Zach LaVine

Central Notes: Mitrou-Long, Markkanen, Griffin, Drummond

Injuries have thrust Pacers two-way players Naz Mitrou-Long and Brian Bowen into action more than anticipated in the early going, Mark Monteith of the team’s website notes. Backcourt injuries forced Indiana to play Mitrou-Long 14 minutes on Saturday one night after he scored 28 points for its G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Bowen made a five-minute appearance in the loss to Milwaukee.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen hasn’t reached the 20-point mark since scoring 35 points in the season opener and shooting guard Zach LaVine is looking to change that, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago relays. “He just doesn’t seem in rhythm right now man. It’s a new offense. And I think it has a part to do with it,” LaVine said. “We’ve just got to help him find it.”
  • Injuries to Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose have contributed greatly to the Pistons’ 4-9 start. With some days off and both stars back in action, coach Dwane Casey is hoping to get things back on track, Keith Langlois of the team’s website writes. “We’ve got three or four days we can practice,” he said. “Before, there was one day in between.  … Sounds like an excuse. But it’s going to take a while for our guys to jell together, work together, learn each other. With Blake and Derrick back, for them to learn each other. It’s going to be a marathon.”
  • The Pistons will have to consider drastic changes if they don’t break the cycle of mediocrity soon, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes. The trade for Griffin hasn’t resulted in a huge uptick in the team’s fortunes, Beard continues. Andre Drummond, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, hasn’t impacted winning significantly enough to warrant another long-term deal in many people’s minds, Beard adds.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Markkanen, Carter, Anthony

A lethargic offense has doomed the Bulls in a 4-9 start, but Zach LaVine doesn’t believe they need to change their approach, relays Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. The Bulls were 27th in offensive efficiency heading into Saturday, and although they are placing a new emphasis on 3-pointers, ranking eighth in the league in attempts at 35.5 per game, they are shooting just 32.5% from beyond the arc, which ranks 24th.

“We get stagnant a lot out there,’’ LaVine said after Saturday’s loss to the Nets. “We’ll run one action and then everybody is staring at the person with the ball. We gotta get more fluid. I don’t feel a lot of people are in rhythm. When that happens, obviously everybody starts trying to do it themselves. It’s tough. I blame myself. I try to do that as well. I’m in the gym late. I’m putting up shots. I’m making sure I’m prepared so I can do everything I can to help. We gotta do a better job as a team.’’

Coach Jim Boylen told reporters he plans to “stay the course” with the current approach and doesn’t expect any major changes in personnel or strategy.

There’s more Bulls news to pass along:

  • LaVine is vowing to help Lauri Markkanen rediscover his scoring touch, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. After averaging 18.7 points per game last season, Markkanen’s average has fallen to 14.5 PPG while shooting 38% from the field. “He just doesn’t seem in rhythm right now man. It’s a new offense. And I think it has a part to do with it,” LaVine said. “We just gotta help him find it. We’ve all gone through some struggles. I feel like everybody has been off rhythm in the beginning part of the year. I think everybody is shooting a lower field goal percentage than their (career) average. His spirits are still high. I know he’s worried about it but he’s not pressing yet. And I think that’s good to see. He hasn’t done anything out of character. He hasn’t lashed out or blamed anybody. He just wants to win. And that’s the type of player he is.”
  • Foul trouble continues to be an issue for second-year center Wendell Carter Jr., Cowley observes in a separate story. Coaches like Carter’s aggressiveness on defense, but he admits he needs to channel it to stay on the floor.
  • After taking Coby White in the first round this year, the Bulls could focus on another Tar Heel if they continue to flounder, Cowley suggests in another piece. Cole Anthony, who has drawn comparisons to Derrick Rose, comes highly recommended by White. “He’s everything that was advertised,’’ White said. “Good, athletic, strong, can knock it down, gets it done defensively, rebounds the ball.’’

Central Notes: Bitadze, Garland, Casey, Korver, LaVine

Pacers’ first-round pick Goga Bitadze will make his preseason debut on Tuesday, Mark Monteith of the team’s website relays. The Euro big man missed the first three preseason games with an ankle injury. He’s slated as the main backup at center with Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis projected as starters. “That’s kind of where we’ve got him at,” coach Nate McMillan said. “We’ll see as we get into the season what the rotation is going to look like.”

We have more from the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers rookie Darius Garland could wind up in the starting lineup with Collin Sexton in a dual point guard backcourt, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Garland has come off the bench thus far in the preseason but that could change with coach John Beilein continuing to tinker with various lineups. “If he’s able to practice enough and earn it, I have no qualms about that at all,” Beilein said. “But there’s a certain process you have to go through to be that starting point guard and whatever it’s going to take. We will get him in when we think it’s best for the team to win.”
  • Pistons coach Dwane Casey wants to see his team take 40% of its shots from beyond the arc, Keith Langlois of the team’s website relays. Like many teams, Detroit attempted a franchise record number of 3-pointers last season and Casey wants to continue that trend. Their backup bigs, including Markieff Morris, will help the Pistons achieve that goal. “We want to stay around 40,” Casey said. “We want to continue to get up more corner threes as much as possible. Our slot threes were up, but we were getting a fair amount of corner threes. We’ve got to continue to do that and put pressure on the basket.”
  • The Bucks added veteran guard Kyle Korver as another perimeter option but coach Mike Budenholzer sees Korver providing assistance in other areas, according to Ben Steele of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Korver signed a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal in July. “All the little things he does,” Budenholzer said. “Competing and screening. Getting hits on the defensive boards. I think we’re really excited about how he is going to make us better this year.”
  • Zach LaVine is eager to shed his reputation as a subpar defender, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times relays. LaVine has been challenged to become a better two-way player by Bulls coach Jim Boylen‘‘I’m just tired of people talking [poorly] about my defense,’’ LaVine said. ‘‘I’ve always been a good on-ball defender. But there’s no reason I can be this good offensively and not be that good on the defensive end. So I’m taking more pride in it. I’m pretty sure it’ll show.”

Bulls Notes: Satoransky, Valentine, Kornet, LaVine

Bulls coach Jim Boylen hasn’t announced who will start at point guard but Tomas Satoransky seems to be leading the pack, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reports. Satoransky, who is battling rookie Coby White and incumbent Kris Dunn for the job, was acquired from the Wizards in a sign-and-trade deal. Satoransky had 11 points and eight assists in 20 minutes against the Pelicans in a preseason outing earlier this week.

“Every day, there is more clarity on what you like, what you don’t like, who fits, who doesn’t fit. Not only in that (lead guard) position but other situations,” Boylen said. “We can’t play everybody. From Day One, I said we’re going to have to share and become a team where sacrifice is involved. That day is coming not just for that lead guard position but other ones, too.”

We have more on the Bulls:

  • When swingman Denzel Valentine drove to the United Center on Monday, he got choked up en route to making his preseason debut, as he told Johnson in a separate story. Valentine missed last season after undergoing left ankle surgery. “I shed a tear on the way over to the arena,” Valentine said. “It’s just very emotional for me. This is my passion. This is what I love. It’s huge being healthy and being out there again.”
  • Big man Luke Kornet received a fully guaranteed two-year, $4.5MM deal from the Bulls in free agency but the possibility of being a rotation player was also a crucial factor in his decision, Johnson reports in another story. “A couple teams contacted me but I was able to talk to Coach Boylen for awhile and I got the feel they value what I do and understand the value of it,” Kornet said. “That got me excited.”
  • If the Bulls can make inroads in the win-loss column, Zach LaVine believes can receive All-Star recognition, as he told Eric Woodyard of ESPN“I had an All-Star-caliber year last year, but we had 22 wins so it got a little bit swept under the rug,” he said. “But that’s how it’s supposed to be when you have 20 wins. But if I continue to play the way I’m supposed to, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be an All-Star or All-NBA type guy.”

Eastern Notes: Leonard, Fultz, LaVine, Johnson

New Heat center Meyers Leonard is ready for the new opportunity that awaits him in Miami, writes Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

 “I know that I can impact the game every night… And I’m vastly improved compared to when I was younger and earlier in my career. The easiest way to put it is I feel really good about where I’m at. And I’m just excited for this new opportunity. The Heat saw something in me and I really appreciate it.”

Leonard, who becomes an intriguing stretch option in the frontcourt for head coach Erik Spoelstra, is confident in his ability to hit open threes and expand his game even further.

“I’m going to do what’s asked of me… If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it. That’s one thing I feel that, particularly last year, I started to do a better job of is take more contested shots…. I (also) feel that I’ve really expanded my game. I can get my shot off quicker. I feel good, even extended beyond the 3-point line. I really, really feel that I’ll be able to provide a very unique skill-set and the ability to roll all the way to the rim, to half roll and play-make or to pick and pop to three. So it’s something I’ve worked very, very hard on.”

 There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:
  • Magic guard and former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz has joined Roc Nation Sports, the 21-year-old announced on his own Twitter account.
  • The best-case scenario for Bulls guard Zach LaVine? He’s got All-Star potential, and should be an All-Star this season, writes Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago. But, on the flip side, if he isn’t able to mesh better with Lauri Markkanen and improve on the defensive side of the ball, it may be another long season in Chicago.
  • Rod Beard of The Detroit News reports that Pistons guard Joe Johnson, who signed a partially guaranteed deal earlier this month, has impressed head coach Dwane Casey with his conditioning. “My main concern was Joe getting up and down and he showed that he can still run the floor and still be athletic,” Casey said. “He has it, even at (38).”

Central Notes: Rose, Hutchison, Bledsoe, Love

Derrick Rose signed with the Pistons this summer in pursuit a championship, he said in a Sirius XM NBA Radio interview (Twitter link). Rose, who inked a two-year, $15MM contract, feels the Pistons can contend in the Eastern Conference behind the big man duo of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. “While I’m in the game, I want to win a championship,” he said. “That’s what I really want to do. I’ve got all the accolades I wanted.  Now it’s time for me to get the one I really, really want. I’ve won at every level except for this level.”

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Bulls swingman Chandler Hutchison suffered a left hamstring strain while working out this week, according to a post on the team’s website. While the injury doesn’t appear serious, it’s a reminder of the team’s lack of depth along the wings, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tweets. Hutchison is slated as a backup to Otto Porter at small forward while Antonio Blakeney and Denzel Valentine, who was injured all of last season, are the top options behind shooting guard Zach LaVine.
  • Trade restrictions on Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe lifted this week, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. Bledsoe couldn’t be dealt for six months after he signed a four-year, $70M extension on March 4. However, there are no indications Milwaukee, one of the favorites to win the championship, is looking to move Bledsoe.
  • Kevin Love is organizing a minicamp for his Cavaliers teammates in New York next week, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com reports. Cedi Osman and Matthew Dellavedova won’t be able to make it, since they are participating in the FIBA World Cup. Most of the other team members are expected to show up, including first-round picks Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Dylan Windler.

Central Notes: Holiday, Billups, Pistons, LaVine

New Pacers guard Justin Holiday was drawn to Indiana as a free agent due to the team’s winning culture and mentality, according to David Woods of the Indianapolis Star.

Holiday, whose brother Aaron Holiday currently plays for the Pacers, agreed to a one-year, $4.8MM deal with Indiana after evaluating interest on the open market. He has mostly played for non-playoff teams in recent seasons, making stops with Philadelphia, Golden State, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Memphis across his six-year career.

“It had nothing to do with finances at all,” Holiday said, as relayed by Woods. “I literally came here because of the culture of the team, coaching staff, the people in the front office. And my brother – that helps as well.

“This team wins every year. That’s something I want to do, is to be able to win. And also help the team get to the next level because I believe can do that.”

Holiday is expected to provide depth in the backcourt for the Pacers, a franchise that finished with a solid record (48-34) last year despite losing All-Star guard Victor Oladipo to injury. Indiana will be seeking its fifth straight playoff appearance and ninth in the last 10 years this upcoming season.

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Former Pistons star Chauncey Billups hopes to see the team reach the playoffs again next spring, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press writes. “Continuity can be a good thing, just add some pieces here and there,” Billups said. “I need to see how it all works together, but we’ll see because teams got a lot better. I can’t tell you the Pistons are one of those teams that got a lot better — maybe a little better. Obviously, I’m hoping that the Pistons will jump out there and kick a lot of butt because I’m tired of people talking stuff to me about my Pistons.”
  • New players could allow the Pistons to mix up rotations and try different lineups this season, Rod Beard writes for The Detroit News. The Pistons signed Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris and Tim Frazier to contracts in free agency, also acquiring forward Tony Snell from Milwaukee, claiming Christian Wood off waivers and selecting Sekou Doumbouya at No. 15 in June’s NBA Draft.
  • Former Bulls forward Bobby Portis tweeted his support on Saturday to get Zach LaVine on Team USA for the FIBA World Cup. Portis and LaVine were teammates in Chicago for part of last season and during the 2017/18 season.

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.