Nikola Vucevic

Bulls Notes: Lonzo, Trade Deadline, Vucevic, Caruso

During a recent appearance on Bulls television commentator Stacey King’s podcast Gimme The Hot Sauce, Lonzo Ball‘s father LaVar shed some light on the Chicago point guard’s lingering knee injury, now in its 13th month after two surgeries, writes Ryan Taylor of NBC Sports Chicago.

“Lonzo is gonna be fine,” LaVar Ball said. “He’s only 25 years old. He’s gonna get his stuff together and (he’s) gonna be ready to play and do his thing again. He had some debris in the nerve; that’s why he couldn’t get nothing done. But, all that’s done now. So now it’s about getting your strength back and then getting your endurance.”

At 24-27 this season, Chicago could sure use Ball’s three-point shooting and perimeter defense sooner rather than later.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Chicago needs to make some roster changes by the upcoming February 9 trade deadline, opines Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The Bulls seem to be struggling to communicate in a lot of late-game situations and are having trouble protecting the ball, Mayberry notes.
  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is doing his best to ignore the trade chatter surrounding him this season, writes Mark Potash of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I don’t pay attention to that,” Vucevic said. “I’ve been in the league for a long time now [13 seasons]. I’ve been involved in two trades. It’s part of it, obviously. It’s not easy when you get the call and are told you’re traded — everything changes for you. But there’s nothing you can do about it. If you think about it, you’re just going to make it harder on yourself.” The 32-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer if he doesn’t sign a veteran extension with the Bulls before then.
  • Veteran Bulls reserve guard Alex Caruso weighed in on the trade rumors surrounding him in the days before the deadline, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I fully expect to be here,” Caruso said. “The coaches still seem to like me. The front office seems to like me. The players like me. As long as things are the way they are, obviously I want to win some basketball games. That’s what I came here to do, what I want to do and what makes me happiest in sports.”

Bulls Notes: Caruso, Vucevic, DeRozan, Trade Deadline

Multiple teams have contacted the Bulls to inquire about guard Alex Caruso, sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. It remains to be seen whether Chicago will seriously consider moving its top perimeter defender, but Johnson reiterates that the Knicks and Warriors – previously cited as as teams with interest – are still viewed as potential suitors for the 28-year-old.

On the latest episode of his Please Don’t Aggregate This podcast, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggested that the Bulls would seek a substantial return if they were to make Caruso available.

“Someone told me last week that the Chicago Bulls think they could get two first-round picks for Alex Caruso,” Fischer said.

Caruso is an All-Defensive candidate on a team-friendly contract — he’s owed $9.5MM in 2023/24 and a partially guaranteed $9.9MM in ’24/25. Still, it’s hard to imagine a team giving up multiple first-rounders for him unless those picks include relatively heavy protections.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • It would surprise rival executives if the Bulls do anything too drastic, such as trading DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine, at this year’s trade deadline, Johnson writes in both his aforementioned mailbag and a separate NBC Sports Chicago story. Of the team’s “big three,” Nikola Vucevic is the player to watch, according to Johnson, who notes that losing the big man for nothing this offseason would be a disaster for a front office that gave up several valuable assets to acquire him.
  • DeRozan said this week that he isn’t thinking about which players the Bulls could trade for at the deadline or when injured teammates might make it back in the second half, preferring to focus on what the team has available right now. “That’s exactly been my mindset my entire career, before I was in the NBA, everything,” DeRozan said, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “… Whatever cards you’re dealt with, let’s figure it out. … That’s just my mindset when it comes to everything, so I don’t really get caught up in waiting on Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) to walk through that door to help us. I don’t even think like that. You can be waiting forever for something like that.”
  • The Bulls “took a blowtorch to any belief lingering in even their most optimistic fans” with losses in Indiana and Charlotte this week, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, who argues that the team as constructed is “unequivocally unfit for playoff basketball” and is in need of a trade deadline shake-up.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Vucevic, Ball, Karnisovas

Bulls All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan intends to return to action from a right quad strain on Thursday, reports K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Chicago has gone 1-2 without the 6’6″ swingman, the team’s leading scorer and best player.

“You get a different perspective when you are sitting back and watching from afar,” DeRozan said of his absence. “We were just having too many lapses here and there, whether defensively or offensively, that put us in a hole and made it so tough for us to get back in a lot of games. And we’re still right there.”

If by “right there” he means barely in the play-in tournament bracket, then he’s right. At 20-24, the Bulls currently occupy the tenth seed in the East, though they are tied with the No. 11 Raptors.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic, a trade candidate given he’s on an expiring deal, tied his career high with 43 points in a 132-118 home win over the Warriors Sunday, writes Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago. Vucevic also contributed 13 points, four assists and four steals in a well-rounded effort. “He’s so dynamic because he can shoot the three, play the pocket, he can make the floater, the hook shot,” second-year guard Ayo Dosunmu raved. “He’s got all of that in his bag. He’s also unselfish, so sometimes he gets in the pick and roll, if he doesn’t have it he hits the weakside person.”
  • Starting Bulls point guard Lonzo Ball, who has missed just over a full calendar year following complications from two knee surgeries, conceded that he may not return to the floor for Chicago this season, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “I mean, naturally, yeah, everything is on a time schedule,” Ball said when asked if missing the entire season is a possibility. “I would love to play. I would never count that out. It’s a long year, I feel like we’re hitting our stride right now. So hopefully I can keep getting better, the team will keep getting better and we can meet up.” 
  • Chicago team president Arturas Karnisovas addressed fans during a recent appearance on NBC Sports Chicago’s Bulls Talk podcast. “I enjoy the fan base and how much they love the team and how involved they are,” Karnišovas said (h/t to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports for the transcription). “It’s not fun when we lose. I’m a very competitive person. That’s what you need to know. I don’t take losses lightly. I get emotional just like you. We’re trying to turn this around.”

Bulls Notes: Ball, Jones, Trade Assets, Donovan

Lonzo Ball isn’t close to returning, but he offered some hope to Bulls fans Friday by posting Instagram videos of himself dunking and running on a treadmill, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the torn meniscus that ended last season for Ball while the Bulls were 21-14 and fighting for the best record in the East. He was originally projected to miss six-to-eight weeks, but complications prevented him from returning at all. Those continued into the offseason and required an arthroscopic debridement in September that Ball is still working his way back from.

Coach Billy Donovan said the Instagram workouts are a sign of progress, but he cautioned that Ball still has a long way to go. He still feels discomfort in the knee, even though it has lessened, and hasn’t been medically cleared for cutting or full-speed running on the court every day.

“There’s going to be a pretty significant ramp-up period for him before he gets back on the floor,” Donovan explained. “Once they say, ‘Hey, he’s free to cut and sprint and take on contact,’ that’s just the first step of however long it’s going to take that process to get to a place where the medical guys and he feels comfortable that he’s built up enough endurance, strength and stamina that he can withstand coming back the next day and doing it again and doing it again.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Derrick Jones Jr. has seen his playing time decrease this season, but he figures to get more minutes while Javonte Green is sidelined following knee surgery, Johnson adds in a separate story. Jones welcomes the opportunity, but doesn’t like the circumstances that caused it. “I’m happy I’m in the rotation now. But I’m also sad that my guy is out. That’s my brother and I’ve always said from day one that I want to see him be great,” Jones said. “We have a great relationship. That’s my ‘dawg.’ I want him back now.”
  • In another piece, Johnson identifies DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine as Chicago’s most valuable trade assets ahead of the February 9 deadline. Alex Caruso, Nikola Vucevic and Coby White also make the list, along with a first-round pick from Portland that’s lottery-protected through 2028.
  • In the wake of Friday’s loss to Oklahoma City, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic laments the team’s lack of an identity and wonders whether Donovan has already accomplished as much as he can with the current roster.

Bulls Rumors: Williams, Caruso, White, Vucevic, DeRozan, Dosunmu

Based on his conversations with executives around the NBA, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype doesn’t believe Patrick Williams or Alex Caruso are on the trade block for the Bulls, as he told guest K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago in the latest episode of the HoopsHype podcast.

One executive who spoke to Scotto suggested the Bulls may have “devalued” Williams by holding onto him until now, but Johnson questions whether the No. 4 overall pick really had a ton of value last season or this past summer, given that a major injury limited him to 17 games in 2021/22.

Johnson and Scotto agree that Caruso would bring back a strong return if the Bulls were to make him available, with Johnson suggesting that Chicago could probably get a first-round pick and a player in exchange for the defensive-minded guard.

However, Johnson still believes the Bulls are more likely to buy than sell at the trade deadline. In that scenario, Johnson believes Coby White would be in whatever package Chicago sends out, perhaps packaged with Portland’s lottery-protected 2023 first-round pick. The Grizzlies previously had interest in White, Johnson adds, though it’s unclear if Memphis would still be a suitor at this point.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • The general consensus among executives around the league, according to Scotto, is that the Bulls are likely to keep center Nikola Vucevic beyond this season. The veteran center wouldn’t have a ton of value on the trade market and there’s a belief that Chicago won’t want to lose him for nothing in free agency after giving up so much to acquire him from Orlando.
  • Johnson would be surprised if the Bulls move any of their Big Three at this season’s deadline, but suggests DeMar DeRozan would have the most trade value and that Zach LaVine would also draw interest. Johnson notes that Chicago will face an interesting decision on DeRozan this summer, since he’ll be entering a contract year and “you can bet” he’ll be seeking an extension.
  • One NBA exec, speaking to Scotto, had the following to say about Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu, who can be a restricted free agent this summer: “Nobody will put a big offer sheet on him. His situation reminds me of Josh Hart. He could get that type of contract or bet on himself and take the qualifying offer.” As a restricted free agent in 2021, Hart signed a three-year, $38MM contract that wasn’t fully guaranteed; Johnson believes Dosunmu could end up with a three- or four-year deal in the range of $10-12MM per year.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Vucevic, Magic, Favors, Heat

Johnny Davis, the 10th overall pick last June, has rarely seen the court for the Wizards, making just 10 appearances for an average of 5.0 minutes per contest. The rookie guard has spent most of the season with the team’s G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go, averaging 11.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.1 APG and 1.0 SPG on .408/.352/.786 shooting in 14 games (25.2 MPG) during the Showcase Cup.

Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. has been keeping a close eye on the lottery pick’s G League performances, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

I think the injuries have been a big piece of it. It’s hard to really evaluate a guy who hasn’t had a ton of opportunities here. I’ve seen a lot of growth with his G-League development,” Unseld said of Davis, who is currently sidelined with a right hip strain.

The level of confidence he’s playing with, I think he’s starting to see the game slow down for him. Offensively, I think he’s starting to settle in to see the types of plays and the types of shots we want him to take. So, there’s a lot of growth there. I know it’s not translating as fast as maybe we would all like to see, but I think it bodes well.”

Go-Go head coach Mike Williams also spoke to Hughes about Davis, saying he’s done a nice job defensively, but he needs to work on his decision-making and shooting offensively.

Here’s more from the Southeast:

  • The Wizards are shorthanded for tonight’s game against the Bulls. In addition to guard Bradley Beal, who continues to be sidelined with a left hamstring strain, big men Daniel Gafford (right ankle sprain) and Kristaps Porzingis (right rib contusion) were downgraded from questionable to out (Twitter link). Deni Avdija and Taj Gibson started in place of Gafford and Porzingis. Backup forward Rui Hachimura should also see an uptick in minutes.
  • In an appearance on The Sixth Man Show podcast, Bulls center Nikola Vucevic was asked if he would be open to returning to the Magic if it made sense for him down the road. “Of course, I mean yeah,” Vucevic said. “That’s something that I would love to do at some point. We’ll see when that is possible, if that’s realistic and how it all works out. But yeah, for sure, I would like to, if anything, at least get one last year in Orlando. I think it’s only right it happens, so we’ll see. … I feel like I have a lot of basketball left, so who knows what will happen, but yeah, for sure, it’s something that’s on my mind, I can’t say it’s not.” The two-time All-Star will be a free agent in the summer.
  • Veteran center Derrick Favors, an Atlanta native who just inked a 10-day contract with the Hawks, says he grew up a fan of the team. “Oh, definitely a fan growing up,” Favors said, per Lauren Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscriber link). “Back when they had like Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, those guys. I’m definitely a fan, Al Horford. And just being from Atlanta has always been a dream to, you know, at least put the jersey on at least one time. So, it’s definitely a dream, and I’m blessed and humbled to be here.” According to Williams, Favors went through shootaround Wednesday, but he wasn’t sure if he’d see the court against the Bucks. “It’s up to them, you know, if they call the name, call my number, I’ll be ready,” he said. “You know, if not, then you know, I’ll be ready for the next game. So, you know, we’ll see.”
  • Head coach Nate McMillan provided a little more context on Favors’ potential role during his 10-day stint, Williams adds (Twitter links). He said he would prefer Favors to go through a practice before actually playing, but he might play Wednesday if needed. McMillan views Favors as an “insurance policy” when the Hawks need more size.
  • The Heat have dealt with so many injuries this season that head coach Erik Spoelstra admits that he sometimes forgets who is actually available to play, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of moving parts,” he said. “I kept on forgetting who’s available and who’s not.” Miami only had a seven-man rotation after Dewayne Dedmon was ejected Tuesday.

Central Notes: Dragic, Vucevic, Ingles, Haliburton, Pistons

Goran Dragic believes teammate Nikola Vucevic is being unfairly blamed for the Bulls‘ disappointing season, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Vucevic isn’t putting up the numbers that he did in Orlando before Chicago acquired him in a 2021 trade, but Dragic believes it’s because the big man is on a team with more scorers.

Dragic compares the situation with the time he spent in Miami with Chris Bosh, who was being criticized by fans for his decreased production, even though he adjusted his game to help the Heat win two titles.

“When you have to do what Chris or Vooch is doing, it’s not possible to live up to previous expectations,’’ Dragic said. “There’s only one ball and three guys that can score. Each guy can score in different ways from a different position. At the end of the day it should be just about winning. Miami conquered that. A guy like CB that sacrifices like that, that might be one of the biggest keys to them getting those championships.’’

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Joe Ingles put together his best game Friday since returning from an ACL tear, posting 14 points, five rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Minnesota, per Eric Nehm of The Athletic. The performance in his sixth game back made Ingles feel like all the rehab work was worth it. “I would have gone home very happy tonight if we won, especially after the last few games, but just to feel a bit more like myself, getting up the minutes a little more from what I’ve been able to play,” he said. “In the end, you’re helping these guys out to win a game. That’s what I’m here to do — to help create and playmake for these guys and make shots when I can and be annoying on defense and that’s just what I try (to do). Tonight was probably the most natural I felt out there.”
  • After the Pacers pulled out a one-point win over the Clippers on Saturday afternoon, Tyrese Haliburton suggested that the team has benefited from adversity, tweets Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. “Losing,” Haliburton responded when asked what has made Indiana better at closing out games. “I think as a young team you need that.” 
  • The Pistons‘ only appearance on TNT this season has been taken away, according to Mike Curtis of The Detroit News. A January 10 contest against the Sixers has been replaced by a Thunder-Heat matchup that night. The Pistons’ league-worst record and the loss of Cade Cunningham has made the team less attractive for national television, notes Curtis, who adds that Detroit will still appear on NBA TV on January 19 and March 23.

Bulls Notes: Big Three, DeRozan, Green, Caruso

The “Big Three” that the Bulls formed when they traded for Nikola Vucevic and signed DeMar DeRozan to team with Zach LaVine should be considered a “failed experiment,” writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Chicago’s inconsistent play continued Monday night with a home loss to the Rockets, who entered the game with just three road wins.

The Bulls fell to 3-8 against sub-.500 opponents and have lost to a collection of teams at the very bottom of the NBA standings. It was a disappointing performance after three straight road victories, but the players recognize it as a consequence of not being ready to compete from the start, as Houston built an early 23-5 lead.

“At this point, I don’t think it’s surprising,” Patrick Williams said. “I think we’ve shown ourselves when we play the way that we played tonight, this is what happens. So I don’t think it’s surprising. I just think it’s more so a wake-up call.  Just because you win three in a row doesn’t mean a team is going to lay down.”

Bulls management hasn’t shown any signs of wanting to break up its Big Three, but the team is facing a limited timetable if it decides to move in that direction. The trade deadline is only about six weeks away, and a decision will have to be made soon on whether to keep Vucevic, who will be a free agent after this season.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • DeRozan called the Rockets’ hot start “unacceptable” and said the Bulls have to be more focused regardless of their opponent, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “We can’t feel out games,” DeRozan said. “We gotta go out the gate and treat it like it’s the fourth quarter. That’s just how we have to play. We have to be more aware of that.”
  • Javonte Green warmed up with his teammates Monday night, but he was held out so the medical staff could see how his right knee responded to the pregame routine, according to Annie Costabile of The Chicago Sun-Times. Coach Billy Donovan said Green no longer has the swelling and soreness in the knee that has forced him to miss eight games this month.
  • Alex Caruso remains in concussion protocol, but his sprained right shoulder is the main issue preventing him from playing, Costabile adds. “He’s gone through a series of concussion-protocol stuff, which he has passed,” Donovan said. “The next part of him passing the concussion protocol is him doing some form of contact.” 

“Everyone Is Watching Chicago” For Potential Trades

Rival teams are monitoring the Bulls on the NBA’s trade market, a source tells Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

There’s speculation that Chicago, which is sitting outside the Eastern Conference play-in race at 11-15, could dismantle its current roster in hopes of landing a high draft pick, Pincus explains. The team owes this year’s first-rounder to the Magic as part of the Nikola Vucevic trade unless it lands a top-four pick in the lottery. Pincus notes that there are five teams with eight wins or fewer, so if the Bulls plan to pursue that strategy they need to start soon.

“Everyone is watching Chicago very closely,” an NBA source told Pincus. “They’re so poorly constructed, they need to blow it up.”

Pincus cites a recent rumor that the Lakers might be willing to part with their first-round picks in 2027 and 2029, along with Russell Westbrook as a buyout candidate, in exchange for Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan. That move would put the Bulls in position to tank and would give the franchise two valuable draft assets for the future.

Pincus sees that as a better route than losing this year’s first-rounder to Orlando and trying to re-sign Vucevic when he becomes a free agent next summer. That would leave Chicago with just its mid-level exception, plus smaller trades, to try to upgrade the roster.

Zach LaVine could also be a trade candidate once he becomes eligible on January 15, Pincus adds. There hasn’t been much talk about LaVine yet in trade circles, but Pincus believes the Bulls would find plenty of interest if they make him available. LaVine signed a five-year, $215MM contract in July.

Central Notes: Love, Mitchell, Bulls, Ingles

Don’t expect Kevin Love to be on the move before this season’s trade deadline, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes in a subscriber-only mailbag. While the Cavaliers will likely peruse the trade market in search of a small forward upgrade, Love’s cap hit of nearly $29MM makes him unlikely to be dealt, according to Fedor, who points to Cedi Osman and Caris LeVert as more logical trade candidates for the team.

The Cavaliers and Love actually have mutual interest in extending their relationship beyond 2022/23, sources tell Fedor. Love will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, and Fedor wouldn’t be surprised if the veteran power forward ends up re-signing with Cleveland at that point on a “more reasonable number that works for both sides.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Cavaliers will be without Donovan Mitchell for a second consecutive night on Saturday due to right lower leg soreness, per Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link). Love, who is battling low back soreness, will also miss his second straight game.
  • The Bulls have no interest in acquiring Russell Westbrook from the Lakers, even if it means adding multiple draft picks, a source tells Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. While Cowley doesn’t explicitly say so, this report appears to be a response to the rumor about the Lakers internally discussing whether Chicago might become open to the idea of moving DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic for Westbrook and draft assets. Cowley acknowledges that the Bulls’ thinking could change before the February trade deadline, but says the focus for now is getting Lonzo Ball back and pushing for a playoff spot.
  • Bucks forward Joe Ingles, who continues to work his way back from an ACL tear, has been assigned to the Wisconsin Herd for a second time for practice reps, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic. Jordan Nwora and rookie MarJon Beauchamp were also sent to the Herd, Nehm notes.