side is willing to continue before buyout talks begin will be among the most interesting storylines of the new season.

Cowley shares more information out of Chicago:

  • Expectations will be different for coach Fred Hoiberg with the revamped roster, but he still has to show progress to keep his job. Hoiberg has been under fire from fans and the media since coming to Chicago two years ago and was publicly criticized by Butler early in his first season. Cowley calls it “sink-or-swim time” for Hoiberg, who has to turn a young roster into the type of team he envisioned when he was hired.
  • GM Gar Forman’s fate is probably tied to Hoiberg’s, Cowley adds. Forman, who made the decision to bring Hoiberg out of the college ranks, is already unpopular with Bulls’ fans, some of whom paid to put up a billboard in July calling for the firing of him and president of basketball operations John Paxson.
  • Kris Dunn, part of the package acquired in exchange for Butler, has an open path toward being the starting point guard. The fifth pick of the 2016 draft, Dunn had a disappointing rookie season in Minnesota, but the Bulls have no obvious successor to Rajon Rondo.
  • The Bulls are happy with what they have seen from first-round pick Lauri Markkanen during summer league and EuroBasket. The seventh overall selection will be “a key foundation piece” of the rebuild.
  • Robin Lopez is the team’s most valuable trade commodity and seems likely to be moved during the season. The 29-year-old center averaged 10.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in his first season with the Bulls after being acquired in a deal with the Knicks.

Northwest Notes: Butler, Hernangomez, Lillard

A comprehensive feature on Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler has shed some light on how the 30th overall draft pick has changed over the course of his ascent to stardom. Michael Pina of Vice Sports spent a day with the swingman, who describes himself as a difficult person to be around.

This season Butler has been reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, the man at the helm in Chicago when Butler evolved from a fringe roster player to a key rotation piece into a star. For the last two years, however, Butler played under a different coach.

I’m confrontational. I feed off of confrontation. It makes me go,” Butler said. “Not everybody’s like that. [Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg] is not that coach, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are different coaching styles and people are gonna say—which is what they did say—’It’s gonna be Jimmy’s team or it’s gonna be Fred’s team.’ Two total opposite ends of the spectrum.

Be sure to check out the long-read for fresh perspective on the Timberwolves guard’s backstory and mentality heading forward.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division tonight:

Lowe’s Latest: Butler, Nuggets, Wolves, Ibaka

Before they accepted the Timberwolves‘ offer for Jimmy Butler, the Bulls canvassed the league in search of a more appealing offer, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN.com.

Lowe writes in his latest piece for ESPN that the Bulls spoke to the Suns about a package centered around Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 overall pick, but the two sides never really got close. Chicago also had discussions with the Nuggets and Celtics, but Denver drew the line at including Jamal Murray in any potential deal, and Boston wouldn’t include the No. 3 pick, according to Lowe.

As Lowe notes, teams like the Suns and Nuggets had to consider the fact that Butler may not have re-signed with them in free agency in 2019 if they acquired him. Although Butler’s contract would give teams an extra year of control over someone like Paul George, the star forward might still have ultimately been a rental if he didn’t love where he ended up. That cooled the market somewhat, as the Bulls explored potential trade scenarios.

Here’s more from Lowe’s latest piece:

  • The Bulls were never entirely comfortable with the idea of Butler as their foundational player, says Lowe. A source tells ESPN that Butler’s bristling at Fred Hoiberg‘s instructions made some people on the team uncomfortable. Lowe suggests that Hoiberg’s calm personality wasn’t a good match for Butler, who requires a coach more like Tom Thibodeau.
  • At one point, the Timberwolves were intrigued by the possibility of pursuing Serge Ibaka in free agency, but their interest “has faded a bit,” according to Lowe, who adds that most teams expect Ibaka to re-sign with the Raptors.
  • The Lakers were dangling a future unprotected first-round pick to teams with cap room recently in an effort to move the Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng contracts, per Lowe. The earliest first-round pick the Lakers could trade at this point is 2020’s selection, so it’s understandable that D’Angelo Russell appealed more to the Nets than a pick that far down the road.