Lonzo Ball

Central Notes: Hield, Bucks, Lillard, Bulls, Ball

The Pacers and representatives for shooting guard Buddy Hield are working together to find a potential trade for the eighth-year sharpshooter after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on an extension. Owed roughly $18.6MM on an expiring deal, Hield makes sense as a trade target for several teams across the league. Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype breaks down six trade destinations that could work.

Before coming up with hypothetical packages, Gozlan looked into what Indiana might look for in a trade. Gozlan writes that the typical framework for a deal of this nature is to bring in a player with an expiring contract and draft capital. However, Gozlan believes the Pacers should look for a player who can fit into the rotation right now rather than draft picks, given their postseason potential.

Gozlan names the Rockets, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Celtics, Nets and Sixers as the teams who would be the best fits for the former Oklahoma standout. The Rockets, who need shooting, could put together an offer using the salary of Kevin Porter Jr, given their recent attempts to trade him, alongside draft capital to entice the Pacers. However, if the Pacers are looking to add players, it’s unlikely they’d consider taking in Porter, even if it’s just for salary purposes, given his uncertain NBA future following his assault and strangulation charges.

The Mavericks, Grizzlies, Celtics and Nets are teams that would be able to provide win-now players for Indiana in a possible trade, Gozlan reasons. Tim Hardaway Jr, Luke Kennard, Malcolm Brogdon and Royce O’Neale are among the players named in the article who could appeal to the Pacers for help on the wing.

As for the Sixers, Gozlan writes that such a partnership could be contingent on a James Harden deal, specifically to the Clippers. If Philadelphia and Los Angeles struck a deal, Indiana could look to get in on the trade by sending Hield to the Sixers and bringing in Norman Powell from L.A, Gozlan says. For my money, Dallas, Boston and Brooklyn make the most sense of the named teams if Indiana wants a strong rotation piece in return.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are another team that could make some level of sense for Hield in a trade, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm writes in his latest mailbag. However, such a trade would be risky, based on a combination of factors. For starters, it would likely take multiple rotation players being shipped out, and a better player could become available later on, leaving the Bucks without a path to acquire said player. Additionally, Hield has not played in a playoff game since making his NBA debut in 2016, which isn’t ideal for a contending team, Nehm writes.
  • The potential of Hield coming to Milwaukee is just one of many topics Nehm writes about in his mailbag. Nehm also covers the assets the Bucks have available to trade, whether Giannis Antetokounmpo is better suited for point or post play this season, rotation questions, and more. I recommend reading the article in full here.
  • With reports surfacing that the Bulls are trying to get in on the Damian Lillard sweepstakes, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago considers what such a move would look like in practice. As reported on Wednesday, Chicago is exploring the possibility of moving Zach LaVine in a multi-team deal that could send a combination of players and picks to Portland. Johnson writes that a move for Lillard would likely come with a DeMar DeRozan extension, meaning the Bulls would have to be 100% certain about a core of Lillard, DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic winning together.
  • Johnson adds in his mailbag that while the Bulls could theoretically look at moving Lonzo Ball, whose career has been plagued with injury, he gets the sense that nothing happens on that front this season, with Ball working hard to return to the court.

Bulls Notes: Vucevic, Ball, Carter, Hometown Players

Lonzo Ball‘s status was a distraction for the Bulls for much of last season, Nikola Vucevic admits in an interview with Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. After being acquired during the 2021 offseason, Ball led Chicago to the top of the Eastern Conference in his first two months with the team, but he hasn’t played since because of a knee injury that has required three surgeries. Vucevic said the organization was counting on Ball’s return early last season, but complications kept pushing that back.

“It was kind of like, ‘Oh, when he comes back, it’s going to be fixed.’ Early on, it was, ‘Oh, six weeks,’ then, ‘Now it’s eight weeks,’ and then, ‘January’ and ‘Maybe playoffs.’ For us, it was tricky, because we kept waiting for him,” Vucevic recalled. “And now, at least we know he’s not there. We’ve got some new teammates, some good signings that will help us. And so now it’s on us as players to figure it out and find a way to have a better year.”

Ball and team officials have already stated that he won’t be available for the upcoming season after undergoing cartilage transplant surgery in March. Vucevic said he empathizes with his teammate as he tries to work his way back from the injury and handles the negative reaction from the public and the media.

“You feel for the guy. He’s such a good player. And to have to deal with all that, it’s very difficult,” Vucevic said. “I mean, he’s been very positive about it. He keeps trying to find ways to get back on the floor. There’s a lot of stuff people can’t see. You can’t see him do rehab. You can’t see all the stuff that he does to get back on the court.”

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Vucevic is excited about Chicago’s roster additions, believing Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter will bring much-needed toughness on defense, Fischer adds. “Just guys that like to do the dirty work that doesn’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet, but is very important to the team,” Vucevic said. “We need those things badly.” 
  • Carter is the latest Chicago-area native to play for the Bulls, joining a list that includes Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Beverley, observes Jamal Collier of ESPN. Carter was a popular player at Bulls Fest, as fans were eager to interact with a player who grew up in the city. “When we can go out and get kids who can check a lot of boxes on the court, it’s definitely a bonus when they’re from Chicago,” general manager Marc Eversley said. “There’s just a certain pride that I think those kids wear on their chest. Anytime you can have a Chicago kid playing for the Chicago Bulls, (it) is a really, really special thing.”
  • Bucks writer Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel appeared on the latest edition of Bulls Talk to discuss Carter’s role with the team and the challenge that former Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin faces as the new head coach in Milwaukee.

Lonzo Ball: “I’m Going To Play Again”

Lonzo Ball made his strongest comments about his NBA future on Saturday, vowing that he’ll overcome his knee issues and eventually return to the league, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls guard was at Invest Fest in Atlanta to promote Big Baller Brand, but he also addressed the injury that will cause him to miss another full season.

“Life is not easy,” Ball told the gathering. “If you want to get the most out of it, you gotta put your best foot forward. If you’re going to get knocked down, you gotta get back up every time if you want to keep going. You can always quit and take the easy way out and pout and go to the side. But for me, if you’re trying to get to a place where I want to get to, you just gotta get back up, dust off and keep going. I’m going to play again.”

Ball sat out all of last season because of the knee and hasn’t played since midway through 2021/22. He underwent cartilage transplant surgery in March, and he and the team have said that he won’t be available for at least another year.

Chicago received a $10.23MM disabled player exception for Ball, but Johnson points out that it will be difficult for the team to use it. The Bulls are already close to the $165.3MM tax threshold, with Carlik Jones and Terry Taylor both holding non-guaranteed contracts. The team can’t exceed its $172.3MM hard cap.

Ball will make $20.5MM this season, and he has a $21.4MM player option for 2024/25. That decision is due by late June, but it’s virtually certain that he’ll pick it up considering his physical condition.

Also at Invest Fest, Ball addressed his dispute this week with ESPN host Stephen A. Smith. After Ball said on Trae Young‘s podcast that he expects to play again, Smith claimed that Ball isn’t even able to get out of a chair.

“The outside noise doesn’t bother me,” Ball said. “The Stephen A. thing, he has a wide platform. And to me, I just don’t appreciate when people put out fake news like that, especially someone of his stature that can touch a lot of people. For me, I know what I gotta do to get back. And I’m just on a path doing what I gotta do every day, taking it step-by-step. I don’t look too far ahead. I know in my near future that I will be back on the court for sure.”

Bulls Notes: Ball, Eversley, DeRozan, Williams

Lonzo Ball has confirmed he’ll miss the 2023/24 season, but the Bulls point guard expressed optimism that he’ll eventually overcome his knee issues and return to action, he said on the “From the Point by Trae Young podcast” (hat tip to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago).

Ball underwent cartilage transplant surgery in March.

“I just had a really big surgery—hopefully, the last one I ever have to get. It’s a long process. I’m already out this whole next season,” Ball said. “When I first got hurt, we didn’t really know what it was. I was seeing all type of different doctors and stuff. I was just kind of going up and down. That was really hard for me because I just didn’t know what the next day was going to be like. At least now, I got the surgery. We got a plan moving forward. We’ve been on plan. I’m on track.”

Chicago has already been granted a disabled player exception worth $10.23MM due to Ball’s inability to play in 2023/24.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • While many observers believe the Bulls’ current core group has a limited ceiling, general manager Marc Eversley says the front office has faith in the roster they’ve assembled. “I think for us as a front office, how we see our ceiling may be different than others,” he told Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “And the way we have operated is we’re going to operate this with our beliefs. We’ve all been to different places. We’ve seen what success looks like. We can’t run this operation based on what people may think the outcome may be. We trust each other.”
  • In the same interview, Eversley said they’d like to work out another contract agreement with DeMar DeRozan, who is heading into his walk year. “I would love DeMar to be part of this program long term. Let’s see how that plays out and what that looks like going forward,” he said. “When those conversations take place, we’ll speak about that more when that happens. But we hope Deebo’s back. He’s been an integral part of this program’s success. We hope he is here long term.” DeRozan will remain extension-eligible through next June 30.
  • Eversley also appeared on the Bulls Talk Podcast and hinted that the front office is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding power forward Patrick Williams‘ future, according to Johnson. Williams is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason. “He has shown flashes over the first three years. I want to see him show more instances of flashes, more consistent,” Eversley said. “He’s got it in him. A lot of that comes with growth off of the court. And I can tell you he’s starting to grow. He’s starting to get it. It’s starting to click. And when he puts it together—and he will put it together—we might have something special.”

NBA OKs Disabled Player Exception For Bulls

The NBA has approved the Bullsrequest for a disabled player exception as a result of point guard Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The ailment has kept Ball shelved since January of 2022 and has required three surgeries to date. Earlier this summer, team president Arturas Karnisovas indicated that Chicago expects the point guard to miss all of the 2023/24 NBA season.

A disabled player exception is granted when an NBA-appointed physician rules that a player is more likely than not to be sidelined through June 15 of that league year.

Ball will earn $20.46MM this season, meaning the Bulls’ DPE will be worth $10.23MM. It could be used to add a new free agent, bring in a player off waivers, or acquire someone as part of a trade. A free agent could only be signed to a one-year deal, while a player acquired via waivers or trade would have to be in the final year of his contract.

As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes, the Bulls are currently only about $8MM below the luxury tax line. Should Chicago be inclined to make bigger moves beyond adding a veteran’s minimum signing or two and retaining restricted free agent Ayo Dosunmu, the disabled player exception could be a powerful mechanism, though using most or all of it would likely push team salary into the tax.

Ball underwent a cartilage transplant surgery in March to correct his knee issues, in what Johnson suggests was generally thought to be a final bid to salvage his pro career.

Since joining the Bulls on a four-year, $80MM contract in a sign-and-trade with the Pelicans, the former No. 2 overall pick has appeared in just 35 contests. He was a highly effective perimeter defender, passer and three-point shooter (42.3% on 7.4 attempts) for Chicago when healthy, and a big part of the club’s surprise success through the first half of the 2021/22 season.

The Bulls have underwhelmed while trying to replace Ball’s production at the position in a piecemeal fashion.

Bulls Apply For Disabled Player Exception

The Bulls have applied for a disabled player exception due to Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury, which is expected to sideline him for the entire 2023/24 season, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Chicago confirmed the news (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago). VP of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas previously stated the team didn’t expect Ball to play next season.

Ball underwent a third left knee surgery in March — a cartilage transplant — after two previous surgeries were unable to clear up persistent discomfort when he tried to ramp up his on-court activities. The 25-year-old has been sidelined since January 14, 2022, when he originally tore his meniscus.

A disabled player exception grants an over-the-cap team some extra spending power when it loses a player to an injury deemed more likely than not to sideline him through at least June 15, 2024.

The exception is worth either half the injured player’s salary or the value of the mid-level exception, whichever is lesser. In this case, Ball’s ’23/24 salary is $20.46MM, so Chicago’s DPE would be worth $10.23MM if the NBA grants the request.

As we explain in our glossary entry, the disabled player exception can be used to sign a free agent, to claim a player off waivers, or to acquire a player in a trade. The exception can only be used on a single player and can only accommodate a player on a one-year deal. A free agent signee can’t get a multiyear contract, and any trade or waiver target must be in the final year of his contract.

Although the disabled player exception gives a team extra cap flexibility, it doesn’t open up an extra spot on the 15-man roster. The club must have a roster spot available to use the DPE to add a player.

Ball holds a $21.4MM player option for ’24/25, the final year of his contract.

Bulls Notes: Ball, Free Agency, White, Dosunmu, Jordan

It doesn’t appear that the Bulls will be getting their starting point guard Lonzo Ball back anytime soon. In remarks made to reporters after Thursday’s draft, team president Arturas Karnisovas poured cold water on the idea that he could return to the hardwood in 2023/24 at all.

“Going into the offseason, our [expectation] is that he’s not coming back next season,” Karnisovas said, tweets Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Since agreeing to a four-year, $80MM sign-and-trade deal with Chicago in the summer of 2021, Ball has appeared in a grand total of 35 contests for his new team.

If he so chooses, Karnisovas could opt to file for a disabled player exception. The exception would be worth half of Ball’s salary and would give the Bulls another tool to sign or trade for a replacement. It would only be granted if Ball is deemed more likely than not to remain sidelined through June 15, 2024.

There’s more out of the Windy City:

  • Speaking of free agency, Karnisovas indicated that he hopes to add more long range shooting to the Bulls’ spacing-challenged roster this summer, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. “We’re trying to change our shooting profile,” Karnisovas said. “Being last in the league in rate from 3 and 3-point makes, we’re going to try to address that in the offseason.”
  • According to Johnson, Karnisovas also indicated that Bulls ownership is amenable to entering the luxury tax in pursuit of improvement, something the team has only ever done once. The Bulls’ president of basketball operations also suggested that Chicago would extend qualifying offers to guards Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, making them restricted free agents. White showed significant strides at the end of the 2022/23 season, and makes sense to retain. Dosunmu, meanwhile, regressed considerably during his second season, to the point where he became virtually unplayable in Chicago’s two play-in contests this spring, suiting up for an average of 5.5 MPG.
  • With former Hornets majority owner Michael Jordan in the midst of selling the franchise, it’s high time he bought a stake in the team where he became a Hall of Famer, opines Jon Greenberg of The Athletic. Jordan intends to continue to hold a minority stake in Charlotte for now, but Greenberg argues that the former Chicago shooting guard could divest from the Hornets to buy a solid share of his old team. As Greenberg notes, nowhere is Jordan more beloved than in the city where he cemented his legend, winning six titles in eight seasons while being widely heralded as the greatest player ever.

Bulls Notes: Offseason, Vucevic, White, Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Beverley

The Bulls have no plans to rebuild after a disappointing 40-42 season and an exit in the play-in tournament, vice president Arturas Karnisovas told reporters, including Jamal Collier of ESPN, at an end-of-season press conference Saturday. Karnisovas said management will use the offseason to search for ways to build on the team’s 14-9 performance after the All-Star break.

“That’s been thrown around all this season,” he said. “Blow up, rebuild. It’s not on our minds. We changed our minds in the 2021 season to focus on winning, and try to build a sustainable program here — I think that’s where we’re focused right now. How we can help this group and how we can improve from this year.”

Karnisovas indicated that the Bulls will focus on trying to re-sign as many of their free agents as possible. He mentioned starting center Nikola Vucevic, who will be unrestricted this summer, and said the team “absolutely” wants to keep reserve guard Coby White, who can be made a restricted free agent with a $7.7MM qualifying offer.

Vucevic also spoke with reporters, saying he has enjoyed his two and a half seasons in Chicago.

“The Bulls will have priority,” Vucevic said of his free agency plans. “I’d like to stay here. But that’s on the front office to decide and work with my agent.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Karnisovas wasn’t able to offer an update on Lonzo Ball, who underwent his third knee surgery last month, Collier adds. Karnisovas declined to comment when he was asked if the Bulls plan to seek salary relief from the league for the $43MM remaining on Ball’s contract. “I have confidence that he’s going to come back,” he said. “In terms of timeline, I don’t have that timeline right now because he just had his procedure.” The team could only be approved for salary relief if Ball’s health issues are considered likely to be career-ending.
  • Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan believe they can become an even better combination with a healthy start to next season, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. DeRozan points out that injuries have been been disruptive throughout their two seasons together. “We haven’t even scratched the surface,” he said. “Last year, with him being hurt and me carrying so much of the load and this year him coming off his surgery, I know early on in the season he was frustrated just trying to find his rhythm. I kept being in his ear telling him, ‘It’s gonna come. You got to get your rhythm back. You haven’t played. You haven’t touched a ball.’ By the time he got healthy and got it rolling, I began to deal with my quad. So we haven’t been fully ourself and that’s the scary part about it.”
  • Chicago has a decision to make on Patrick Beverley, who took over as the starting point guard after signing in February. Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype points out that the Bulls can offer Beverley a $3.2MM veteran’s minimum salary or $3.8MM with his Non-Bird rights. They would have to use part of their mid-level exception to exceed that figure, but Gozlan states that they may want to save the MLE to add another big man off the bench.

Bulls’ Ball Had Knee Surgery, Out Indefinitely; Green To Return

Bulls guard Lonzo Ball underwent successful knee surgery on Monday, head coach Billy Donovan told reporters, including Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

We understand it’s going to be an uphill battle for him, but we know he’s going to do everything possible to get back on the court,” Donovan said.

According to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link), Donovan referred to Ball’s recovery timeline as “indefinite” and the team will prepare for next season’s training camp with the mentality that Ball will not be available.

Ball was set to receive a cartilage transplant in his left knee after two previous surgeries were unable to clear up persistent discomfort when he tried to ramp up his on-court activities. The 25-year-old has been sidelined since January 14, 2022, when he tore his meniscus.

This third surgery was something of a last resort, as there were reportedly concerns about Ball’s ability to resume playing. He could miss all of 2023/24 after missing the entire ’22/23 season.

In other health-related news for the Bulls, guard Alex Caruso will miss Monday’s game against Philadelphia, tweets Bulls radio play-by-play announcer Chuck Swirsky. He had previously been listed as questionable. As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes (via Twitter), Caruso aggravated a left midfoot strain on Saturday, which caused him to leave the victory early.

On a positive note, forward Javonte Green will make his return to the lineup — he last played on December 31. Green underwent surgery in January, an arthroscopic debridement procedure on his right knee. An impending free agent, Green had been slow to recover, but was recently practicing with the team’s G League affiliate.

Bulls Notes: Ball, Replacements, DeRozan, Green

There are concerns that Lonzo Ball might miss all of next season after deciding to undergo a cartilage transplant in his left knee. Bulls coach Billy Donovan didn’t offer a specific prognosis, but he admitted Ball is facing “a long rehab,” writes Andrew Seligman of The Associated Press.

“For me to say, ‘I have no hope that he’s ever gonna play here again’ or ‘Yeah, he’s definitely going to be back,’ I just don’t know,” Donovan told reporters on Friday.

The procedure will be the third for Ball on his left knee in the past 14 months. He hasn’t played since January of 2022, but Donovan said his work ethic and attitude haven’t changed.

“Even though he comes in, he’s around the team for a period of time, there is a lot of time that he’s away from everybody,” Donovan said. “Just having to come to grips of not playing is really, really hard, I think, probably for him to absorb. But he handles himself incredibly well. He’s so consistent all the time with his spirit and disposition and what he’s tried to do every step of the way to get back.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Ball’s latest setback will force the Bulls to address their point guard situation this summer, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, who adds that it’s hard to understand why the team wasn’t more aggressive in finding a replacement at the trade deadline. With no cap space and limited draft assets, the trade market appears to be the team’s best option. Mayberry notes that it’s now more likely that the Bulls will try to re-sign some combination of free agent guards Patrick Beverley, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White.
  • DeMar DeRozan didn’t consider sitting out tonight’s game after playing 52 minutes and scoring 49 points in Friday’s double-overtime contest, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. With 13 games remaining and the Bulls fighting for a play-in spot, DeRozan understands there’s no time for load management. “I hoop all summer for free,” he said. “Why not do it when you’re getting paid for it? I’m looking forward to it.”
  • Javonte Green is trending toward a return after missing more than two months following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Johnson tweets. Green was able to practice Friday with the Bulls’ G League affiliate, and Donovan said team doctors want to see how he responds to numerous practice sessions.