Zach LaVine

Central Notes: Cavs, Bradley, LaVine

The Cavaliers are essentially playing without a true point guard, as both Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose are out with injuries and Jose Calderon has been relegated to the bench, averaging only 6.7 MPG. Lately the Cavs have been using Iman Shumpert as their starting point guard, with LeBron James handling ball-handling duties as well.

However, according to a team press release, the Cavs will now also be without Shumpert for at least the next 5-7 days. Shumpert left last night’s game against the Clippers in the first half with left knee soreness. He was examined and did not return.

As first reported by Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Cavs will likely recall two-way player John Holland from the Canton Charge to replace Shumpert on the Cavs’ active roster. According to VardonDwyane Wade could also see his role at point guard increase after he filled in admirably during the Cavs’ come from behind victory against the Clippers last night.

There’s more from Cleveland and the rest of the Central Division:

  • As detailed by Chris Fedor of Cleveland.comKyle Korver has become an important centerpiece of the Cavaliers’ line-up so far this season. Perhaps most telling is James’ comparison of Korver to former teammate and 10-time NBA All-Star Ray Allen. “You’ve got two of the greatest shooters to ever play this game,” James said. “There’s a lot of similarities in their approach… they take that craft, that marksmanship very seriously.
  • In another piece for Cleveland.com, Fedor analyzes how James is beginning to accept the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best offensive player during crunch time. In the fourth quarter of the Cavs’ recent victories against the Knicks and the Clippers, James was the primary defender in the fourth quarter against both Kristaps Porzingis and Blake Griffin.
  • Avery Bradley is slowing becoming one of the best two-way guards in the NBA, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Bradley is averaging career-bests in PPG (17.8) and 3P% (45.2%) this season and Stan Van Gundy has been impressed. “He came in with the respect based on what he had done, but it grows a lot more when you’re out here every day and see the way he goes to work.” The Pistons are currently tied for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-5.
  • The Bulls’ Zach LaVine is expected to be cleared for practice on Monday, tweets K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. LaVine, who has not yet played for the Bulls this season after being traded from the Timberwolves as part of the Jimmy Butler trade, has been out with a torn ACL since February.

Bulls Notes: Markkanen, Mirotic, LaVine, Nwaba

Rookie Lauri Markkanen will keep his starting job when Nikola Mirotic is cleared to return, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Coach Fred Hoiberg confirmed that decision before tonight’s game. The seventh overall pick in this year’s draft is off to an impressive start, averaging 14.5 points and 7.8 rebounds through his first 11 games.

Markkanen got a chance to start after Mirotic suffered two broken facial bones in a scrimmage altercation with Bobby Portis. With Miotic injured and Portis suspended, an opportunity opened up for Markkanen. “[The situation] gave me a bigger chance right away,” Markkanen said. “But I’m glad to have Bobby back and hopefully Niko back. I have to do my work on the court and prove that I can be a starter.”

Bulls Notes: Mirotic, Portis, Butler, LaVine

The lingering tension between Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis continues to loom over the Bulls, with the team finding it harder than ever to support both players. As K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune details, Mirotic remains upset about the situation, particularly since he’s still recovering from the injuries he sustained when he was punched by Portis, who has returned to the court following his eight-game suspension. Mirotic’s camp has made it clear to the Bulls that he doesn’t feel like he and Portis can coexist going forward, Johnson notes.

Portis seems more willing to bury the hatchet, suggesting on Tuesday that he wants to “let bygones be bygones.” Although Portis is aware of the reported ultimatum from Mirotic’s camp, he recognizes that the team’s decision on whether to trade one player or the other is out of his control, as Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times details.

“I want to rekindle our relationship, try as best as possible, but I don’t control that right now,” Portis said. “I’m here to play basketball.”

In a separate report, Cowley suggests that the Bulls’ locker room seems to favor Portis over Mirotic, citing two players on the team who say that the ultimatum from Mirotic’s side is carrying “zero weight.” Reports out of Chicago since the incident last month have indicated that members of the Bulls believe Mirotic is partially to blame for the altercation with Portis, and it sounds as if at least a couple of his teammates believe Mirotic needs to move past it. “This is Niko’s problem now,” one Bull told Cowley.

As we wait to see how the Bulls handle the situation, let’s round up a few more notes out of Chicago…

  • Jimmy Butler admitted to Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine that he felt like the Bulls would eventually move on from either him or Fred Hoiberg, and wasn’t surprised by their decision. “I said from the beginning it was either gonna be me or the Fred Hoiberg route,” Butler said. “And rightfully so, they took Fred. Good for them.”
  • While he’s happy with how things turned out, Butler is also looking forward to his first game against the Bulls, as he tells Alipour: “I got that game marked on my calendar. February 9, baby — I’m back. Oh, man, they better hope I go 0-for-30, ’cause every basket I score, I’m looking over at the bench and I got something to say.”
  • Barring any setbacks, Bulls guard Zach LaVine is on track to begin taking contact in about two weeks, Cowley writes for The Sun-Times. LaVine, who continues to recover from last year’s ACL injury, hopes to return to action within the next month or two.

Central Notes: Turner, LaVine, Antetokounmpo

The Pacers will see Myles Turner return to action tonight, Nate McMillan told the media, including the team’s official Twitter account. Turner has missed seven games since suffering a concussion in the team’s season opening victory.

Turner, 21 years old, is the new cornerstone of the Pacers franchise now that Paul George is off with the Thunder. He will, however, be charged with the tough task of sliding into a lineup that has found success playing a faster style of basketball than what he saw over the course of his rookie and sophomore seasons.

Last year Turner averaged 14.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. If he can return to action alongside his new and familiar Pacers teammates without disrupting the 5-3 squad’s flow, Indiana could be even better than they’ve looked thus far. Turner will come off the bench in his debut.

There’s more from the Central Division:

Zach LaVine Sees Long-Term Future In Chicago

Bulls fans won’t get their first look at Zach LaVine for several weeks, but he told reporters today he believes his future is in Chicago, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

LaVine will be a restricted free agent next summer after the deadline for a rookie scale contract extension passed last Monday. Several sources have reported that the Bulls have every intention of keeping the fourth-year combo guard, who was one of the key pieces in June’s Jimmy Butler trade.

LaVine told reporters today that it’s “fine” that an extension wasn’t reached, adding, “I know I’m going to be in black and red for a long time.”

He is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in February while he was with the Timberwolves. Doctors originally gave him a nine-month timeline before he could play again, and the Bulls are sticking to that schedule. LaVine said he feels ready to take the court now, but the team won’t clear him for contact until mid-November (Twitter link).

“I think we’ll re-evaluate when we get close,” he said. “I’m pushing as much as possible. I want to play with my guys.” (Twitter link).

A two-time winner of the Slam Dunk competition at All-Star Weekend, LaVine was putting together his best season before the injury hit. He averaged 18.9 points and 3.4 rebounds in 47 games.

Central Notes: Pistons, Udrih, LaVine, Cavs

After waiving veteran point guard Beno Udrih on Saturday, the Pistons are down to 14 players on their NBA roster to open the season, and head coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t anticipate filling that final opening right away, per Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press.

“Is there going to be anyone out there right now?” said Van Gundy, who also serves as the Pistons’ president of basketball operations. “I don’t know that. I’m not saying there won’t be, but that’s not really the plan, but as you get going on and you assess needs or get an injury, that 15th spot can give you some flexibility.”

As for Udrih, the 35-year-old has aspirations of getting into coaching once his playing career is over, but he’s not ready to retire as a player quite yet, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News.

“I’m not there yet; I know I can still play, especially in a system that people know what I can do,” Udrih told Beard. “I’m a pick-and-roll player and I’ll make the right play and try to find open shots for my teammates or take the mid-range shot. … I still can play and I still want to play. If it doesn’t happen here, maybe somewhere else, and we’ll go from there.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Although the Bulls and Zach LaVine‘s representatives remained in communication, the two sides never really got close to working out a contract extension for LaVine before Monday’s deadline, says Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago. However, Goodwill reiterates what we’ve heard from other reporters, suggesting that the club has no intention of letting LaVine get away in restricted free agency next summer.
  • With so many new players to incorporate, the Cavaliers are anticipating “somewhat of a bumpy ride” early in the season, writes Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
  • One of those new arrivals is veteran guard Dwyane Wade, and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com takes an in-depth look at how the Cavaliers are accommodating the future Hall-of-Famer during his first season with the club.

Extension Rumors: Randle, Smart, McDermott, LaVine

As I detailed this morning, Monday isn’t just the last day of 2017 for fourth-year players to sign rookie scale extensions — it’s also the final day that extension-eligible veterans can sign new deals if they have more than one year remaining on their current contracts. That’s why veteran players like Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge are engaged in talks about possible extensions.

Here are a few more of the latest updates on extension-eligible players:

  • The Lakers and Julius Randle had “cordial conversations” about a new deal, but everyone understands the club’s salary cap situation, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN. With L.A. looking to preserve 2018 cap room, no extension is expected for Randle.
  • Barring a sudden change, Marcus Smart and the Celtics are set to let today’s deadline pass without a new deal in place, a league source tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe (Twitter link). Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald tweets a similar sentiment, citing a source who says there’s “a pulse but not much else” in the Smart negotiations.
  • The Knicks are “highly unlikey” to sign newly-acquired sharpshooter Doug McDermott to a new deal today, tweets Ian Begley of ESPN. As Begley observes, there’s no rush for the Knicks, who will have all season to see how McDermott fits in New York.
  • K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune suggested over the weekend that it’s a matter of when – not if – the Bulls lock up Zach LaVine to a new contract. It appears the “when” won’t be today though. Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link) hears from a source that a rookie scale extension for LaVine is “not likely.”

Bulls Notes: LaVine, Valentine, Rotation, Arcidiacono

The Bulls acquired Zach LaVine in a June trade despite a torn left ACL he suffered last February, putting his 2017/18 debut on hold. The two-time dunk contest champion is currently rehabbing and Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters, including K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, that LaVine’s recovery is on schedule.

“Zach is coming along great,” Hoiberg said Thursday. “He’s been really good, very vocal with our players. He’s ahead of schedule. He’s cleared to do more movement. He’s not cleared for contact yet, but he’s moving around in unpredictable movements now, which is important.”

LaVine, still just 22 years old, could become an important piece of the Bulls’ future. Before the season-ending injury last season, LaVine was enjoying his best year to date, averaging 18.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, and 3.0 APG in 48 games. If he recovers from knee surgery — which has been known to zap players’ explosiveness — without issue, LaVine eventually re-signing with Chicago would be a question of when, not if, Johnson writes in a separate article.

Check out other news surrounding the Bulls below:

  • Denzel Valentine will not the Bulls’ backup point guard, Hoiberg told reporters, including Johnson (via Twitter).
  • In a separate tweet, Johnson notes that the Bulls are expected to use a 10-man rotation. Johnson adds that the injured Paul Zipser, who has been dealing with a back ailment, will likely start in Thursday’s season opener.
  • Ryan Arcidiacono is the expected backup point guard for the Bulls in the season opener, per Johnson. The Bulls reporter adds that 45 days of NBA service on two-way deals does not start until Oct. 23., allowing the Bulls to keep Arcidiacono on the roster a while longer.

Central Notes: Bulls, Pistons, Smith

The Bulls finally embraced a rebuild this offseason so there will be no shortage of attention paid to how they manage each and every asset from this point forward. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times writes that the club will be particularly patient with injuries to key young players considering that now more than ever the club can afford to lose ball games.

Between the lingering effects of Zach LaVine‘s 2016/17 ACL injury and preseason setbacks to both Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, the new look Bulls are awfully banged up ahead of the 2017 season opener and may not even see the court together until as late as December.

I think it’s just about being patient,” Dunn, acquired in the trade that sent Jimmy Butler from the Bulls to Minnesota, said. “Lauri, he was in Finland, so there was a lot of strain on his back from all the games they played [in the EuroBasket tournament]. Zach, with his injury, you try to take it slow with him because he’s a big piece to this team. And me, I’m just slowly trying to get back. So it’s just a slow thing.

To that effect, Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg has said that his starting lineup when the season begins on Tuesday will consist of Jerian Grant, Justin Holiday, Nikola Mirotic, Paul Zipser and Robin Lopez.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • When Derrick Rose signed a minimum contract with the Cavaliers, he did so as a bet on himself. “I get a chance to reintroduce myself back to the league. I get to bet on myself. That was one of the reasons I came here, I get to bet on myself. And I’m from Chicago, I’ve got that hustling side; it’s in me, man,” he told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • While Pistons projects Luke Kennard and Henry Ellenson figure to make an impact on the team eventually, they’ll have to beat out defensive-minded veterans Reggie Bullock and Anthony Tolliver for minutes, Keith Langlois of the team’s official site writes. Both Tolliver and Bullock provide plenty of intangible skill that make life easier for the second unit.
  • The announcement that Dwyane Wade would be the Cavaliers‘ starting shooting guard didn’t go over well with J.R. Smith. “We talked about it,” Smith told Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. “It wasn’t the most positive conversation, but we talked about it and we’ll get through it together.

Extension Rumors: LaVine, Capela, Smart, Randle

Earlier today, Andrew Wiggins became the fourth 2014 first-rounder to reach an agreement on a rookie scale extension with his current team, joining Joel Embiid, Gary Harris, and T.J. Warren. That still leaves 17 players eligible for a rookie scale extension up until the October 16 deadline.

Not all of those players are strong candidates for a new deal. It’s extremely unlikely, for instance, that the Raptors will extend Bruno Caboclo within the next few days, and we shouldn’t bet on Shabazz Napier getting a new long-term deal from Portland. Still, a number of viable candidates remain unsigned.

Here are the latest notes and rumors on some of those extension-eligible players:

  • ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) identifies Aaron Gordon (Magic), Elfrid Payton (Magic), Zach LaVine (Bulls), Jusuf Nurkic (Trail Blazers), and Rodney Hood (Jazz) as the most logical candidates for extensions among the group of remaining eligible players.
  • There’s “nothing substantive” so far between LaVine and the Bulls, but that could change by next Monday, TNT’s David Aldridge writes in his rundown of extension candidates at NBA.com. Aldridge – who examines each 2014 first-rounder individually – is also somewhat bullish on the possibility of new deals for Nurkic, Hood, and Rockets big man Clint Capela.
  • Marcus Smart said earlier this week that his agent has yet to hear from the Celtics about a possible extension. Today, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge didn’t exactly offer clarity on the subject, indicating that he has had “talks” about a new contract for Smart, but no “negotiations” (Twitter link via Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald).
  • Julius Randle is extension-eligible, but his future with the Lakers is linked to the team’s pursuit of 2018 free agents, as Bill Oram of The Orange County Register details. Although Randle says his reps have been in touch with the Lakers, an extension this year is an extreme long shot.
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