T.J. Warren

Central Notes: LaVine, Vaccines, Warren, Garza, Smith, Livers, Pacers

While the Bulls have yet to sign Zach LaVine to an extension, executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas promises that the organization is committed to their high-scoring wing, according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The one thing we know is that we’re committed to Zach,’’ Karnisovas said. “We want him to be in Chicago for a very long time. I think the trade deadline and free agency moves kind of proved that.’’

That message is resonating with LaVine.

“It means a lot hearing that from them,’’ he said. “I think you guys know I’m a team-first guy, I’m excited with all the moves that were made, and really looking forward to getting into camp and getting to know these guys and getting the season started because we all have a lot to prove.”

LaVine was also asked for his input on offseason moves, Cowley tweets.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Karnisovas said the Bulls are not 100% vaccinated but “pretty close,” K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.
  • Pacers coach Rick Carlisle hopes T.J. Warren can make a swift recovery from the stress fracture in the navicular bone in his left foot, Akeem Glaspie of the Indianapolis Star reports. “Hopefully, it’ll be weeks and not months, that’s the hope,” Carlisle said. “It’s important for him to keep a very upbeat view of things. The healing process with people is always better and more aggressive when you have a great attitude about it and he has.” Warren has not suffered any setbacks but the location of the injury makes for a tricky rehab, Glaspie adds.
  • The Pistons converted rookie center Luka Garza‘s two-way contract into a two-year standard deal this week. It’s a minimum-salary contract, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets, The first year is guaranteed and Detroit has a team option for 2022/23. If it’s picked up, the second year will also be fully guaranteed.
  • Chris Smith, who suffered a torn ACL in January playing for UCLA, is looking at a couple more months before he’s back, Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press tweets. The Pistons signed the forward to a two-way contract in August. Another Pistons rookie forward, second-round pick Isaiah Livers, is aiming for clearance to return from his foot injury at the beginning of November, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets.
  • The Pacers’ arena has officially been renamed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, according to a team press release. It’s a multi-year partnership, replacing the former name Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Gainbridge, a Group 1001 company, is a self-managed digital platform providing clients with direct access to financial products to grow their savings.

T.J. Warren Recovering Slower Than Expected, Sidelined Indefinitely

Pacers starting small forward T.J. Warren, who missed all but four games during the 2020/21 season due to a navicular left foot stress fracture, is recovering from the injury slower than Indiana had expected, per a team press release. The Pacers list Warren as being sidelined “indefinitely.”

The news undoubtedly comes as a blow for a revamped – and otherwise healthy – Pacers club that, with the return of former head coach Rick Carlisle to the bench following an underwhelming year with first-time head coach Nate Bjorkgren, hopes to compete for a return to the playoffs behind All-Star Domantas Sabonis and lead guard Malcolm Brogdon. Indiana is scheduled to begin its training camp in three weeks.

Warren was a major part of the Pacers’ core during a successful 2019/20 campaign that saw Indiana finish with the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. He was been the breakout star of the 2020 Orlando restart “bubble” campus, averaging 31.0 PPG and 6.3 RPG across six regular season games in Walt Disney World. The Pacers would go on to be swept by the Heat in the first round of the 2020 playoffs, but the future looked bright for the 6’8″ vet.

Warren averaged 15.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG and 1.3 APG during his four games with the Pacers during the 2020/21 season. He will earn $12.7MM in the last year of his current contract with the team. An unrestricted free agent in 2022, The 28-year-old could net a significant price on the open market should he be able to suit up for most of the 2021/22 season, but this setback throws his return timeline in doubt.

The forward took to social media to address the news himself. “Just wanted you to hear this straight from me,” he wrote in part (Twitter link). “I’m making sure I do this rehab process right so that I can get back on the court as soon as I can and be the best that I can.”

O’Connor’s Latest: Pistons, OKC, Grizzlies, Wagner, Pacers, More

The Pistons continued to receive inquiries about what it would take to trade the No. 1 pick, with the draft now just hours away, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Although there has been increasing speculation about the possibility of Detroit trading down or even using the top pick to select Jalen Green, executives around the NBA still think the club will end up drafting Cade Cunningham, says O’Connor.

Here’s more from O’Connor on Thursday’s draft:

  • The Thunder have talked to all five teams drafting ahead of them about the possibility of moving up, per O’Connor. Rival executives aren’t sure exactly which prospect(s) Oklahoma City is targeting, but the club is thought to be high on Cunningham, Evan Mobley, and Scottie Barnes.
  • The Grizzlies, who agreed to acquire the No. 10 pick from New Orleans, are interested in another move up to the 6-8 range, according to O’Connor, who says Memphis has pursued last-minute meetings with prospects like Jonathan Kuminga, Alperen Sengun, and Davion Mitchell.
  • Franz Wagner claims he has grown two inches since college, to 6’11”, and multiple league sources believe that’s true, though there has been no update on his official measurement, O’Connor reports.
  • According to O’Connor, the Pacers are “juggling” trade talks involving the No. 13 pick, Myles Turner, and T.J. Warren in separate scenarios. Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) hears that Indiana is fielding a lot of calls for the No. 13 selection, including from the Hawks. Atlanta has also been in touch with the Hornets about the No. 11 pick, says O’Connor.
  • O’Connor confirms a couple items that were previously speculated, writing that the Knicks are involved in trade discussions for Magic swingman Terrence Ross and reporting that the Hawks have offered the No. 20 pick and Cam Reddish to teams drafting in the late lottery.

Pacers Rumors: Turner, Budenholzer, Shaw, Bjorkgren, More

Prior to the 2021 trade deadline, J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star reported that the Hornets, Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Pelicans were among the teams to express interest in Pacers big man Myles Turner. With Turner possibly available again this summer in trade talks, many of those teams could renew their interest in the NBA’s shot-blocking leader.

Exploring that possibility, Michael tweets that the Hornets and Timberwolves are the teams that seem to “really” want Turner. Michael speculates (via Twitter) that Charlotte would be the team most likely to make an aggressive trade offer for the 25-year-old if the Pacers are willing to move him.

Here’s more out of Indiana:

  • If the Bucks decide to move on from Mike Budenholzer after their season ends, he’d move to the top of the Pacers’ list of potential head coaching candidates, league sources tell J. Michael. Michael adds that G League Ignite coach Brian Shaw, formerly a Pacers assistant, is also expected to be a serious candidate for the job.
  • In a subscriber-only piece for The Indianapolis Star, Michael takes a look at the factors that led to Nate Bjorkgren‘s ouster after just one season. One league executive described Bjorkgren’s coaching style as “fake positivity,” according to Michael, who also provides details on Bjorkgren’s tendency to micro-manage and his failure to hold players accountable. Michael adds that the first-year coach “made sure those beneath him knew their place,” which lines up with a May report that stated Bjorkgren didn’t treat his assistants particularly well.
  • Although the Pacers haven’t ruled out blowing up their roster, team owner Herb Simon may be averse to that idea, according to Michael, who suggests the club seems likely to bring back Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, and T.J. Warren.

Central Notes: Warren, Fiserv Forum, Pistons, Bucks

After Pacers team president Kevin Pritchard said that he views forward T.J. Warren as pivotal to the team’s success, and his absence as a key reason why Indiana had a disappointing season, J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star considers whether Warren’s presence is as crucial as Pritchard believes.

“The most important thing in this league right now is having rim defense and a big wing who can guard those guys,” Pritchard said of losing oft-injured Warren for all but four Pacers games due to a foot surgery. “We didn’t have a lot of that for a lot of the year.”

Michael acknowledges that Warren was the team’s best option as a defensive forward, but notes that there is room for improvement still, as Warren occasionally fouls too often while hunting for steals. The emergence of Oshae Brissett as a viable option for spotting Warren will lessen his burden when he returns to full health next season, Michael adds.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Bucks will be raising crowd capacity at their home arena, Fiserv Forum, from 9,100 fans to 16,500 fans for the rest of playoffs, per a team press release. The earliest date this could go into effect is June 1, if the team’s series against the Heat extends to five games.
  • The fact that the Pistons were able to land two stellar mid-first-round selections during the 2020 NBA draft bodes well for the club’s future under first-year GM Troy Weaver, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Langlois notes that rookies Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey already appear to have carved out roles as reliable role players in their first season and could be capable of much more in the coming years. With an 80% chance at nabbing a top-five pick in the upcoming draft, the rebuilding Pistons will have an opportunity to add more firepower to their intriguing young roster.
  • The Bucks internally talked about tanking a matchup with the Heat in the final weekend of the season to avoid facing Miami in the first round, but unanimously decided against it, writes Zach Lowe of ESPN. With Milwaukee on the cusp of taking a 3-0 advantage in its series against Miami tonight, it appears that was the right call.

Pacers Notes: Warren, McConnell, Bjorkgren, Stanley

Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who missed all but four games this season due to a stress fracture in his left foot, discussed his lost 2020/21 season, as Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files details. “I just know it can’t storm forever and the sun has to come out,” Warren said of his extended rehab process. Warren has one year and $12.9MM remaining on his current contract after this season.

Warren also had harsh words in response to a report claiming that he was had requested a trade because he was at odds with embattled head coach Nate Bjorkgren.

“Seeing that report was really, really terrible,” Warren said, adding that Bjorkgren has been “nothing but a great guy” since becoming the Pacers’ head coach. “Not cool.”

There’s more out of Indianapolis:

  • Pacers reserve point guard T.J. McConnell appears hopeful about returning to Indiana as he reaches unrestricted free agency during the 2021 offseason, tweets J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star. “I would love to be back here,” McConnell said. “I absolutely love it here. … I don’t have a bad thing to say about anything or anyone.” McConnell signed a two-year, $7MM deal with Indiana in the summer of 2019.
  • The Pacers are not expected to make an immediate decision on the future of head coach Nate Bjorkgren, writes Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. A report detailing locker room tensions surfaced earlier this month that appeared to put Bjorkgren’s long-term fate in doubt. “My focus is on the players right now,” Bjorkgren himself responded when asked about the situation earlier this week. “And I’m not thinking about myself, I’m really not. I want to do what’s best for these guys.” The Pacers lost Thursday’s play-in game to slide out of the postseason and into the lottery during Bjorkgren’s first season at the helm.
  • Following his rookie season, Pacers first-year shooting guard Cassius Stanley will play in the Summer League, scheduled for this August in Las Vegas, tweets Agness.

Central Notes: Vucevic, Bulls, Joseph, Ellington, Warren

Nikola Vucevic didn’t shoot three-pointers when he entered the league in 2011, but it’s become a big part of his offensive game in recent years, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes. The All-Star center has drained 44.1% of his long-range shots since joining the Bulls. “I think it’s also the way the NBA has been going, and I had to adjust,” he said. “I used to shoot a lot of mid-ranges. That’s not as much a part of the way teams play, so I had to make an adjustment and evolve.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Theis, Denzel Valentine and Tomas Satoransky are among the players who likely won’t remain with the Bulls next season, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic speculates. Mayberry takes a look at each player and predicts whether they’ll be part of the front office’s plans.
  • The Pistons snapped a four-game losing streak by defeating Memphis on Thursday. It’s no coincidence that veterans guards Cory Joseph and Wayne Ellington suited up, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com notes. That duo scored 18 points apiece and Joseph added 11 assists. “Guys were kind of hanging their head and losing confidence a little bit,” head coach Dwane Casey said. “We understand – we’re rebuilding. But you’ve got to compete to win each night.” Ellington will be a free agent after the season, while Joseph’s $12.6MM contract is only partially guaranteed.
  • There were conflicting reports this week about whether T.J. Warren asked for a trade and his feelings toward Pacers coach Nate Bjorkgren. J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link) cites a new source who says that Warren is happy in Indiana, noting that Warren has been featured offensively and will be paid like a main cog. Warren also likes playing in a smaller market and the franchise’s plans for him, regardless of who’s coaching the team, Michael’s source adds.

Central Notes: Pacers, Love, Sexton, LaVine

As we relayed on Thursday, Jake Fischer’s latest story for Bleacher Report features a number of eyebrow-raising details on Nate Bjorkgren‘s stint as the Pacers‘ head coach. However, while much of Fischer’s reporting lines up with what we’ve heard from other outlets, there has been some push-back on some aspects of the story.

For instance, Fischer initially suggested that T.J. Warren – who played under Bjorkgren in Phoenix – wasn’t consulted before Indiana made the hire and that Warren requested a trade after Bjorkgren came aboard. Fischer has since cited a source close to the situation who says Warren never formally requested a trade, and the story has been updated to say that there’s “a belief among several members of the Pacers organization” that Warren asked to be dealt.

J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star, meanwhile, tweets that the front office did ask Warren about Bjorkgren before hiring him and notes that Warren agreed to take a bigger leadership role with the team heading into the season.

Fischer also reported in his story that Bjorkgren’s acted like “a politician’s chief of staff” in Toronto when he was a Raptors assistant under Nick Nurse, sometimes preventing players and other coaches from holding conversations with Nurse if they didn’t go through him first. Asked on Thursday night about that, Nurse vehemently denied it and questioned the reporting, as Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Attaching an asset to trade Kevin Love isn’t something the Cavaliers want to do, and buying him out with two years and $60MM left on his contract would be difficult and pricey, but Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com contends the team should attempt this offseason to find the least painful way to move on from Love. Sources tell Fedor that the two sides have yet to discuss a potential buyout.
  • While Jason Lloyd of The Athletic believes the Cavaliers did well to nab Collin Sexton with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 draft, he doesn’t believe the third-year guard is worth a maximum-salary contract and suggests the team would be making a big mistake if it goes that high this offseason when Sexton becomes extension-eligible for the first time.
  • Zach LaVine, who returned to the Bulls‘ lineup on Thursday night after missing 11 games due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, told reporters this week that he had taken one of his two vaccine shots when he was diagnosed with COVID-19, and didn’t experience any major symptoms (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago).

Pacers Rumors: Bjorkgren, Warren, Bayno, D’Antoni, More

Amid multiple reports suggesting that Nate Bjorkgren‘s job as the Pacers‘ head coach is in danger, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report is the latest journalist to take a deep dive into what appears to be an untenable situation in Indiana.

One league executive who has previously worked with Bjokrgren told Bleacher Report that the Pacers’ coach is “completely out of his element as a leader,” and Fischer suggests that Bjorkgren’s struggles could even end up jeopardizing the job security of veteran executives Kevin Pritchard and Chad Buchanan as well.

As Fischer explains, the Pacers may not have done enough research during the hiring process into Bjorkgren’s background or how he treated people. The head coach has been described as abrasive, particularly with assistant coaches and other staffers, with Domantas Sabonis even encouraging Bjorkgren on one occasion to be kinder to the team’s staff, per Fischer.

Bjorkgren also reportedly has a tendency to become overly agitated by minor issues, such as a ball rack being out of place during practice or a team flight being delayed for de-icing purposes, Fischer adds.

“When he was hired, I was surprised, because he’s not the easiest to work with just on anything,” said one player who previously played for Bjorkgren in the G League. “He’s kind of stubborn, won’t listen, even though it might be good conversation. He’s a micromanager and he’s not for everyone.”

Here’s more on Bjorkgren and the Pacers:

  • Sources tell Fischer that T.J. Warren, who played for the Suns when Bjorkgren was an assistant in Phoenix, requested a trade following the Pacers’ hiring of the head coach. However, a person with knowledge of the situation tells J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star “that’s BS” (Twitter link).
    [UPDATE: Fischer has now cited a source close to the situation who says Warren never formally requested a trade.]
  • When assistant coach Bill Bayno resigned in February, mental health issues were cited as the reason for his departure. Fischer hears that the veteran assistant left in large part because he was no longer able to work with Bjorkgren.
  • Assistant coach Greg Foster – who received a one-game suspension for a sideline altercation with Goga Bitadze – has also “grown agitated” by Bjorkgren’s attitude toward the staff, according to Fischer. “He doesn’t mind embarrassing his coaches,” one league executive said of the Pacers’ head coach.
  • Bjorkgren’s reluctance to call out his top veterans has impacted his credibility in the locker room, sources tell J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star, who says that even if the Pacers ultimately decide to retain their head coach for 2021/22, there will almost certainly be an overhaul of his coaching staff. Some of those coaches may want to leave voluntarily, Michael notes.
  • If Bjorkgren is let go, Mike D’Antoni is expected to once again be a candidate for the Pacers’ head coaching job, sources tell Fischer. D’Antoni drew interest from Indiana last fall.

Injury Notes: Hornets, Huerter, Warren, DSJ, Bagley

The Hornets will see if LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk are ready for game action during their off days Thursday and Friday, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Ball had surgery March 23 on his fractured right wrist, while Monk has been sidelined since April 1 with a sprained ankle. Both players will take part in 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 scrimmages over the next two days.

The news isn’t as encouraging for Gordon Hayward, Bonnell adds. He’s still wearing a protective boot on his injured right foot and there’s no timetable for him to start working out. “Gordon is not there yet,” coach James Borrego said.

Here are some more injury-related notes and updates:

  • The Hawks are getting a second opinion on Kevin Huerter‘s sprained left shoulder, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Huerter underwent an MRI this week, but the results haven’t been announced.
  • Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, began jogging today on a treadmill, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Coach Nate Bjorkgren called it “a big step” for the 27-year-old forward.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t been able to practice lately and the Pistons don’t have a timeline for him to return from left knee soreness, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “That’s why it’s so important that Killian (Hayes) came back,” said coach Dwane Casey. “… It’s unfortunate that he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with.”
  • Marvin Bagley III could return soon from his hand injury, Kings coach Luke Walton tells James Ham of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Bagley has participated in some 3-on-3 games and may be ready to start playing in the next few days.