Robin Lopez

Bulls Notes: Rose, Lopez, Markkanen, Harrison

Derrick Rose‘s latest injury decreases the chances that the Bulls will try to sign him next season, writes K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune in an question-and-answer column. The Chicago native and former MVP revived his career in Minnesota this season, averaging 18.0 PPG and shooting 37% from 3-point range in 51 games. However, his season ended early again due to bone chips in his right elbow that required surgery last week.

Rose will be a free agent this summer after signing a one-year deal with the Timberwolves, and there was talk that the Bulls might be interested in pursuing him to settle their issues at point guard. In light of the injury, however, Johnson suggests Ricky Rubio, Darren Collison and Patrick Beverley as better targets.

There’s more Bulls news to pass along:

  • Chicago probably won’t be able to re-sign veteran center Robin Lopez, Johnson writes in the same column. Even though there’s some mutual interest, Lopez will be seeking a situation that offers regular playing time, and Wendell Carter is the Bulls’ center of the future. Coach Jim Boylen has also mentioned the possibility of using Lauri Markkanen at center and Otto Porter at small forward against smaller lineups, which leaves few available minutes for Lopez. Johnson notes that Bulls management likes team-first veterans, so they would try to find a similar player if Lopez leaves.
  • Injuries continue to derail the Bulls’ rebuilding process, observes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Markkanen is the latest player to be shut down for the rest of the season after “an episode of rapid heart rate and fatigue.” A source told Cowley that Markkanen was experiencing a rapid heart rate in the locker room during Tuesday’s game. His condition improved after showering and eating, but he became light-headed while waiting for the bus to the airport. Markkanen was limited to 68 games as a rookie because of back issues and managed only 52 games this year after being sidelined at the start of the season with an elbow injury.
  • Shaquille Harrison has proven he belongs in the NBA during his time with the Bulls, contends Michael Walton of NBC Sports. Harrison’s defensive prowess is well known, but he has been improving as a scorer, pouring in a game-high 21 points last night. Chicago faces a decision this summer as Harrison’s $1,588,231 salary for next season will become guaranteed on August 15.

Central Notes: Porter, R. Lopez, Bucks, Evans

The Bulls traded for Otto Porter last month with the intention of making him a team leader, writes Michael Lee of The Athletic. VP John Paxson and GM Gar Forman made Porter’s role clear in their first meeting with him after the deal with Washington was complete.

“They said, ‘We want a bunch of high character guys to play for one another.’ It’s really rebuilding a culture here and they brought me here to be a part of that,” Porter said. “Of course, that just comes with experience. Coming from a situation where I can pass on things that I know, from experience, being with the Wizards, here. Because I’ve played in playoff games, played in playoff series and ultimately, that’s where we want to see ourselves — playing in the playoffs, being a top team in the East and making some noise.”

Porter has provided much more than leadership in the 15 games since arriving in Chicago. He has scored a career-best 17.5 PPG and is shooting a stunning .488 from 3-point range. He has already posted two 30-point games for the Bulls, which matches his career total in Washington.

“It’s a new opportunity for me to showcase my talent,” he said. “What I know I can do. And just go out there and have fun playing.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls opted to keep Robin Lopez, but it’s still uncertain if he’ll return next season, notes Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports. Chicago didn’t get any decent trade offers for Lopez prior to the deadline because teams were expecting a buyout. The Bulls would like to re-sign him in free agency, but Wendell Carter is their long-term center and Lopez may not want to settle for a back-up role. Chicago is paying Cristiano Felicio nearly $15.7MM over the next two seasons, and Lopez may demand more than that to return.
  • The Bucks get a little more breathing room under the luxury tax with Christian Wood being claimed off waivers by the Pelicans, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. With Wood’s $1,512,601 salary removed from its books, Milwaukee is now about $1.76MM away from tax territory, providing more cushion for late-season moves.
  • Tyreke Evans is hoping for a strong end to the season after having his best game since joining the Pacers, relays J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Evans, headed back to free agency after signing a one-year deal, credits the improvement to a meeting with coach Nate McMillan. “I need to be the aggressor,” Evans said. “I talked to him and I told him that’s the way I want to play. Put the ball in my hands and create. Put the pressure on the defense.”

Central Notes: LaVine, Lopez, Brogdon, Osman

Zach LaVine‘s offer to pay a fine for coach Jim Boylen shows the progress their relationship has made in three months, writes Malika Andrews of ESPN. The Bulls have given their approval for LaVine to cover the $7,000 penalty, which was incurred after Boylen was ejected for an argument with Clippers coach Doc Rivers during Friday’s game. However, NBA rules state that a fine must be paid by the person it was issued to, so LaVine’s offer may not be accepted.

Andrews recalls that LaVine was openly critical of Boylen’s coaching decisions when he replaced Fred Hoiberg in December, while Boylen publicly questioned LaVine’s commitment to defense. LaVine helped organize a meeting involving players, coaches and management after Boylen scheduled a practice the day after a 56-point loss. The tension has disappeared as Boylen has solidified his hold on the head coaching spot, and LaVine is now willing to stand up for him.

“What Jim did, I personally respect that a lot,” LaVine said. “He really cares about us and he’s going to fight for us. That shows his true character the way he feels about us.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls center Robin Lopez seemed like a prime candidate for a trade or a buyout, but he has stayed and become a veteran leader on a young team, writes Sam Smith of NBA.com. Lopez, who will be a free agent this summer, has been a reliable contributor, playing in 62 of Chicago’s 70 games. “He’s in great shape, takes great care of himself, eats well. His body looks the same as when he was 25,” Boylen said. “When you have a veteran guy who never wants to sit out or skip practice, there’s a lot of power in that.”
  • Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon is projected to miss six to eight weeks with a plantar fascia tear in his right foot, but the team is optimistic his recovery time will be closer to six weeks, according to Andrews and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. That would have him back in time for the second round of the playoffs.
  • Turkish native Cedi Osman is excited about the chance to face Team USA — and possibly Cavaliers teammate Kevin Love — in this year’s FIBA World Cup, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Turkey has been slotted in Group E along with the United States, the Czech Republic and Japan. “We are going to shoot our shot and, of course, it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to try to do our best,” Osman said. Love is considering the tournament, but hasn’t committed yet after missing most of the season because of foot surgery.

Central Notes: Bledsoe, Bucks, Porter, Lopez

The Bucks’ decision to give point guard Eric Bledsoe a four-year, $70MM extension was a sensible move by both parties, Bobby Marks of ESPN argues. It’s a worthwhile price to retain Bledsoe and keep the core group together and that should aid their recruiting pitch to All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo as he approaches free agency in 2021. Bledsoe has become a more efficient player in Milwaukee, particularly in coach Mike Budenholzer’s system. With that order of business out of the way, the Bucks front office can now concentrate on re-signing Khris Middleton and restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon this summer, Marks adds.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks had a much more sensible plan to build around Antetokounmpo than the Lakers did with LeBron James, Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times opines. Milwaukee has a completely different scheme under Budenholzer, surrounding its star with shooters through savvy decisions in free agency and trades. That has opened up driving lanes for Antetokounmpo. Los Angeles’ front office brought in playmakers and ballhandlers around James, Woike notes, which is why the Lakers rank 28th in 3-point shooting.
  • The Bulls have a much brighter outlook than they did at this time last season, when they went into full tank mode, Matt John of Basketball Insiders notes. The addition of Otto Porter has allowed the Bulls to improve its spacing offensively. Improved health for second-year power forward Lauri Markkanen has also made a difference, as he’s enjoying the best stretch of his young career, John continues. Shooting guard Zach LaVine remains a defensive liability but in a recent eight-game stretch, Chicago was a plus-8.2 with him on the floor, Johns points out. The Bulls will still get a high lottery pick and should continue to be on the upswing, John concludes.
  • It’s not out of the question that Robin Lopez re-signs with the Bulls, according to Sam Smith of the team’s website. The veteran center is showing his value as an offensive factor due to Wendell Carter Jr.‘s injury. The front office was concerned that Lopez couldn’t be effective switching and getting out to the perimeter defensively, but recently few teams have beaten the Bulls at his position, Smith notes. Lopez will want to test the market but with the team’s frontcourt needs expanding, his return for next season will be under consideration, Smith adds.

Robin Lopez Confirms No Buyout Coming

The Bulls and veteran center Robin Lopez won’t agree to a buyout before Friday’s deadline, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes.

“It’s been so much fun playing with these guys,” Lopez said. “It’s something I want to be a part of the rest of the season.”

Players currently on NBA teams must be waived by the end of March 1 to be playoff-eligible, with Lopez opting to stay with the Bulls (17-45). Bulls coach Jim Boylen said a buyout between Lopez and team management was never discussed, though clubs such as the Warriors reportedly had interest in the two-way big man leading up to the Feb. 7 trade deadline.

“I said, ‘If I hear something, RoLo, I will be honest and direct with you on what I know if you’re in a deal or not,’” Boylen said, according to Johnson. “I would love to have him back (next year). But I want him to be happy in his role too. And (Wendell) Carter (Jr.) is going to play.”

Lopez, 30, has averaged 7.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 18.9 minutes in 54 games with Chicago this season, starting in 16 contests. He made past stops with the Suns, Hornets, Blazers and Knicks before joining the Bulls in 2016.

Chicago explored trading Lopez earlier this month, but opted to keep him and send away young forwards Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis in a deal with Washington instead.

Buyout For Robin Lopez Remains Unlikely

After the Bulls held onto Robin Lopez at the trade deadline, one report indicated that the two sides would likely engage in buyout talks. However, executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson downplayed that possibility the next day, and it sounds like the team’s stance hasn’t changed much since then.

As Mike McGraw of The Daily Herald tweets, a Lopez buyout still appears very unlikely with a Friday deadline looming — in order to retain his playoff eligibility for a new team, a player must be waived by the end of the day on March 1. For his part, Lopez doesn’t seem to be pushing for any sort of buyout agreement with the Bulls.

“I haven’t even been thinking about it,” the veteran center told McGraw. “We’ve been having a lot of fun out on the court right now and I’m relishing it.”

As Lopez suggests, the Bulls have been playing some of their best basketball recently, winning three games in a row from February 13-23 over the Grizzlies, Magic, and Celtics. Those wins were bookended by a pair of losses to the NBA-best Bucks, but Lopez has been a force during the five-game stretch, averaging 20.6 PPG on 64.6% shooting in 31.4 minutes per contest.

There was a sense that the Bulls would prioritize their younger players down the stretch, with Lopez playing a diminished role. However, Wendell Carter has been sidelined with a thumb injury and Bobby Portis was sent to the Wizards at the deadline, clearing the path for Lopez to continue playing major frontcourt minutes. He has seen the brunt of the playing time at the five ahead of Cristiano Felicio as of late.

There were rumblings last month that the Warriors would likely be Lopez’s next destination if he reached the open market, but unless the Bulls have a change of heart within the next few days, it doesn’t look like Golden State will have a shot at him.

Warriors Notes: Cousins, Durant, Cook, Roster Spot

For the first time since returning from an Achilles injury, Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins will be playing without a minutes restriction, according to Nick Friedell of ESPN. Cousins is averaging 23.4 minutes per night in 11 games and has rarely played more than 25 minutes. Coach Steve Kerr said game flow will determine how long Cousins is actually on the court, but there are no more medical restrictions.

“We’ll see how the games go,” Kerr said after today’s practice. “I don’t think we’ll change the plan too much in terms of how we’re going to play him in the rotations and all that, but I think once we get back into the rhythm we can absolutely play him for longer stretches, play him down the stretch if we like.”

He added that the plan was always to ease Cousins back into action for a month or so before unleashing him for full-time duty. The upcoming free agent has posted 13.9 PPG and 6.8 RPG in his limited playing time.

“He did a great job, DeMarcus did,” Kerr said. “So now we’re entering a different phase of the season. We’ll see how it goes, but nothing’s set in stone.”

There’s more Warriors news tonight:

  • Golden State officials are as uncertain as anyone about Kevin Durant‘s plans for free agency, writes Frank Isola of The Athletic“We have no idea what he’s going to do,” a team source said. “Everyone wants him to stay. There’s not much more we can sell him on. If he leaves, we’ll think of it as being lucky to have him for three great years.”
  • No matter where Durant winds up, teammate Quinn Cook could be with him, suggests Marc Berman of The New York Post. Cook and Durant have been friends since their AAU days and may be a package deal in free agency. “Any time you get to play with one of your best friends at the highest level is obviously a great thing,’’ Cook said. “He helps me so much off the floor and even more on the floor. He gets me so many open shots. We have a great connection out there. We know each other. We’ve been playing together the past 10-plus years.”
  • Two-way player Damion Lee appears to be the favorite to fill the 15th roster spot before the playoffs, according to Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The Warriors haven’t given up on Bulls center Robin Lopez, but he won’t be playoff eligible if he’s not bought out before March 1. Another center, such as ex-Clipper Marcin Gortat, is possible, but Slater states that Damian Jones could recover from a pectoral tear by May, which would provide backup help in the middle.

Central Notes: Mirotic, Bulls, Lopez, Draft Prospects

Nikola Mirotic appears ready to make his Bucks debut when the season resumes tomorrow, writes Matt Valazquez of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Acquired from the Pelicans in a deal at the trade deadline, Mirotic has been sidelined since January 23 by a strain in his right calf.

Mirotic spent the All-Star break in Milwaukee, getting treatments from the Bucks’ training staff and doing strength and conditioning exercises. The coaches were busy in Charlotte, but they left plenty of material for Mirotic to study. He was able to participate in five-on-five activities at today’s practice and will likely be listed as probable for Thursday’s game against the Celtics.

“It was great; I feel way, way better,” Mirotic said. “Today was huge for me to practice with the team. It was great being back with the team and doing some work, some scrimmage.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls will prioritize winning over draft position for the rest of the season, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago entered the All-Star break at 14-44, fourth in our latest Reverse Standings and just two games away from a chance to share the best odds for the No. 1 pick. However, building for the future is more important to the organization than tanking for a shot at Zion Williamson“I don’t make all those big picture decisions,” coach Jim Boylen said. “Again, I’m doing what I’ve been asked to do, which is coach the team as hard as I can in the best way possible. I’m just trying to do that, and our guys have been great and they’ve improved. We’ve got to get more out of them and they’ve got to improve more, and we’re going to coach them that way.’’
  • The Bulls‘ stance seems to include a commitment to center Robin Lopez, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Lopez saw his minutes cut back late last season and previously appeared to be a buyout candidate with a $14.4MM expiring contract. “We have not discussed a diminished role for him at all.” Boylen said.
  • With Duke and North Carolina dominating the basketball spotlight tonight, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com talked to Cavaliers officials to get their view of NBA prospects from both schools. One member of the Cavs’ coaching staff compares Williamson to Charles Barkley, while Channing Frye believes Cameron Reddish is the best of the group.

Bulls Notes: Lopez, Porter, Boylen, Portis

Although a report from ESPN on Thursday indicated that the Bulls and Robin Lopez are expected to engage in buyout talks now that the trade deadline has passed, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson sounds like he expects Lopez to stick with the franchise for the rest of the season, as K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune relays.

“My feeling right now — it can change — is Robin will be with us,” Paxson said. “Our players love him. He’s a great teammate. We don’t feel it’s an absolute given that we have to just buy a guy out to help another team.”

Paxson acknowledged that the Bulls would “have a discussion” if Lopez’s representatives requested a buyout, but stressed that the club loves having the veteran center around. Previous reports have suggested that Lopez would likely sign with the Warriors if he’s released, so perhaps the Bulls’ front office also isn’t exactly eager to help out the two-time defending champions.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • In explaining the trade for Otto Porter, Paxson said that the Bulls recognized they aren’t ready to pursue top free agents, which is why they didn’t mind committing future cap room to someone like Porter. “We’re not in the position to go after the big names, the franchise changers. We’re looking at things realistically,” Paxson said, per K.C. Johnson. “We also looked ahead to this summer, and even the summer beyond, at available wings and versatile players. There are no guarantees of getting players like that.”
  • The Bulls remain committed to having Jim Boylen continue as head coach of the team next season, Paxson said on Thursday (link via K.C. Johnson). “We’re working well together,” Paxson said. “Our objectives are the same. Jim’s doing the right things. From our seats, he’s promoting the right message to our players and what we expect.”
  • Speaking of Boylen, during a subsequent appearance on 670 The Score, Paxson pushed back on the narrative about the supposed near-mutiny that took place shortly after Boylen took over as the Bulls’ head coach, writes Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago. Despite reports, Paxson said that Bulls players never contacted the NBPA about Boylen’s tactics.
  • While Paxson said on Thursday that the Bulls continue to evaluate Kris Dunn, it’s becoming clear that the team will need to further address the point guard spot at some point, writes Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. ESPN’s Zach Lowe previously reported that Dunn “was there to be had at the deadline.”
  • According to K.C. Johnson (Twitter link), before the Bulls traded Bobby Portis this week, they offered him a multiyear extension worth $40-50MM last fall. For four years, that’d be an annual average value around $10-12MM, but word around the league is that Portis will seek $16MM annually this summer, per Johnson.

Bulls, Robin Lopez Expected To Engage In Buyout Talks

The Bulls and center Robin Lopez are expected to soon engage in discussions on a potential contract buyout, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews (Twitter link).

Chicago made deals to acquire Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Otto Porter this past week, trading away the likes of Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and two second-round draft picks. The team explored trading Lopez as the deadline approached, but failed to find a suitable deal for the big man.

“I’m going to be asleep at 2 o’clock,” Lopez said Wednesday, fully knowing he could be traded by the deadline. “What time’s the plane? I pass out right away when I get on the plane, so I might be asleep. Hopefully they don’t have to carry me off the plane.”

Lopez, 30, has made stops with Phoenix, New Orleans, Portland, New York and Chicago so far in his 11-year NBA career, establishing himself as a physical force on both ends of the floor. The Bulls originally acquired him in a 2016 trade with the Knicks.

The Warriors were expected to be Lopez’s next destination if the team reached a buyout agreement with him last month, according to Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. It’s unclear if this has changed, with veteran centers Marcin Gortat and Enes Kanter now also available on the free agent market.