Lonzo Ball

Eastern Notes: Barnes, Embiid, Ball, Caruso, Pistons

Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes impressed during his first back-to-back slate on Friday and Saturday, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports writes. Barnes was used as the primary defender against Boston’s Jayson Tatum in game one, then was given the assignment of guarding Dallas’ Luka Doncic in game two.

“It’s a challenge that I’m willing to take each and every night,” Barnes said of guarding the NBA’s top players, according to Lewenberg. “It’s what I look forward to.”

The 6-foot-9 Barnes was drafted by Toronto with the No. 4 pick in July. He’s averaged 18 points, 10 rebounds and 32.7 minutes per game during his first three contests, starting in every outing.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers isn’t concerned by Joel Embiid‘s recent knee injury, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Embiid managed to play in Philadelphia’s loss against Brooklyn on Friday, recording 19 points (6-of-15 shooting) and eight rebounds in nearly 30 minutes of work.
  • Bulls guards Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have been bringing chaos defensively, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times examines. The pair’s strong defensive effort is a key reason why Chicago is 3-0 to start the season. “[Ball and Caruso are] so active [defensively] you’ve got to be aware of them,’’ LaVine said, as relayed by Cowley. “Even for guys like me and DeMar [DeRozan], it helps us be in the passing lanes more, get some extra rebounds because then guys’ rhythm is off. They’re effort and energy bleeds throughout us as a team.’’
  • Rod Beard of the Detroit News examines the positives and negatives of the Pistons‘ start to the campaign. Detroit is 0-2 and dropped both contests to Chicago, who held them to 88 points and 82 points, respectively. The Pistons finished with the worst record in the East last season at 20-52.

Eastern Notes: Rose, Martin Twins, Ball, Milton

Knicks guard Derrick Rose downplayed the ankle injury he suffered during the team’s preseason win over Washington on Saturday, as relayed by Marc Berman of the New York Post. Rose was dealing with the injury throughout the fourth quarter and left for the locker room with one minute remaining.

“It’s nothing serious at all, but if I kept playing I probably would’ve made it worse,’’ Rose said. “I think I probably did it myself. It’s the second game — all this is new, moving around, Thibs training camps are different. I just have to take my time. I’m getting older. I tweaked it but didn’t twist it all the way. Thibs understood [when I took myself out].’’

Rose is expected to serve as the team’s backup point guard behind Kemba Walker this season. He played a key role in the team’s success last season, averaging 14.9 points, 4.2 assists and 26.8 minutes per game in 35 contests.

There’s more from the Eastern Conference tonight:

Bulls Notes: Vučević, Ball, Caruso, Williams, Donovan

The Bulls revamped their roster over the offseason, but Nikola Vučević will still be a focal point of the team’s new high-octane offense, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Vučević had a game-high 18 field goal attempts in the Bulls’ blowout preseason victory (121-85) over the Pelicans Friday night. New teammates Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeMar DeRozan are all finding the All-Star center in good positions to score.

With all the guys I have around me now,” Vučević said, “I have so many opportunities to score: trail 3s, drive-and-kick, off pick-and-pops, on rolls and dump-offs. We have so many guys who are good on the ball and that are willing passers, as a big man, it’s a luxury to have. We just have to get used to each other and build that chemistry, and I think it’ll be great for everybody.”

On a team with three 20-plus points per game scorers (Vučević, DeRozan, and Zach LaVine averaged a combined 72.4 PPG last season), Vučević knows he might not be the primary option every night, but his looks should be easier to convert, and he’s perfectly fine with that, per Mayberry.

It will come easier to me because we have so much talent out there that it’s harder for defenses to take stuff away. When we do a two-man game, any type of actions, it’s going to open up a lot for everybody. For me, the same. I think it will be easier to get touches in better spots,” Vucevic said.

Here’s more from the Windy City:

  • Ball was unfazed when facing his former team last night, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times. Ball’s laid-back demeanor has served him well when faced with the near-constant rumor mill that has followed his career, Cowley notes. “I always have rumors circling around me all year,” Ball said. “So, I mean, it’s been the same for me the last four years. I’m just happy to be here.”
  • In the same piece, Cowley says that Caruso continues to praise former Lakers teammate LeBron James. “I owe a lot to [James] for where I am today. Obviously, I put a lot of work in, but he makes me look good. He makes the team look good. When you win, everybody gets paid, everybody gets to do a job. Being part of his legacy and being a part of that team for the last couple of years was fun for me,” Caruso said.
  • Cowley also relays that Patrick Williams, the fourth pick of the 2020 NBA draft, hasn’t recovered yet from his ankle sprain, but if he’s able to start practicing by next weekend, Cowley thinks there’s a good chance he’ll be ready for opening night at Detroit.
  • Coach Billy Donovan appreciated his time working with veterans Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple, and Thaddeus Young, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “You talk to these veteran guys like Garrett and Thad and Sato and the word that always comes out of their mouth is ‘We. We’ve got to do this better.’ A lot of times, players say, ‘I.’ They were always ‘We,’” Donovan said. “I just admire that not only did they take care of themselves, they took care of the group.”
  • Follow more Bulls notes and rumors on our team page here.

Bulls Notes: Williams, Ball, Green, Salary Cap

The Bulls are hopeful that second-year forward Patrick Williams will return for the season opener in Detroit, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times. Williams was expected to miss four-to-six weeks after severely spraining his left ankle in mid-September during an individual workout.

“We’re pretty optimistic,” coach Billy Donovan said. “What the [doctors and trainers] really want to make sure is that the sprain has healed adequately, so we’ll probably be a little bit more on the cautious side, just because I think once [Williams] starts randomly cutting, they’ve got to see how he responds. With as explosive and as powerful as he has been, one of the things they don’t want is [to] have something where he’s not quite stable, he does something and tweaks it, and now he’s having to manage that in the middle of the year.”

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Chicago’s ball movement in the preseason opener was superior, with the team amassing 36 assists. DeMar DeRozan says that Lonzo Ball is setting the tone with his play-making skills, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes. “When you’ve got a point guard of that magnitude with that IQ that’s as unselfish as he is, he makes the game easier and it makes it fun. And it becomes contagious,” DeRozan said. “You saw the way we moved the ball. It’s been like that all through training camp, and we expect it to keep getting better.”
  • Guard Javonte Green started in a downsized lineup in place of the injured Williams in that 36-point win over Cleveland. He made a solid case for a rotation spot, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Green posted a stat line of 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting, eight rebounds, four blocks and two steals in 17 minutes. The Bulls re-signed Green on a two-year deal early in free agency.
  • The team is still in good shape cap-wise despite all the big moves it made, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes in his review of the offseason and preview of the season ahead. The Bulls are $3MM below the tax line, giving them flexibility to make some in-season moves. While Chicago has improved its roster, Hollinger still projects the club to finish 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Bulls Notes: White, Ball, DeRozan, Stotts

Bulls guard Coby White is limited at training camp after offseason shoulder surgery, but he’s making progress toward an early-season comeback, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. White has started dribbling and shooting and took part in some open-court drills after Tuesday’s practice ended.

“I’m able to do pretty much everything on a basketball court. I just struggle with left hand, overhead shots — such as, like, layups — but I can pretty much do anything,” he said. “Right now I’ve just been working on strengthening my shoulder and getting it stronger because I ain’t used it for a long time.”

The Bulls are hoping to have White back by mid-November, which will mark five months since his operation. When White does return, he’ll have to fight for playing time after the offseason additions of Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso, but he’s excited about the new-look backcourt.

“Lonzo’s gonna really help the team as a major piece,” White said. “He’s so unselfish, and as a point guard, he’s great defensively, which is one thing that I can (learn) from him.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Ball called it a “pretty easy” decision to sign with the Bulls, according to Michael Mulford of Yahoo Sports. Ball, who received a four-year, $84MM offer shortly after free agency began, said he always considered Chicago to be the front-runner. “They really didn’t want me to change anything I had going, any part of my game,” he said at media day. “They wanted me to excel in the things I’m already comfortable doing so it was an easy choice for me like I said and then I think Zach (LaVine) had a big part to play, as well.”
  • DeRozan isn’t fazed about the idea of having so many score-first players on the roster, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. DeRozan, LaVine and Nikola Vucevic are used to being the primary scorers for their teams and now they have to find a way to combine their talents into a cohesive offense. “It’s basketball at the end of the day,’’ DeRozan said. “You put me out there, I’m going to figure out whatever needs to be figured out for us to be successful. I don’t overthink it. I think that’s when a lot of people get in trouble – when you try to overthink this game. It’s a simple game. You understand what it takes, what needs to be done and you go out there and execute it and do it to the best of your abilities. That’s what it’s all about. I don’t get caught up in ‘I got to do this, do this.’ Whatever it takes to win, that’s all I care about.”
  • Former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts was an observer at Bulls practice, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports. Head coach Billy Donovan explained that it’s common to host college coaches and former NBA coaches to get their perspectives on the team.

Central Notes: Bulls, Bucks, Cavs Coaches, Pistons

The Bulls made a splash in free agency this summer, signing several new veteran players. Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago breaks down the specific ways that costly new additions Lonzo Ball, DeMar DeRozan, and Alex Caruso can help Chicago earn its first postseason berth in five years.

Schaefer notes that DeRozan boasted the 21st-best offensive rating in the league last season (110.4) and can help boost the Bulls’ offense in a variety of ways. DeRozan’s ability to get to the free throw line, protect the ball, and create offense when Bulls All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine sits will all help Chicago win, Schaefer contends. Ball should help expedite the pace of Chicago’s offense. On the other end, stingy pick-and-roll defender Caruso should help the team limit opponents at the point of attack.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks‘ offseason earned a B grade from Zach Harper of The Athletic. The Bucks upgraded their backcourt depth in signing veteran point guard (and former Milwaukee reserve) George Hill, as well as Tremont Waters. Harper suggests that Milwaukee also improved on the wing by adding solid veterans Grayson Allen and Rodney Hood, who should be able to recover still-injured swingman Donte DiVincenzo. Harper opines that the Bucks regressed in the frontcourt after letting defensive-minded forward P.J. Tucker walk in free agency. Meanwhile, the Bucks stayed the same while preserving their 2020/21 center rotation.
  • The Cavaliers have made some new coaching adjustments, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Dan Geriot, formerly an assistant on head coach J.B. Bickerstaff‘s bench, will become the head coach of the club’s NBAGL affiliate, the Cleveland Charge. Recent Charge head coach Nate Reinking, meanwhile, will join the Cavaliers as an assistant.
  • The rebuilding Pistons have some intriguing rotation decisions that could be informed by training camp performance, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Langlois recognizes that Detroit’s top six players appear to be fairly established, but that there is room for minutes for the club’s developing young players beyond that.

Central Notes: Millsap, Bulls Offseason, Simmons, Ehambe

With Paul Millsap agreeing to join the Nets, the Bulls don’t have a lot of attractive free agent options to add to their frontcourt depth, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. Millsap strongly considered the Bulls but they now have to shift gears. They could bid for restricted free agent Jarred Vanderbilt, take a flier on D.J. Wilson or add an international player to fortify the power forward spot. They could also sign small forward James Ennis and use him in smaller lineups, Johnson adds. Otherwise, they may have to pursue a trade.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls improved their roster with their busy offseason but it’s fair to wonder whether all of those changes made sense as a whole, Zach Harper of The Athletic opines. While they have upgraded in the backcourt and the wing spots with the additions of Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan, their frontcourt options have thinned.
  • Pursuing a trade for Ben Simmons doesn’t make sense for the Pistons, James Edwards of The Athletic contends. In a deal with the Sixers, Detroit would likely have to part with Jerami Grant and at least one of their top young players as well as draft picks, and adding Simmons’ contract would limit their flexibility to make other moves. It also wouldn’t help their issues regarding 3-point shooting, Edwards adds.
  • Moses Ehambe is grateful he got the opportunity to be an assistant with the Pacers, though he was not retained in the aftermath of Nate Bjorkgren’s departure, Scott Agness of FieldhouseFiles writes. “This is where you want to be,” Ehambe said in the comprehensive interview. “Now it’s about staying.”

Knicks Notes: Walker, Fournier, Dinwiddie, Cash

The Knicks’ two-year, $18MM offer to Kemba Walker was the only one he needed to consider, the point guard said today during an introductory press conference for him and Evan Fournier.

Perfect timing. Really motivated,” Walker said, per ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “Super excited that these guys have belief in me. That’s all I need. I just need somebody to believe in me. These guys do, and I appreciate that.”

Bontemps also writes that the status of Walker’s knee remains a big question. When asked if he’d play in back-to-backs this season (he didn’t last year), Walker replied with a smile, “You gotta ask (coach Tom Thibodeau).

Thibodeau responded in a customary fashion. “Playing,” he said, eliciting laughter from those in attendance.

We have more Knicks news here:

  • Both the Clippers and Lakers were interested in trading for Walker, but couldn’t reach a deal with the Thunder, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman runs through what held up the Knicks in their pursuit of other guards, writing that they liked Lonzo Ball but wanted a more ready-made point guard. Berman adds that – given Walker’s and Derrick Rose‘s history of knee injuries – Immanuel Quickley and rookie Miles McBride may be more important than realized to the team’s success.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie responded to the claim in Berman’s article that he didn’t see the Knicks as “an appealing fit,” tweeting today, “Why y’all still writing this stuff about me? I never said that.” He went on to say he’s just happy to be a member of the Wizards.
  • The Knicks will send $110K to the Celtics as their return for the Fournier sign-and-trade, reports Fred Katz of The Athletic (Twitter link). In addition to the 28-year-old shooting guard, the Knicks will receive two future second-round picks (one heavily protected) for their role in helping the Celtics create a $17.1MM trade exception.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Ball, Caruso, Simonovic

When DeMar DeRozan‘s deal with the Bulls first leaked, he seemed like an odd fit for a team that already had Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine in its backcourt. But DeRozan dismissed that concern during his introductory news conference in Chicago, writes Rob Schaeffer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I mean, it’s basketball. Lot of people I see criticizing, talking about ‘fit this, fit that’ have probably never even played basketball,” DeRozan said. “For me, if everybody (is) on the same page mentality and wants to win, it don’t matter about a ‘fit,’ because it’s all gonna come together how it need to come together and make it work. Because at the end of the day the common denominator is winning.”

DeRozan brings a lot of valuable assets to the Bulls that go beyond on-court fit, Schaeffer points out. He ranked eighth in free throw attempts per game last season with 7.2, a category in which Chicago was last in the league, and his turnover rate has been better than the league average in all 12 of his NBA seasons. In addition, DeRozan believes he can serve as a veteran leader, the way Chris Paul did in Phoenix.

“With the experience of the successes, the failures, everything that I went through,” he said, “just understanding going into the season from Day 1 to the last day what it takes to really go over those humps, the tough days where stuff is going bad. When a game or two is off track, how to put things back in place, how to get guys back together.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • When the Bulls reached an agreement with Ball, that gave DeRozan more incentive to come to Chicago, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic“Once Lonzo signed, that made it even more appealing,” DeRozan said. “You could see what they were working toward, and it was something I wanted to be a part of. It wasn’t too much of a pitch that they had to make after that.”
  • Alex Caruso will bring defensive toughness and championship experience to the Bulls, Schaeffer adds in a separate story. The former Laker said good defensive players have to show a willingness to be physical and “a little dirty” to be successful.
  • The contract for forward/center Marko Simonovic, a second-round pick in 2020, is worth $4.3MM over three years, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The first two seasons come with a full guarantee, but the final year is non-guaranteed. The Bulls used the remainder of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Simonovic, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link), who breaks down the minimum-salary deal at $925,258 for the upcoming season, $1,563,518 in 2022/23 and $1,836,096 in 2023/24.

Central Notes: Lowe, Ball, DeRozan, Mad Ants

Sidney Lowe is joining the Cavaliers’ staff as an assistant, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Lowe, 61, was most recently on the Pistons’ staff. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff lost an assistant when Lindsay Gottlieb left the organization to become the women’s head coach at USC. Lowe has coached in the league for 30 years.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • The sign-and-trade with the Pelicans brought Lonzo Ball to an organization that wanted him — the Bulls. Acquired in a sign-and-trade, Ball appreciates how his new bosses feel about him, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “Just me personally, I feel like they wanted me,” he said. “And I want to play for someone that wants me to play for them. So that was attractive.’’
  • When DeMar DeRozan saw that Bulls were bringing in Ball, they didn’t need to do a hard sell to convince him to join the team, Cowley notes in the same story. DeRozan also came aboard in a sign-and-trade. “You could see what they were working toward, and it was something I wanted to be a part of,’ he said. “It wasn’t too much of a pitch that they had to make after that.’’
  • The Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers’ G League affiliate, will play nine games in Indianapolis next season, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files reports. The Mad Ants will also play 15 games on their home court. Those games in Indiana will make it easier for the Pacers to shuttle players back and forth between the NBA and the G League, if necessary.