Zach LaVine

Central Notes: Dosunmu, White, Kalamian, Holiday, Sexton

Rookie Ayo Dosunmu and third-year guard Coby White have expanded roles in the absence of Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine and they’ve performed well, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes. Ball is out six-to-eight weeks after undergoing knee surgery and LaVine didn’t join on the Bulls on their three-game road trip due to a less serious knee injury.

Dosunmu and White have started the last three games, with Dosunmu averaging 18.0 PPG, 8.0 APG and 5.7 RPG and White posting 17.0 PPG, 4.3 APG and 4.3 RPG.

DeMar DeRozan has been impressed with Dosunmu’s maturity. “He accepts his mistakes,” DeRozan said. “He holds himself accountable. And that’s big for a young guy to be able to do that.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Pistons assistant coach Rex Kalamian has agreed to become the head coach of the Armenian national team, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnaworski tweets. Both of Kalamian’s parents are Armenian-Americans. Kalamian, who recently served as acting coach when Dwane Casey missed some games for personal reasons, will continue in his duties in Detroit.
  • Jrue Holiday returned to action on Wednesday after missing six games due to left ankle soreness. Though he only scored nine points in 22 minutes, he gave the Bucks a boost in numerous areas, Eric Nehm of The Athletic writes. “Wish I had a little more (time on the floor), but I think just trying to get my timing back, get my legs back, get my feel for the game back,” Holiday said. “I feel like I haven’t played in a long time, so just trying to get back right.”
  • Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, who underwent season-ending knee surgery two months ago, will be a restricted free agent after the season. Bryan Fonseca of Basketball News explores the pros and cons of Cleveland trading Sexton before next month’s deadline. Fonseca ultimately concludes the Cavs should retain Sexton, providing another shot-creator and catch-and-shoot option on a team with playoff aspirations beyond this season.

Injury Updates: Ball, LaVine, Nader, Collins, Lopez, Carter

Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine will both miss the Bulls‘ upcoming three-game road trip so they can receive treatment for knee injuries, writes Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. Coach Billy Donovan updated their conditions in a media session before tonight’s game, saying the team’s first treatment plan for Ball’s knee was unsuccessful.

Ball, who was sent back to Chicago before Monday’s contest in Memphis, had his diagnosis changed from soreness in the knee to a bone contusion. Donovan said a timetable for his return won’t be set until the medical staff sees how he responds to the new treatments, adding that doctors haven’t considered the possibility of surgery yet.

“I think the biggest thing right now is what are the steps that we can do to get him back and get him healthy,” Donovan said. “I haven’t gotten into any detail with them (doctors) about that other than, hey, we’ll try this treatment, we’ll try this therapy, see how it goes, and then whatever the next step is that will be. But I haven’t been told what any next steps are gonna be.”

LaVine, who hasn’t played since leaving last Wednesday’s game in the first quarter, is responding to therapy for pain in his left knee, Donovan added. There’s no timeline for LaVine’s return either, but Donovan said he has been shooting free throws and doing strength training.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Suns forward Abdel Nader is making progress after missing the last 28 games with an injury to his right knee, but it will be a while before he can play again, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “He’s starting to ramp up,” coach Monty Williams said. “He hasn’t done any 1-on-1, 2-on-2, 3-on-3. So he’s still a ways away.”
  • Spurs center Zach Collins is getting closer to making his season debut after playing in the G League Monday, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express News (Twitter link). Collins expects to play another G League game Friday, and coach Gregg Popovich said there’s not a definite time when he’ll be called up.
  • The Bucks haven’t set a timetable for center Brook Lopez to return after having back surgery in early December, tweets Jim Owczarski of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We felt positive when we had the surgery,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “All the reports coming out of it, the hopes and the expectations. So nothing’s changed, nothing’s new. … This is all kind of to some degree what we expected, planned and we’ll continue to monitor and see how he progresses.”
  • Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. missed his seventh straight game tonight with soreness in his left hamstring, but acting head coach Jesse Mermuys said he’s “very close” to returning, tweets Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel.

No Structural Damage To Zach LaVine’s Knee

Bulls star Zach LaVine underwent an MRI on Saturday that revealed no structural damage to his left knee, the team announced on social media. LaVine has been dealing with knee soreness and played just over three minutes of the team’s game on Saturday because of it.

His knee has flared up occasionally since undergoing ACL surgery in 2017, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). The 26-year-old has been playing through soreness these past couple of weeks, but the Bulls have clarified that he isn’t expected to miss significant time due to the injury.

LaVine continues to feel stiffness and will be reevaluated next week, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports the sides will proceed with caution. He’s averaged 24.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game this season, shooting 49% from the floor and 41% from deep.

LaVine’s strong play is a major reason why the Bulls are 27-13, good for the best record in the East. Without him, players such as Ayo Dosunmu and Troy Brown Jr. figure to get more playing time.

LaVine Injures Knee, Bulls Hopeful It’s Not Serious

Bulls star wing Zach LaVine suffered a left knee injury in the first quarter of Friday’s game against Golden State but there’s initial confidence that it’s not serious, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

LaVine was able to retreat to the locker room without assistance after playing four minutes. He was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game. He will have an MRI on Saturday but the injury was described as “discomfort,” with the team erring on the side of caution, Wojnarowski adds.

However, there will be anxiety around the franchise and its fans until the results are revealed. LaVine tore his ACL in the same knee in 2017.

LaVine has enjoyed an outstanding season for Chicago, which owns the best record in the Eastern Conference. He came into the game averaging 25.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 4.3 APG.

If he’s out for any extended period, the Bulls may have to get more aggressive on the trade market. LaVine, who is making $19.5MM this season, is headed to unrestricted free agency this summer.

Zach LaVine, Four Other Bulls Exit COVID-19 Protocols

All the Bulls players who were in the health and safety protocols have now rejoined the team, head coach Billy Donovan said today (Twitter link via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago). That group consists of Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson, Matt Thomas, and Devon Dotson.

LaVine, Dosunmu, Johnson, and Thomas were all placed in the COVID-19 protocols at least 10 days ago. Dotson just entered the protocols on Tuesday, but has since tested out of them, according to Donovan (Twitter link via Johnson). That suggests that perhaps Dotson registered a false positive test earlier in the week.

It’s great news for the Bulls, who were one of the first teams to be affected by a coronavirus outbreak this month and who have had three games postponed. They’ll resume play on Sunday when they host Indiana.

The Bulls currently have three replacement players on 10-day hardship contracts. Alfonzo McKinnie signed his second 10-day deal on Monday and Ersan Ilyasova and Mac McClung inked their respective 10-day pacts on Wednesday.

While those contracts remain active for now, once all the Bulls players coming out of the protocols have been medically cleared to return to action, the team won’t be able to continue carrying those hardship signees, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link). That means Ilyasova and McClung likely won’t get to play out their full 10-day contracts, and if Chicago wants to keep McKinnie around, the team would have to create room by trading or waiving someone from the 15-man roster.

Lakers’ Westbrook, Cavs’ Okoro Enter COVID-19 Protocols

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin (Twitter link). Lakers guard Avery Bradley has also been placed in the protocols, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Westbrook and Bradley are the fourth and fifth Lakers to enter the protocols within the last three days, joining teammates Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard, and Malik Monk.

It’s unclear if the two Lakers guards have registered confirmed positive tests for COVID-19, but if they have, they’ll be sidelined for at least 10 days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.

The news of Westbrook and Bradley entering the protocols coincides with reports that the Lakers have agreed to sign Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract using a hardship exception. Westbrook’s and Bradley’s absences should open the door for Thomas to get some run at the point guard spot.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Cavaliers forward Isaac Okoro has entered the health and safety protocols, sources tell Kelsey Russo of The Athletic (Twitter link). No other Cavs players are currently in the protocols, so we’ll have to wait to see if Okoro is a one-off or if any of his teammates join him in the coming days. If Okoro tested positive for COVID-19, he’ll be in the protocols for at least 10 days or until he returns two consecutive negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
  • Bulls head coach Billy Donovan told reporters, including Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times, that Coby White and Javonte Green are the only two players on the team who have cleared the health and safety protocols and have been conducting individual workouts. That leaves eight players in the protocols, and many of them – including Zach LaVine, Ayo Dosunmu, Alize Johnson, and Troy Brown Jr. – may not be back until after Christmas, according to Donovan.
  • Raptors big man Precious Achiuwa has cleared the health and safety protocols, tweets Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen also provides a few injury updates on Raptors players — Dalano Banton (illness) is good to go, while OG Anunoby (hip) and Khem Birch (knee) will be listed as questionable for the club’s game vs. Golden State on Saturday.

Zach LaVine, Troy Brown Jr. Join Seven Other Bulls In Protocols

Bulls star Zach LaVine has been placed in the league’s health and safety protocols, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Troy Brown Jr. has entered the protocols as well, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports (Twitter link), giving the team nine players affected by COVID-19.

Chicago was down to 11 available players Saturday night after Ayo Dosunmu and Stanley Johnson were both put in the protocols earlier in the day. The Bulls will need eight eligible players for Tuesday’s game in Detroit, and Wojnarowski suggests that postponements may be considered if the team’s outbreak continues (Twitter link). COVID-19 upended the NBA schedule early in 2020/21, but no games have been moved so far this season.

The team has already signed Johnson and Alfonzo McKinnie under the hardship exception and can continue to add players if necessary, points out Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

Chicago has a lighter schedule this week that could help alleviate the roster crunch. After Tuesday’s game, the Bulls will travel to Toronto on Thursday and will get two days off before hosting the Lakers next Sunday. Coby White and Javonte Green both have the potential to return during the week if they clear the protocols, K.C. Johnson tweets.

Under league rules, if LaVine and Brown tested positive, they will miss a minimum of 10 days unless they submit two consecutive negative tests more than 24 hours apart.

Central Notes: LaVine, DeRozan, Lonzo, Rubio, DiVincenzo

The 16-8 Bulls are off to a terrific start to the season, led by strong play from stars Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes that they looked like the best tandem in the league in road wins over the two New York teams on Nov. 2 and 4. DeRozan says the two players are relentless in their pursuit of success.

A commitment that we talked about long before we even played on the court was just having each other’s back, being there for one another,” DeRozan said. “That’s all I needed to hear. That’s all he needed to hear from me. As long as we could walk, we’re going to be out there and try to lead this team to be as successful as we can.”

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Within the same column, Mayberry notes that sign-and-trade acquisition Lonzo Ball has been inconsistent from game-to-game shooting from deep, but he doesn’t appear to lack confidence, which is key. Mayberry says the Bulls need the threat of Lonzo’s shooting in order to space the floor for DeRozan and LaVine. Overall, Ball is shooting a career-high 42.3% from three on 7.0 attempts per game.
  • Ricky Rubio was initially displeased when he found out he was traded to the Cavaliers last summer, but he’s played a key role in the team’s surprising start and is happy with how things have worked out, according to Joe Vardon and Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. “In the past, I would get traded and get frustrated, like, ‘Oh I have to start over again in my role,'” Rubio said. “And I was frustrated because of my ego. But when you set your ego aside and you just make the best of the role that you have and take advantage of that, there’s no better thing to do on a team than everybody accepting what they have to do.”
  • Fourth-year guard Donte DiVincenzo is nearing a return for the Bucks, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). DiVincenzo has been assigned to the Wisconsin Herd, Milwaukee’s G League affiliate, and Charania says DiVincenzo could make his season debut in December. He’s been recovering from left ankle surgery. DiVincenzo will be a restricted free agent this summer if the Bucks tender him a qualifying offer.

And-Ones: 2022 Free Agents, M. Richardson, Capitanes

In his early look at 2022’s top free agents, John Hollinger of The Athletic ranks Bulls guard Zach LaVine as the No. 1 player in next year’s class, ahead of stars like Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Nets guard James Harden. As Hollinger explains, LaVine will be just 27 years old when he reaches free agency, which means his next contract is a good bet to cover his prime years. Beal will be 29 and Harden will be entering his age-33 season, so the final seasons of long-term deals would be a little riskier in those cases — especially for Harden.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Former NBA first-round pick Malachi Richardson is continuing his professional career in Poland, having signed with King Wilki Morskie Szczecin, according to the team. The 22nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, Richardson hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2018/19 season and most recently suited up in Italy.
  • Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Mexico City Capitanes’ first season in the NBA G League has them based out of an apartment complex in Fort Worth, Texas without a home arena. Scott Cacciola of The New York Times takes a closer look at an unusual start for the G League’s first Mexican franchise, which won’t actually play in Mexico in 2021/22.
  • With the Lakers and Knicks set to face one another in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, Sopan Deb of The New York Times explores why Sportico and Forbes have given both teams valuations north of $5 billion and why the value of a big-market franchise like the Lakers or Knicks isn’t really dependent on whether or not they’re winning.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Caruso, Defense, White

Bulls writer Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times recently had a discussion with star wing Zach LaVine about potentially becoming a max player this summer. Cowley had previously been skeptical of the team committing so much money to LaVine — his maximum five-year contract in free agency would be a projected $207MM (or $241MM+ if he’s All-NBA, which is certainly possible).

LaVine says he respects Cowley’s opinion, but that doesn’t mean he agrees. He points to his improved defense as one way in which he’ll prove he’s worth the max.

It’s your job to have opinions, and one of my jobs as a professional athlete and a guy that’s extremely competitive is to go out there and try and prove people wrong,” LaVine said. “Am I going to get that right every time? No, but that’s the fun of sports. I get to have chips on my shoulder and bring that extra stuff to the game.

Look, I get it — I do want to improve on everything, and I know that I haven’t had the best narrative for defense. I know people know me as a hard worker, a great guy, someone that goes out there and can obviously score the hell out the ball. But I want to be known as a winner and a complete player. I mean, I’m not putting all this work in just to be a regular guy in the NBA. I think I’m proving that each and every year.”

Here’s more from the Windy City:

  • Free agent acquisition Alex Caruso has been a difference-maker for the Bulls, but that doesn’t mean he’s focused on individual defensive honors, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Mayberry notes that Caruso is tied for the league lead in steals per game (2.5) and is second in the league in deflections (4.2). “Carushow” also has stellar advanced stats on defense; he leads the league in Steal Percentage (4.1), is tied for seventh in Defensive Win Shares (0.8), fourth in Defensive Box Plus/Minus (2.8), and 12th in Defensive Rating (101.3), per Basketball-Reference.
  • In the same piece, Mayberry says that Caruso and sign-and-trade acquisition Lonzo Ball have anchored the team’s surprisingly stout defense. Many thought the Bulls would struggle on that end, but they’re currently eighth in the league with a 104.9 defensive rating. Ball is tied with Caruso for seventh in the league in Defensive Win Shares (0.8) while chipping in 5.3 rebounds, 1.9 steals, and 0.8 blocks per game, all strong stats for a guard.
  • Coby White is trying to find his rhythm after being sidelined for several months after shoulder surgery, Cowley writes in another article for the Sun-Times. White has gone scoreless in his first two games, going 0-for-4 from the field in 21 total minutes. He says his new teammates are happy to have him back on the court. “What’s been nice is all the guys have accepted me, they’ve brought me in. It could be really different. A new team having a great year, a new guy coming into the mix, but they don’t really care about any of that. They just want to see me on the floor again,” White said. He’ll become eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer.
  • Check out our Bulls team page for the latest notes and rumors from Chicago.