Marko Simonovic

International Notes: Valanciunas, Layman, Simonovic, Garza

Unrestricted free agent Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas, the captain of his native Lithuanian national team, is slated to skip his club’s Olympic qualifiers to preserve his body, reports Eurohoops.

Assuming Lithuania qualifies, it sounds like Valanciunas would like to suit up for the squad at this year’s Paris competition.

“Unfortunately, this situation happened for the first time in my life – not being able to be a national team player,” Valanciunas said. “I’m definitely with the team, my spirit, my advice… I will practice, I will prepare, I believe that I will prepare for Paris, the Olympics. I will help in any way I can. I hope Lithuania understands me and we’ll do what we’ll do in Paris.”

There’s more from around the basketball stratosphere:

  • Journeyman NBA small forward Jake Layman is signing a deal to return to Japanese club Seahorses Mikawa, the team announced (via Twitter). Per Dario Skerletic of Sportando, Layman made his debut with Seahorses Mikawa last season, averaging 15.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals a night. The 30-year-old spent six NBA seasons with the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves, plus the Bulls’ NBAGL affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. He hasn’t been rostered on an NBA franchise since 2022.
  • Former NBA center/power forward Marko Simonovic has inked an agreement with Turkish team Bahcesehir, reports Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The 7′ Simonovic, now 24, was the No. 44 pick in the 2020 draft by the Bulls while still playing for Mega Basket. He suited up for Chicago from 2021-23 before ultimately resuming his basketball career abroad. Across 16 NBA games in his two seasons, Simonovic averaged 1.4 points on 27.3% shooting for Chicago.
  • Reserve Timberwolves center Luka Garza, a restricted free agent this summer, is open to possibly playing in Europe, according to Cesare Milanti of Eurohoops. “I would love [to play] for anyone in the EuroLeague,” Garza said. “When you see crowds like Partizan, Fenerbahce, and all these different teams with such environments.” Last year with Minnesota, the 6’10” big man averaged 4.0 points and 1.2 rebounds in 4.9 minutes a night, as a little-used bench player.

And-Ones: Wade, Howard, Vucevic, Pre-Draft

Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade has been hired by NBC to work as a game analyst covering men’s basketball for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, reports Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link). Wade will work alongside play-by-play commentator Noah Eagle, Jackson adds.

Wade, who is a minority stakeholder of the Jazz, has worked as an analyst for TNT. The Heat announced in January that they would build a statue outside the team’s arena in honor of Wade.

Here’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Eight-time NBA All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard is continuing his playing career overseas. The 38-year-old has signed with the Taiwan Mustangs for The Asian Tournament, the team announced (via Instagram). Howard, who last played in the NBA in 2021/22, signed with a team in Puerto Rico in March. Howard previously spent the ’22/23 season in Taiwan. He was accused of sexual assault and battery in a lawsuit filed last July; that civil suit is ongoing, with a Georgia judge denying a motion to dismiss it in February.
  • Bulls center Nikola Vucevic headlines the 17-man preliminary roster for Montenegro ahead of the country’s Olympic qualifying tournament this summer, writes Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops. Former Bull Marko Simonovic is also on the list — he spent last season playing in Serbia and Turkey.
  • Players who were invited to the draft combine but were unable to participate will instead be required to take part in pre-draft activities in Treviso, Italy from June 4-7, the NBA announced (Twitter link). The players had excused absences, as they were still playing for teams overseas. The list of players participating in Italy will be announced next week, per the league.

Bulls Waive Marko Simonovic

The Bulls are waiving center Marko Simonovic, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The move is official, per NBA.com’s transaction log.

The seven-foot Simonovic has only appeared in 16 games over the last two seasons, so the move didn’t come as a surprise.

The 2020 second-round pick signed a multi-year contract in 2021 but his $1,836,096 salary for next season wasn’t guaranteed. Chicago had until Friday to decide whether to give him that full amount, as shown in our list of early salary guarantee dates for 2023/24.

Simonovic played 25 games last season for the G League Windy City Bulls, including 23 starts. He averaged 15.9 points and 9.9 rebounds in 28.3 minutes per game.

Simonovic’s release leaves open a backup center spot behind Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond.

More Than 30 NBA Players On Track To Suit Up For EuroBasket

The first EuroBasket tournament in five years will tip off in two weeks and there are currently 34 NBA players on track to participate in the event, representing 17 different countries, according to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops.net.

EuroBasket is a 24-team international basketball competition also known as the European Basketball Championship. It historically took place every two years, but that gap was recently adjusted to four years, emulating the FIBA World Cup schedule.

The last EuroBasket tournament was played in 2017 — the next one had been scheduled for 2021, but was pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. As a result, after being played every two years since 1947, it has now been five years since the last EuroBasket tournament, easily the longest layoff since World War II.

It’s possible that some NBA players will be cut from their teams’ rosters or will have to drop out due to injuries or personal reasons before the event begins on September 1, but in general enthusiasm to participate in the long-awaited event appears high.

Here’s the list of NBAers currently set to play in EuroBasket, per Eurohoops:

There are also multiple NBA free agents on EuroBasket rosters, including French swingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and German guard Dennis Schröder.

A number of young NBA players, such as 2022 draftees Jeremy Sochan and Nikola Jovic, have dropped out to focus on getting ready for the 2022/23 season, while others, including Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) and Frank Ntilikina (France), were ruled out due to injuries.

Round robin play will begin on September 1, with each team facing the other five clubs in its group once. The top four teams in each group will advance to a 16-team bracket that begins on September 10. The final will take place on September 18, just over a week before NBA training camps get underway.

Keegan Murray Named Las Vegas Summer League MVP

Kings forward Keegan Murray has been named the Most Valuable Player of the 2022 Las Vegas Summer League, according to an announcement from the NBA (Twitter link).

Murray, the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, averaged 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.3 steals in his four Summer League games. He also made 50% of his shots from the field and knocked down 40% of his 8.8 three-point attempts per contest.

It was a terrific start for a rookie who figures to play a major role for a Kings team that badly wants to end its 16-year playoff drought. The first player selected after the consensus top three prospects were off the board, Murray was rated behind No. 5 pick Jaden Ivey on some experts’ draft boards, so the two youngsters will likely be measured against one another for at least the first year or two of their professional careers.

Murray looks like he’ll be an excellent fit on a Kings roster led by De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, two talented scorers who aren’t elite defenders or reliable outside shooters. The former Iowa standout is capable of stretching the floor and handling a variety of defensive assignments, so he’ll presumably see plenty of action alongside Sacramento’s two stars.

Tari Eason (Rockets), Quentin Grimes (Knicks), Sandro Mamukelashvili (Bucks), and Cam Thomas (Nets) joined Murray on the All-Summer League First Team, according to the league (Twitter links). Thomas and another King, Davion Mitchell, shared the Summer League MVP award in 2021.

This year’s All-Summer League Second Team is made up of Santi Aldama (Grizzlies), Bennedict Mathurin (Pacers), Marko Simonovic (Bulls), Trendon Watford (Trail Blazers), and Lindell Wigginton (Bucks).

Central Notes: Ivey, Pistons Roster, Agbaji, Bulls

After injuring his ankle against the Wizards last weekend in an eventual 105-99 win, Pistons lottery pick Jaden Ivey was held out for the rest of Detroit’s Summer League action. Head coach Dwane Casey clarified that Ivey’s absence was precautionary, per Mike Curtis of the Detroit News.

[Ivey’s] OK, just a good turned ankle and he bounced back like a trooper,” Casey said. “He wanted to play, but the medical staff held him out.”

The 20-year-old was selected by Detroit in this year’s draft with the fifth pick after a stellar showing at Purdue. During his second and final college season in 2021/22, Ivey averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, and 0.9 SPG. He was named to the All-Big Ten First Team, and the All-American Second Team for his efforts.

Despite playing just five quarters of Summer League basketball, the 6’4″ shooting guard averaged 15.0 PPG, 4.0 APG and 3.0 RPG in Las Vegas while shooting 50% from beyond the arc.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • With the Pistons’ five-game Summer League run in the rear view, James L. Edwards III of The Athletic examines the club’s personnel heading into training camp. Though the team currently has 15 guaranteed deals on its main roster and both two-way slots filled, Edwards notes that, with $8-10MM in unused cap space, Detroit’s front office could look to make further adjustments to the team. Edwards projects depth charts for the roster as currently comprised, noting that only point guard Cade Cunningham and power forward Saddiq Bey appear guaranteed to start on opening night.
  • Cavaliers rookie shooting guard Ochai Agbaji, selected with the No. 14 pick out of reigning NCAA champion Kansas this year, appears to be headed for a rotation role, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Agbaji could be used to bolster Cleveland’s long-range shooting as an off-ball option. “We know how great of a shooter he is and how good he is running off screens,” said Summer League head coach Mike Gerrity, who serves as a player development coach in the regular season under head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “I imagine that is going to be a way that J.B. is going to utilize him come the regular season.”
  • Prior to an unfortunate (minor) right hamstring injury, Bulls rookie first-round pick Dalen Terry was rounding into form as a promising finisher and versatile defender who could contribute to Chicago’s rotation in the fall, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Johnson adds that second-year center Marko Simonovic had an uneven second Summer League and voices skepticism about Simonovic’s ability to crack Chicago’s center rotation behind starter Nikola Vucevic and new backup Andre Drummond. Johnson also floats Summer League Chicago reserve center Makur Maker as a potential fit for Chicago’s open two-way player slot next to undrafted rookie Justin Lewis.

Central Notes: Duarte, Travers, Smith, Simonovic

The toe injury that marred Chris Duarte‘s rookie season is still lingering, according to James Boyd of the Indianapolis Star. The Pacers guard initially suffered the left toe injury on February 13. He only played in five of the Pacers’ last 24 games.

“I’m just listening to my body right now,” he said. “Whatever my body tells me, if that be to stop, I stop. If not, then I keep going.”

Duarte still plans to play on the Pacers’ Summer League team.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers second-round pick Luke Travers will likely remain overseas next season, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Travers is participating on the Cavs’ summer league team but with Cleveland’s current roster situation, the plan all along has been to stash the 6’7” wing. “At the end of the day, it’s whatever the team wants and that’s what I’m willing to do,” he said. “If that’s to go back and do another year then it is what it is. If that’s to stay, then I will do that as well.”
  • Jalen Smith could have gotten more money in free agency but he chose to re-sign with the Pacers because of his comfort level and the opportunity to be a starter, Boyd writes. “I chose my future over instant gratification,” said Smith, who signed a three-year deal with a player option. “I feel as though that was the biggest part. You don’t want to take on such a big task so early on in your life rather than trying to work towards it and miss out on it in the future, and that was pretty much the main thing that was going through my head the whole entire time.”
  • Improved conditioning could lead to more minutes for the Bulls’ Marko Simonovic, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago“Every day I try to improve my body and put some muscles on. The last two months, I did it,” he said. “And when I came back here, everybody said I’m looking better than I was before. Just keep working.” He appeared in nine games last season.

COVID-19 Updates: Wizards, Budenholzer, Celtics, Nance, Duarte, More

The Wizards are on the verge of replenishing their point guard depth, with Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday now out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Both players will remain sidelined for at least one more game, however, as they work on their conditioning.

Here are more protocol-related updates from around the league:

  • Mike Budenholzer has become the latest head coach to enter the health and safety protocols, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Darvin Ham will serve as the Bucks‘ acting head coach in Budenholzer’s absence.
  • Aaron Nesmith has exited the health and safety protocols, but another Celtics player – Payton Pritchard – has entered them, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
  • Trail Blazers big man Larry Nance Jr. entered the COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday, but it’s possible he’ll be able to clear them quickly. According to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian (Twitter links), head coach Chauncey Billups said Nance registered an inconclusive test, so if he can return two consecutive negatives at least 24 hours apart, he’ll exit the protocols.
  • Pacers rookie Chris Duarte has cleared the protocols, though he’s doubtful to play in Wednesday’s game vs. Brooklyn, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
  • Cory Joseph, who was the last Pistons player in the protocols, has exited them, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Joseph remains unavailable for Wednesday’s game in Charlotte due to return to competition reconditioning.
  • Rookies Marko Simonovic (Bulls) and Brandon Boston Jr. (Clippers) were at their respective teams’ practices today and are no longer in the protocols (Twitter links via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago and Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times).
  • Other players who have cleared the protocols include Spurs forward Devontae Cacok and Mavericks rookie JaQuori McLaughlin. Cacok is out vs. Boston on Wednesday due to return to competition reconditioning (Twitter link via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News), while McLaughlin is no longer on Dallas’ injury report.

Bulls Sign Jordan Bell To 10-Day Contract

DECEMBER 30: Bell’s 10-day deal with the Bulls is now official, according to the transactions log at NBA.com. It will run through January 8, covering Chicago’s next four games.


DECEMBER 29: The Bulls plan to sign big man Jordan Bell to a 10-day contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the team will use a hardship exception to complete the move.

Bell technically was a Bull once before, having been drafted by the team with the 38th overall pick in 2017 — his rights were quickly dealt to the Warriors on draft night in exchange for cash.

Since 2017, Bell has appeared in a total of 160 regular season games for Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis, and Washington, averaging 3.7 PPG and 3.1 RPG on 12.1 minutes per contest. He also played in 32 postseason games with the Warriors and won a title in 2018. The 26-year-old had been playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League this season, averaging 10.8 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 1.6 BPG in nine games (28.6 MPG).

Perhaps no team has been hit harder in the last month by COVID-19 than the Bulls, who placed power forward Marko Simonovic in the health and safety protocols earlier today, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link).

Although Chicago only has five players in the protocols for the time being, nearly all the team’s players have been affected by COVID-19 at some point this month. As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets, Alex Caruso and Tyler Cook are the only players on the team’s standard 17-man roster who haven’t been in the protocols this season.

Central Notes: Turner, Bulls, Simonovic, Garza, Allen

Myles Turner led the NBA in blocks per game last season (3.4) and the Pacers‘ defensive rating was about five points better when the big man was on the floor. However, because he appeared in just 47 games and Indiana missed the postseason, he didn’t make an All-Defensive team and didn’t receive any votes for Defensive Player of the Year.

Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Turner expressed a desire to make up for that in 2021/22. Asked about his individual goals for the season, he said he wants to become an All-Star and would like to be recognized for his play on defense.

“I feel like I’m snubbed and haven’t gotten the credit I deserve in that department. I’ve led the league in blocks, and that looks good and all, but no All-Defensive Teams, not a lot of consideration for Defensive Player of the Year,” Turner said. “… I think I’m one of the better defenders in this league as far as my position. I’m versatile on defense. I’m not just a perimeter defender. I’m not just a shot blocker. There are different facets of my game that I think set me apart a little bit.”

The Pacers are off to a 5-8 start and remain outside of the playoff picture for the time being. However, Turner is proving once again that he can be force on the defensive end. His 3.2 blocks per game lead the NBA, and Indiana has a 100.5 defensive rating during his minutes, compared to 115.7 when he sits.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Bulls entered the offseason looking to upgrade at the point guard position, and all the early returns suggest they succeeded in a major way. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic explores what Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have brought to a resurgent Chicago team.
  • The Bulls recalled rookie center Marko Simonovic from the G League on Thursday, the team announced (via Twitter). Simonovic has yet to make his regular season NBA debut, but could see a little action during the team’s West Coast road trip with Nikola Vucevic sidelined due to a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Pistons rookie Luka Garza has been recalled to the NBA from the G League following Kelly Olynyk‘s knee injury, the club announced today (via Twitter). Unlike Simonovic, Garza has seen some NBA action already, logging 39 minutes across five games. Olynyk’s absence should open the door for him to play a slightly larger role.
  • The Bucks are off to a bit of a slow start this season, but newly-acquired wing Grayson Allen has been a bright spot, averaging 15.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG on .445/.419/.950 shooting in 12 starts (29.3 MPG). Eric Nehm of The Athletic takes a closer look at the impact Allen is having and the chemistry he’s developing with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.