Tristan Thompson

Nets Eyeing Markieff Morris, Tristan Thompson

With the Kevin Durant saga resolved at least for the time being, the Nets can shift their focus to filling out their projected regular season roster, which currently has a couple openings. According to reports from Chris Milholen of NetsDaily (Twitter link) and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, the Nets may use one of those spots to bolster their frontcourt with a free agent addition.

Milholen reports that there’s mutual interest between Markieff Morris and the Nets, with Scotto confirming that the team has expressed “exploratory” interest in the veteran forward.

Morris was limited to just 17 appearances last season in Miami due to a neck injury that sidelined him for much of the year, but he has a solid NBA résumé, having appeared in over 700 regular season games for six teams since entering the league in 2011. In his last full season, Morris averaged 6.7 PPG and 4.4 RPG in 61 games (19.7 MPG) for the Lakers in 2020/21. He’s known for his toughness and defensive versatility, and can also stretch the floor a little on offense (.341 career 3PT%).

Veteran center Tristan Thompson is another potential Nets target to watch, according to Scotto, who says the club would like to add a backup center after losing Andre Drummond in free agency.

Thompson, 31, played for three teams in 2021/22, starting the season with the Kings before being traded to the Pacers, who bought him out, clearing a path for him to sign with the Bulls. In total, Thompson averaged 6.0 PPG and 5.1 RPG in 57 games (15.7 MPG).

While there are a number of other intriguing frontcourt players on the free agent market, Scotto threw cold water on the idea that Brooklyn could sign Dwight Howard or Carmelo Anthony, reporting that the club doesn’t currently have interest in either player.

The Nets are carrying 12 players on fully guaranteed standard contracts. Edmond Sumner, who has a partial guarantee of $250K on his minimum-salary deal, has the inside track to be the 13th man. Even if we assume Sumner will make the regular season roster, that still leaves one or two open slots.

Brooklyn has its full taxpayer mid-level exception ($6.48MM) available, though it’s unclear if any of the players on the team’s radar will command more than the minimum.

Central Notes: York, Middleton, Ball, Brown

An unexpected conversation with Kevin Durant left a huge impression on Pacers guard Gabe York, who finally reached the NBA last month after years of trying, writes James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star. York, 28, signed a two-way contract with Indiana and appeared in two games, including the season finale against the Nets.

“He comes up to me talking about, ‘Yo, I seen the struggle. I seen the journey that you went through to get here, bro, like for real, congrats. I know it’s been work,'” York said. “And just knowing that KD said that (expletive), I’m really like, ‘Wow, bro. People really watched (my journey).'”

After going undrafted out of Arizona in 2016, York spent time in Germany, Greece, Israel and Italy before joining the Pacers’ G League affiliate in Fort Wayne. He admits being nervous before his NBA debut, but that stopped once he got into the game.

“My nerves went away instantly and for whatever reason in my brain, in my mind it told itself, ‘It was like, ‘Nah, you belong here,'” York said. “It felt right. Nothing felt forced. Nothing felt too fast, too nothing. … When you’re in the G League or when you’re overseas, you just keep watching TV, keep watching the NBA and you just see stats and you see players, you think they’re bigger than what they are. And then once you get on the court with them, you’re like, ‘I played basketball for 20 years, bro.’ You need to guard me, (too).”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks guard Khris Middleton is making progress in his recovery from an MCL sprain in his left knee, but he’s not ready to start playing again, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Coach Mike Budenholzer, who expressed hope last week that Middleton might be able to return at some point during Milwaukee’s second-round series with the Celtics, told reporters today that Middleton has been able to do “a little” on the court, but there’s nothing significant to update.
  • After playing just 35 games this season, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is focused on being healthier in the future, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Ball suffered a bone bruise, then had surgery for a torn meniscus and didn’t play after January 14.
  • The Bulls are unlikely to bring back Tristan Thompson and Matt Thomas next season, but they face a more difficult decision on  Troy Brown Jr., Johnson states in a mailbag column. They have a June 29 deadline to extend a qualifying offer to Brown to make him a restricted free agent.

Bulls Notes: Offseason, LaVine, DeRozan, Thompson

The Bulls‘ prolonged slump could affect offseason decisions if they can’t turn things around in time for the playoffs, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Chicago was one of the league’s early-season surprises with new additions DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso meshing immediately and leading the team to the top of the Eastern Conference. But the Bulls have struggled amid a rash of injuries and are currently just one game away from the play-in tournament.

Cowley suggests an early playoff exit would make the front office more willing to part with one of its core pieces, such as center Nikola Vucevic, who will have an expiring $22MM contract next season. Cowley believes Chicago would have interest in Rudy Gobert if the Jazz make him available or Suns center Deandre Ayton, who is headed toward restricted free agency.

Another possibility is parting with free agent guard Zach LaVine, who will be a free agent this summer and is eligible to re-sign for five years at roughly $210MM. LaVine has experienced lingering pain in his left knee through much of the season, and Cowley thinks the Bulls might be open to a sign-and-trade if they decide to break up their core.

There’s more from Chicago:

  • LaVine is determined to stay in the lineup as he nears the first playoff appearance of his eight-year career, per Marc J. Spears of Andscape. LaVine visited a knee specialist just before the All-Star break, and the Bulls are managing his playing time to help him remain productive. “I’m doing everything I can,” he said. “People know I play through injury. I hate missing basketball games. I’m a team-first guy. Even when I’m not 100%, I’m helping the team. Obviously, I have to watch out for myself and do due diligence on my rehab and how I feel. I just have to maintain it and I will.”
  • It looks like DeRozan will miss just one game with the left adductor strain he suffered Tuesday. DeRozan sat out Thursday’s loss to the Pelicans, but he’s listed as probable for tonight’s contest in Cleveland, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • Tristan Thompson received a $20K fine for “directing profane language toward a game official,” the league announced (via Twitter). Thompson was ejected after receiving two technical fouls in the closing seconds of Thursday’s game.

Bulls Notes: Green, Donovan, LaVine, Thompson

Javonte Green has emerged as the most valuable piece of a three-team trade the Bulls made at the 2021 deadline, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Chicago also received Daniel Theis and Troy Brown Jr. in the deal with the Celtics and Wizards, but Brown has become indispensable for coach Billy Donovan. He was inserted into the starting lineup after an early-season injury to Patrick Williams and has been able to contribute as both a starter and reserve.

“I know what I’m on the team for and what I bring to the team. I’m going to continue to do that whether that’s coming off the bench or starting,” Green said. “I’m just here to do my job, be here for my teammates. Whatever they need me to do, I’m going to do it regardless if I’m starting or coming off the bench. It’s not like I’m mad about it or anything.”

Green was asked to fill both roles this week as Donovan started Tristan Thompson alongside Nikola Vucevic in Friday’s game against the Bucks, then used Green as a starter again Monday at Philadelphia. Green might have to adjust again if Williams and Alex Caruso return before the end of the season, but he says he’s ready for anything.

“From the beginning, from my first game in the NBA, I knew I could play at this level,” Green said. “I’m just getting a great opportunity, and I’m taking advantage of it.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Donovan said it’s up to him to get the team back on the right path after a fifth straight loss on Monday, Johnson adds in a separate story. Donovan, who has extensive playoff experience, including coaching in a conference finals, understands that many of his players are unfamiliar with that level. “I think it’s my responsibility for guys like Ayo (Dosunmu) and Coby (White) even Zach (LaVine), some of these guys who haven’t played in places that they want to play in this league, that there are certain things you can’t escape that have to do,” Donovan said. “And you have to confront them.”
  • LaVine is still dealing with swelling in his left knee that affects his mobility, but pain is no longer an issue, tweets Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan said LaVine is feeling better now than before he saw a knee specialist last month.
  • Even though the Bulls have hit a low point in the season, Thompson remains confident that he made the right choice in coming to Chicago after his buyout with the Pacers (video link from NBC Sports Chicago).

Bulls Notes: Thompson, Williams, Ball, Caruso

Tristan Thompson is a long-time admirer of Dennis Rodman, so he’s thrilled to be playing in the city where “The Worm” won three championships, writes Julia Poe of The Chicago Tribune. Thompson signed with the Bulls last weekend after being waived by Indiana, and he hopes to emulate the success that Rodman had with the team.

“He was the first person I believe in this league in NBA history to be a star in their role,” Thompson said. “I remember saying that exact quote, saying ‘be a star in a role’ when we were on those runs in Cleveland, making those championship runs. He was definitely the definition of being a star in a role and that was something that I wanted to embody in my game.”

Thompson’s extensive playoff experience with the Cavaliers makes him an ideal addition for a team that needed a veteran big man to come off its bench. He’s already impressing his new teammates with his attention to detail.

“Even when he was in practice (Wednesday) night, things that he (saw) he’d chime in and correct right away,” DeMar DeRozan said. “He understands the game. He has a championship. He’s played on great teams. So he see a lot of things and jumped on it right away. He’s not hesitated to speak up and that’s a true leader.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • The Bulls remain optimistic that Patrick Williams will be able to return this season after undergoing surgery on his left wrist in October, but he has several hurdles to clear before playing again, Poe states in a separate story. Williams has been shooting for months, but doctors want him to build up more strength in the wrist before clearing him for contact. Once that happens, he’ll have to go through practices and 5-on-5 scrimmages to get him ready for game action. With just six weeks left in the regular season, it’s uncertain how many games Williams might be available for.
  • Along with Williams, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are expected to return from injuries at some point, which will present a new coaching challenge for Billy Donovan, Poe adds. “It’s much harder to reincorporate a player back into the rotation who’s been out for an extended period of time and doesn’t have a rhythm,” Donovan said. “We’re going to have guys moving in different roles, different situations. So there’s going to be another iteration of our team at some point in time where we’re going to have a very, very small number of games to try to be playing really good basketball.”
  • The Bulls have the fifth-best record in the league at 39-22, but they haven’t been impressive against likely playoff teams, notes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Saturday’s loss to Memphis left Chicago at 4-6 against the top six teams in the West and 2-8 against the six best teams in the East.

Central Notes: Carter, Pistons Rookies, Thompson, DeRozan

Jevon Carter, who was recently released by the Nets in order to sign Goran Dragic, plans to sign with the Bucks after he clears waivers.

It’s the second time the Bucks will have scooped up an ex-Nets player who was cut in the past few weeks, as the same thing happened with DeAndre’ Bembry following the blockbuster James Harden/Ben Simmons trade (Brooklyn received three players but sent out two, necessitating an incumbent player’s release). Eric Nehm of The Athletic explores what Milwaukee will be getting with Carter’s expected addition.

Carter, the 32nd overall pick of the 2018 draft, was the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season at West Virginia and his defensive ability is the primary reason he’s in the NBA. Carter is a tough defender with strong instincts who can be a pest to opposing point guards, Nehm writes.

Carter doesn’t provide much offensively, but he’s a career 36.9% three-point shooter (33.1% this season) and the majority of his shots come from beyond the arc. According to Nehm, Carter likely won’t be asked to do much beyond catch-and-shoot. Carter is unlikely to play a large role with Milwaukee, but he should provide capable regular season minutes while George Hill and Pat Connaughton recover from injuries, Nehm opines.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons coach Dwane Casey says the team wants to get a good look at rookies Isaiah Livers and Chris Smith in the latter portion of the season (Twitter links via Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press). Livers has been slow to recover from right foot surgery, while Smith had a torn ACL last summer. Livers recently made his debut with Detroit’s G League affiliate, the Motor City Cruise. Smith is on a two-way contract, but Livers has a guaranteed standard contract for this season and next, with a club option in 2023/24.
  • Pistons rookie Cade Cunningham, who was recently named MVP of the Rising Stars event during All-Star weekend, said he was eager to prove himself on the big stage, as he told Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. “All this talent, I wanted to stand out for sure. It’s the All-Star Game weekend. Everyone is going to go out there and try to have fun. But everybody deep down still wants to be that guy. I knew that. I wanted to compete. I wanted to win. More importantly, I was happy to come out with a trophy, some hardware,” Cunningham said.
  • New Bulls addition Tristan Thompson believes he’ll fit in well with Chicago, as Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic relays. “I think I’ll mesh pretty well with this group,” Thompson said. He also believes DeMar DeRozan should be the MVP front-runner. “Right now, he’s the league MVP in my eyes, flat-out,” Thompson said, as part of a larger quote.

Bulls Use Bi-Annual Exception To Sign Tristan Thompson

The Bulls have used their bi-annual exception in order to sign Tristan Thompson, according to Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report (Twitter links). The Bulls will be paying Thompson $1MM by using the BAE — a minimum contract for the remainder of the season would have been worth $774,289, Pincus notes.

The move is significant, because as the name suggests, the bi-annual exception is only available every other season — Chicago won’t have access to it in 2022/23. We project the BAE to be worth $4,017,000 next season. The Mavericks are the only other team to have used their BAE this season — they used it to sign Sterling Brown last summer.

The BAE is a way for a team to sign a player who may command more than the minimum salary, but less than the mid-level exception. Chicago already used its mid-level to sign Alex Caruso and Marko Simonovic last summer, so it wasn’t available for Thompson.

The BAE can be used for contracts up to two years, with a 5% raise after year one. It’s only available to teams that are over the cap and under the tax apron. In this case, it was used by the Bulls to ensure they could sign Thompson for the remainder of the season, as I’m sure other teams would have been interested in his services if he were only making the minimum.

Using the BAE on Thompson shows that Chicago is intent on competing for a championship this season and is willing to sacrifice future flexibility to do so. Thompson provides championship experience, leadership and rebounding for a team that lacked frontcourt depth.

The Bulls are currently 27th in total rebounds and 29th in offensive rebounds — areas Thompson has always excelled in. Among active players, he’s fifth in career offense rebounds and fourth in offensive rebounding percentage. He’s also tied for first all-time (with Dennis Rodman) for the highest career offensive rebounding percentage in the NBA playoffs.

Central Notes: LaVine, Thompson, Haliburton, Allen, Williams, Smith

The Bulls officially signed veteran center Tristan Thompson on Saturday, adding a former NBA champion to their rotation. Thompson, who is expected to provide depth behind star center Nikola Vucevic, drew praise from new teammate Zach LaVine this weekend.

“He’s going to bring another championship-level guy where he’s been in these games before,” LaVine said, as relayed by Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune. “He can help us in these situations.”

Chicago is tied with Miami for the best record in the East at 38-21. The team won its final five games entering the All-Star break and has added Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and others over the last calendar year.

“With AK [Arturas Karnisovas] and Marc [Eversley], obviously, they’re going for it,” LaVine said of the Bulls’ front office. “They trust in me, they trust in DeMar, they trust in this group, and it just means a lot going into the last year of my contract that they’re putting a team around us that can compete.’’

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton finally enjoyed his Rising Stars moment on Friday, Scott Agness of FieldHouse Files examines. The 21-year-old was acquired by Indiana before this season’s trade deadline. In four games, he’s averaged 20.8 points and 11.0 assists per contest.
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen has enjoyed every moment of All-Star Weekend, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes. Allen is a major reason why Cleveland owns the fourth-best record in the East at 35-23. This is his first All-Star appearance. “It’s still a lot to take in,” Allen said. “I don’t think I’ve fully grasped the moment that I’m in. I’m part of the top 24 players in the NBA at this All-Star Weekend, so I’m just excited, I’m ready to take it all in and just absorb every moment. It’s been a one-of-a-kind weekend that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams is happy to see Jalen Smith get a new opportunity with the Pacers, as relayed by James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). Smith was traded from Phoenix to Indiana earlier this month. “I’m happy for him,” Williams said as part of a larger quote. “He’s a guy that worked his tail off every single day with us. He just couldn’t crack the rotation.” Smith has appeared in four games with the Pacers, averaging 12.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21 minutes per contest.

Bulls Sign Tristan Thompson

Free agent center Tristan Thompson has signed with the Bulls for the rest of the season, the team announced in a press release. Chicago also confirmed that Alfonzo McKinnie has been waived to create room on the roster.

Thompson’s signing has been expected since he reached a buyout agreement with the Pacers on Thursday. He played four games for Indiana after being acquired from the Kings shortly before the trade deadline.

The 30-year-old will provide an experienced back-up for a Bulls team that’s low on big men behind Nikola Vucevic. He has extensive playoff experience, including four trips to the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers.

Thompson has played in 34 combined games this season, averaging 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in 15.3 minutes per night. He has been a reliable shooter around the rim throughout his career and is connecting at 50.3% from the field this year.

Central Notes: DeRozan, Okoro, Thompson, LaVine

Bulls star DeMar DeRozan endorsed the team’s signing of veteran center Tristan Thompson, as relayed by K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). Thompson agreed to a buyout with the Pacers on Thursday and is expected to sign with Chicago in the near future.

“[I’ve] known Tristan for years,” DeRozan said. “Great dude. Championship experience. Good friend of mine. Got the utmost respect for him off the court. Obviously, we all know what he brings on the court. Think it will be great addition for us. Veteran leadership.”

Thompson carries 11 years of NBA experience, which includes an NBA title with the Cavaliers in 2016. He’s expected to provide depth behind star center Nikola Vucevic for the rest of the campaign. In 34 games this season with Sacramento and Indiana, he’s averaged 6.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, playing 15.3 minutes per contest.

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Cavaliers swingman Isaac Okoro believes he’s one of the best rising players in the league, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. Okoro has averaged 9.0 points per game on 46% shooting during his second season with the team. “I’m grateful to be one of the top rising young players right now,” Okoro said. “I felt that last year. Throughout the whole season, felt like I was one of the Rising Stars in this league. I feel like I’ve put in a lot of work for our team and it’s showing. Just taking in the experience. I’m blessed to be here and I’m just soaking everything in.”
  • Tristan Thompson gave up $774,289 in his buyout with the Pacers, which is roughly what he’ll receive in his new deal with Chicago, per Keith Smith of Spotrac (via Twitter). Thompson only appeared in four games with Indiana before the buyout.
  • Bulls star Zach LaVine feels “great” after visiting a knee specialist, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago tweets. As Schaefer notes in his Twitter thread, LaVine had his knee drained and received PRP and cortisone injections. “It’ll get me through the end of the season, and then in the offseason I’ll be able to take care of it and get myself to 100 percent,” he said.