Zach LaVine

Central Notes: Ball, LaVine, Nwora, Pistons

Bulls guard Lonzo Ball is scheduled to undergo another procedure on his troublesome left knee on Wednesday after spending the entire offseason trying to recover from the injury without surgery. Speaking on Tuesday to reporters, Ball discussed the decision to go back under the knife, explaining that the knee continues to bother him even when he’s doing day-to-day activities like walking up the stairs.

“Literally, I really can’t run. I can’t run or jump. There’s a range from, like, 30 to 60 degrees when my knee is bent that I have no force and I can’t catch myself. Until I can do those things I can’t play,” Ball said, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago. “I did rehab, it was getting better, but it was not to a point where I could get out there and run full speed or jump. So surgery is the next step.”

The injury has bothered Ball for far longer than he or the Bulls expected, with the point guard suggesting on Tuesday that his condition and his symptoms have left his doctors “a little surprised.” Ball is hopeful that Wednesday’s procedure will shed more light on the issue.

“From my understanding they’re going in there to see what it is because it’s not necessarily showing up on the MRI,” Ball said. “But it’s clear that there’s something there that’s not right. So they’re going to go in, look at it, and whatever needs to be done is going to be done.”

As Schaefer writes in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story, Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said on Monday that a recovery timeline for Ball remains unknown, and that the four-to-six week timeline the team announced last week is just for a reevaluation — the 24-year-old is not expected to be ready to return at that point.

Ominously, when asked on Tuesday if he needs to view Ball’s absence as a potential season-long issue, head coach Billy Donovan replied, “I think you have to” (Twitter link via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic). That could just be a matter of Donovan preparing for a worse-case scenario, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • While Ball’s knee injury continues to be a problem, fellow Bulls guard Zach LaVine said that his own knee – which he underwent arthroscopic surgery on in the spring – feels “really good.” Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times has the story and the quotes from LaVine.
  • Playing strong defense will be crucial for Jordan Nwora as he looks to earn a regular spot in the Bucks‘ rotation this season, head coach Mike Budenholzer said on Monday (link via Eric Nehm of The Athletic). “He’s maturing and he understands it’s a big priority for us for him to get on the court, for him to help us,” Budenholzer said. “Everybody’s gotta be able to defend at a high level. He’s gotta prove it now, every day in camp, and he’s off to a good start.”
  • Nwora, who just re-signed with the Bucks on a two-year deal, will have guaranteed base salaries of $2.8MM and $3MM on his new deal, with additional bonuses of $200K per year if the team gets to the second round of the playoffs, reports ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter links). As Nehm relays, Nwora referred to restricted free agency as “kind of a blessing and curse” and praised the job his agent and the front office did to make a deal.
  • The Pistons made a series of intriguing roster additions this summer, drafting Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren and trading for Bojan Bogdanovic. But in their comments to the media on Monday, general manager Troy Weaver and head coach Dwane Casey both stressed the importance of “internal growth,” writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “We’re hoping that our players in-house can continue to grow and develop at a pace that allows us to push and grow and compete, and then contend the way we want to,” Weaver said.

Eastern Notes: Giannis, Dragic, LaVine, Celtics

Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo did some weight training and is expected to practice on Sunday with Greece, according to EuroHoops. Antetokounmpo recently suffered a minor ankle sprain, but he seems to be proceeding without any issues.

“We decided to do just an optional training session,” Greek national team assistant coach Sotiris Manolopoulos said. “We left it up to the players to come and make some shots. Giannis did his own training at the hotel and tomorrow will practice without any issues. He is healthy.”

Antetokounmpo sustained the injury on Thursday. With the NBA season around the corner, this is good news for Bucks fans, as they’re hoping to see Milwaukee start the season without any interruptions and win a second championship in three years.

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference today:

  • Bulls guard Goran Dragic recently came to the defense of Antetokoummpo in light of Gilbert Arenas‘ negative comments, EuroHoops relays. “Giannis is the MVP. Gilbert Arenas is not,” Dragic said as part of a larger quote. “Was he ever the MVP? I don’t think so. So he can’t talk about Giannis. Giannis won the championship, won the MVP award. He has been the defensive player of the year.” Arenas previously stated that Antetokounmpo “doesn’t understand basketball yet” and downplayed the Bucks star’s 2021 championship.
  • Zach LaVine‘s lucrative new contract will created added pressure on the Bulls star this season, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes. LaVine signed a five-year, $215MM deal with the team in July, cementing his future in Chicago. He averaged 24.4 points per game last season, shooting 48% from the floor and 39% from three-point range. The Bulls will be looking to contend once again this season.
  • Steve Bulpett of examines a number of Celtics topics in his latest mailbag. Among the subjects Bulpett discusses is whether Payton Pritchard should play more. With Boston adding Malcolm Brogdon this offseason, Pritchard’s role is arguably more unclear, but he remains an effective option off the bench.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Ball, Dragic, Lewis

Bulls swingman Zach LaVine didn’t meet with any other teams during free agency, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes. The parties swiftly agreed to a five-year max deal with a player option in the final season.

“I went into the offseason with an open mind. I laid out my goals, just like I always have,” LaVine said. “And once I was able to meet with (GM) Marc (Eversley) and AK (Artūras Karnišovas) and they came to me with everything that I wanted, there was no other reason for me to go outside and look at any other teams. I think that would have been disrespectful on my end because they gave me everything that I asked for.”

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Lonzo Ball is showing signs of progress after missing the second half of the season with a torn meniscus and bone bruise in his left knee, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago relays. Coach Billy Donovan provided the update during an ESPN2 broadcast. “Every day he seems to be improving. I think that the progress he has made has been steady. He keeps showing that progress. And that’s really what we all hope to continue to see,” Donovan said. “We’re obviously all hopeful that it will happen faster. But he is making progress.”
  • In the same interview, Donovan praised the signing of free agent guard Goran Dragic, who provides insurance in case Ball’s knee issues persist. “He has been in the league for a long time. He’s really, really smart. Gives you a level of experience back there,” Donovan said. “And he’s been in a lot of big games and has been around the league for a long time. You have great respect for how hard he competes and plays.”
  • Justin Lewis, who was signed to a two-way contract, admitted that going undrafted was an unpleasant surprise, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. The former Marquette forward was an All-Big East First Team selection. “Sad. Upset. Frustrated. But I mean, I’ve got this opportunity now,” he said. “And the guys that got drafted got the same opportunity. So I feel like we’re back at ground zero and I’m ready to work and build up.”

Contract Details: Drummond, Jones, LaVine, Cancar, Martin, Nurkic

The two-year contracts that Andre Drummond and Derrick Jones signed with the Bulls have virtually identical terms. Both players will earn guaranteed $3.2MM salaries in 2022/23, with $3.36MM player options for the ’23/24 season, Hoops Rumors has learned. The only real difference between the two deals is how the Bulls completed them — Drummond received a portion of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, while Jones was re-signed using his Non-Bird rights.

Here are more details on recently signed contracts from around the NBA:

  • Zach LaVine‘s five-year, maximum-salary contract with the Bulls includes a 15% trade kicker, Hoops Rumors has learned. For 2022/23, at least, that kicker will be inconsequential since LaVine is already earning the max, but it could be a factor later in his deal if the annual salary cap increases outpace his annual 8% raises.
  • Vlatko Cancar‘s three-year contract with the Nuggets features matching $2,234,359 cap hits in each of the first two seasons, plus a $2,346,606 team option for 2024/25. The first two years are guaranteed.
  • Heat forward Caleb Martin received a starting salary of $6,479,000, which is the full portion of the taxpayer mid-level exception. Miami remains below the tax apron, so the team can use the rest of the non-taxpayer MLE (approximately $4MM more) if it so chooses. Martin also got a third-year player option and a 15% trade kicker on his new three-year deal.
  • Jusuf Nurkic‘s four-year, $70MM contract with the Trail Blazers is fully guaranteed and is structured with standard 8% annual raises. It starts at $15,625,000 in 2022/23 and increases to $19,375,000 by year four in ’25/26.

Zach LaVine Signs Five-Year Max Deal With Bulls

JULY 7: LaVine has officially signed, the team tweets.

“We are pleased that Zach remains with the Bulls,” executive VP Arturas Karnisovas said in the statement. “His work ethic and character have helped him to become one of the top players in the NBA.”

JULY 1: The Bulls and guard Zach LaVine are in agreement on a five-year, maximum-salary contract that will include a fifth-year player option, agent Rich Paul tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As our chart of maximum salaries for 2022/23 shows, LaVine will earn approximately $43MM per year on his new deal, which will have a total value of $215,159,700.

LaVine has emerged as one of the NBA’s most talented scorers since last reaching free agency in 2018. An All-Star in each of the last two seasons, the 27-year-old averaged 24.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 4.5 APG on .476/.389/.853 shooting in 67 games (34.7 MPG) in 2021/22, despite battling a left knee issue that forced him to undergo arthroscopic surgery this spring.

When he was a restricted free agent in 2018, LaVine signed a four-year, $78MM offer sheet with the Kings, which Chicago matched. He significantly outplayed that deal and has long been earmarked for a maximum-salary contract this offseason. His health problems this past season raised some questions about whether that max deal would still be on the table, but the knee injury is reportedly not considered a long-term concern.

LaVine was linked to a number of rival suitors earlier in the offseason and didn’t agree to terms with the Bulls right when free agency opened on Thursday, but was always most likely to remain in Chicago — especially with the team willing to offer a fifth year that other teams couldn’t. The Bulls sweetened the pot further by making that fifth year a player option. That option, which applies to the 2026/27 season, will be worth $48,967,380.

LaVine, who was the No. 2 free agent on our top-50 list, has now received the second-largest commitment among free agents this offseason. Our No. 1 free agent, Bradley Beal, also agreed to a five-year, maximum-salary contract, but Beal is eligible for a higher level of max because he more years of NBA service than LaVine.

The Bulls’ projected 2022/23 team salary remains below the tax line, but the team would likely cross into the tax if it uses its full mid-level exception.

Central Notes: Cavaliers, Sexton, Bulls, Pacers, Stephenson

The Cavaliers were decisive and intentional in the areas they wanted to address in free agency, writes Chris Fedor of (subscriber link). As Fedor previously outlined, bringing back Ricky Rubio was always the top priority in early free agency, but because Rubio is expected to miss at least the first few months of next season while recovering from a torn ACL, the Cavs needed to bring in a second backup point guard to fill in for a while, which is why they agreed to a deal with Raul Neto.

Rubio has been rehabbing in Spain, but sources tell Fedor that the point guard is expected to travel to Cleveland shortly after his signing becomes official so his progress can be checked by team doctors. Adding two backups point guards instead of one creates a roster crunch for the Cavaliers, as after reaching a deal with backup center Robin Lopez, the team will have 15 players under contract with Collin Sexton still a restricted free agent.

Cleveland expects Rubio’s on-court impact could be limited in the first year of his deal, per Fedor, which is why the Cavs brought him back on a three-year contract, with the third year being partially guaranteed. A sign-and-trade with Indiana to free up a roster spot and money remains an option, according to Fedor, who points to Dylan Windler and Cedi Osman as players who could be on the move — if the Pacers are interested.

As for Sexton, sources tell Fedor that the Cavs are determined to stay below the luxury tax line — they’re currently about $15MM below — and view Sexton as worthy of a deal that would pay him in the low-to-mid teens annually. However, despite positive developments in recent negotiations, sources tell Fedor that Sexton wants “starting guard money with an annual salary that starts with a 2, not a 1.”

He has no market,” an opposing executive told

Fedor says the negotiations might take a while, and Sexton accepting his $7.2MM qualifying offer in an attempt to rebuild his value and reach unrestricted free agency in 2023 is a real possibility. Sources also tell Fedor that Darius Garland‘s five-year max extension with the Cavaliers is a straight five-year deal with no player option in the fifth season.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Zach LaVine outperformed his previous two contracts (rookie contract and then a four-year, $78MM deal that he just completed), but his new five-year max deal with the Bulls will be measured by the team’s postseason performance, not his individual statistics, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.
  • In a couple of stories for NBC Sports Chicago, Rob Schaefer explores how impending free agent acquisitions Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic can help the Bulls. Schaefer notes that Drummond isn’t an All-Star-caliber player anymore, but he should still be a marginal upgrade over last season’s backup centers, especially on the boards. As for Dragic, Schaefer views the veteran guard as a low-risk insurance policy for Lonzo Ball, since Dragic is signed to a minimum contract.
  • Don’t expect Lance Stephenson to re-sign with the Pacers anytime soon, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Once Indiana’s trade with Boston is complete, the Pacers will have 19 players under contract for next season, so they’ll have to figure out how to trim the roster before anything happens with Stephenson — assuming they want him back.

Bulls Notes: Terry, LaVine, Jones, Eastern Conference

It didn’t take long for first-round pick Dalen Terry to earn the respect of his new Bulls teammates, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. In his first practice with Chicago’s Summer League squad, Terry showed why he had a reputation as a maximum-effort player at Arizona.

Second-year forward Patrick Williams singled out Terry as the strongest competitor at today’s practice. That recognition was installed by coach John Bryant, who is trying to make the Summer League experience as competitive as possible.

“It means everything,” Terry said. “I appreciate Pat for doing that. It gave me a little bit more confidence. He was a rookie last year and he’s been through what I’ve been through, obviously. For him to do that, it’s definitely a nod and respect to him. I appreciate him for saying that.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • Zach LaVine‘s new max contract was necessary for the Bulls to maintain roster stability, Mayberry contends in a separate story. While the investment could top $215MM, LaVine is a two-time All-Star who’s still in his prime at age 27 and he gives the team a foundation to build around.
  • Derrick Jones Jr. wasn’t in the Bulls’ long-range plans when they acquired him from Portland last summer, but he played well enough to earn a new contract, Mayberry adds. Jones was taken as a throw-in to get a first-round pick in a three-team deal that also involved Cleveland. Injuries and COVID-19 created a chance for him to play and he proved useful as a small-ball center. The Bulls pursued Danilo Gallinari before re-signing Jones, Mayberry notes, but Gallinari decided to join the Celtics.
  • The Bulls are putting together a successful offseason, but so are several other teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race, per Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley rates the offseason progress of the top nine teams in the East, giving an A to the Celtics and A-minuses to the Bucks and Hawks. Chicago gets a C, as Cowley is skeptical about the philosophy of keeping the current roster together after a quick playoff exit.

Free Agency Notes: LaVine, Harden, Porter Jr., Mavericks

Bulls star Zach LaVine agreed to re-sign with the team on Friday, reaching a five-year, maximum-salary agreement worth $215MM. While the money was certainly a major factor in LaVine’s decision, it’s also about his loyalty to the Bulls and his confidence in the team’s direction going forward, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago writes.

“Chicago is my home,” LaVine said. “I really started making my name here. And I want to continue what I helped start here as well. I’m extremely excited. I appreciate the fans. And I’m ready to continue this winning process that we have going.”

LaVine guided the Bulls to a playoff berth this season, averaging 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He also shot an efficient 48% from the floor and 39% from distance. It was his second straight All-Star campaign — the only two of his career to date.

Here are some other free agency-related notes:

  • The Sixers are meeting with star free agent James Harden in the Hamptons on Saturday to discuss a multi-year deal, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports (via Twitter). Harden opted out of his $47.3MM player option and will presumably accept a more team-friendly multiyear deal. Philadelphia acquired him prior to last season’s trade deadline, sending away a package that featured disgruntled star Ben Simmons.
  • Otto Porter Jr.‘s deal with the Raptors is believed to be worth most, if not all, of the $10.5MM non-taxpayer mid-level exception, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports writes. Porter reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with Toronto. The second season contains a player option.
  • The Mavericks may keep an open roster spot for the immediate future, veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein relays (Twitter link). Dallas has expressed interest in free agent guard Goran Dragic, but the team’s need for a back-up wing is apparent. The Mavs could wait to see if an unexpected solution arises at the position, Stein notes.

Eastern Notes: LaVine, Bryant, G. Harris, T. Young, Hawks

Although Zach LaVine wasn’t one of the 38 free agents who reportedly reached a contract agreement during the first day of free agency on Thursday, the Bulls remain confident that the two-time All-Star will eventually agree to a new five-year, $215MM deal to stay in Chicago, sources tell Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Cowley, the Bulls met with LaVine during day one of free agency, but the 27-year-old wants to hear all the offers that may be available to him.

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Wizards free agent center Thomas Bryant still appears unlikely to return to Washington, as was reported on Thursday. According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Bryant is receiving “significant” interest from contending teams and will likely make a decision today. The Celtics and Lakers are among the clubs in the mix, Haynes adds.
  • The two-year contract extensions signed by Magic wing Gary Harris and Raptors forward Thaddeus Young on Thursday aren’t fully guaranteed in 2023/24, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. According to Marks, Harris has no protection in the second year of his new contract, while Young has a partial guarantee.
  • The Hawks have officially confirmed a front office move that was reported in June, announcing in a press release that Landry Fields has been elevated from assistant GM to general manager. The club also announced a series of other basketball operations hires and promotions.

Free Agent Rumors: LaVine, Harden, Gallinari, Haslem

Just before free agency officially began on Thursday evening, Shams Charania said on Stadium’s free agency show (video link) that he expects Zach LaVine to take a little time to finalize his decision as an unrestricted free agent.

“He’s going to speak with the Bulls tonight and they’re going to make an offer,” Charania said. “Both sides will talk in the lead-up to free agency, later tonight, tomorrow. I do not expect Zach LaVine’s decision to be a night-one decision. He’s going to take some time to deliberate. He’s going to have max offers potentially in the marketplace as well.”

A report earlier today indicated that LaVine is expected to return to the Bulls on a five-year contract expected to be worth the maximum. However, it seems the 27-year-old wants to at least gauge his options before officially committing to Chicago.

Here are a few more free agency rumors:

  • James Harden and the Sixers intend to meet this weekend to negotiate his new deal, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Harden declined his $47MM+ player option for 2022/23 this week and reportedly intends to sign a new contract at a lower starting salary to help accommodate the team’s reported deals with P.J. Tucker and Danuel House.
  • Danilo Gallinari‘s free agent decision could come down to the Bulls and Celtics as he considers his next team, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Fischer suggests Chicago is willing to offer most of its non-taxpayer mid-level exception (about $8MM) while Boston will likely be limited to the taxpayer MLE ($6.5MM), but Gallinari still may prefer the C’s. The veteran forward is reportedly being waived by San Antonio.
  • The Heat sent a delegation of employees to Udonis Haslem‘s vacation home in Orlando to pitch him on returning to the team for a 20th season, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press and Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter links). Obviously, the Heat don’t expect to face significant competition for Haslem, but they want to show his “continued importance and value” to the organization, says Reynolds. Haslem is reportedly still mulling whether or not to continue his playing career.