Zach LaVine

Eastern Notes: Bulls, Frazier, Oladipo, Stoudemire

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen is excited about the new players his team brought in this offseason, and he hopes that the additions of veterans Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky alongside rookies Coby White and Daniel Gafford will allow him to deploy a deeper roster during the 2019/20 season, writes Sean Highkin of NBC Sports Chicago.

“What we (the Bulls) talked about is we wanted to bring in high character depth that could support our current roster,” Boylen said. “I also wanted a team that was duplicit and redundant so we could play the same way (when we go to our bench).”

Specifically, Boylen spoke on how the last couple years’ lack of depth caused the Bulls to rely on G League level players whenever stars like Zach LaVine or Lauri Markkanen were out with injury or sickness.

“We’ve struggled the last couple years to play on a night when we had injury or illness, where we had to change our style of play before the game. I don’t want that (for the Bulls). The good teams don’t have that.”

There’s more news out of the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • Veteran point guard Tim Frazier is eager for the opportunity that awaits him with the Pistons, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. While Frazier may see limited minutes behind Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose, Detroit sees value in having a young and experienced option in case Jackson or Rose get hurt.
  • As Jackie MacMullan of ESPN explains, Pacers guard Victor Oladipo has seen his appreciation for basketball grow as he’s been sidelined with a ruptured right quadriceps tendon. Regarding watching his team’s performance during the playoffs last season, Oladipo said “It was so hard. It makes you appreciate the game more, your teammates more, even yourself more… Sometimes we don’t realize our own impact. You take it for granted. I won’t ever do that again.”
  • The Knicks do not plan on signing former NBA All-Star big man Amar’e Stoudemire to a contract for the 2019/20 season, reports Marc Berman of The New York Post. Stoudemire worked out for the Knicks and 14 other teams in Las Vegas on Monday. He last played in the NBA for the Heat during the 2015/16 season.

Draft-Night Notes: Bazley, Thunder, Bulls, Suns

Some teams holding mid-first-round picks have expressed interest in forward Darius Bazley and he could go earlier than projected, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets. A McDonald’s All-American, Bazley didn’t go to college and instead spent the year preparing for the draft.

We have more draft nuggets:

  • The Thunder are engaged in trade talk with teams to move back in first round from the No. 21 pick, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.
  • The Bulls didn’t shop shooting guard Zach LaVine when they explored ways to move up in the lottery, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Chicago wound up holding onto the No. 7 pick and selecting North Carolina point guard Coby White. LaVine has three years and $58.5MM remaining on his contract.
  • The Suns’ selection of North Carolina power forward Cameron Johnson at No. 11 after trading down from the No. 6 pick earlier in the day was the surprise of the lottery. According to SInow’s Jake Fischer, it was an even bigger surprise due to injury concerns. Several teams red-flagged Johnson out of the first round due to his history of ailments on both hips (Twitter link).
  • The Sixers are trying to move up from the No. 24 pick, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. They’re hoping to snag either UNC small forward Nassir Little or USC shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr. and could wind up with one of them even if they don’t make a deal, Pompey adds.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Boylen, Markkanen

Zach LaVine doesn’t mind lashing back at critics who said the Bulls made a mistake when they matched the four-year, $78MM offer sheet he received from the Kings last summer, relays K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. LaVine is posting career highs in scoring (23.7 PPG), rebounds (4.7) and assists (4.5) while shooting a career-high 46.7% from the field.

“Now it’s looking like I’m a pretty good deal, right?” he said.

The only thing that hasn’t improved for LaVine this season is his team’s won-loss record. After three years in Minnesota, Lavine was hoping to be part of a resurgence in Chicago when he was acquired in a trade two years ago. Instead, the Bulls are limping to the finish line at 22-58. LaVine promises next year will be different, health permitting.

“I haven’t played in a meaningful game in five years of my career, so it’s getting to the point where you really want to start looking past ‘self’ things and moving toward you want to win,” he said. “We’re in the right direction moving forward, but we have to make some changes individually and as a team to get to that point.”

There’s more today out of Chicago:

  • Injuries have left the Bulls with a depleted roster, but Jim Boylen hasn’t changed his approach to coaching, Johnson tweets. Chicago started recently promoted G Leaguers Rawle Alkins and Walt Lemon in last night’s loss to the Sixers, along with Wayne Selden, Shaquille Harrison and Robin Lopez. “It’s not an option for me to coach only the established guys or whatever,” Boylen said. “I can’t be different than I’m asking them to be. I talk about when they step on the floor, no matter where you’re from or how much you money you make, you gotta compete. Well, I gotta be the same way.” (Twitter link).
  • The results are good so far for Lauri Markkanen, who has been shut down for the rest of the season because of a rapid heart rate, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Boylen said Saturday that Markkanen has been working out while wearing heart monitors and all the medical tests have been encouraging. ‘We’re very positive about where he’s at and where he’ll be,’’ Boylen said. ‘‘He’s in great spirits. They’re still doing some daily evaluations of where he’s at.’’
  • The Bulls changed the course of their franchise by trading away Jimmy Butler in 2017, but injuries have prevented them from assessing how their young core fits together, Johnson notes in a separate story.

Bulls Notes: Blakeney, Tanking, Dunn, Valentine

Injuries to starting Bulls guards Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine give their backups a chance to improve their prospects of making the roster next season, Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes. Shaquille Harrison, Ryan Arcidiacono, Wayne Selden and Antonio Blakeney will get increased playing time.

Arcidiacono started the season slowly but is shooting 52% from the field and 44% from beyond the arc since the All-Star break, Strotman notes. The club can make him a restricted free agent by extending a $1.82MM qualifying offer.

Harrison, whose $1.59MM salary for next season is not guaranteed, is averaging 10.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 3.0 SPG while starting the last three games.

Blakeney’s $1.59MM contract is guaranteed for next season but that doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to be on the team next season, according to Strotman. He’s shooting just 42% from the field and averaging just 0.6 APG.

The Bulls can make Selden a restricted free agent by extending him a $1.93MM qualifying offer.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • The team appears to be in full tank mode entering the final eight games this season but coach Jim Boylen denies it, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. “We’re trying to build a competitive spirit, a team that’s going to honor that Bulls across their chest and play for the city,” Boylen said. “We don’t feel shutting people down is a way to build that.”
  • Dunn is unlikely to play on Tuesday due to a back injury. He tried to tough it out against Utah on Saturday and earned kudos from his coach, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune notes.  “I want to give Kris credit for playing,” Boylen said. “He had more kinesio tape on him than a mummy. He tried to play and give us what he could. I love the fact that he tried it.”
  • Not only do the Bulls want rookies Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison to play on their summer league team, they’ll also ask Denzel Valentine if he’s interested in participating, Johnson reports in another article. Valentine has not played this season following surgery to reconstruct his left ankle. The Bulls have discussed playing in both the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and the Utah Jazz Summer League in Salt Lake City, Johnson adds.

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.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Dunn, Felicio, Boylen

Bulls head coach Jim Boylen and top scorer Zach LaVine told reporters earlier this week that they’d proceed cautiously with LaVine’s right knee injury, leading to some speculation that the team might consider shutting down the 24-year-old for the rest of the season. However, Boylen said today that LaVine is listed as probable on the injury report and will likely play vs. the Clippers on Friday, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link).

LaVine, who said on Monday that it wouldn’t be smart to “go out there and try to risk anything right now,” is feeling much better a few days later. While the Bulls may have briefly considered the possibility of shutting him down and playing it safe, LaVine always hoped to return for the season’s final four weeks.

“That’s just not who I am,” LaVine said, per Johnson (Twitter link). “[Shutting it down]’s not what I do. It’s going to be good for the team. We can get our chemistry down, continue to play well, build things for next year.”

Here’s more out of Chicago:

  • Former fifth overall pick Kris Dunn has ceded some fourth-quarter minutes to Ryan Arcidiacono lately, prompting Mark Schanowski of NBC Sports Chicago to explore how much longer Dunn will be the Bulls’ No. 1 point guard. As Schanowski notes, Dunn is extension-eligible this offseason, but the team seems far more likely to address the position in the draft or free agency than to negotiate a long-term deal with the former Providence star.
  • Addressing the Dunn situation in his latest mailbag, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune says he thinks there will be an open competition at the point guard spot in the fall, with Dunn going up against whoever the Bulls acquire in the offseason.
  • Within his mailbag, Johnson also discusses the Bulls’ draft options, possible frontcourt offseason targets, and the plan for Cristiano Felicio, among other topics.
  • In an ESPN.com video, Adrian Wojnarowski says the Bulls are pleased with their direction going forward and intend to build around the four-player core of LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter, and Otto Porter. Wojnarowski also reiterates that Boylen will be back with the team next season, though he cautions there are no long-term guarantees for Chicago’s head coach.

Bulls Proceeding Cautiously With Zach LaVine’s Knee Injury

Zach LaVine, who missed the Bulls‘ loss in Detroit on Sunday due to a right knee patellar tendon strain, is considered doubtful for Chicago’s Tuesday contest vs. the Lakers, head coach Jim Boylen told reporters today (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune).

LaVine is still being listed as day-to-day, but Boylen indicated today that the Bulls will proceed very cautiously with the injury (Twitter link via Johnson). While there haven’t been any conversations yet about shutting down the team’s top scorer for the rest of the season, it wouldn’t be a surprise if that topic is broached soon, per The Chicago Sun-Times (Twitter link).

LaVine, who turned 24 on Sunday, has been playing some of the best basketball of his career in recent weeks. In his last 14 games, he has averaged 26.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, and 5.2 RPG, with a shooting line of .509/.442/.739. The Bulls, who are 19-49 on the season, held their own during that stretch with a 7-7 record.

However, Boylen acknowledged today that the franchise has to be aware that it’s not really playing for anything at this point of the season, and the Bulls don’t want to risk any player’s future “for one win” (Twitter link via The Chicago Sun-Times). Typically, this is the time of the year when teams jockeying for lottery seeding rather than playoff seeding are very conservative with injuries to key players.

“There’s no reason to go out there and try to risk anything right now,” LaVine said (Twitter link via Johnson). “It’s not smart.”

Ryan Arcidiacono, who took LaVine’s spot in the starting lineup on Sunday, is among the players who could see increased roles as long as LaVine remains sidelined. Shaquille Harrison, Wayne Selden, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot are among the other candidates for extra minutes.

Bulls Continue To Evolve Amid Season Of Woes

The Bulls are experiencing a season of ups and downs and Zach LaVine, who signed a four-year deal last offseason, feels the team has grown from the struggles, as Sam Smith of NBA.com relays.

I don’t try to think negatively, but when you are going through those down times it seems like the days are longer,” LaVine said. “I feel now like…I’m glad we are out of that and hopefully we can stick in the good times. You can see a light in the dark tunnel. You try to prepare yourself for the times you are going to be playing for something, and that’s definitely what we want to do [now] as a team.”

Better times may be coming next season. Otto Porter Jr., who the Bulls acquired at this year’s deadline, recently told Hoops Rumors that he believes Chicago is heading in the right direction.

“We have a lot of young guys, young pieces. The team is definitely headed in the right direction, trying to get back to winning basketball here,” Porter said.

The Bulls have gone 6-5 since the trade deadline and their chemistry appears much improved compared their early-season swoons.

“We have a little bit of a swag to us going out there,” LaVine tells Smith. “We are feeling good and hopefully we can continue to carry it out throughout the end of the season.”

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.

The Deadline Deals That Didn’t Happen

The Raptors were close to acquiring Nikola Mirotic, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports on his podcast. The power forward would have been part of a three-team trade with the Pelicans and Magic in the proposed framework. Toronto didn’t have the expiring contracts that New Orleans was seeking and Mirotic was instead sent to the Bucks.

Toronto shifted its focus back to Marc Gasol and acquired the big man from Memphis in exchange for Jonas ValanciunasDelon WrightC.J. Miles, and a 2024 second-round pick.

The Hornets came close to acquiring Gasol before some “last-minute haggling,”  ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes. Charlotte had a lottery-protected first-round pick on the table for most of the week leading up to the deadline. Lowe passes along more deals that were discussed behind the scenes. Here are the highlights from his latest piece:

  • The Sixers offered two second-rounders to the Pelicans for Mirotic and prior to trading for Tobias Harris, Philadelphia and New Orleans discussed a Markelle Fultz-Mirotic swap. Fultz was dealt to the Magic for Jonathon Simmons and a pair of picks.
  • The Hornets pursued a deal for Harrison Barnes, dangling a first-round pick to the Mavericks, Lowe adds in the same piece. Dallas would have had to take back long-term money in the potential deal, something that it wasn’t willing to do.
  • The Nets and Grizzlies briefly discussed sending Allen Crabbe to Memphis along with a first-round pick (Denver’s 2019 selection) in exchange for Garrett Temple and JaMychal Green, sources tell Lowe. Tax concerns led Memphis to shy away from acquiring Crabbe, who will take home approximately $19MM next season.
  • Several teams attempted to pry Andrew Wiggins from the Wolves without giving up much in return. Minnesota was uninterested in giving Wiggins away.
  • Kris Dunn was available at the deadline but the Bulls weren’t looking to deal Zach LaVine. Lowe writes that Chicago may have only considered trading LaVine if it received an overwhelming offer, something that was unlikely to occur.