Zach LaVine

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.

Lowe’s Latest: Sixers, Mirotic, Hornets, Nets, More

The Buckstrade for Nikola Mirotic was made sweeter by the fact that the Sixers were in the hunt for the Pelicans‘ power forward before New Orleans opted to send him to Milwaukee, writes ESPN’s Zach Lowe in his post-deadline round-up.

According to Lowe, the Sixers offered a pair of second-round picks in their offer for Mirotic, which the Bucks bested by surrendering four second-rounders. Before the 76ers acquired Tobias Harris, they also discussed the general framework of a Mirotic/Markelle Fultz swap with the Pelicans, according to Lowe, who notes that it’s unclear whether those talks would have gotten serious if Philadelphia hadn’t completed its blockbuster deal for Harris.

Lowe’s article is packed with several more tidbits on the trade deadline, so we’ll round up the highlights here:

  • The Hornets came close to acquiring Marc Gasol from the Grizzlies for a package that would have included a lottery-protected pick, but the deal fell apart over “last-minute haggling” on the price, sources tell Lowe. Charlotte also pursued Harrison Barnes, but any offer that included a first-round pick would have also included multiyear salary the Mavericks didn’t want, Lowe reports.
  • Before the Grizzlies sent JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple to the Clippers, Memphis discussed a deal involving the duo for the Nets, according to Lowe, who says the return would’ve featured Allen Crabbe and Denver’s first-round pick. The Grizzlies, who had tax concerns, settled instead on L.A.’s offer, which didn’t include a draft pick.
  • At least one of the offers the Wizards received for Otto Porter featured a low first-round pick, but it would have been meant taking on multiyear money, per Lowe.
  • Kris Dunn probably could have been had at the deadline, but the Bulls likely wouldn’t have listened to inquiries on Zach LaVine unless someone had “overwhelmed” them, Lowe writes.
  • The Magic told teams in recent weeks that they wouldn’t part for Terrence Ross for anything less than a first-round pick, sources tell Lowe. Orlando ultimately kept Ross on its roster.
  • Jrue Holiday is a player worth keeping an eye on if and when the Pelicans eventually trade Anthony Davis. Sources tell Lowe that Holiday wants a chance to compete in the playoffs and is waiting to see what New Orleans gets in return for Davis.

Lowe’s Latest: Rockets, Prince, Blazers, Heat

The Rockets and Cavaliers had discussions about sending Brandon Knight to Cleveland along with a first-round pick in exchange for Alec Burks. However, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com hears that those talks have ceased. Houston has also spoken with the Grizzlies about potential Knight deals.

Cleveland is selling Burks, Rodney Hood, and any other “indispensable asset” prior to the deadline, Lowe writes. The team is willing to take back future salary in exchange for picks.

Houston is expected to scour the market for deals leading up to the deadline with an eye on attaching a future first-rounder to Knight and Marquese Chriss. The Rockets would likely push for lottery protections on any picks that would convey past James Harden‘s prime.

Lowe’s latest piece contains trade nuggets from several teams in the league and we’ve already passed along news from the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley and Marc Gasol sweepstakes as well as the Magic’s pre-deadline plan. Here are the rest of the newsworthy notes from the ESPN piece:

  • The Hawks have made Taurean Prince available in trade talks, sources tell Lowe. Atlanta hasn’t received a ton of traction on Prince deals because of its asking price. The organization wants a young prospect and a pick in exchange for the small forward.
  • The Blazers have put their first-rounder on the table in trade talks, sources tell Lowe. Portland has reached out about Otto Porter Jr.‘s availability, though Wizards owner Ted Leonsis previously announced that the team would not be trading Porter before the deadline.
  • Porter has drawn interest from several teams. In addition to the Blazers, the Mavericks and Jazz have kept an eye on the situation. Dallas was interested in swapping Harrison Barnes for Porter prior to the Kristaps Porzingis trade.
  • Miami appears to be willing to move anyone but Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Bam Adebayo for cap relief. Lowe expects the Heat to try to get at least a second-round pick for Wayne Ellington.
  • Lowe confirms a previous report that JaMychal Green, Justin Holiday, and Garrett Temple are all available. Holiday, who was acquired from the Bulls earlier this year, cost the Grizzlies two second-round picks.
  • The Kings have approximately $11MM in cap space available and they want to use it to pick up an asset. Lowe writes that it could be a draft pick or a player who will help them win this season.
  • Sacramento is willing to engage in trade talks about Willie Cauley-Stein, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. The Kings may simply let the center walk should he receive too high of an offer this offseason.
  • The Bulls are expected to listen to offers for anyone but Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter. Lowe doesn’t expect Chicago to deal either Kris Dunn or Zach LaVine though, as the team’s asking price is anticipated to be too high.
  • The Nuggets own a pair of trade exceptions and have slightly less than $7MM in breathing room under the tax. They are open to taking on a salary dump if another team calls and has to shed a player in that price range.

Central Notes: Burks, Hood, Bullock, Cavs, LaVine

Guards Alec Burks and Rodney Hood are the players most likely to be moved by the Cavaliers before the trade deadline, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Burks was acquired from Utah last month because of his movable $11.5MM expiring contract. He can provide scoring off the bench, defense and ball-handling for a playoff contender. Hood is a skilled player on an expiring $3.4MM contract, though he can’t be traded without his approval since he’s playing on a qualifying offer. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson are other Cleveland players who could be moved at the right price. GM Koby Altman is seeking draft picks, multi-year contracts of expensive players who could be traded in the future, and young players with potential, Vardon adds.

We have more from around the Central Division:

  • Pistons shooting guard Reggie Bullock and backup point guard Ish Smith are garnering trade interest, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Detroit would like to re-sign both players, who are on expiring contracts, Ellis continues. Bullock is making $2.5MM this season and Smith is pulling in $6MM. An offer of a first-round pick could entice Detroit to move Bullock, Ellis adds.
  • The steady diet of losses is weighing on the Cavaliers, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. The injury-riddled Cavs went 1-5 on their just concluded road trip. The Cavaliers don’t want to think that the rest of the season will be a slog to the finish line. “I don’t accept that,” Clarkson said. “I’m trying to compete in games. It’s tough. But we don’t even have a team. You’re playing Channing (Frye) right now and he wasn’t even getting no minutes this year. All these guys dealing with injuries and stuff like that. Sometimes coming into the game a little overmatched. But I’m not set on this is how we are.”
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine took a veiled shot at coach Jim Boylen after the team’s loss to Miami over the weekend, Michael Walton of NBC Sports Chicago reports. LaVine expressed his frustration that the team is playing worse despite getting some key pieces back in the lineup in recent weeks. “Something is obviously wrong,” he said. “We weren’t losing by double digits earlier in the season.” Many of the team’s issues can be attributed to Boylen’s unimaginative offensive scheme, Walton adds.

Bobby Portis Talks Future, Betting On Himself

Bobby Portis turned down the long-term security of a contract extension with the Bulls with the hopes of landing a more lucrative deal on the open market during the summer of 2019. While it may appear as if Portis made a bad bet, the former No. 22 overall pick believes he’s still in position to cash in.

“Obviously I’ve had some injuries up to this point, but I still feel like everything is lined up,’’ Portis said of his plan to become a restricted free agent this summer (via Joe Cowley of The Chicago Tribune). “It’s about me just staying healthy now and me doing my thing. The wins and losses obviously, come and go from game-to-game. You really can’t control that part all the time. We control our effort.”

The upcoming market should be much better than it was in 2018 due to the number of teams with available cap space. Many of the sour contracts from the 2016 offseason will come off the books, leaving teams the ability to make major additions. However, the competition for deals will be fierce with roughly 50% of NBA players eligible to hit the open market. Portis will likely be behind other power forwards, such as Tobias Harris, Julius Randle, Harrison Barnes, and former sparring partner Nikola Mirotic, when teams set their wish lists for a forward.

Portis has had opportunities to improve his stock, particularly during the stretch of games Lauri Markkanen missed to begin the season, but he hasn’t been able to capitalize them due to health problems. He suffered a knee injury near the start of the season and has since been sidelined during two separate stretches with ankle and elbow woes.

“I just need to stay healthy, be on the court, play as hard as I can when I can,” Portis said. “With the minutes that Coach Jim [Boylen] gives me, go out there and play with force. At the end of the day everybody wants to make as much money as they can in this game, but with me I’m just focused on my team, turning this around, and going out there and having fun. Enjoy the ride the rest of the year.’’

Entering Tuesday, Portis’ ride with the Bulls this season has only spanned 13 games. He’s been outspoken about his desire to remain with the Bulls past this season and he believes the feeling is mutual.

“Obviously I know that I really want to stay a Bull,’’ Portis said. “I can’t see myself in any other jersey. It would be weird to start the next season off in another uniform. I’ve been here for four seasons now, time flies fast, but I think I will be a Bull. It’s not only in my control, but honestly I’ve loved this opportunity to be a Bull and don’t see that changing.”

Portis will be a restricted free agent, meaning Chicago can match any offer sheet he receives. The franchise’s recent strategy has been to let RFAs hit the market and then decide whether to match, as the organization did with Zach LaVine‘s deal last offseason. Drafted in 2015, Portis is the Bulls’ longest-tenured player and he doesn’t “want that to change.’’ 

“To be around this long … obviously Bulls across my chest means a lot to me. I really take pride in that every time I step on the court. It’s a big-time honor to be the longest-tenured Bull, but at the same time I feel like I’ve got a long way to go,” Portis added.