Robin Lopez

Central Rumors: Henson, Lopez, Sexton, Kennard

John Henson‘s wrist injury will cost him more than just a chunk of the season, as Bobby Marks of ESPN explains. The Bucks center will lose $750K in bonus money due to clauses in his contract. He was due $250K for appearing in 60 games and an additional $500K for 75 games. Henson, who is signed through next season, is expected to miss at least 12 weeks due to a torn left wrist ligament. Henson’s cap hit for the 2019/20 campaign will be reduced to $9.7MM after the season once the bonuses are deemed unlikely. That will give Milwaukee a little more financial flexibility next summer.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Bulls center Robin Lopez has seen his playing time increase in recent games and the team may be showcasing him and his expiring contract, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Lopez is making $14.3MM and the team could acquire an asset and move him to a contender, where he could add toughness off the bench without a long-term commitment, Cowley notes. Lopez is downplaying the possibility of getting traded. ‘‘I’ve always found that I kind of play best when I go out there and play unencumbered or unhampered by things like that,’’ he said.
  • Collin Sexton may have taken over the Cavaliers’ starting point guard spot from George Hill, according to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Cleveland’s lottery selection is averaging 18.0 PPG and shooting 48.4% since Hill injured his shoulder earlier this month. “There are just guys who feel more comfortable starting than coming off the bench,” head coach Larry Drew told Fedor and other media members. “I think everybody wants to start, but everybody’s production as a starter is not very good. … Certainly with G-Hill out, Collin has definitely stepped up to the plate and made his presence felt and has made a major impact to what we’ve been doing.”
  • Pistons shooting guard Luke Kennard will be out a few more weeks, according to the team’s latest medical update. Kennard suffered a right shoulder AC joint sprain on October 25th. Kennard’s rehabilitation process will continue for an additional two weeks with a gradual intensification towards basketball activity. That suggests Kennard, a second-year guard, won’t be back until sometime next month.

Bulls Notes: Lopez, Parker, Carter

Although the Bulls are fans of Robin Lopez, he’s a traditional rim-protecting center who struggles when asked to switch onto smaller players, writes Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago. According to Walton, given the Bulls’ recent emphasis on switching on defense and Lopez’s expiring contract, the veteran center makes sense as a trade chip this season.

Walton suggests that if the Bulls can get anything of value in return for Lopez (especially draft picks), they’d like to do so, rather than risk losing him in free agency. Walton explores a few potential fits for Lopez, identifying the Suns, Lakers, and Pistons as a few teams that could use a player with his skill set.

While there’s been no indication that those specific teams would have interest, we heard last week that Lopez is available “all day, every day for the right asset.” So we’ll see which teams inquire as February’s trade deadline gets closer.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • The Jabari Parker experiment hasn’t exactly been a success for the Bulls so far, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. In Cowley’s view, Parker “acts and plays like someone who would rather be elsewhere.” The former No. 2 overall pick has a $20MM team option on his contract for 2019/20, which seems unlikely to be exercised unless his offensive production and consistency improve significantly over the course of the season.
  • Wendell Carter Jr. looks like he’s on his way to becoming the most important part of the Bulls’ rebuild, according to Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago, who argues that Carter’s defensive prowess should make him a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender.
  • For all the latest updates out of Chicago, be sure to check out our Bulls team page.

Central Notes: Cavs, Boylan, Bulls, Bucks

As if there wasn’t enough drama in Cleveland already this season, the Cavaliers are now the subject of another unusual story. As Dan Feldman of NBC Sports relays, former Cavs assistant Jim Boylan has sued the team, along with owner Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman, for age discrimination.

Boylan’s lawsuit claims that Tyronn Lue left Boylan a voicemail informing him that Altman and the Cavaliers wouldn’t be picking up his option for 2018/19 since they wanted to “go younger.” Boylan subsequently had a conversation with Altman during which the GM confirmed that the Cavs wanted a younger coach, suggesting that the decision to move on from Boylan had nothing to do with his performance, per the suit.

The Cavaliers responded to the lawsuit today, calling it “frivolous” and referring to it as a “shameless cash grab.” Pointing out that Boylan simply had an option declined and wasn’t fired, the Cavs’ statement accused the assistant coach’s lawyers of attempting to shame the franchise into a settlement by releasing Lue’s voicemail.

As we wait to see what tomorrow brings in Cleveland, let’s round up a few more Central notes…

Deveney’s Latest: Vucevic, Favors, Cavs, Valanciunas

With Mohamed Bamba‘s NBA career off to a promising start and Nikola Vucevic on an expiring contract, the prevailing wisdom suggests that Vucevic’s days with the Magic may be numbered, writes Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. However, multiple league sources tell Deveney that Orlando isn’t looking to move the veteran center at this point.

While the Magic have explored the trade market for Vucevic in past years, they’ve yet to entertain offers this season and have been happy with how he has looked so far, per Deveney. The club also doesn’t want to put too much pressure on Bamba before he’s ready. Of course, if Orlando falls out of playoff contention by February and is offered a first-round pick for Vucevic, the team’s stance could change. For now though, he’s not being shopped.

Deveney spoke to league executives about a few more potential trade candidates, with a focus on big men, so let’s round up the highlights…

  • Although Derrick Favors signed a new two-year deal with the Jazz during the summer, his $16.9MM salary for 2019/20 is non-guaranteed, and few people around the NBA expect him to still be in Utah at that point, according to Deveney. Favors could be a trade candidate at this season’s deadline if the Jazz are able to move him a more versatile forward.
  • The Cavaliers are unlikely to go into fire-sale mode anytime soon, one executive tells Deveney. “Don’t hold your breath,” the exec said. “If they decide to blow it all up, I don’t expect that to decision to be made until we get close to the deadline. They still think they can win.” If the Cavs do start moving veteran pieces, Tristan Thompson is one player to watch, says Deveney.
  • Jonas Valanciunas is no longer an every-night starter for the Raptors, but he’s been very productive in a reduced role for the team and there are no plans to move him, sources tell Deveney.
  • Robin Lopez (Bulls) and Dewayne Dedmon (Hawks) are unlikely to net first-round picks on the trade market, but they could be decent rental options for teams seeking depth up front, Deveney writes.

Central Notes: Lopez, Butler, Wood, Van Gundy

Robin Lopez is among several Bulls players reporting for training camp who may not be with the team all season, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun Times. The veteran center is an attractive trade chip with a $14.3MM expiring contract. First-rounder Wendell Carter seems destined to become the starting center at some point, and Lopez doesn’t fit in with Chicago’s rebuilding project at age 30.

Lopez was sent to the bench late last season as part of the Bulls’ tanking effort. Cowley relays that he was upset about the move, but refused to complain publicly about not playing.

“It was rough for me, but I get it, I understood it,’’ Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys here. I think the future is bright and I think I can be a part of it in some way.’’

Cowley identifies free agent addition Jabari Parker as another player who could be moved by the trade deadline. With a $20MM team option for next season, Parker could be seen as a low-risk addition for a contending team.

There’s more today from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks shouldn’t be overlooked as a possible destination for Jimmy Butler, tweets Darren Wolfson of Eyewitness 5 News in Minneapolis. Butler went to Marquette and still has ties to the Milwuakee area, Wolfson notes, plus the Bucks are moving into a new arena and would have a shot at winning the East with Butler on board.
  • Christian Wood received a $100K guarantee in his training camp deal with the Bucks, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Milwaukee already has 14 players with guaranteed contracts, so Wood will be competing for the final roster spot with Tyler Zeller, Shabazz Muhammad and Tim Frazier.
  • At age 59, Stan Van Gundy doesn’t feel ready to retire, but his wife doesn’t want him to coach anymore, relays Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. Van Gundy is without a job as training camp opens after the Pistons fired him as head coach and president of basketball operations in May. “I don’t care who you are, what job you are in, when you’ve worked at something for a long time and tried to become good at it and everything else, it’s not easy to walk away — particularly when it’s not on your own terms,” Van Gundy said. “Kim’s major thing is that I’m not happy [during seasons]. You don’t need to do it, so why are you going to do something that doesn’t make you happy.”

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Bridges, Labissiere, Clippers

The Lakers ensured themselves a successful offseason when they signed LeBron James, but they still need to fill a vacancy at center, writes Matt John of Basketball Insiders. The addition of free agent JaVale McGee doesn’t really solidify the position, and the only other choices on the roster are rookie Moe Wagner and Ivica Zubac.

With David West and Brandan Wright as the best free agents left on the market, John identifies several potential trade targets, including Tristan Thompson, James’ former teammate in Cleveland. Thompson is a physical rebounder and defender with whom James had a good rapport. However, John notes that he may not be available unless Cleveland decides to rebuild.

Other possibilities include the Bismack Biyombo, who finds himself in a center logjam after being traded to Charlotte, the Bucks’ John Henson, the Bulls’ Robin Lopez, the Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and the Hawks’ Dewayne Dedmon.

There’s more news from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns rookie swingman Mikal Bridges was a little disappointed he didn’t play more in the summer league, James Blancarte of Basketeball Insiders reports. “It’s tough you know. Coming in mentally, you don’t know what the coach is going to do and how they are going to play you,” Bridges told Blancarte. “Couple of games, not playing as much as I thought I was going to be [playing]. Just staying mentally [tough], going through that.” Bridges averaged 6.2 PPG and 2.6 RPG in 20 MPG during five Las Vegas outings. He will also likely have wait his turn during his rookie campaign but Phoenix thought enough of him to swing a draft-night trade with the Sixers, Blancarte notes.
  • Kings big man Skal Labissiere is looking to improve his durability during his offseason workouts, Jason Wise of the team’s website relays. Memphis-area trainer Raheem Shabazz has made Instagram posts showing the work Labissiere is putting in as he prepares for his third NBA season.
  • Clippers lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson showed flashes of potential in summer league games but they were far from perfect, according to Keith Smith of RealGM. Gilgeous-Alexander has a solid all-around game but needs lot of work with his shot. Robinson has to focus more on the defensive end, Smith continues, while undrafted big man Angel Delgado struggled on the perimeter. However, Delgado displayed strong rebounding instincts and toughness on the interior, Smith adds.

Bulls’ Paxson Talks Roster, Hoiberg, Lopez, Draft

With the Bulls’ 2017/18 season officially over, executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson spoke today to reporters about a handful of topics in his end-of-season press conference. Notably, while Paxson called the coming offseason “as important a summer as we’ve had in a long time,” he said he expects the majority of the current roster to be back, since the team is “headed in the right direction” (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune).

The Bulls don’t have any unrestricted free agents on the roster, and none of their players have the ability to opt out this summer, so Paxson’s comments about roster continuity don’t come as a surprise. The most important free agent decisions for the Bulls figure to come in restricted free agency — Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, and Noah Vonleh can all become RFAs.

Let’s round up a few more of Paxson’s noteworthy comments from today’s presser:

  • Head coach Fred Hoiberg will “absolutely” be back with the Bulls next season, per Paxson (Twitter link via Johnson). Unlike fellow Eastern lottery coaches Frank Vogel and Jeff Hornacek, Hoiberg was always considered very likely to return, but Paxson’s public confirmation makes it official.
  • Although Robin Lopez doesn’t necessarily fit the development timeline of core pieces like Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, and LaVine, the Bulls continue to talk about him as a potential fixture. Paxson said today that the veteran center is “an important part of our future” (Twitter link via Johnson). Lopez is under contract for one more year at a cost of about $14.36MM, so it’s not clear if Chicago envisions keeping him beyond the summer of 2019.
  • After finishing in a tie for the sixth spot in the lottery standings, the Bulls are assured of a top-10 pick in the 2018 draft. Paxson said today that the club may target a wing with that lottery selection. “That would be an ideal spot,” Paxson said, per Johnson (Twitter link). “Size and length and a shooting and defensive component at the wing.” Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is one potential option who would fit that description.

Central Notes: Calderon, Thomas, Lopez, Lottery Pick

Jose Calderon has become the Swiss army knife of players for the Cavaliers. As the team has dealt with injuries and inconsistency, Calderon has provided a spark in the lineup, on the bench, or any role he’s asked to fill, per USA TODAY Sports.

The 36-year-old has appeared in 53 games for the Cavaliers, starting 30 of them. His numbers are modest as he’s averaging 4.2 PPG 2.1 APG and 1.4 RPG in less than 16 minutes per contest. However, he’s always prepared to help the team, which is an invaluable commodity for a veteran team that underwent a midseason makeover. His teammate, LeBron James, is one of his biggest supporters.

“You got to have one or two guys like that on every team, someone who has kind of like zero ego, zero notion of entitlement,” James said. “Listen, his whole thing is like, ‘I’m going to stay ready. I’ll stay ready so if my number is called,’ and he goes out and produces and that’s big for our team because you never know when someone is going to go down.”

Check out more Central Division notes below:

  • Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer revisited the offseason trade that brought an injured Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers and shipped Kyrie Irving to the Celtics. Pluto writes that it would have probably made sense for Thomas to undergo hip surgery last season as he will miss the next four months due to hip surgery. Thomas never got acclimated to Cleveland and was shipped to the Lakers. Pluto also looks the deal for the Celtics and several other aspects of the deal.
  • Bulls center Robin Lopez was fined $25,000 for abusing game officials and failing to leave the court in a timely manner after he was ejected in the fourth quarter of the team’s loss to the Heat on Thursday, the league announced.
  • Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago looks at the Bulls’ odds of falling to a top three pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and which players would make sense as targets.

Central Notes: R. Jackson, Dunn, LaVine, Love

Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson hasn’t given up on playing again before the end of the season, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Jackson, who has missed the past 10 weeks with a severely sprained right ankle, was able to perform some quick movements in a workout today and step into his shot without discomfort.

“In a lot of ways, it’s been tough,” Jackson said. “It’s [past 30 games missed] now and I never envisioned a sprain lasting this long. Usually, you bounce back and play within a few hours or a few days or a week’s time. I never envisioned being out this long. The season’s been up and down and I just really want to go out there and play.”

Coach Stan Van Gundy recently suggested that Jackson may be ready for a full-contact practice by next week, but Beard cautions that’s unlikely without significant progress in the next few days.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The young Bulls stars are showing respect to one another now, but conflict will come when someone has to emerge as the team leader, predicts Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn are both aware that possibility is coming, but they are focused on more immediate goals. “I don’t worry about that. I don’t get into that — who’s the best player and all that,” Dunn said. “We all have to be leaders for this team. We have to be leaders in different ways. It’s a matter of time to see how we jell out. Right now we just keep playing.”
  • After sitting out seven games as the Bulls opted for a youth movement, center Robin Lopez will return to the starting lineup Friday in the wake of a warning from the NBA about resting healthy players. “It’s a little bit of a crazy situation,” Lopez told K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). “I’m always excited to get out there and play with the guys.”
  • Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, who is getting a positive response throughout the league over a piece he posted on The Players Tribune about panic attacks, said he was motivated to write it after the issue came up at a team meeting in January. “One of the things that was brought up was [coach] Ty Lue had mentioned the panic attack [from] early in the season,” Love told Michael Singer of USA Today. “And I wasn’t aware how many people knew. I kind of buried it and put it off to the side. And that kind of started a big push in the back to why I wanted to write this article.”

Central Notes: Bulls, Cavs, Pistons

The Bulls are walking a fine line between developing young players and outright tanking, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. The organization’s recent decision to sideline starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday is one glaring examples of the club’s bold strategy down the stretch.

While vice president John Paxson did proactively say the Bulls would be launching a player-development plan when the team returned from the All-Star Break, league commissioner Adam Silver is on a mission to curb the thought that teams could be losing on purpose.

To Paxson’s credit, there’s merit to the idea of auditioning unproven players during the final months of an otherwise lost campaign, gauging how individuals fare with heavier workloads is an essential part of planning for the future. The question is how well the Bulls can balance that with putting a reasonably competitive team out on the floor.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Cavaliers added four rotation players at the trade deadline, so it’s not surprising that head coach Tyronn Lue is still sizing up what exactly he has on his hands. “I just want to see what I’m working with,” Lue told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “I really don’t know the guys that much, that well. Just want to see in big moments, pressure situations, how they perform. They performed well and they’ve been performing well.
  • The Pistons hope that Reggie Jackson is able to practice on March 11, prior to the team embarking on a six-game road trip, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site tweets.
  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy views his decision to take Eric Moreland out of the team’s rotation as a mistake, Geoff Robinson of The Detroit News writes. The bench boss plans to amend that by getting Moreland more minutes in order to capitalize on the energy he brings.