Lauri Markkanen

Central Notes: Vucevic, Donovan, Pickett, Livers, Markkanen

Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is confident he’ll work his way out of a slump, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. Vucevic most recently shot 3-of-15 in a loss against Miami, struggling to make shots inside the paint, in the mid-range areas, and behind the arc.

“I got some post-up and hook shots that I’ve made a career of, and nothing was falling for me,’’ he explained. “I look at all the games, and really I don’t have an explanation of what’s going on with my shot. It’s something I was always very consistent with and really good at my whole career – I was always a 50% shooter – so I don’t know.

“It’s just very disappointing for me because I’m trying to just be there for my team and do what I need to try and help us win, and I’m not doing that right now. I’m coming up short for my teammates and that’s the most frustrating part. When you lose and you don’t play well, you feel like it’s even more of your responsibility.’’

The Bulls are currently missing nine players due to health and safety protocols, meaning they badly need Vucevic’s production. The team acquired him and Al-Farouq Aminu (now a free agent) from Orlando last season, giving up Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter and two first-round picks.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls coach Billy Donovan refuses to use COVID as an excuse, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. “We’re not the only team dealing with this,” Donovan said. While Chicago isn’t the only team dealing with an outbreak, the Bulls have certainly been hit the hardest. Nevertheless, the club has maintained a .500 record in its last 10 games and is currently 17-10.
  • The Pistons called up Jamorko Pickett and Isaiah Livers from their G League affiliate on Sunday, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tweets. The decision was made shortly after the team announced that Jerami Grant would miss at least six weeks with a thumb injury.
  • Lauri Markkanen‘s obligation to serve in the Finland military isn’t expected to impact his NBA availability, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype writes. Markkanen has started in 19 games for the Cavaliers, who own the fifth-best record in the East at 16-12.

Central Notes: LeVert, Sexton, Markkanen, Vucevic, DiVincenzo

The Cavaliers‘ search for a scoring guard to replace the injured Collin Sexton and the Pacers‘ interest in moving some of their veteran players could lead to a possible trade, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Cleveland looks like a legitimate contender in the East with seven wins in its last nine games and will probably be seeking an upgrade before the February 10 trade deadline. An obvious area to address is replacing the 16.0 points per game that Sexton delivered before being lost for the year with a torn meniscus.

Caris LeVert is struggling with his shot this season, hitting just 42.1% from the field and 28.9% from three-point range, but he has a history of being a productive scorer. He is under contract for $17.5MM this season and $18.8MM in 2022/23, and at age 27 he fits in well with the Cavs’ timeline.

Indiana is known to like Sexton, who is only 22 and will be eligible for restricted free agency after the season. Vardon isn’t sure if the Pacers will commit to him in light of the injury, although it could allow them to re-sign him to a shorter, low-cost deal while he works his way back.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen has to fulfill a commitment to Finland’s military, but it shouldn’t affect his NBA availability, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.
  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic has been struggling with his shot after missing two weeks with COVID-19 and he expressed his frustration after Saturday’s loss in Miami, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Vucevic was just 3-of-15 from the field and missed several opportunities close to the basket. ‘‘It’s tough when you want to play well and go out there and help the team win and don’t do your job,’’ he said. ‘‘I have a lot of pride in myself and put the work in, obviously. It’s not working for me right now, but that’s part of it. I’ve never been through a slump like this, and I just have to work myself out of it. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do.’’
  • When Donte DiVincenzo makes his season debut this week, he will return to a Bucks team that has changed since DiVincenzo suffered an ankle injury in the playoffs, notes Brian Sampson of Forbes. The offseason addition of Grayson Allen, who has become a starter in the backcourt and has provided a shooting upgrade, will likely push DiVincenzo into a reserve role, but he remains valuable because of his defense and rebounding.

Central Notes: Carlisle, Allen, Markkanen, Mobley, COVID

Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle delivered a wake-up call by benching the team’s starters against Charlotte on Friday, James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star writes. Carlisle pulled his opening group with eight minutes left in the third quarter, clearly unhappy with the way they were playing.

Indiana’s reserves then closed a 25-point deficit and nearly took the lead, but Charlotte managed to hang on for a 121-118 win. Carlisle’s decision led to the Pacers giving a better effort on Saturday in a 111-94 victory.

“Energy and effort, you gotta bring it every night,” star big man Domantas Sabonis said. “It’s a long season, a lot of games, and sometimes it’s hard to bring it. But it has to be a collective group, not (just) one or two guys can bring it because then the defense breaks down or on offense someone’s not committed to what we’re doing. (Saturday) felt like everybody was committed and good results showed.”

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Cavaliers big men Lauri Markkanen and Jarrett Allen are set to return on Monday against the Nets, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (Twitter link). Markkanen has missed nine games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, while Allen has missed three due to an illness. Cedi Osman (back) and Lamar Stevens (ankle) are doubtful for the contest, Fedor adds.
  • Speaking of the Cavaliers, the team plans to be cautious with rookie Evan Mobley in his recovery from a sprained elbow, Fedor writes in a story for Cleveland.com. Mobley is making progress, but he was given a two-to-four-week timetable just under a week ago. In 15 starts this season, the 20-year-old has averaged 14.6 points, eight rebounds and 33.7 minutes.
  • Matt Sullivan of RollingStone.com examines the secret COVID outbreak that caused fear within the NBA, Bucks and Suns during last season’s Finals. The series still went on as planned, with Milwaukee winning the championship in six games.

Central Notes: Allen, Markkanen, Love, Diallo, Carlisle

The Cavaliers are hopeful they’ll be closer to full strength by Monday, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Jarrett Allen missed the team’s game against the Lakers on Thursday with an illness. Lamar Stevens is rehabbing from a right ankle sprain and Lauri Markkanen is reconditioning after a bout with COVID-19, but there’s a belief that all three players could return early next week.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love didn’t require hospitalization but his bout with COVID-19 was a rough one, according to Fedor“I went through it,” Love said. “The first four or five days were pretty tough. All the usual symptoms that I think people might get. Crazy muscle aches, sensitive skin, can’t smell, taste, muscle spasms, fatigue. Then just chest and head got hit pretty tough as well.” Love had 11 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes while playing for the first time this month on Wednesday.
  • Pistons wings Hamidou Diallo and Josh Jackson have been fighting for minutes on the second unit. Diallo had five DNPs this month but played 14 minutes in the team’s win over Indiana while Jackson was benched. Diallo made a layup on the only shot he attempted and had two rebounds but coach Dwane Casey thought he was way better than the stat sheet indicated. “He played within himself, got the rebound, got it to the point guard and defensively, he was solid,” Casey said. “He did a great job in our traps, even forced (Indiana) to call a timeout.” Jackson will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and Diallo could return to free agency as well if the club declines its option on his 2022/23 contract.
  • Pacers coach Rick Carlisle felt his team simply didn’t play hard enough in an eight-point loss at Detroit on Wednesday, James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star relays. “This isn’t a ball movement issue. This is a hard play issue,” Carlisle said. “(Detroit) played harder. They took us out of the majority of things that we were trying to do offensively in the first half, and we’ve just got to play harder and with more force at both ends.”

Lauri Markkanen Enters Protocols, Expected To Miss Several Games

Cavaliers forward Lauri Markkanen has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and has been ruled out for Wednesday’s game against Portland, the team announced today (via Twitter).

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), Markkanen is expected to miss several games while he remains in the protocols. That could mean he has tested positive for COVID-19, though that hasn’t been confirmed.

Markkanen is the second Cavaliers player to enter the protocols this week, joining teammate Kevin Love.

After being acquired via sign-and-trade this offseason, Markkanen has started all eight of the Cavaliers’ games to open the regular season, joining Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley in a jumbo-sized frontcourt. Markkanen’s production has been below his usual level as he adjusts to his new team — his 12.9 PPG, .361 FG%, and .280 3PT% would all be career lows.

With Markkanen and Love sidelined, the Cavs figure to lean more heavily on Allen and Mobley up front. Cedi Osman, Dean Wade, and Lamar Stevens are among the club’s backup forwards who could take on increased roles.

Eastern Notes: Rose, Magic Injuries, Jackson, Markkanen

Derrick Rose considered retirement a few years ago due to persistent knee injuries, but he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. “Hopefully, I’m going to try to Tom Brady this thing, play as long as possible, make sure I really take care of my body,” he said. “And if I’m playing play with joy. I don’t have to score 30 points a night anymore to affect the game.” Rose re-signed with the Knicks on a three-year deal this summer.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic fans are irritated by the team’s lack of transparency regarding injury updates on Markelle FultzJonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes. Fultz and Isaac are still rehabbing from knee injuries, while Okeke has been out since training camp with a bone bruise in his hip. No timetable has been announced for any of those players.
  • Rookie forward Isaiah Jackson will be “out for a while,” according to Pacers coach Rick Carlisle, due to a hamstring injury, David Woods of The Indianapolis Star reports. The 22nd pick of the draft was injured during the Pacers’ game on Wednesday. “He’s walking in a brace, so that’s good good news, compared to the severity that there could have been,” Carlisle said.
  • Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff credits Lauri Markkanen with making the team’s jumbo lineup effective, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes. Markkanen has played small forward in lineups with Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen on the floor. “The biggest shoutout has to go to Lauri Markkanen,” Bickerstaff said of the former Bulls forward. “To me, he’s the reason why it works. His willingness to do that, and again, sacrifice some comfort. He’s the reason why we’ve been able to get away with it so far and why it’s been able to work.”

Cavs Notes: Davis, James, Rubio, Garland, Rotation

The Cavaliers‘ signing of Ed Davis on Wednesday came as a bit of a surprise, given the timing of the move and the fact that Cleveland already has a good amount of frontcourt depth. However, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, head coach J.B. Bickerstaff pushed for the addition of Davis, who is considered one of the NBA’s best locker-room presences and mentors.

Davis’ one-year, minimum-salary contract is non-guaranteed, per Fedor. However, the expectation is that the veteran center will be part of the Cavaliers’ 15-man roster to start the regular season.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • Justin James, who also signed with the Cavs on Wednesday, will likely play in the team’s preseason finale on Friday and will get a chance to earn one of the team’s open two-way slots, says Fedor. If James doesn’t get a two-way contract, he could still become an affiliate player for the Cleveland Charge.
  • In another story for Cleveland.com, Fedor takes an in-depth look at how the Cavaliers acquired Ricky Rubio early in the offseason and what role they expect him to play in 2021/22. Although Rubio won’t be part of the starting five, Bickerstaff will be counting on him for starter-type minutes, and one member of the organization told Fedor that he thinks the Spaniard will work his way into Cleveland’s closing five.
  • Fedor adds in the same story that Rubio has taken starting point guard Darius Garland “under his wing.” The two guards, whose lockers are next to each other, talk daily and watch film together, writes Fedor.
  • After indicating earlier this month that he planned on a 10-man rotation for the regular season, Bickerstaff now thinks the Cavs’ regular rotation could include just nine players, tweets Fedor. Bickerstaff believes the versatility of Evan Mobley and Lauri Markkanen, along with his desire to have Rubio play starter minutes, reduces the need for a 10th regular.

Central Notes: Wanamaker, Windler, Markkanen, Nwora

Veteran point guard Brad Wanamaker signed a training camp deal with the Pacers this week and he’s out to prove he deserves a spot on the 15-man roster, David Woods of The Indianapolis Star writes.

“I didn’t come here just to come here,” Wanamaker said. “I came here to compete, show what I’m capable of and try to make the roster.”

Wanamaker has a shot to be the third point man behind Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. McConnell.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Following two injury-riddled seasons, Dylan Windler is making his case for a rotation spot as the Cavaliers’ backup wing, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. Windler had 12 points and four rebounds in 22 minutes in Cleveland’s preseason game on Friday. “To be out here at the start of the season and contributing in the ways that I’m supposed to, it feels great,” he said. “I don’t control the rotations. That’s coach’s job. I’ve just got to come in, get my work in, do what I do and continue to prove myself when I get the opportunities.”
  • Lauri Markkanen will spend most of his time at power forward but Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff also plans to use him at small forward in jumbo lineups, according to Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “It’s one of those things where I believe he’s one of our best players,” Bickerstaff said. “So we have to do what we can to get him on the floor so he can help us. His versatility helps. Right now, you see the strength of our bigs and the fact that they are so versatile and they can play next to each other, you can get them out there on the floor.”
  • Forward Jordan Nwora only appeared in 30 regular-season games with the Bucks during his rookie campaign but he’s angling for more playing time this season, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. Coach Mike Budenholzer is looking for Nwora, a second-round pick in 2020, to become a more complete player. “I think, defensively, he’s making progress in practice, making progress in the games,” Budenholzer said. “He’s really got to improve on that end, and he’s making steps in the right direction.” Nwora will be a free agent next summer, either restricted if he receives a qualifying offer, or unrestricted.

Bulls Notes: Starting Lineup, Williams, Vucevic, Markkanen

The Bulls will begin preseason play tonight without Patrick Williams, who is recovering from a severely sprained left ankle. That leaves a hole in their starting lineup, and coach Billy Donovan is considering a number of options to fill it, writes Sam Smith of Bulls.com.

Donovan has expressed a desire to play faster this season, so it doesn’t appear he will turn to a traditional big man to step in for Williams at power forward. He has been experimenting with several players to see who fits best alongside Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic.

“We’ve thrown Derrick (Jones Jr.) in with that (starting) group,” Donovan said. “We’ve thrown Javonte Green in with that group. We’ve put Alex Caruso in there. We’ve put Troy Brown in there with that group. It’s been hard to really evaluate it because as you’re implementing and you’re putting in, there’s things that we have to continue to get better at and improve upon. And then I think the other piece of it is, how well does the group function together?”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • It’s possible that Williams could return before the preseason is over, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Williams injured his ankle on September 15 and was projected to miss four to six weeks. Mayberry notes that he wasn’t limping at media day and may be ahead of schedule in his recovery. “He’s been able to come in here and shoot,” Donovan said. “We haven’t done anything laterally, cutting-wise with him. He’s been coming in at night, getting some shots up, doing as much conditioning as he can be doing. But he’s done well. We feel pretty good about the way he’s progressing. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 20 years old. You heal pretty quickly.”
  • No team has changed its roster more than the Bulls since last season’s trade deadline, and Vucevic believes they’re ready to contend, calling it “definitely the most talented team I’ve been a part of,” Mayberry adds in the same piece. One concern is lack of depth in the frontcourt after the team missed out on Paul Millsap and LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency.
  • The Cavaliers will be the opponent in the preseason opener, which means a quick return to Chicago for Lauri Markkanen, who suggested in the offseason that he wanted a “fresh start.” Speaking to reporters today, Markkanen refused to criticize his former team, tweets Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I’ve got nothing bad to say about them,” he said. “When I was here, they treated me well and just things didn’t go as planned.”

Central Notes: Markkanen, Carlisle, White, Pistons

The Cavaliers lavished Lauri Markkanen with a four-year, $67MM contract in a sign-and-trade with the Bulls and they have big plans for him offensively, as Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer details. Markkanen won’t just be firing 3-pointers — he’ll have the ball in his hands often on post and elbow isolations and his new team wants to showcase his playmaking ability.

“He is a dynamic offensive player, and we want him to show his whole skill set,” Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pacers coach Rick Carlisle says the roster was built to enhance his desire for an improved defensive mindset, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files“Guys that we brought in on two-ways and Exhibit 10s also are tough-minded, defensive-oriented guys,” he said. “Hard play is such an important part of success in our league. I think everybody knows that, but we’ve really gone that direction with guys that we’ve brought in.”
  • Coby White may have the talent to be a starting point guard in the league but it won’t happen with the Bulls, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic opines in his latest mailbag post. The commitments to Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso greatly diminish White’s chances of remaining with the franchise long-term. Mayberry takes on a number of topics, including his skepticism regarding the franchise’s desire to retain Zach LaVine for the long haul.
  • Pistons coach Dwane Casey wants to push the pace but not at the expense of high turnover numbers, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. It will be a challenge, considering that young guards in Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes will frequently be running the offense. One of the solutions is to cut down on the number of times his wings attempt one-man fast breaks.