Robin Lopez

Bulls Notes: Lopez, Boylen, Portis

Robin Lopez‘s shaky status with the Bulls led to some tense moments during practice on Monday, according to a series of Chicago Sun-Times tweets. Lopez was told prior to practice that his minutes might be reduced and he showed his irritation on the court, exchanging words with guard Kris Dunn, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Coach Jim Boylen removed him from practice for approximately 10 minutes because Boylen felt he was getting too chippy. No punches were thrown, but the incident displayed how frustrated the veteran center feels about being in limbo. He and his expiring $14.36MM contract are on the trading block but the market for him is currently quiet after a potential deal fell through last week.

Chicago is hoping to get at least a second-round pick for Lopez without having to take back anything but another expiring contract to match up the salaries, Andrews adds. The Bulls have so far resisted buying out Lopez in the hopes that a trade can be worked out before the deadline.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • The re-negotiation of Boylen’s contract was mainly a show of support by management rather than a firm commitment, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune explains. Boylen had his salary doubled from what he was making as an assistant to $1.6MM. He also received a $1MM guarantee for his $1.6MM salary next season. That still might make him the lowest-paid coach in the league and doesn’t preclude him from getting fired if management has an unexpected change of heart, Johnson continues. It does show that the brass recognizes Boylen is trying to implement his philosophy without the benefit of a training camp or hiring his own staff, Johnson adds.
  • Forward Bobby Portis felt Kevin Durant intentionally injured him on Friday, Chelsea Howard of the Sporting News relays. Portis sprained his elbow when he got tangled up with the Warriors superstar. “If I would have done that, I would have got a foul call on me, defensive foul,” Portis said. “I guess it’s just who you’re playing against. Everything is officiated different toward whoever it is, but if you look back at the video at the time, it was obvious.”
  • The Knicks have considered moving disgruntled center Enes Kanter in a deal for Bulls forward Jabari Parker. Get the details here.

Bulls Resisting Buyout For Robin Lopez

The Bulls are adamantly opposed to negotiating a buyout with Robin Lopez, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. According to Haynes, Lopez’s representation has been in talks with Bulls management since late December about a possible exit strategy for the veteran center. However, the team intends to stand firm.

While the Bulls aren’t opposed to parting with Lopez, they remain focused on trading him for an asset, rather than losing him for nothing, Haynes writes. That could be tricky — while Lopez has an expiring contract, his $14.36MM cap hit will make it difficult to move him for anything of value without taking back any future salary.

If Lopez is bought out and/or waived at some point, the Warriors would be his next team, sources tell Haynes. The center position has been an area of some concern for Golden State this season, but the Dubs will be getting DeMarcus Cousins back very soon and they look like locks to land Lopez as well if he reaches free agency at some point during the season.

“I think it’s an appealing situation for just about anybody in the league,” Lopez told Haynes when asked about the Warriors. “You go there, they share the ball, they play defense, they play the right way. But right now, that’s something we’re aspiring to do here. And there’s a certain joy in trying build a culture like that, and I appreciate being a veteran in that position of helping shepherd a team towards that point.”

It makes sense that the Bulls would keep all their options open up until the February 7 trade deadline. Early-season buyouts – like the ones negotiated by Tyson Chandler and Austin Rivers in Phoenix – are somewhat rare, with veteran buyouts typically happening between the trade deadline and March 1.

It’s not clear whether the Bulls will continue to maintain a hard-line stance with Lopez if they’re unable to find a suitable trade. The team values his leadership, as Haynes notes, and is of course under no obligation to do a favor for the defending champions. However, allowing Lopez to join a contender rather than keeping him on a lottery-bound roster could buy Chicago some league-wide goodwill with veterans and agents.

Central Notes: Lopez, Parker, Love, Carter, Pistons

It’s only a matter of time before Bulls center Robin Lopez and forward Jabari Parker are either traded or bought out, suggests Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The Bulls are in fire sale mode and the Justin Holiday deal with the Grizzlies is just the start, Mayberry continues. Lopez has an expiring contract, while Parker has lost his rotation spot under new coach Jim Boylen. Lopez jokingly referenced in practice Friday how he could be the next shoe to drop with the front office in a seller’s mode, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune relays. “There’s kind of been a little shoe-dangling over the past couple years,” Lopez said.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love can progress with “select” basketball activities and continue to advance his therapy and strength and conditioning program, according to a team press release. Love has been targeting a mid-January from the foot surgery he underwent in early November and the latest news suggests the timetable hasn’t changed. There have been conflicting reports recently on whether the rebuilding team is interested in trading the power forward, who signed an extension during the offseason.
  • Bulls rookie center Wendell Carter Jr. has seen wild swings in his playing time but he’s not squawking about it, Mayberry reports in a separate story.  Carter played a season-low 13 minutes against Orlando on Wednesday and has played fewer than 20 minutes in five games since Boylen took charge. Carter blamed himself for his limited minutes against the Magic. “I don’t feel like I brought it,” Carter said. “I couldn’t get into a good groove. So I would have (taken) myself out.”
  • The Pistons’ cap situation will improve marginally this offseason, Rod Beard of the Detroit News notes. Reggie Jackson, Jon Leuer and Langston Galloway will also be entering the final year of their contracts and that could open up opportunities for the team to retool, Beard adds.

Central Notes: Love, Hutchison, Ilyasova, Parker

Trade talks involving Cavaliers forward Kevin Love will heat up in the coming weeks, Marc Stein of the New York Times predicts in his latest newsletter. Love, who signed a four-year, $120MM extension over the summer, becomes trade eligible on January 24th. Love is still sidelined after undergoing toe surgery but could return to action sometime this month. Love is still regarded by some NBA executives as a difference-maker who could be available despite the Cavaliers’ insistence they don’t want to deal him, according to Stein. The Nuggets might be a team to watch, since they have coveted Love for years and may be in a win-now mode, Stein adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Bulls first-round pick Chandler Hutchison has embraced the role of defensive stopper, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. Hutchison is averaging a modest 4.2 PPG and 3.5 RPG in 17.2 MPG but he has heeded coach Jim Boylen’s urging to become a defensive presence. “For me right away that was the first thing I noticed was I can help the team,’’ Hutchison told Cowley. “Then one thing leads to the next if you can help the team. Coaches are going to find a way to get you on the floor, which is a reward for me, but also if I can help the team in areas that we need help, it’s going to help us win.’’
  • Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer plans to keep power forward Ersan Ilyasova in the rotation when he returns from a fractured nose that required surgery, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Ilyasova, who suffered the injury during a December 16th practice, could return to action this weekend. Second-year man D.J. Wilson has played well in his absence. “Ersan’s somebody that we think we’ll find minutes for and then (with) those young guys, keep trying to figure out how we can keep them involved and growing and developing, but I guess for me it’s a couple days away,” Budenholzer said.
  • The Bulls have tried to package forward Jabari Parker with the expiring contracts of either swingman Justin Holiday or center Robin Lopez in preliminary trade talks, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports. Parker, who has been benched by Boylen, has a $20MM team option on his contract for next season. Holiday is making approximately $4.4MM, while Lopez is pulling in $14.35MM this season.

Warriors Likely To Decline McCaw’s Offer Sheet

DECEMBER 30, 6:58pm: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN has confirmed previous reports and expectations that the Warriors are not planning to match the two-year deal for McCaw. The team officially has until 11:59 pm ET tonight to decide, but currently has no plans to do so, according to Wojnarowski.

DECEMBER 29, 6:23pm: The Warriors haven’t indicated how they plan to respond to Patrick McCaw‘s offer sheet, but a pair of writers who cover the team believe they won’t match the two-year deal from the Cavaliers.

Sources tell Anthony Slater of The Athletic that Golden State is “strongly leaning” toward refusing to match and letting the third-year shooting guard go to Cleveland. The Warriors kept a roster spot open for McCaw throughout his unexpectedly long holdout, but they have developed a more pressing need at center. With Damian Jones injured, the team’s top priority is finding another big man, according to Slater, with Robin Lopez the number one candidate if he negotiates a buyout in Chicago.

Alfonzo McKinnie has performed well in McCaw’s absence and seems likely to be kept on the roster as his contract becomes fully guaranteed next month. Slater states that Warriors owner Joe Lacob is unhappy about how McCaw handled the situation. Lacob paid $2.4MM to the Bucks two years ago to acquire the draft pick that was used to select him.

Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News believes the front office made its decision on McCaw a long time ago. There was limited contact with the 23-year-old after he turned down a $1.7MM qualifying offer and a subsequent two-year, $5.2MM deal.

“The whole thing has been surprising. We anticipated Pat would be part of our rotation this year,” coach Steve Kerr said. “It just didn’t happen, for whatever reason. We’ll see what happens. Obviously we have a decision to make.”

There are also concerns, both writers note, about bringing McCaw back into a locker room environment where he might not be fully welcome. The Warriors opted not to renounce him in case he became a trade asset, but they’re reached a point where a decision must be made.

Golden State must settle on its next step by tomorrow night — 48 hours after McCaw officially signed the offer sheet. The deal promises him $6MM over two years, although neither season is guaranteed. Contracts throughout the league become fully guaranteed on January 10, so whichever team winds up with McCaw would have to waive him by January 7 — a little more than a week from now — to avoid paying him $3MM for this year.

Because of the luxury tax, it would cost the Warriors more than $11MM to keep McCaw on the roster. He wouldn’t be eligible to be traded until the offseason if the offer sheet is matched.

Dinwiddie Extension Good News For Rozier, Russell?

League executives at last week’s G League Showcase in Las Vegas were “raving” about the Nets‘ deal to lock up Spencer Dinwiddie to a three-year, $34.3MM extension, comparing it to the Clippers‘ three-year, $24MM agreement with Lou Williams, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider-only link).

According to Marks, two teams he spoke to in Vegas had Dinwiddie ranked as the third-best point guard in the 2019 free agent class before he signed his extension, placing him behind only Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. That would have put Dinwiddie ahead of younger players like Terry Rozier (Celtics) and D’Angelo Russell (Nets), both of whom are on track for restricted free agency.

Rozier and Russell should benefit from Dinwiddie’s deal, since it takes one of 2019’s top FA point guards off the board and could create additional competition for their services. According to Marks, league execs in Vegas last week identified the Magic and Suns as probable suitors for Rozier and Russell, though the Celtics and Nets will have the upper hand until an offer sheet is on the table.

Here’s more from Marks:

  • Teams are monitoring Markelle Fultz, not just to keep an eye on his health and future, but also to see how Fultz’s status will impact Sixers teammate T.J. McConnell, according to Marks. McConnell is headed for unrestricted free agency and is unlikely to get an in-season extension if Philadelphia intends to maximize its 2019 cap room. McConnell could command a salary in the $5-7MM range, Marks notes.
  • Teams around the NBA believe there could be a strong group of buyout candidates available later this season. According to Marks, the veteran players that clubs are keeping an eye on include Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, Zach Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Enes Kanter, Kenneth Faried, Jerryd Bayless, Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, Alec Burks, J.R. Smith, and Jabari Parker. Some of those vets may be traded and some figure to remain with their current teams, but I could definitely see several of them ending up on the buyout market.

Jim Boylen Solidifies Position With Bulls

With a potential player revolt now behind him, new coach Jim Boylen seems to have the Bulls headed in the right direction and may be in position for an extension this summer, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

Boylen has enjoyed the full support of team management since taking over after the firing of Fred Hoiberg three weeks ago. He was empowered to bring toughness that many believed was lacking under Hoiberg, and it appears the players are starting to buy in. Chicago has won three of its last five games, including a victory in San Antonio.

“I have been in the league awhile,’’ Boylen said about his relationship with the front office. “If the time comes where they need my support, I’ll be there for them all night long. Whatever they need. We are connected. Never felt more supported in anything in my life and I appreciate it.’’

Cowley adds that Boylen, who wasn’t given an interim title when he took over the job, is almost certain to return next season, with or without an extension. However, that’s not true for everyone as the Bulls are expected to be active in trade talks through the February 7 deadline. Here’s the status of several players currently on the roster, according to Cowley:

  • It’s no secret Chicago wants to move Jabari Parker, who was an expensive free agent addition over the summer. Parker was pulled from the rotation shortly after Boylen took over and hasn’t played at all since December 13.
  • Robin Lopez could be a backup center for a contender and has an expiring contract worth nearly $14.4MM, but Cowley doesn’t expect the Bulls to get more than a second-round pick in return. Justin Holiday, with a $4.4MM expiring deal, may also be in demand.
  • Kris Dunn‘s improved play of late may keep him in Chicago. Part of the return in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota, Dunn is working toward “core status” with the organization. He will be eligible for a contract extension next summer.

Fallout From Bulls/Thunder Scrum

On Monday night, the Thunder defeated the Bulls in Oklahoma City by 25 points in a game between two teams from different conferences, one with playoff aspirations and the other in the midst of a rebuild.

However, the otherwise relatively meaningless regular season contest took an interesting turn when a scrum broke out late in the third quarter after Bulls’ guard Cameron Payne was called for a foul, followed by a shoving match between Thunder’ guard Russell Westbrook and Bulls’ guard Kris Dunn.

Chaos then broke out as Jerami Grant approached Dunn before being confronted by Robin Lopez, resulting in both Grant and Lopez falling into the lap of some fans sitting in courtside seats.

The NBA announced discipline this afternoon, with non-participants and Thunder guards Raymond Felton and Dennis Schroder both receiving one-game suspensions for leaving the bench. Meanwhile, Dunn was fined $15K for “instigating,” while Grant and Lopez were fined $20K and $25K, respectively, for “escalating.”

Fortunately for the Kings, both Felton and Schroder will miss the Thunder’s game later tonight in Sacramento.

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Leadership Committee, More

While not every Bulls player was on the original group text that discussed a possible boycott of last Sunday’s practice, Lauri Markkanen was — and his voice “resonated immediately” when he urged teammates to show up, writes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

“I thought that was a more professional way to go about it,” Markkanen said of going to the team facility on Sunday. “I thought about other members of the staff. Like, they show up to work. Obviously, this isn’t the main point, but some of the staff lives an hour away and they come to work. I try to think how disrespectful that is to tell them that we wouldn’t show up.”

As Johnson details in that story, Markkanen believes he can be one of the leaders of the Bulls, and it appears he’ll get the opportunity to play that part. As Johnson tweeted on Thursday, the team’s new “leadership committee” will be comprised of Zach LaVine, Robin Lopez, Justin Holiday, Bobby Portis, and Markkanen. According to Johnson (Twitter link), the committee was originally just going to be four players, but Markkanen asked to be added.

Here’s more from out of Chicago:

  • With the Bulls facing plenty of outside criticism for the drama involving Boylen and his team, executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson pushed back this week against those critics, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times relays. The only thing that discourages me is when there are storylines out there and no one asks us our side of the story,” Paxson said. “It’s easy to look from the outside in and gather information from other people around the league that you know, but if you’re not coming directly to us, how do you really know? I’m confident in what we’re doing. … There’s so much noise out there, so much negativity. I don’t feel it inside our building or our locker room. Like I said, I think that what happened the last week, long term, will be a good thing.”
  • Addressing the situation in Chicago on Thursday, commissioner Adam Silver said that no one from the players’ union contacted him this week about the Bulls, and he plans to stay out of matters relating to the “operation of any particular team.” Cowley has the details and the quotes for The Sun-Times.
  • K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune answered several Bulls-related questions in his mailbag earlier this week.
  • Earlier today, we passed along word that the Bulls have engaged in some Jabari Parker trade talks. That full story is right here.

Bulls Players Reached Out To NBPA About Boylen’s Tactics

It was an odd weekend for the Bulls, who picked up a rare win on Friday, suffered the worst loss in team history on Saturday, then held a pair of meetings on Sunday in lieu of the practice that head coach Jim Boylen had reportedly planned. As we relayed this morning, some Bulls players had originally wanted to skip Sunday’s practice altogether, discussing the idea beforehand in a group chat, but Robin Lopez and Lauri Markkanen were among those who convinced everyone to show up and voice their concerns.

Speaking today to reporters, including K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link), Boylen pushed back on the idea that his team – as a whole – was opposed to practicing on Sunday.

“That is not true that ‘they’ didn’t want to have practice. ‘They’ means everybody. That is not true. I don’t like that narrative,” Boylen said, per Johnson. “The truth is we had a couple guys who thought a Sunday practice was excessive after the week we had. They have to trust me that if I bring them in to practice, I’m going to manage their legs. They didn’t understand that. So I explained to them that you have to trust me that I’m going to do what’s best for this team. What was best was coming in, being together and growing.”

As Johnson explains (via Twitter), it’s not as if Boylen’s tactics are at odds with what Bulls ownership and management wants from him — while his coaching style definitely reflects his personality, Boylen also has an organizational mandate to push his players hard, says Johnson. The head coach said as much on Monday, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times relays.

“My job, I tell them this and you guys have heard me say this, is to try and push our guys to a place they can’t take themselves,” Boylen said. “That’s pushing them outside their comfort zone. That’s what my job is, that’s what the Reinsdorfs are paying me for. I take that very seriously, so I explained that to them.”

As Boylen doubles down on his hard-nosed approach to the head coaching job, Vincent Goodwill and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports report that Bulls players contacted the National Basketball Players Association on Sunday about Boylen’s tactics. Having already gone through three two-and-a-half hour practices since Boylen took over last Monday, the players reached out to the union when it appeared that another grueling practice was on tap for Sunday following a back-to-back set.

Haynes and Goodwill passed along several more fascinating tidbits on the situation in Chicago. We’ll round up a number of the highlights here:

  • Following Saturday’s game, one of the team’s veterans said – in a group text with his teammates – that if anyone showed up to Sunday’s practice, the vet would personally fine them, according to Haynes and Goodwill. Some players agreed, but with Boylen aware of the plan and refusing to relent, the players ultimately decided to show up, even though they had no intention of practicing.
  • Lopez, who wasn’t part of the initial group chat, played a major role in getting the players to back down, per Yahoo’s report. The veteran center also said today that the team “came out the better for it” after Sunday’s meetings, but admitted that he wished Fred Hoiberg had been given the chance to coach a fully healthy roster this season, according to Malika Andrews of
  • Sources close to Boylen tell Haynes and Goodwill that the coach wasn’t actually planning to conduct a rigorous practice on Sunday. K.C. Johnson previously reported the same thing, writing that Boylen simply planned to have his players watch film and get some shots up. It’s not clear whether or not that’s revisionist history, considering Boylen said on Saturday night that he pulled his players early on Saturday in a “premeditated” move so that they’d be able to practice on Sunday.
  • Boylen, who has had “numerous verbal confrontations” with Bulls players since the start of the 2018/19 season, went against the usual postgame protocol by making players watch film immediately after last Tuesday’s loss to Indiana. Sources tell Haynes and Goodwill that Bulls players felt like they were being treated like high school athletes, and felt further disrespected when Boylen told the media later the players had to get in better shape.
  • When the Bulls told Boylen on Sunday that they weren’t practicing, Zach LaVine and Justin Holiday were the “most vocal,” sources tell Haynes and Goodwill. Sensing “turmoil” in Chicago, some teams have begun looking into Holiday’s availability, though it’s not yet clear if the Bulls will engage in trade talks, according to Haynes and Goodwill. Previous reports have suggested Holiday, who is on an expiring contract, should be available.
  • Defending his decision to sub out all five starters at once during Saturday’s game, Boylen cited Gregg Popovich and the Spurs when speaking with his team on Sunday. According to Haynes and Goodwill, one player responded by telling Boylen, in essence, that the Bulls “aren’t the Spurs and, more importantly, he isn’t Popovich.”