Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Drummond, Buyout Market, Donovan

Signs continue to point toward Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan agreeing to a contract extension with the franchise in the offseason, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson (Twitter video link). This comes on the heels of both sides expressing interest in a long-term pairing earlier this week.

Johnson says if the Bulls knew DeRozan was going to walk in the offseason, they would have tried acquiring something of value from him at the deadline. Instead, Chicago stood pat, while DeRozan likened the pairing to a marriage in comments to reporters on Thursday.

While Johnson points out that DeRozan has made similar comments in the past, it’s especially potent this time given the fact they came at the deadline. The Bulls can’t afford to let him leave for nothing and Johnson doesn’t expect them to. Chicago faced a similar situation last season with Nikola Vucevic and they ultimately extended him.

Of course, this doesn’t automatically mean DeRozan is going to re-up with the Bulls. He remains on track to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason and while he’s 34 years old, he still has averaged 25.3 points per game and has two All-Star appearances since arriving in Chicago. He’s likely to have several suitors. Still, the team that makes the most sense for now to offer a multiyear, big-money extension is the Bulls.

We have more notes on the Bulls:

  • Despite drawing trade interest, Andre Drummond remained a Bull through the deadline. In recent games, head coach Billy Donovan has leaned more into dual big-man lineups, playing Drummond and Vucevic alongside one another. Drummond is enjoying that pairing, Johnson writes. “We’re trying something different and adjusting to what we want to do, not what the other team is doing,” Drummond said. “We’re a force together in the paint. We make teams have to deal with us at both ends of the court. I really like that lineup and I’m looking forward to more of it.” Drummond is averaging 9.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per night since Jan. 1 and drew a start next to Vucevic against the Timberwolves on Feb. 6.
  • The Bulls were heavily involved in last season’s buyout market, expressing interest in Russell Westbrook before eventually signing Patrick Beverley, who helped the team finish 14-9 and win a play-in game. Johnson writes that the Bulls are once again open to exploring that avenue to add talent after not making any trade acquisitions. Thaddeus Young, Danilo Gallinari, Evan Fournier and Danuel House are among the possibilities Johnson points out. Joe Harris is also available.
  • Donovan expressed that he was thankful the trade deadline was in the rear view mirror, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. “‘For me, I wouldn’t necessarily use the word ‘relief,’” Donovan said. “I’ve always taken the approach, ‘This is our team.’ Now, if it changes, then you have to adjust. I think when you start speculating, you lose sight of the group that you have in front of you because those decisions are not decisions you necessarily have control over. For me, it wasn’t like the trade deadline passed, and I was like, ‘Oh, wow, what a relief this was.’” Chicago is currently 25-28 and ninth in the Eastern Conference.

Mavs Notes: Gafford, Washington, Dumont, Williams, Draft Picks

The trade deadline additions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington make the Mavericks a deeper and more explosive team, writes Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (subscription required). The new-look roster thrived in Gafford’s and Washington’s Dallas debut on Saturday as the Mavs scored a franchise-record 47 points in the first quarter and blew out the Thunder by a score of 146-111.

“There’s going to be nights when we shoot 45 to 47 threes, and there’s going to be nights where we can dominate the paint as we did today,” head coach Jason Kidd said after the win, adding that he’s already thinking about how to manage the frontcourt duo of Gafford and Dereck Lively once the rookie center gets healthy. “… It’s good to have these options. Because we didn’t have these options earlier.”

Luka Doncic, who scored 32 points on 9-of-14 shooting in just 31 minutes, embraced the newcomers, as Townsend writes. Three of Doncic’s nine assists were on baskets by Gafford, whom Luka referred to as the sort of backup center “I’ve wanted for like three years.”

“It means a lot because it gives me the opportunity to show what I’m good at,” Gafford said. “Running the floor. Running the floor. Catching lobs. Rebounding. Screaming. At the end of the day I’m just doing my job and pretty much he was helping me to my job tonight.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • New Mavericks governor Patrick Dumont isn’t just a businessman who views the team as a passive investment, according to Townsend (subscription required), who spoke exclusively to one of the key members of the new ownership group about his basketball fandom, his involvement in the team’s roster machinations, and his hopes to build a new Dallas-area arena and entertainment resort. Townsend shares more of Dumont’s comments on that prospective arena and casino-resort in a separate story.
  • Appearing on 97.1 FM in Dallas with Marc Stein on Saturday (Twitter link via Mavs Film Room), Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison pushed back on a report from Tim MacMahon of ESPN, who said that Grant Williams had “personality clashes” and “rubbed a lot of people the wrong way” in Dallas. “Grant doesn’t deserve the negativity he’s getting on social media,” Harrison said. “… He was a good teammate.”
  • The second-round draft picks the Mavericks received in their trade with the Hornets are Boston’s 2024 pick and the least favorable of the Hornets’ and Clippers’ 2028 picks, MacMahon confirms (Twitter link).
  • If the top-two protected 2027 first-round pick the Mavericks sent the Hornets in that same trade ends up at No. 1 or 2 and Dallas keeps it, Charlotte will instead receive Miami’s 2028 second-round pick, reports ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

Cavaliers Sign Zhaire Smith To 10-Day Contract

The Cavaliers have signed swingman Zhaire Smith to a 10-day contract, the team announced today in a press release.

The 16th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Smith has been playing this season for the Cleveland Charge, the Cavs’ G League affiliate. In 32 regular season and Showcase Cup games with the Charge, the 24-year-old has averaged 12.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 33.4 minutes per contest, posting a shooting line of .543/.404/.796.

This season has represented a major comeback effort for Smith, who battled health issues after going pro and was limited to 13 regular season appearances in two NBA seasons with the Sixers. He was traded during the 2020 offseason to the Pistons, who subsequently waived him. Prior to signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Cavaliers during the 2023 offseason, the Texas Tech standout hadn’t been on an NBA roster since 2020.

In addition to battling foot and knee issues, Smith also dealt with a life-threatening allergic reaction earlier in his career, which he has said resulted in a month-and-a-half stay in a hospital and a 60-pound weight loss.

“Just not be able to play the game made me hungry and motivated because I missed it so much,” Smith told Sam Yip of HoopsHype this past fall. “But I promise you I’m not gonna take it for granted anymore. Anytime I step on that court, I’m going to go 110 percent.

The Cavaliers had only been carrying 13 players on standard contracts, so no corresponding move is necessary to make room for Smith, and Cleveland will still have one opening on its 15-man roster.

Smith’s “10-day” contract will actually run for 12 days, earning him a couple extra days of pay, since 10-day deals are required to cover at least three games. The Cavs only play twice more before the All-Star break — the third and final game of Smith’s contract will come on February 22 vs. Orlando.

Heat Grant Jimmy Butler Personal Leave Of Absence

The Heat have ruled out Jimmy Butler for Sunday afternoon’s contest with the Celtics, citing personal reasons. A statement issued by agent Bernie Lee, via the team (Twitter link), provides more details on Butler’s situation.

Jimmy Butler has been granted a leave of absence as he deals with the death of a family member,” Lee said. “Jimmy and his family ask for privacy at this point in time as they navigate this loss. Updates will be given when appropriate.”

It’s unclear when Butler will rejoin the Heat or how many games he’ll miss during his leave of absence.

After today’s game at home, the team will travel to face two more Eastern rivals before the All-Star break, visiting Milwaukee on Tuesday and Philadelphia on Wednesday. Following the All-Star break, the Heat’s schedule resumes with a four-game Western Conference road trip that begins February 23 in New Orleans.

Butler has averaged 21.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists in 33.9 minutes per night across 37 games for the Heat so far this season, posting an outstanding .500/.440/.869 shooting line. Miami has had an up-and-down season, but has bounced back from a seven-game losing streak in January to win four of its past five contests. The club currently ranks eighth in the East at 28-24.

With Butler unavailable, the Heat figure to lean more heavily on Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Terry Rozier for scoring, with forwards like Caleb Martin, Jaime Jaquez, Haywood Highsmith, and Duncan Robinson among the candidates for increased minutes.

And-Ones: Buyout Market, Summer League, Dunk Contest, Cap Room, Risacher

A pair of veteran point guards have already been plucked off the buyout market, with Spencer Dinwiddie officially signing with the Lakers on Saturday and Kyle Lowry lining up a deal with the Sixers. What other notable players could hit the buyout market in the coming days and weeks?

John Hollinger of The Athletic explores that topic in depth, identifying Delon Wright, Troy Brown, Marcus Morris, and Cedi Osman as several of the most intriguing options while acknowledging that some of those players likely won’t be waived.

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

  • The NBA has confirmed the dates for the 2024 Las Vegas Summer League, announcing that it will take place from July 12-22 (Twitter link). That’s a few days later than the event typically begins and ends.
  • Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, who signed the largest contract in league history last summer, is the most accomplished player to participate in the NBA’s dunk contest in several years. He hopes to set an example for other stars, per Souichi Terada of MassLive.com (Twitter link). “I wish more top players (and) athletes decided to compete in the dunk contest,” Brown said. “I grew up watching that, and that’s what I love. Hopefully that comes around.”
  • Danny Leroux of The Athletic takes a look at where each team’s cap situation stands heading into the 2024 offseason, identifying the Pistons, Magic, Sixers, Jazz, Raptors, and Thunder as the teams with the ability to generate the most cap room.
  • Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo of ESPN.com (Insider link) have updated their list of 2024’s top prospects, moving French wing Zaccharie Risacher into the No. 1 spot for the first time. Risacher is the fourth different player to sit atop ESPN’s ’24 big board since the start of the college season in November, signaling that there’s no clear-cut top prospect in this year’s draft class.

Atlantic Notes: Brunson, Knicks, Olynyk, Agbaji, Brown, Sixers

The Knicks appear to have avoided an injury scare with Jalen Brunson, as the All-Star point guard returned to the lineup on Saturday following a one-game absence due to an ankle sprain. Brunson showed no ill effects from the injury, scoring 39 points on 14-of-25 shooting, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post.

Despite Brunson’s return and the debuts of newly acquired role players Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks, the Knicks remained shorthanded due to injuries and lost on Saturday to Indiana, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. The team is especially banged up in the frontcourt, where Precious Achiuwa was forced to play 43 minutes vs. the Pacers. With Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims all inactive, Taj Gibson logged 19 minutes on the first day of his second 10-day contract with New York.

“I thought for the first game (with the new additions), there were some obviously good things and obviously there’s a lot for them to adjust to. As a team, I think we have to do a lot better,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We’re shorthanded. We’re going to have to play a lot harder and a lot tougher.”

While their first game with the Knicks didn’t go as planned, both Bogdanovic and Burks expressed excitement about the opportunity to join a playoff team after spending the first half of the season with the league-worst Pistons. According to Botte, Burks – a former Knick – didn’t want to leave New York in the first place and said repeatedly that he’s “glad to be back.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • As Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca details, new Raptors Kelly Olynyk and Ochai Agbaji both have connections to the franchise — Olynyk grew up in Toronto rooting for the Raptors, while Agbaji’s father is old friends with team president Masai Ujiri. The two former Jazz players expressed excitement about their new circumstances, with Agbaji suggesting it feels like a “fresh new start” and Olynyk noting that he and the Raptors have had mutual interest in the past. “It’s always been on our radar, both of our radars,” the big man said. “I think maybe it’s been close [before], but it’s hard for me to know [for sure]… But [now that] it did happen, it’s pretty awesome.”
  • Raptors wing Bruce Brown was considered one of the top trade candidates on the market leading up to the deadline, but he ended up staying put. He’s happy with that outcome, as Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweets. “It feels great, it feels great,” said Brown, whose contract includes a $23MM team option for 2024/25. “Obviously it’s nice to have some stability. … I”m glad to be here for the rest of the season and then try and work things out.”
  • Although the Raptors were enthusiastic about the moves they made on the trade market, they’ve completed a full-fledged overhaul of their roster in the past six weeks or so, and their lack of continuity showed in Saturday’s blowout loss to Cleveland, Grange writes at Sportsnet.ca. “Obviously, it’s really tough,” Olynyk said. “You don’t know really what’s going on on both ends of the floor. I think that was probably pretty evident in the first half.”
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer takes a look at a “whirlwind” couple days for Sixers trade deadline additions Buddy Hield and Cameron Payne, who played significant minutes as starters for an injury-depleted Philadelphia team on Friday, then helped lead their new club to a victory in Washington on Saturday.

Draymond Green, Jusuf Nurkic Exchange Barbs During, After Warriors Win

A forearm strike to the head of Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in December earned Draymond Green a suspension that ultimately cost him 16 games, but it was the Warriors forward/center who got the last laugh in a 113-112 win over Phoenix on Saturday.

As Kendra Andrews of ESPN writes, Nurkic and Green exchanged words a few minutes into the fourth quarter after a foul was called on Green. Several seconds later, Nurkic was whistled for an offensive foul against Green, prompting the former Defensive Player of the Year to point to his own head twice on his way back up the court.

“I was calling him a dummy when I was pointing to my head,” Green said. “I wasn’t saying I was keeping my head. I was saying, you can’t start talking and then charge into me. That’s not smart.”

The two big men got into it again in the third quarter when Nurkic scored over Green and taunted him with a “too small” gesture. Green returned the favor a couple minutes later by backing down Nurkic for a basket and making the same gesture.

“You can’t be a nothing defender if you’re going to do that,” Green said. “You probably outweigh me by 70 pounds and you get put in the rim? Got to be more careful.”

Following December’s incident, Nurkic wished Green well as the Warriors star underwent counseling and learned to manage his behavior following a series of violent on-court incidents. However, his tone had changed following Saturday’s game, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic details.

“It’s sad,” Nurkic said. “He didn’t learn anything, man. Just a matter of time. He’s going to knock somebody else again. Take everything back what I said. He don’t deserve a chance.

“… Just his antics,” Nurkic continued when asked why he felt Green hadn’t changed. “Try to hit people. The stuff he shouldn’t do, but I don’t care. At the end of the day, he tried to play that way. No one is worried about him. They got the win tonight. We’ll see what happens in a few games.”

As Nurkic’s comments reached the Warriors’ locker room, some key members of the team scoffed at them, suggesting that Green’s ability to play a physical, fiery game without crossing the line was a sign that he had taken the lessons learned during his suspension to heart. Green was assessed with a technical foul on Saturday for the first time since returning from his 16-game absence, but helped lead the team to victory with 15 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds.

“That month off, that suspension was real,” head coach Steve Kerr said, per Andrews. “(Draymond) knew that his career was on the line or is on the line. He understands that he’s got to be the guy he’s been the last nine years, not the one he’s been the last year. I see him doing that.”

Stephen Curry, who hit the game-winning shot in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, called Nurkic’s comments “idiotic.”

“You can tell when someone is in your head when you go out of your way to celebrate,” Curry said of Nurkic’s “too small” gesture. “Then Draymond comes back at him. All of the talk, Draymond was in his head — plain and simple.”

Celtics Notes: Tillman, Porzingis, Springer, Buyout Market

When they were teammates with the Grizzlies, Xavier Tillman used to ask Marcus Smart about the experience of playing in Boston, never expecting to get the opportunity to do so himself before the end of the season, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Seeking help in the frontcourt, the Celtics acquired Tillman from Memphis on Wednesday in exchange for Lamar Stevens and a pair of second-round picks. He’s looking forward to experiencing first-hand everything Smart said about Boston fans.

“The main thing he told me is it’s very similar to Memphis in terms of the grit and the grind and how hard you have to work for the fans and appreciation and stuff like that,” Tillman said. “And once you do show that you’re willing to hustle, they’re going love you. I love it.”

The Celtics had their eye on Tillman for several years and considered selecting him in the 2020 draft, Himmelsbach adds. Memphis took him with the 35th overall pick, and he has built a reputation as a hard worker and versatile defender during his four NBA seasons.

“It’s crazy, to be honest with you,” Tillman said. “I’ve always watched the Celtics in terms of just the winning history of it, back with [Kevin Garnett] and all that stuff and seeing these guys repeatedly go to the Eastern Conference finals all the time, I’m always locked in on that. So for me to get the opportunity to be part of a winning organization, it’s pretty awesome.”

There’s more from Boston:

  • Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t upset about being passed over as an injury replacement for the All-Star Game, Himmelsbach adds. Trae Young and Scottie Barnes were selected this week to take the place of Joel Embiid and Julius Randle. “Of course there’s some prestige in that and maybe five years ago that was something that was always on my mind, but it doesn’t change anything,” Porzingis said. “To be honest there’s a big part of me that’s kind of happy I can go to Miami or somewhere where there’s sun, get some tan, lift some weights, prepare my body for the rest of the season and then postseason.”
  • President of basketball operations Brad Stevens had been hoping to acquire Jaden Springer from the Sixers since watching him when their teams met in the preseason, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Stevens got his chance when Philadelphia opted to unload the 21-year-old guard to create more financial flexibility and add an extra second-round pick. Weiss notes that Stevens also faced an urgency to add talent before the deadline because of the limitations that will be placed on teams above the tax apron starting this summer.
  • A Celtics reunion with Danilo Gallinari appears unlikely, Brian Robb of MassLive states in a mailbag column. The Pistons waived Gallinari on Friday, but Robb believes his mobility is still affected by last year’s ACL tear, causing teams to target him on defense. Robb views Otto Porter as a more desirable option if he reaches a buyout with the Jazz, but he cautions that Boston would face competition from several teams.

Pistons Waive Ryan Arcidiacono

The Pistons have opened a roster spot by waiving Ryan Arcidiacono, the team announced (via Twitter).

The 29-year-old point guard was acquired Thursday in the trade that sent Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks to New York. Reports at the time indicated that Arcidiacono was likely to be released sometime after the deal was complete.

Arcidiacono has an expiring minimum-salary contract, so the Pistons won’t be on the hook for any money beyond this season.

This marked the second straight year that the Knicks have traded Arcidiacono at the deadline — they sent him to Portland 12 months ago. He returned to New York on an Exhibit 10 contract in September, but saw limited playing time, averaging just 2.3 minutes per night in 20 games.

Teams will have 48 hours to submit waiver claims for Arcidiacono. Because his salary is less than this season’s non-taxpayer mid-level exception, Arcidiacono will be eligible to sign with any team except New York if he goes unclaimed.

Arcidiacono is the fifth player the Pistons have waived since Thursday’s trade deadline, joining Killian Hayes, Joe Harris, Danuel House and Danilo Gallinari.

Spencer Dinwiddie Signs With Lakers

8:16pm: The signing is official, the Lakers announced (via Twitter).

“Spencer is returning to his roots and the city where his journey began,” general manager Rob Pelinka said. “… His play-making and aggressiveness from the guard position provides us valuable depth as we continue our strong push toward the back half of the season.” (Twitter link)

10:06am: Former Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie plans to sign with the Lakers after clearing waivers, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania (Twitter link). Dinwiddie was traded on Thursday from Brooklyn to the Raptors, who subsequently cut him.

The Lakers were one of a few playoff teams who offered Dinwiddie a significant role on the roster, Charania tweets. Head of basketball operations Rob Pelinka said this week that the team was targeting a “ball-handling guard” in the buyout market.

The Pelicans, Sixers, and Mavericks were also cited as potential suitors for Dinwiddie, with Dallas viewed as the Lakers’ top competition. The guard played for the Mavs during parts of two seasons from 2022-23 before being sent to Brooklyn as part of last year’s Kyrie Irving blockbuster.

As we pointed out, the Lakers have about $1.5MM left of their prorated mid-level exception, since they didn’t sign Gabe Vincent to the full MLE. They’ll use the leftover portion to sign Dinwiddie, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin confirms, adding that the 30-year-old narrowed his decision to the Lakers and Mavs before choosing L.A.

Los Angeles has an open roster spot, so the team won’t have to cut anyone to bring Dinwiddie in. Cap expert Yossi Gozlan observes the Lakers will have plenty of room beneath the tax apron for other signings, if they so choose (Twitter link).

Dinwiddie is averaging 12.6 points and 6.0 assists in 48 games this season. While his second stint in Brooklyn wasn’t as successful as his first, he has been an important playoff contributor for both the Nets and the Mavericks over the past two seasons. In his last 22 postseason games over the past two years, he’s averaged 14.6 points while shooting 41.2% from beyond the arc. He’ll look to help propel the currently ninth-place Lakers into the playoffs.

Dinwiddie grew up a fan of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, and playing for the team was always a dream of his, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto (Twitter link).

For what it’s worth, Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell already expressed he was on board with the idea of bringing Dinwiddie in and is a big fan of his, according to Jovan Buha (Twitter link). “Y’all will get to know him soon,” Russell said following the Lakers’ Friday game against New Orleans. Russell and Dinwiddie played together on the Nets from 2017-19.