John Bryant

Central Notes: LaVine, Pacers, Cavaliers, Calderon

Fresh off the Bulls officially matching the Kings’ fully guaranteed, four-year $78MM offer sheet to Zach LaVine, the 23-year-old combo guard says he is ready to prove all of the doubters wrong who wonder whether he is worth the nearly $80MM in guaranteed money that he will earn from the Bulls, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“I’m my hardest critic,” LaVine said Sunday during the Bulls’ summer league game against the Lakers in Las Vegas. “There’s nothing that any of you guys can say to me that I [don’t] take harder upon myself. I go back and critique my game every year. I’m used to people sleeping on me, and I’m also used to waking them up as well. I’m happy that I have this contract, and I’m happy that I have a little extra motivation to go out there and prove it to some people that don’t believe in me.”

“At the end of the day, I believe in myself, I believe in my work, and I’m going to show the city of Chicago it’s a good choice and I’m here to stay. I’m going to be their guy, and I’m ready to do whatever to help this team get back to that spot.”

And despite saying publicly that he was disappointed the Bulls hadn’t done more to lock him in as a restricted free agent when the free-agency period opened, LaVine backtracked from those comments after the deal with the Bulls became official, saying that he simply meant he never wanted to sign an offer sheet because he wanted to stay in Chicago so badly.

“I think a lot of that got taken out of context,” LaVine said. “The main thing that I wanted to get my point across was I wanted to just deal with Chicago. I never wanted to get [to] a point of [having to sign] an offer sheet. Regardless of whatever happened, I’m going to put that behind us. I’m happy as hell that I’m going to be able to play for the team that I want to play for.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pacers found unexpected success this past season and the front office deserves credit for avoiding complacency, Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com opines. Indiana brought in Kyle O’Quinn, Tyreke Evans, and Doug McDermott on mid-sized deals, all moves designed to help them compete in a now-weakened Eastern Conference.
  • The Cavaliers, who are still searching for another assistant coach on head coach Tyronn Lue‘s bench, interviewed Warriors assistant coach Willie Green and Sixers assistant coach John Bryant recently, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Green has since re-upped with Golden State.
  • Because he signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract, Jose Calderon likely could have chosen to play wherever he wanted to this upcoming season, opines Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. But he ended up picking the Pistons simply because he believes they can be a good team. And although he’ll likely slot in behind Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith on the depth chart, it’s possible new coach Dwane Casey could play two point guards at the same time, thereby opening up playing time for Calderon.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Moultrie, Raptors, Sixers

The Knicks aren’t going to land a marquee free agent like Kevin Durant this offseason, but there are plenty of more realistic targets that the team could pursue in July. Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders singles out a few of those potential free agent targets for the Knicks, writing that Brandon Jennings, Eric Gordon, Evan Fournier, Courtney Lee, Ty Lawson, and a handful of others would make sense for the club.

Speaking of attainable free agent targets, the Knicks are taking a look at a few available veterans this week at a mini-camp, with former first-round picks Anthony Bennett, Royce White, and Arnett Moultrie among the participants, per Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). Moultrie, a 2012 first-rounder, has hired Travis King of Relativity Sports for representation, according to HoopsHype (Twitter link).

Here’s more from out of the Atlantic:

  • In a conversation with TSN’s Josh Lewenberg (video link), Raptors head coach Dwane Casey talks about his new contract and about Toronto’s offseason, suggesting that the team will target shooting and defensive toughness this summer.
  • The 76ers filled some vacancies on their coaching staff by promoting Kevin Young and John Bryant, a pair of coaches from their D-League affiliate, sources tell Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Meanwhile, Sixers shooting coach Gene Burroughs will become the head coach of the Delaware 87ers, Philadelphia’s D-League team, while former Sixers assistant Will Weaver is a candidate to join the Nets‘ coaching staff.
  • Bryan Colangelo and Brett Brown of the Sixers are currently overseas, visiting 2014 first-round pick Dario Saric and scouting international players, tweets Pompey.