Ish Smith

Bulls Rumors: Ball, Ellington, I. Smith, Point Guards

The Bulls figure to cast a wide net as they seek out point guard help this summer, as it’s the position most in need of an upgrade on their roster. In fact, Chicago has already had at least one interesting discussion involving a point guard this year.

An NBA executive tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times that the Bulls and Lakers had “initial conversations” about Lonzo Ball after Ball’s camp leaked that Chicago would be on the point guard’s list of preferred destinations if he were traded.

It’s not clear whether those in-season discussions went anywhere or if either team plans on revisiting them this summer, but it’s a signal that the Bulls figure to explore plenty of options as they consider how to fortify their point guard position.

Here’s more out of Chicago:

  • According to one scout, the Bulls have “taken interest” in the Pistons’ roster, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, adding that the club likes Wayne Ellington‘s shooting and Ish Smith‘s ability to run a team. Both veterans will be free agents this offseason.
  • While he recognizes that the Bulls aren’t likely to be major players for top free agents this year, executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson believes Chicago is on the right track to eventually become an attractive destination again, as Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “I do think that when you establish yourself, which we’re trying to do right now as a relevant team again, and as we get better positioning ourselves to have money when guys come up in the future, I think this will be a destination place,” Paxson said last week. “But we have to get better. That’s the thing. We have to get to a point where we are playing for important things. But our young guys have to develop into the type of players that other guys want to play with. And I think we have a couple guys right now on the roster and hopefully we’ll have more in the future.”
  • Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago takes a closer look at the Bulls’ roster by position, identifying which players are likely – or unlikely – to return, and reiterating that point guard tops the club’s list of offseason needs.

And-Ones: Calipari, Trice, Ochefu, Pistons

After receiving some interest from UCLA, Kentucky head coach John Calipari has elected to remain with the Wildcats, and the program made it worth his while to do so, reports Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com. According to Borzello, Calipari – who was already under contract through 2024 – has agreed to an extension that will run through his retirement, and will also feature a lifetime role as an ambassador to the university.

“Where else would I want to coach?” Calipari said on his radio show in confirming the news.

Calipari reportedly received a six-year, $48MM offer from UCLA before electing to extend his agreement with Kentucky, per Seth Davis of The Athletic. The 60-year-old is the highest-paid head coach in the NCAA ranks, earning a reported $9.2MM salary this season.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Travis Trice, a veteran G League guard who has been in camp with the Knicks and Bucks in recent years, is headed to Turkey to continue his professional career. After averaging 16.9 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 4.3 RPG in 36 total NBAGL games this season for the Austin Spurs and Wisconsin Herd, Trice has officially signed with Tofas SK, the team announced (via Twitter).
  • Former Wizards center Daniel Ochefu, who appeared in 19 games for Washington in 2016/17, has signed with Spanish team CB Breogan, according to an announcement from the club (via Twitter). Ochefu spent most of the 2018/19 season with the Stockton Kings, Sacramento’s G League affiliate, posting 14.8 PPG and 8.9 RPG in 39 games (24.2 MPG).
  • The Pistons will enter the offseason looking to fortify their point guard and wing spots, but won’t have much financial flexibility to do so. As such, Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press wonders if attempting to re-sign Ish Smith and Wayne Ellington might make the most sense for the club.

Central Notes: Maker, Evans, Pistons, Osman

Thon Maker has given the Pistons an energetic boost since he was acquired from the Bucks in a three-team swap at the trade deadline, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes.

The 7-footer fell out of Milwaukee’s rotation, but has proven to be a solid backup for Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. The Pistons outscored Phoenix by 20 points when Maker was on the court Thursday, as he scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots in 28 minutes.

“He’s been great,” Griffin said of his Pistons teammate. “Just his energy, man. He’s just always everywhere. And if he’s not blocking shots, he’s swinging for the fences. It’s making people think and it’s making people be aware of where he is.”

Maker will make a guaranteed $3.57MM next season and will be eligible for a rookie scale extension with the Pistons prior to opening night.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pacers swingman Tyreke Evans admits it’s been a roller-coaster season for him, Scott Agness of The Athletic reports. Evans has battled injuries, a bout with food poisoning and the tragic death of a nephew during the course of the season. Evans’ playing time has dropped dramatically from last season, when he averaged 19.4 PPG for Memphis in 52 games. He’ll return to the free agent market after signing a one-year, $12.4MM contract from Indiana. “Yeah, it’s tough,” he told Agness. “Everybody knows what type of player I am. (Since) I got drafted, I’m better with the ball in my hands. I’m a team player and just want to win this late in my career.”
  • D’Angelo Russell‘s breakthrough season with the Nets after the Lakers gave up on him illustrates why the Pistons explored trades for young point guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Markelle Fultz prior to the trade deadline, according to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. The Pistons will likely continue to pursue a young point guard during the offseason, since starter Reggie Jackson has one more season left on his contract and reserves Ish Smith and Jose Calderon will be unrestricted free agents, Ellis adds.
  • Forward Cedi Osman is considered part of the Cavaliers’ future core, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports in his latest mailbag. The team could sign Osman to an extension this summer but there hasn’t been any talk of doing that yet, Fedor continues. However, he’s a front-office favorite and has made positive strides in recent months. He’s shown signs of being more than just a bench rotation player and his 3-point shooting has improved, Fedor adds.

Pistons Notes: Trade Deadline, Brown, Bullock

If the asset-strapped Pistons are going to make a splash at the NBA trade deadline they’ll have to get creative. As The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III writes, Detroit would presumably need to unload some sizable contracts if they brought back a significant package and the players currently making big money on their roster – outside of Blake Griffin – aren’t particularly desirable.

Edwards writes that Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski isn’t eager to give up a future first-round pick simply to alleviate the cap burden of its weighty contracts (Reggie Jackson‘s $17MM, Jon Leuer‘s $10MM, for example) but those picks could be in play if a solid star comes along. Edwards includes Bradley Beal as a hypothetical possibility that might warrant such a return.

The Pistons have some players that could be considered modest assets ahead of the deadline, including sophomore Luke Kennard and fourth-year forward Stanley Johnson. Ish Smith and Reggie Bullock, similarly, could draw interest from contending teams looking to shore up their rotations with veteran depth.

There’s more from Detroit:

  • While there are plenty of scenarios that could hypothetically jump-start a Pistons rebuild, Keith Langlois of the team’s official website writes in a weekly mailbag that he’d wager the team stands pat at the deadline. The club may look to shore up its second-unit but lack draft assets to offer in trades.
  • Scrappy first-year guard Bruce Brown has struggled to showcase his elite defensive skills lately, something head coach Dwane Casey‘s believes could be attributable to a famous foe in the basketball world. “I don’t know if it’s a rookie wall or whatever, but just the concentration, the attention to detail,” Casey told Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. “Those are mental things that young fellows usually make when they’re mentally fatigued a little bit.
  • In the same blog post, Langlois writes that Reggie Bullock practiced on Wednesday. The 27-year-old sharpshooter and potential trade chip missed Tuesday’s game with a sprained ankle that has plagued him and and off throughout the season. His status is uncertain for Thursday.

Central Notes: Burks, Hood, Bullock, Cavs, LaVine

Guards Alec Burks and Rodney Hood are the players most likely to be moved by the Cavaliers before the trade deadline, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Burks was acquired from Utah last month because of his movable $11.5MM expiring contract. He can provide scoring off the bench, defense and ball-handling for a playoff contender. Hood is a skilled player on an expiring $3.4MM contract, though he can’t be traded without his approval since he’s playing on a qualifying offer. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson are other Cleveland players who could be moved at the right price. GM Koby Altman is seeking draft picks, multi-year contracts of expensive players who could be traded in the future, and young players with potential, Vardon adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pistons shooting guard Reggie Bullock and backup point guard Ish Smith are garnering trade interest, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Detroit would like to re-sign both players, who are on expiring contracts, Ellis continues. Bullock is making $2.5MM this season and Smith is pulling in $6MM. An offer of a first-round pick could entice Detroit to move Bullock, Ellis adds.
  • The steady diet of losses is weighing on the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. The injury-riddled Cavs went 1-5 on their just concluded road trip. The Cavaliers don’t want to think that the rest of the season will be a slog to the finish line. “I don’t accept that,” Clarkson said. “I’m trying to compete in games. It’s tough. But we don’t even have a team. You’re playing Channing (Frye) right now and he wasn’t even getting no minutes this year. All these guys dealing with injuries and stuff like that. Sometimes coming into the game a little overmatched. But I’m not set on this is how we are.”
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine took a veiled shot at coach Jim Boylen after the team’s loss to Miami over the weekend, Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago reports. LaVine expressed his frustration that the team is playing worse despite getting some key pieces back in the lineup in recent weeks. “Something is obviously wrong,” he said. “We weren’t losing by double digits earlier in the season.” Many of the team’s issues can be attributed to Boylen’s unimaginative offensive scheme, Walton adds.

Central Notes, Bullock, I. Smith, Bucks, Leaf

Reggie Bullock and Ish Smith have been solid this season for the Pistons and would have some value on the trade market, given their modest salaries and expiring contracts. However, the club would like to re-sign both players during the 2019 offseason, if possible, tweets Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. That would throw a wrench into the idea of trading either player during the season.

Ellis notes that Bullock, in particular, is generating “strong” interest on the trade market. The sixth-year wing is having another excellent shooting season for the Pistons, making 39.8% of his three-point attempts. That’s nearly right in line with his 40.2% career rate, and would appeal to a ton of contenders — especially given his $2.5MM salary.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Frank Isola takes an in-depth look at Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry in an interesting piece for The Athletic. Within the story, Lasry confirms that Milwaukee made an effort to acquire Kyle Korver from Cleveland before the Cavs traded him to Utah earlier this season. A December report had suggested that the Bucks came close to trading for both Korver and George Hill before working out a separate deal for Hill.
  • T.J. Leaf, who has had a chance to play regular minutes with Myles Turner sidelined, may stick in the Pacers‘ rotation even after Turner returns, head coach Nate McMillan said this week. Mark Montieth of Pacers.com has the story, along with the quotes from McMillan.
  • Kris Dunn has been something of an enigma in his first season and a half with the Bulls, according to Sam Smith of Bulls.com, who explores whether the former fifth overall pick can still be Chicago’s point guard of the future.

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Gores, Smith

Pistons owner Tom Gores was able to see his team up close on Wednesday, with Detroit surrendering a 113-100 loss on national television to the Lakers. Detroit came into the season with somewhat high expectations, sporting a new head coach and talented frontcourt featuring the All-Star tandem of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, but the team has recorded an underwhelming 17-22 record 39 games into the campaign.

“I like this team. I think they can work through the adversity,” Gores said during a halftime interview, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Whether we want to say it or not, this team expects to be in the playoffs. This team does expect excellence. You have Andre [Drummond] and Blake [Griffin] — and these are major, major players.”

Griffin has certainly put forth an All-Star caliber season, to Gores’ point, averaging a career-high 25.1 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game. Detroit made a blockbuster trade to acquire him last January, with Gores strongly reaffirming his desire to build around Griffin down the road.

“We couldn’t expect more from Blake than what he’s done,” Gores said. “He has done incredible work and everybody didn’t know what he could do — but we couldn’t expect more. Beyond his stats, he really has been a great leader. Do we want to build around him? Absolutely.”

Griffin, 29, is in the second season of a five-year, $173MM contract. The Pistons could work to build around him sooner by being aggressive prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, similar to the approach taken last season.

There’s more out of Detroit tonight:

  • Jovan Buha of The Athletic examined the Clippers-Pistons trade centered around Griffin from last year, giving viewpoints from several players and figures on both sides. Since being traded, Griffin has worked to improve in one major category: Leadership. “I’m definitely more vocal,” Griffin said of his current role. “I think I’ve done a lot more teaching. Not necessarily teaching, but pointing out things that I see this year as opposed to years before. Just out of necessity. I think our teams were so old in L.A. that every guy knew what we were doing. So it’s been a cool challenge to change that up and figure out a different way to lead.”
  • Ish Smith is getting closer to a return after missing 17 straight games with a right groin tear, Beard notes in a different story for The Detroit News. The Pistons are 4-13 in Smith’s absence, with the point guard reportedly ramping up more game-like drills on Tuesday. Head coach Dwane Casey said Smith should return either on Saturday or Monday, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com (Twitter link).
  • Griffin will return to Los Angeles and play the Clippers on Saturday for the first time in nearly one year, with last year’s reunion coming nine days after he was traded. “It was a weird game for me dealing with that within the first five games back,” Griffin said when asked about last year’s contest in Los Angeles, as relayed by The Detroit News. “I think this time around will be a little bit different because I’ve had so much time to process everything and talk to people.”

Central Notes: Boylen, Smith, Bucks, Pacers

New Bulls coach Jim Boylen is trying to rebuild the struggling team on the fly, explaining his thoughts this past week on where the club stands. Boylen was promoted to head coach two weeks ago when the team suddenly fired Fred Hoiberg.

“My focus is that we’re not where we need to be to compete, and so obviously we want to win but I want us to be at a level where we get the full force of what we do,” Boylen said, according to Mark Strotman of NBC Sports. “I don’t think our conditioning allows us to do that.

“We’re on the first floor, We’re on ‘A.’ I’d like us to get to ‘D’ and ‘E.’ Maybe in two weeks we’ll see. We can’t get to ‘D’ and ‘E’ if we’re not in shape.”

These comments from Boylen came before his team lost 133-77 against the Celtics on Saturday, giving Boston its largest margin of victory in franchise history. Boylen ripped his team’s effort after the game, clearly trying to motivate his young squad and change their mindsets. The team held a lengthy meeting on Sunday to discuss their play.

Boylen, a veteran assistant with several NBA teams, has the opportunity to prove to management that he deserves to coach past this season. The Bulls are currently 6-21 and have lost eight of their last 10 games.

Here are some other notes from the Central Division:

  • Pistons guard Ish Smith is said to be drawing interest on the trade market, according to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Smith is expected to miss roughly three to six weeks with a right adductor muscle tear. Before getting injured, Smith was averaging 9.2 points and three assists per contest.
  • Steve Aschburner of NBA.com stresses the importance of retaining Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton in free agency for the Bucks, with both talents playing key roles on the team around Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. “It is our mission statement,” Bucks GM Jon Horst said, explaining the importance of building around Antetokounmpo. “What Giannis means to our team, our franchise, our city, our state kind of goes beyond words. We have to make the most of the opportunity to find and build things that fit with him.” Milwaukee is 16-8 on the season and holds the No. 2 spot out East, sporting an impressive 12-3 record at home.
  • The Pacers have found strength in numbers this season, using a collective approach to overcome the loss of All-Star Victor Oladipo, writes Mark Montieth of NBA.com. Oladipo has missed the team’s last 10 games to injury, but the Pacers are 6-4 this season without him. Last season, Indiana held a 0-7 record in games Oladipo missed.

Pistons’ Ish Smith Suffers Adductor Tear

10:49am: Smith is expected to miss about three to six weeks, head coach Dwane Casey said today, per Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link).

10:37am: Pistons guard Ish Smith has suffered a right adductor muscle tear, the team announced today in a press release. Smith will be sidelined for at least the next two weeks, at which point he’ll be re-evaluated, according to the Pistons.

Smith sustained the injury during Wednesday’s game against the Bucks. While he initially stayed on the court after the injury occurred, he came out of the game a few possessions later and didn’t return. Now, he appears unlikely to re-enter the rotation until around Christmas, at the earliest.

Although Smith is technically just the Pistons’ backup point guard, his role has been more significant this season — he has frequently played alongside starter Reggie Jackson and has the fourth-highest minutes total on the club. In 22 games, the veteran guard is averaging 9.2 PPG and 3.0 APG with a .415/.329/.667 shooting line.

In Smith’s absence, veterans like Jose Calderon and Langston Galloway figure to see increased roles. The Pistons have also talked about using Bruce Brown at the point, so it will be interesting to see if he gets a shot with Smith on the shelf.

The Pistons currently have a full 15-man roster, but likely wouldn’t have have added reinforcements even if they had an open roster spot, given their solid depth at point guard and the relatively short-term nature of Smith’s recovery timetable.

Central Notes: Jackson, Arcidiacono, Frazier, Bucks Arena

Pistons coach Dwane Casey plans to play his point guards Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith together on a regular basis this season, as he told the Free Press and other media outlets. Casey paired them up during stretches of the second and fourth quarters during the team’s 103-100 season-opening win over Brooklyn. “I really liked it,” Casey said. “I think Ish and Reggie together gives us a different pick-and-roll look, an opportunity to have multiple pick-and-rolls and two attackers. … It really gives us some energy, juice, speed, quickness and attackers.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Tyler Ulis could receive extensive playing time as the Bulls search for answers behind starting point guard Kris Dunn and at the off-guard position, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago reports. Arcidiacono, whose $1,349,383 salary doesn’t become fully guaranteed until January 10th, collected eight points and eight assists in 28 minutes during the team’s opener. Ulis, who received a two-way contract this week after being claimed off waivers, could spark the second unit. “He’s ready. He’s done a good job in practice,” coach Fred Hoiberg said of Ulis.
  • The Bucks saved a little money — $18,321 to be exact — when guard Tim Frazier was claimed off waivers by the Pelicans, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. New Orleans inherited Frazier’s $1.5MM non-guaranteed contract. He was Milwaukee’s final roster cut prior to opening night.
  • The Bucks franchise would have relocated if the new Fiserv Forum hadn’t been built, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today writes. Milwaukee played its first regular-season game there on Friday. “We were going to do everything we could to stay in Milwaukee,” Bucks co-owner Mark Lasry said. “That was ultimately something that was outside our control in that the NBA wanted a new arena, and if we couldn’t get one, they would have forced us to move.” When the current ownership group bought the Bucks for $550MM in 2014, the purchase agreement included a clause allowing the league to buy back the team for potential relocation if the new owners didn’t get a formal arena construction plan in place, Zillgitt adds.