Torrey Craig

Central Notes: Lillard, Giannis, Craig, Cade, Flynn, Mitchell

Damian Lillard will be back in action for the Bucks on Friday vs. Toronto after missing the last three games due to personal reasons and an adductor strain, tweets Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report and TNT. Lillard will be looking to help Milwaukee get back on track after a pair of ugly losses this week to lottery-bound teams (the Wizards and Grizzlies).

As Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes, during Wednesday’s loss to the Grizzlies, Giannis Antetokounmpo was dealing with what the Bucks are calling left hamstring tendinopathy and didn’t look like his usual explosive self en route to 21 points on 10-of-23 shooting. He’s listed as doubtful to play in Friday’s game.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • One reason why the Bulls signed Javonte Green for the rest of the season is a belief that Torrey Craig‘s knee still isn’t 100%, even though the veteran wing hasn’t missed a game in nearly a month. “I’m not a doctor, but I do know he has stiffness,” head coach Billy Donovan said of Craig, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “To me, he’s just not himself. That doesn’t mean he isn’t cleared to play. He is, and he wants to play, as well. Going back to the plantar fasciitis [from earlier in the season] and then the knee injury over All-Star break, he’s not moving the way he was before those things. He’s just not.”
  • Pistons guard Cade Cunningham hasn’t gotten any real buzz for this season’s Most Improved Player award, but does he have a case for consideration? James L. Edwards III of The Athletic explores that topic, laying out the argument for Cunningham as MIP.
  • Although it came in a loss, Malachi Flynn‘s 50-point outburst on Wednesday was a feel-good moment for a Pistons team that hasn’t had many of them and for a player who has had a tough season, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). A former first-round pick, Flynn has played for three teams in his contract year and has struggled to carve out consistent minutes for any of those clubs. “We’re all super happy for him because we all know what he’s had to go through,” Evan Fournier said. “I don’t want to say we wouldn’t give a (expletive) if it was Cade, but it wouldn’t be the same. The fact that it’s Malachi adds more to the story, I think.”
  • Following a loss to Phoenix on Wednesday, Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell spoke about the issues he’s having getting past a nagging knee ailment and his desire to have it get “1% better every day” in order to be ready to go for the playoffs. Chris Fedor of has the story and the quotes from Mitchell.

Central Notes: Pistons, Giannis, Lopez, Craig, Phillips

The Pistons entered this season hoping to push for a spot in the postseason. They currently have the NBA’s second-worst record (12-53), so they’ll fall well short of that preseason goal. Still, they’ve won as many times (six) in their past 16 games as they did in their first 49 contests, and have shown real signs of growth as of late, according to Keith Langlois of and Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press.

During their past 16 games, the Pistons rank 20th in the NBA in net rating (-3.0) and 16th in defensive rating (113.0). Their pieces also seem to fit together in a way that they didn’t before their trade deadline overhaul, Langlois observes.

“We’re coming together as a team,” center Jalen Duren said, per Sankofa. “We’re all feeling good playing, I feel like everyone is catching their rhythm. You see (Marcus Sasser) coming in and doing his thing, Big Wise (James Wiseman) coming in and doing his thing. … Everyone’s contributing in their own way. That’s helping us.

“… We talk about running through the tape as a team and finishing the year strong, so that’s kinda been my mindset these last whatever games it’s been since All-Star break. Just running through the tape.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • In a conversation with Sam Amick of The Athletic, Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo offered some interesting thoughts on the integration of Damian Lillard, the team’s multiple recent coaching changes, and the MVP race, among other topics. Antetokounmpo admitted this might be “the hardest season” of his career due to the adjustments to the personnel and coaching changes, as well as the procedure he underwent on his knee last summer.
  • Bucks center Brook Lopez tells Mark Medina of Sportskeeda that he believes the ups and downs of the season have made the team more resilient, adding that Doc Rivers‘ impact on the club has been “incredibly noticeable” since he replaced Adrian Griffin. “He’s given us a great energy and a great confidence,” Lopez said. “Things have been simplified. We have a lot of people on the same page right now.”
  • Torrey Craig made his ninth start of the season on Thursday, replacing injured Bulls guard Coby White. As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago details, Craig made a strong impression, knocking down four three-pointers and serving as the primary defender on Kawhi Leonard.
  • The Bulls announced today in a press release that rookie forward Julian Phillips has been diagnosed with a right foot sprain. The team didn’t offer any sort of recovery timeline for Phillips, simply stating that he’s wearing a walking boot and that his status will be updated as appropriate.

Central Notes: Middleton, Vucevic, Craig, Gibson

Bucks wing Khris Middleton, out since Feb. 6 with an ankle injury, spoke to reporters for the first time since his injury, writes Jim Owczarski of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Middleton said he couldn’t think of a worse ankle sprain he’d had than this one in terms of the pain he’s experiencing.

After it happened I tried to play, run it off a little bit, see if it was going to loosen up or whatever. Just didn’t. Didn’t feel comfortable,” Middleton said. “Went into the back, tried to get re-taped, and as soon as I took my shoe off it just blew up. So had to shut it down.

He said the process of recovery has taken longer than he’s hoped, but that he has seen improvement. He also said he wouldn’t rule out playing on Milwaukee’s road trip that ends against Sacramento on March 12. The only obstacle left before Middleton is able to return is continued swelling, according to Owczarski.

Middleton knows he needs to play soon to be able to get back to normal form in time for the postseason. He began the year on a minutes restriction and has only played three games under Doc Rivers. With only 19 games remaining in the regular season, Middleton, who is averaging 14.8 points per game this season, is eager to get back into game action.

I want to get back out there,” Middleton said. “I need to be playing. I’ve been on a minute restriction most of the year so at this point I just need to be on the court. So, I’m fighting every day that I can.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls coach Billy Donovan said Nikola Vucevic has been one of the team’s best defenders over the last three years, and the numbers back that claim up, writes Joe Cowley of Chicago Sun-Times. Vucevic consistently ranks among the team leaders in defensive rating, and Donovan likes the way he can utilize the 13th-year big man. “He’s not going to be as good as [Timberwolves center] Rudy Gobert in drop, but we felt comfortable switching with him in certain situations and putting him on different guys, and he understands how to gap and move his feet,” Donovan said. “He’s a smart defender. I would say he’s played very well for us defensively.
  • Bulls forward Torrey Craig, who hasn’t played since Feb. 14 and has played just six games since Dec. 16, made his return to the lineup against the Warriors on Thursday. According to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson (Twitter link), he was on a restriction of 12-to-16 minutes.
  • The Pistons signed Taj Gibson to a 10-day deal on Wednesday after he spent time with the Knicks earlier this season. Head coach Monty Williams explained the signing, saying that he envisions Gibson helping young players like Jalen Duren (Twitter link via The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III). “I just like having another veteran guy around our team,” Williams said, per Omari Sankofa II of Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). “You look at Evan [Fournier] and how he’s had an impact on the floor and some other areas. I told the guys how you approach your career can pay dividends down the road. He’s had a 15-year-career.

Central Notes: Giannis, White, Craig, Wade

Giannis Antetokounmpo will return to the Bucks‘ lineup tonight against Golden State after missing Monday’s game with left Achilles tendinitis, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Journal-Sentinel. Coach Doc Rivers confirmed Antetokounmpo’s status after watching him go through his pre-game warmup.

In a full story by Owczarski, Antetokounmpo talks about the career breakthrough he was able to make when he learned to “get over” himself and accept that his performance doesn’t always have to be the difference between winning and losing. Antetokounmpo adds that he feels like this is the most mature he has been since he entered the NBA.

“I’m able to get to my spot better and execute. And if the ball doesn’t go in, I’m OK with it,” he said. “I think it’s called abundance mentality. I know what I’ve done in the past and that gives me like, confidence, and I’m able to go out there and execute without thinking, not having self-doubts about myself or think I’m not good enough. Kind of like being OK with me. So, that allows me to play good basketball. Mentally, I’m in a very good place.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls guard Coby White has emerged as one of the top candidates for Most Improved Player, notes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. White scored 37 points in a comeback victory Monday at Sacramento — the seventh time this season he has reached the 30-point mark. “It would mean a lot to me,” he said of the award. “Just to show the progress I’ve made and to set the example to younger guys around the NBA that people can count you out and say what you want about you. But as long as you stay true to who you are, keep working and stay humble throughout, things can come your way.”
  • Bulls wing Torrey Craig is getting close to returning from a sprained right knee that has kept him out of action since the All-Star break, Johnson tweets. Coach Billy Donovan told reporters, “There’s some optimism he could play tomorrow (at Golden State).”
  • Dean Wade‘s 20-point explosion in the fourth quarter against Boston on Tuesday showed why the Cavaliers were willing to give him a three-year extension and part with Kevin Love last season, states Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Wade’s production will become more important while Evan Mobley is sidelined with a sprained left ankle.

Injury Notes: Curry, Martin, Booker, Craig, Giannis, Markkanen

The Hornets will be without injured wings Seth Curry and Cody Martin for at least two weeks, the team announced on Monday (Twitter link). Both players were injured in Friday’s loss to Philadelphia, with Curry spraining his right ankle and Martin suffering a left ankle sprain.

The banged-up Hornets had already been playing without a pair of key starters in LaMelo Ball and Mark Williams. Martin had been a fixture in the starting lineup for the better part of the past two months, while Curry got his first start on Friday since being traded to Charlotte at last month’s deadline.

It’s an unfortunate setback for Martin, who missed most of last season and the first two months of this season due to a knee issue. The Hornets guard/forward had been looking more like his old self in recent weeks before heading back to the injured list over the weekend.

As for Curry, this injury clouds his availability for a showdown vs. the Warriors in Charlotte later this month. That game is expected to reunite Seth with his brother Stephen Curry and their father Dell Curry (a Hornets broadcaster) in the city where the brothers grew up. If Seth is ready to return – or at least close to returning – when he’s reevaluated in two weeks, he could still suit up for that March 29 game.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Sources told Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic on Monday that Devin Booker‘s recovery timeline for his sprained right ankle is expected to be in the range of five-to-14 days, with five days as a best-case outcome and two weeks representing a worst-case scenario. Earlier in the day on Monday, Shams Charania of The Athletic had projected a seven-to-10 day timeline for the Suns guard.
  • Injured Bulls wing Torrey Craig is ramping up his activity as he makes his way back from a right knee sprain, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, who says Craig was doing individual work on Monday. Head coach Billy Donovan told reporters that the veteran will be on a minutes restriction upon his return, which may not be far off. “I don’t know about this road trip, (but) it’s not out of the question,” Donovan said. “A lot of it depends on how he continues to progress, but I think the medical guys are pretty optimistic of where he is at this point and time, so he’s definitely progressing closer and closer to playing.”
  • A pair of star forwards sat out on Monday, as Giannis Antetokounmpo (left Achilles tendinitis) missed the Bucks‘ game against the Clippers while Lauri Markkanen (right quad contusion) was unavailable for the Jazz‘s matchup with the Wizards (Twitter links via Eric Nehm of The Athletic and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune). There’s no indication at this point that either injury is more significant than a day-to-day issue.

Torrey Craig Has Right Knee Sprain, Out Multiple Weeks

Bulls forward Torrey Craig suffered a right knee sprain while working out during the All-Star break, the team’s PR department tweets. Craig will be reevaluated in two-to-four weeks.

Craig, who started regularly for the Suns last season, has appeared in 33 games (eight starts) this season in Chicago. The defensive stalwart is averaging 6.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 21 minutes per game.

It’s the second significant injury Craig has suffered this season. He was sidelined in mid-December with an acute sprain of his right plantar fascia and didn’t return until Feb. 3.

Craig signed a two-year, $5.4MM contract during free agency last summer that includes a player option for next season.

Craig has mainly been used as an undersized power forward. The team’s starting power forward, Patrick Williams, is also dealing with an injury. He’s been out since Jan. 25 due to a left foot issue and isn’t close to returning.

Coach Billy Donovan said on Tuesday that Williams hasn’t started running yet and the staff is being “very, very careful” with the former lottery pick, who is still experiencing mild discomfort in the foot, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.

The frontcourt injuries could spur the Bulls to find help on the buyout market. They have an open roster spot.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Trade Talks, Ball, Craig

Zach LaVine and the Bulls explored several options before the decision was made to have surgery to relieve the pain in his right foot, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The team announced earlier today that LaVine has opted for a surgical procedure with a projected recovery time of four-to-six months, which should have him ready well before the start of training camp.

“Everybody’s been in lockstep,” coach Billy Donovan told reporters before tonight’s game. “It wasn’t necessarily an organizational decision of, ‘Hey, listen, he needs to do surgery.’ It was, like, ‘Listen, this is still a problem. We need to start talking to other people as well to try to get different opinions.’”

LaVine missed 17 games earlier in the season because of discomfort in his foot. He was able to return and play seven games last month before suffering a sprained right ankle. That injury has healed, but LaVine is once again being bothered by foot pain. Donovan expressed empathy for his star guard, saying he hates being sidelined with injuries.

“Personally, I feel bad for him,” Donovan added. “I know how bad he wants to play and how badly he wants to be out there. When he can’t be out there, it just bothers him. He just wants to play.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • The Bulls’ most recent trade discussions with the Pistons regarding LaVine focused on Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Harris, league sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. The sources weren’t certain if there were draft picks involved from either team. Johnson also speculates on whether LaVine’s surgery will affect the front office’s desire to hold onto DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso through the trade deadline in hopes of chasing a spot in the postseason. Johnson identifies the Warriors as one of several teams that have inquired about Caruso.
  • Lonzo Ball provided an update on his condition during an appearance on the NBC Sports Chicago telecast of Friday’s game, Johnson relays in a separate story. Ball, who has been sidelined for more than two full years and has undergone three knee surgeries, said he’s trying to stay positive and appreciate little signs of progress. “Definitely doing much better in rehab,” he said. “It’s been a long process, obviously, longer than I’d like it to be. It’s definitely cut out in stages and I keep checking off the boxes I’m supposed to and getting better each week.”
  • Torrey Craig returned tonight after missing the last 22 games due to right plantar fascia, Johnson tweets.

Zach LaVine To Remain Sidelined Through Trade Deadline

Bulls guard Zach LaVine won’t be back on the court before next Thursday’s trade deadline.

Speaking today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link), head coach Billy Donovan said that LaVine’s right ankle sprain has healed, but he’s still feeling discomfort in his right foot and will require at least one more week of rest.

The star guard has missed the Bulls’ past six contests after being sidelined for 17 games earlier this season due to a right foot issue.

“It bugs you, a bony, prominent area,” LaVine said back in December about his foot pain, per Johnson (Twittter link). “You really don’t want to start messing around with that, that fifth metatarsal area and it gets more and more irritated. It’s just smart to calm it down now to where I can get back to 100% and hopefully finish the season strong and help everybody out.”

LaVine will likely require a ramp-up period to get back in game shape even if his foot is feeling better in a week, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s held out through the All-Star break. The Bulls’ last game prior to All-Star weekend is on February 14 in Cleveland.

Of course, it’s possible that LaVine has played his last game as a Bull and will be on a new team by the time he’s ready to return, given that he has been involved in trade rumors all season. However, his value was already down this season due to his dip in production, his maximum-salary contract, and his injury history — a nagging foot issue won’t do anything to improve his stock on the trade market.

In more positive Bulls injury news, forward Torrey Craig appears to be on the verge from returning from the right plantar fascia injury that has kept him on the shelf since December 16. Donovan said today that Craig practiced in full and could be available on Saturday if he feels good during Chicago’s shootaround (Twitter link via Johnson).

Central Notes: Haliburton, Bulls Injuries, Phillips, Lillard

When Tyrese Haliburton returned on January 19 from a five-game absence due to a left hamstring strain, he played 35 minutes, then immediately returned to the inactive list. Following another five-game layoff due to that troublesome hamstring, the Pacers are taking a more cautious approach with their star point guard this time around, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

Haliburton played only 22 minutes in his return in Boston on Tuesday, including just six in the second half. Head coach Rick Carlisle confirmed after the game that the All-Star is on a minutes restriction, which will likely continue at least through the rest of this week.

“It frustrates me,” Haliburton said. “I want to be on the floor. But it’s this organization’s job to protect me from myself. I’m a competitor. I want to compete, but I understand it at the end of the day. … I think that everybody wants to be safe and keep me on the floor as much as they can.”

The Pacers’ goal for Haliburton is to keep him on the court for as many games as possible the rest of the way, not just to improve their odds of a playoff berth in the East, but to ensure that he has a chance to earn All-NBA honors, which would increase the value of his five-year, maximum-salary extension by more than $40MM. Players must appear in at least 65 regular season games to qualify for end-of-season awards such as All-NBA.

Haliburton has already missed 13 games this season and fell short of the required 15-minute minimum in a 14th, but he essentially earned a bonus game toward his required 65 when the Pacers qualified for the in-season tournament final. That game doesn’t count toward the regular season results, but it will count toward Haliburton’s game total, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files confirms. That means the 23-year-old could miss up to four more contests this season and still be eligible for an All-NBA spot.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times passes along some injury updates on the Bulls, writing that Zach LaVine continues to deal with foot discomfort, while Dalen Terry is receiving treatment on a sprained ankle that kept him out of Wednesday’s game in Charlotte. However, head coach Billy Donovan said the Bulls are optimistic Terry will be back “relatively soon” and believe Torrey Craig is also “very close” to returning from the right foot injury that has sidelined him since mid-December.
  • Even once Craig is available, the Bulls may continue relying on rookie forward Julian Phillips for rotation minutes, at least until Patrick Williams is ready to return from his own foot injury. Donovan is confident that Phillips, who has averaged 18.3 minutes in the past three games, can handle the increased responsibilities, per Annie Constabile of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I give him credit for keeping himself ready and giving us a really good boost off the bench,” Donovan said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in him in terms of the way he has worked to prepare himself to get in there. Anytime somebody scores and makes some shots, it always looks good, but I also thought his activity was really good, as well.”
  • While Damian Lillard didn’t pick up a win in his return to Portland on Wednesday night, the Bucks guard is getting more comfortable in Milwaukee after a relocation process he described as “unsettling.” Jamal Collier of ESPN has the story and the quotes from Lillard.

LaVine Assigned To NBAGL For Practice, Could Return Friday

January 3: LaVine’s practices have gone well with no setbacks and he could return on Friday against the Hornets, Donovan said on Wednesday (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim Bontemps).

January 1: The Bulls have assigned guard Zach LaVine to the G League for his first contact practice since he was shelved by a foot injury in late November, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

As Johnson explains, seeing how the foot responds is LaVine’s final hurdle in his recovery process, with a return possibly coming as soon as Friday against Charlotte if the two-time All-Star doesn’t experience a setback.

The team decided to keep LaVine and fellow injured teammates Nikola Vucevic and Torrey Craig back in Chicago while the Bulls traveled to Philadelphia to begin Tuesday’s back-to-back road trip against Philadelphia and New York, Johnson adds. That will give LaVine more practice time with Windy City, Chicago’s NBAGL affiliate.

I like having those guys on the bench just with their voice. I think it’s always good. But their health is the most important thing and getting the back to play,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “There’s more that they’ll have access to (in Chicago) because they’re all at a point where they can really do stuff on the court. . . . It’s a lot easier for them (in Chicago).”

According to Johnson, while the Bulls have gone 10-5 since LaVine last played, his coach and teammates are “adamant” that Chicago’s improved play is merely a coincidence and he can help the team win.

LaVine, of course, is one of the high-profile players who has been involved in trade rumors for several months. A healthy and productive return to the court could be a catalyst for a deal, with his market rumored to be limited to this point.