Paul Zipser

Central Notes: LeBron, Draft, Sexton, Zipser

Much has been made in the last week of the Cavaliers’ poor performance against the Celtics in Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. One topic approached in particular is the potential free agency of LeBron James this summer. James, who has a player option worth a little more than $35.6MM, will again be the showcase of his free agent class like he was in 2010 if he decides to decline his option.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer opines that James, should he choose to enter the open market, may again change the way we think about free agency. O’Connor writes that as the most powerful player in the game, James could leave the Cavaliers and potentially land with the Rockets this offseason – most likely by opting in to his contract and forcing a sign and trade a la Chris Paul last season – then join the Sixers a year or two later before ending his career in Hollywood with the Lakers.

It may seem improbable, but as O’Connor notes, LeBron is probably the one player – other than perhaps Kevin Durant – who can get away with signing one-year contracts season after season, relying on his power and talent to confidently assure himself he’ll be able to sign another maximum-salary deal the next year. He’s been doing it with the Cavaliers ever since he returned to Cleveland in 2014.

Ultimately, while there likely won’t be another “The Decision” debacle if James ends up leaving the Cavaliers, it’ll be interesting to see where James ends up playing next season nonetheless.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Both the Bucks and Pacers have first round selections in this summer’s draft, with Milwaukee selecting at No. 17 and Indiana at No. 23. Beat writers J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star and Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel provide five potential draft targets for each team.
  • Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago takes a look at the fit of Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, aptly nicknamed “Young Bull,” as the pick for the Bulls at No. 7. Sexton, who was coached in college by former NBA coach Avery Johnson, averaged 24.2 points on 53 percent shooting, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists in five postseason games this past season.
  • And speaking of the Bulls, Dan Santaromita of NBC Sports Chicago reports that reserve forward Paul Zipser underwent surgery on Wednesday to repair a broken left foot. Zipser has a non-guaranteed contract worth just over $1.54MM for next season.

Central Notes: LaVine, Parker, Pistons

Comments from Bulls vice president John Paxson suggest that the franchise is keen on letting the market decide pending restricted free agent Zach LaVine‘s value and, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times writes, the 23-year-old’s fate remains a dicey topic.

Cowley writes that a source of his claims that LaVine’s camp regards him as a max or close-to-max player but that the Bulls may not be so sure.

The Bulls, he adds, have been passive in restricted free agency negotiations in the past, “lowballing” Jimmy Butler back in 2015 and letting the market dictate Nikola Mirotic‘s value last summer.

Well, the market dictates a lot and how things go,” Paxson said. “I think the market has tightened up a little bit the last couple of years since the spike. [The Bulls] obviously value Zach a lot, and we think he’s a part of our future, but he has the opportunity to explore things.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Central Notes: Bulls, Nelson, J.R. Smith, Pacers

The Bulls need to get more serious about tanking and start making moves to improve their lottery chances, Nick Friedell of argues. Cristiano Felicio, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh and Cameron Payne should receive a lot more playing time, while veterans like Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday should have their minutes reduced, Friedell says. Holding out Zach LaVine on the second game of back-to-backs would also facilitate the cause, Friedell adds.

Also around the Central Division:

  • Small forward James Ennis and point guard Jameer Nelson have jumped right into the Pistons’ rotation after being acquired just before the trade deadline. Ennis, who was traded by the Grizzlies for forward Brice Johnson and a future second-round pick, has averaged 9.5 PPG and 17.5 MPG over the past two games. Nelson, who was traded by the Bulls for Willie Reed and future draft considerations, has averaged 9.0 PPG and 5.0 APG in 19.5 MPG during his first two games with Detroit.
  • Nelson, 35, told Hoops Rumors and other reporters that he’d like to continue playing after this season. The Pistons point guard be an unrestricted free agent this summer.  “I never want to put a limit or a time frame on my career,” he said. “My body feels good, my mind is right. So I’ll just continue to work. My body and mind will tell me when it’s time for me to go. I think there will be a lot of teams that will need a guy like me next season.”
  • Pacers players lobbied GM Kevin Pritchard to stand pat during the trade deadline, Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star relays. Pritchard was approached by six players, who told him they wanted to see what they could accomplish with the current mix. “They feel like they are overachieving and had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Pritchard said during a press conference. “They wanted to have the opportunity to finish this out and try to get into the playoffs. … That carried a lot of weight with me.”
  • Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith held onto his roster spot and retained his starting job, but he admits he was sweating out the deadline, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports. “My name was being thrown around a lot out there, so it was nerve-wracking for sure,” Smith said. “When you see six guys getting traded and there’s still more than an hour to the trade deadline, there’s no telling what can happen.” Smith is owed $30.3MM over the next two seasons, which made his contract difficult to move, McMenamin notes.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 1/19/18

Here are the G League moves from around the Association today:

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Valentine, Rotation, Arcidiacono

The Bulls acquired Zach LaVine in a June trade despite a torn left ACL he suffered last February, putting his 2017/18 debut on hold. The two-time dunk contest champion is currently rehabbing and Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters, including K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, that LaVine’s recovery is on schedule.

“Zach is coming along great,” Hoiberg said Thursday. “He’s been really good, very vocal with our players. He’s ahead of schedule. He’s cleared to do more movement. He’s not cleared for contact yet, but he’s moving around in unpredictable movements now, which is important.”

LaVine, still just 22 years old, could become an important piece of the Bulls’ future. Before the season-ending injury last season, LaVine was enjoying his best year to date, averaging 18.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.0 APG in 48 games. If he recovers from knee surgery — which has been known to zap players’ explosiveness — without issue, LaVine eventually re-signing with Chicago would be a question of when, not if, Johnson writes in a separate article.

Check out other news surrounding the Bulls below:

  • Denzel Valentine will not the Bulls’ backup point guard, Hoiberg told reporters, including Johnson (via Twitter).
  • In a separate tweet, Johnson notes that the Bulls are expected to use a 10-man rotation. Johnson adds that the injured Paul Zipser, who has been dealing with a back ailment, will likely start in Thursday’s season opener.
  • Ryan Arcidiacono is the expected backup point guard for the Bulls in the season opener, per Johnson. The Bulls reporter adds that 45 days of NBA service on two-way deals does not start until Oct. 23., allowing the Bulls to keep Arcidiacono on the roster a while longer.

Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons, Smith

The Bulls finally embraced a rebuild this offseason so there will be no shortage of attention paid to how they manage each and every asset from this point forward. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the club will be particularly patient with injuries to key young players considering that now more than ever the club can afford to lose ball games.

Between the lingering effects of Zach LaVine‘s 2016/17 ACL injury and preseason setbacks to both Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, the new look Bulls are awfully banged up ahead of the 2017 season opener and may not even see the court together until as late as December.

I think it’s just about being patient,” Dunn, acquired in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler from the Bulls to Minnesota, said. “Lauri, he was in Finland, so there was a lot of strain on his back from all the games they played [in the EuroBasket tournament]. Zach, with his injury, you try to take it slow with him because he’s a big piece to this team. And me, I’m just slowly trying to get back. So it’s just a slow thing.

To that effect, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg has said that his starting lineup when the season begins on Tuesday will consist of Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Paul Zipser and Robin Lopez.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • When Derrick Rose signed a minimum contract with the Cavaliers, he did so as a bet on himself. “I get a chance to reintroduce myself back to the league. I get to bet on myself. That was one of the reasons I came here, I get to bet on myself. And I’m from Chicago, I’ve got that hustling side; it’s in me, man,” he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • While Pistons projects Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson figure to make an impact on the team eventually, they’ll have to beat out defensive-minded veterans Reggie Bullock and Anthony Tolliver for minutes, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site writes. Both Tolliver and Bullock provide plenty of intangible skill that make life easier for the second unit.
  • The announcement that Dwyane Wade would be the Cavaliers‘ starting shooting guard didn’t go over well with J.R. Smith. “We talked about it,” Smith told Joe Vardon of “It wasn’t the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we’ll get through it together.

Central Rumors: Zipser, Markkanen, Ellenson, Nachbar

Bulls swingman Paul Zipser projects as a starter during his second season in the league but he sees himself as more of a role player, as Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders details. Zipser, a second-round pick in 2016, will receive expanded playing time after the franchise moved All-Star Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves this summer. Zipser won’t provide All-Star level production but he’ll help the Bulls at both ends of the floor and deliver 12-15 points per game, according to Brigham. “I don’t need to be the leader of the team or the top scorer of the team or to have the ball in my hands the whole time,” he told Brigham. “That’s not who I am as a person, but I wanted a bigger role and more opportunity to do some leading along with some other guys on the team. And that’s what I think is going to happen.” If Zipser flops, his future with the Bulls beyond this season is uncertain. His $1,544,951 salary for 2018/19 is not guaranteed.

In other developments concerning the Central Division:

  • The Bulls would be wise to leave rookie big man Lauri Markkanen at power forward, Vince Goodwill of opines. Markkanen looks overmatched at this stage trying to guard the likes of Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins, as he did in a preseason game on Sunday, Goodwill continues. However, since the Bulls have two rotation-worthy centers and power forwards, he’ll have to play both positions to get playing time this season, Goodwill notes.
  • Veteran Anthony Tolliver is likely to nab a rotation spot over second-year player Henry Ellenson, but the young Pistons power forward is making that a tougher call, as Keith Langlois of explains. Coach Stan Van Gundy told Langlois and other media members after Ellenson scored 16 points against the Hawks in a preseason game this weekend that Ellenson has made a strong impression in training camp. “He’s probably been the most consistent of anybody,” Van Gundy said. “Every time we play, every time we practice, he really hasn’t had – I don’t remember a bad day since the start of camp. I think his confidence is sky high. He’s really focused on what he has to do. He’s playing very, very well.”
  • The Pistons have added Bostjan Nachbar to their international scouting staff, overseas expert David Pick tweets. Nachbar played for three NBA franchises from 2002-08 after the Rockets made him a mid-first-round selection in 2002.

Bulls Notes: Wade, Hoiberg, Rondo, Portis

Dwyane Wade doesn’t feel the need to “ring-chase” as he considers his options for next season, relays Nick Friedell of Wade has a $23.8MM player option and is in no hurry to make a decision. He plans to take a vacation, then meet with GM Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson to discuss their plans for the team’s future. Wade’s first season in Chicago after 13 in Miami didn’t turn out the way he hoped, with the Bulls struggling to make the playoffs, then getting dispatched in the first round. Still, he likes being in Chicago and stands by the choice he made last summer. “If I could say anything, one word I could pull out, it’s just ‘different,’ as I expected to be different,” Wade explained. “Only playing in one organization my whole career [prior to this season]. The biggest thing, I came here and I was embraced, not only by the city. Up top, I was embraced by the coaches, the players, and it was some good moments and bad moments. Just like every season. But I don’t regret my decision at all.”

There’s more today out of Chicago:

  • If Wade does return, he wants Fred Hoiberg to be with him, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Wade defended his coach today and criticized the fans who chanted “Fire Hoiberg” during Friday’s Game 6 loss. “I definitely don’t agree with the chants that were going on in the arena,’’ Wade said. “I definitely believe [Hoiberg] got better throughout this year. And I think you have more a grasp moving forward with what he wants to do with this team. You have to give people a chance.’’
  • Rajon Rondo missed his exit interview today, but it’s not a Kristaps Porzingis situation where he’s protesting the state of the team, Friedell tweets. Rondo had a family commitment and plans to reschedule the interview for next week. His future in Chicago remains uncertain as the Bulls decide whether to pick up his $13.397MM option for next season. Several young players expressed their admiration of Rondo in today’s exit interviews (Twitter link).
  • Second-year power forward Bobby Portis was playing with a severely burned foot since March 4th, Friedell reveals in a separate story. The burn was caused by a heat pack that Portis used before a game, and he kept it secret so it wouldn’t threaten his spot in the rotation. “I had a third-degree burn on my foot,” Portis said. “On top of my foot. Every time I tied my shoe up, it was right there on the spot. After the game, it would be bloody and nasty.”
  • Paul Zipser plans to play for the Bulls’ summer league team, but isn’t sure if he will join the German National Team after that, Friedell tweets.

Bulls Notes: Butler, Rondo, Payne

As the dust settles on Chicago’s elimination from the NBA postseason, the topic of conversation shifts from their impressive early series performance against the Celtics to what they’ll do in the offseason. Jimmy Butler, for what it’s worth, tells Nick Friedell of ESPN that he’d like to remain with the Bulls.

Butler is well aware of the fact that he’ll be featured heavily in trade rumors this offseason but went so far as to say that he hoped the Bulls front office would retain potential free agent Rajon Rondo. The Bulls have a player option on the second year of the veteran guard’s contract.

He’s been huge for us this year,” Butler said. “[…] But I don’t know what the future holds for anybody. So I’ll sit back and wait on that time to come.

The 27-year-old swingman put up 23.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game for the Bulls despite the notoriously chaotic campaign and has said all the right things when it comes to his future in Chicago.

Whether the Bulls front office decides to keep the core that looked so promising in Games 1 and 2 of their first-round series together for another crack at Eastern Conference success in 2017/18, however, remains to be seen.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • It was a frustrating season for Bulls fans, one they can blame on executives Gar Forman and John Paxon. ESPN’s Nick Friedell recently wrote about how the front office hasn’t exactly stuck to the message they initially broadcast to fans about a pending rebuild.
  • Count The Vertical’s Shams Charania among those looking to make sense of the Bulls’ options heading forward. Much of what unfolds could depend on Dwyane Wade‘s player option, which at this point remains up in the air. Per Charania, Wade and Jimmy Butler will eventually discuss the decision “face-to-face”.
  • A series of ESPN Insider panelists recently discussed the looming decisions that the Bulls will have to make. Despite a dramatic 2016/17, the consensus believes we’ll see a similar roster in 2017/18 once the front office picks up Rajon Rondo’s option and Dwyane Wade takes his.
  • The Bulls still need a point guard for their future, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. “It’s tough. We’re asking guys to play roles they haven’t played all year,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said of asking players like Dwyane Wade, Isaiah Canaan and even Paul Zipser to bring up the ball in their elimination game Friday.
  • The carousal of point guards that the Bulls trotted out this season didn’t impress Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman. The Thunder columnist wrote about how Cameron Payne – the supposed primary factor in the Taj Gibson deal – was Chicago’s fifth-string point guard.

Central Notes: Rondo, Bulls, George

We learned earlier today that Bulls guard Rajon Rondo will miss the remainder of the first round and perhaps some of the next with a fractured thumb. That bad news complicates how the pending free agent’s summer might unfold, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

Though Rondo is signed through next year for $14MM, the Bulls can part ways with him should they choose to do so by June 30. Half-way through Chicago’s dysfunctional regular season, such a split seemed inevitable. These days, up two games to zero on the No. 1 seed Celtics, that’s not the case.

A strong finish to the regular season, coupled with his impact on the Bulls’ surprising first-round wins over Boston this week, have bumped the oft-maligned veteran’s value to its highest point in seasons.

Of course retaining Rondo would almost certainly delay Chicago’s supposedly inevitable rebuild, Deveney points out. Then again a team capable of threatening the top seed in their conference may not need to shake things up as badly as initially thought.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Don’t underestimate the impact that Bobby Portis, Paul Zipser and Nikola Mirotic have had on their first-round series against Boston, Sam Smith of Chicago’s official team site writes. The Bulls big men have helped their team hop out to an unexpected two-game lead on the No. 1-seeded Celtics.
  • After being questioned for comments he made about his Pacers teammates, Paul George has come out and defended himself, Clifton Brown of the Indianapolis Star writes. “Everybody knows how close I am with my teammates,” the All-Star said. “For [the media] to say I’m a selfish teammate, or I don’t think about my teammates, or I’m throwing my teammates under the bus? I didn’t say anything bad about my teammates, other than what I think my teammates can do down the stretch in order to help this team win.
  • Though his Cavaliers are up three games against the Pacers (two at the time), LeBron James speaks highly of Paul George, Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. “Paul George is one of those type of players that you have to just have your eyes on him every single possession because he’s capable of hurting you,” James said prior to Game 3.
  • The way that the Bucks have been playing in their first-round matchup against the Raptors has served as a glimpse into the future, Genaro Armas of the Associated Press writes. While the emergence of Giannis Antetokounmpo is nothing new, it’s the first time they’ve been on full display on the national stage.