Zach LaVine

Zach LaVine On Contract Situation: “I Just Want My Respect”

Bulls guard Zach LaVine is eligible for a contract extension this offseason as he enters the final season of a four-year, $78MM deal that has turned into a bargain for his team. Asked about his situation following Team USA’s Monday practice in Tokyo, LaVine suggested to reporters that he’d like to be rewarded for his All-Star caliber player, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“I just want my respect, that’s the main thing,” LaVine said. “I outplayed my contract. I’ve been very loyal to Chicago. I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If that’s now or later, it’s something we’ve got to work out internally.”

Veteran extensions are generally based on the player’s previous salary. LaVine, who is earning $19.5MM this season, could get a 20% raise on that figure for a deal starting at $23.4MM, which would be worth nearly $105MM over four years. That likely won’t be enough to get something done.

However, as Windhorst notes, the Bulls are in a unique position due to their ability to create cap room this offseason. They could use a chunk of cap space to renegotiate LaVine’s 2021/22 salary, increasing his $19.5MM cap figure for next season and then offering an extension that features an additional 20% raise on that new salary. That would allow Chicago to offer LaVine a significantly more lucrative extension.

However, the Bulls’ cap flexibility is somewhat limited and the team is focused on adding a point guard in free agency. Landing a starting-caliber point guard and renegotiating LaVine’s contract would require the team to trim a substantial amount of salary from its books, including likely finding takers for Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, losing Lauri Markkanen, and waiving-and-stretching Al-Farouq Aminu‘s expiring contract.

We’ll have to see how the Bulls’ offseason plays out. If the team determines that a renegotiation of LaVine’s deal isn’t the best use of its cap space or if he wants to wait on an extension, Chicago would have his full Bird rights when he reaches free agency in 2022 and could offer him more years and more money than any rival suitor.

Trade Rumors: Rubio, Ball, Knicks, Wizards, Simmons

Ricky Rubio is busy playing the point for Spain in the Olympics but a number of NBA teams are doing due diligence on a potential trade for the veteran point man, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. The Celtics, Clippers and Lakers are keeping tabs on the Timberwolves guard. Rubio has a $17.8MM expiring contract for next season.

We have more trade chatter from around the league:

  • The Pelicans and Pacers discussed a Lonzo Ball deal, Ian Begley of SNY.TV reports, though it’s unknown if those talks ever reached an advanced level. Ball will be a free agent, so a deal would only be possible via sign-and-trade.
  • In the same piece, Begley writes that the Knicks plan to maintain enough cap flexibility to pursue top free agents in 2022, a class that could include Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal.
  • The Wizards have received calls on their best young players, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. Those players are presumably Rui Hachimura, Daniel Gafford and Deni Avdija. The front office could be motivated to move one or more of those players to appease Beal in a win-now scenario.
  • There’s been plenty of speculation about a potential Ben Simmons trade. The latest from Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter link) is that the Sixers are looking either for an All-Star talent in return or a starting-caliber player along with multiple draft picks.

Olympic Notes: LaVine, NBA Participants, Hernangomez, Finals Trio

Zach LaVine was placed in protocols due to contact tracing before he was allowed to go to Tokyo. That development came as a big surprise to the Team USA wing. LaVine was sidelined for 11 Bulls games in April when he tested positive for COVID-19, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times writes. “Well I was a little shocked,’’ LaVine said. “Obviously, I didn’t think I could get [the virus]. Obviously, I didn’t. I’m going to have to be careful with everybody including the team and everybody coming over here, so it made sense, and I pretty much had to do my time, jump through a couple hoops to get here.’’

We have more Olympic-related notes:

  • If there are a lot of familiar faces in the Olympic tournament, it’s because there are a record number of current and former NBA participants. According to an NBA press release, there are 49 current players and 16 former players dotting Olympic rosters. The Heat lead the way with four players in the competition.
  • Spain’s basketball federation president claims that Juan Hernangomez won’t play in the Olympics because Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas nixed it, according to a Eurohoops story relayed by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Hernangomez dislocated his left shoulder this summer but Jorge Garbajosa says the big man has been cleared by Spain’s medical staff. “Juancho wants to play in the Olympic Games, but Juancho won’t be able to play,” Garbajosa said. “We’ve had countless medical meetings and we’ve never received a ‘no.’ We have a received a ‘yes’. … It’s a problem of people – not medical personnel – who have personally decided that Juancho couldn’t play. I’m talking about their president of basketball operations.”
  • Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday arrived in Tokyo on Saturday and their Team USA teammates are impressed by the commitment of the three players who participated in the Finals, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. “I have a lot of respect for those guys for not only committing to do this but actually keeping their word,” Draymond Green said. “You’re talking about three true professionals, three extremely competitive guys that wouldn’t be on their way here if this didn’t mean something.”

Team USA’s Zach LaVine Clears COVID-19 Protocols

JULY 20: LaVine has cleared the health and safety protocols and will join Team USA in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon, USA Basketball announced late on Tuesday night (Twitter link).

With the NBA Finals now over, Booker, Middleton, and Holiday should all be able to report to the U.S. squad in Tokyo with plenty of time to spare before Sunday’s game as well.


JULY 19: Bulls guard Zach LaVine has been placed under the healthy and safety protocols related to COVID-19, according to USA Basketball (Twitter link). As a result, LaVine won’t be on the team’s flight to Tokyo today.

LaVine has not yet been ruled out for the Olympics like Bradley Beal was last week. According to Team USA, the hope is that LaVine will be cleared to travel to Japan later this week.

LaVine’s situation is the latest hurdle to overcome for a U.S. squad that has faced a series of challenges during the lead-up to the Tokyo games. Last week, Beal and Jerami Grant were placed in the health and safety protocols and Kevin Love withdrew from the roster for health reasons. Grant has since been cleared and will travel to Tokyo with Team USA, but Beal and Love were replaced on the roster by Keldon Johnson and JaVale McGee.

While it sounds like LaVine may follow in Grant’s footsteps and exit the protocols within a few days, Team USA runs the risk of being shorthanded until there’s clarity one way or the other on LaVine. The roster was already temporarily down three players, since Devin Booker, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday remain active in the NBA Finals through at least Tuesday (or Thursday, if a Game 7 if necessary). The U.S. will play its first game of the Olympics on Sunday morning vs. France.

For what it’s worth, LaVine tested positive for the coronavirus in April.

Olympic Notes: Johnson, Garland, Bey, Durant, Satoransky

The Spurs’ Keldon Johnson, Cavaliers’ Darius Garland and Pistons’ Saddiq Bey will move up from the U.S. Select Team and play for Team USA in exhibition games, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

The trio will fill in for Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, who will join Team USA after the Finals. Johnson, Garland and Bey would be candidates to join Team USA for the Olympics if any players have to bow out.

Exhibition games in Las Vegas will begin on Saturday with a matchup against Nigeria.

We have more on the Olympics:

  • Select Team members Cameron Reynolds, Josh Magette, John Jenkins and Dakota Mathias will remain in Las Vegas and will be available for exhibition games, Brian Windhorst of ESPN writes. The pool of Select Team players has been reduced by injuries and COVID-19 protocols. Timberwolves big man Naz Reid suffered a minor injury in Thursday’s practice, Windhorst adds.
  • Nets superstar Kevin Durant will look to collect his third gold medal in Tokyo and he’s energized by that possibility, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. “I committed to USA Basketball when I was coming out of college,” Durant said. “And every chance that I can get that I’m healthy and my mind is in the right place to play basketball, I’m going to go out there and play. Finished the year off healthy, the regular season and the playoffs, so I felt it’d be cool to get a kickstart on next season by getting in shape a little earlier in the summer with Team USA.”
  • Bulls guard Zach LaVine will be facing backcourt partner Tomas Satoransky in Group A play and he’s looking forward to the matchup, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago relays. Satoransky will play for the Czech Republic, which is in Team USA’s Group along with Iran and France. “I’m looking forward to playing them and having some bragging rights,” LaVine said good-naturedly. “Hopefully, we really kick their butt.”

Eastern Notes: Holiday, LaVine, Hawks, Magic

The trade that brought Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee helped the Bucks reach the Finals. Holiday has struggled in the first two games of the series but Giannis Antetokounmpo is confident his teammate turn things around as the series shifts to Milwaukee, Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes.

“No matter what’s going on, you’ve got to stay aggressive and you cannot get in your feelings. It’s hard not to,” Antetokounmpo said. “You know, NBA Finals, 20,000 people booing you and all that, it’s kind of hard. … If there’s a game that you’re 3-for-12 or whatever the case might be and you can rebound the ball or get a steal or do something else to help the team win, that’s what it’s all about right now. I think he understands that. I know he’s going to be there when we need him the most and I don’t worry about it.”

Holiday shot 11-for-35 from the field during the two games in Phoenix.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • Zach LaVine will discuss a contract extension with the Bulls soon and he anticipates a positive outcome, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times tweets. LaVine will make $19.5MM next season and then is due to become an unrestricted free agent. LaVine is currently with Team USA training for the Olympics.
  • On the surface, Jamahl Mosley won’t have a lot of pressure as the new head coach of the rebuilding Magic — provided that he finalizes an agreement — but he’ll face some obstacles, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes. The current roster doesn’t have a clear No. 1 offensive option and that could create some chemistry issues. In the same piece, Robbins reveals that president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond are expected to receive contract extensions. Both have one year remaining on their deals and the length of their new contracts will likely coincide with Mosley’s deal.
  • Now that he’s had the interim tag removed, Hawks coach Nate McMillan knows that expectations will ramp up for a team that reached the conference finals, Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes. “Things just for whatever reason went right, and we had a lot of success,” he said. “We know that expectations are going to be higher for us next season. But the one thing we’ve tried to keep this team locked in on is just us. Not the outside noise and what people are saying we should be or shouldn’t be because at the beginning of the season, they weren’t saying what they’re saying now about us. So you can’t focus on that.”

Bulls Notes: Lottery, LaVine, Simmons, Dinwiddie, T. Young

The Bulls were among the unluckiest teams at the draft lottery, losing their first-round pick to the Magic when it failed to land in the top four, writes Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. Chicago wound up sending the No. 8 selection to Orlando as part of the trade deadline deal involving Nikola Vucevic, and it owes another first-rounder to the Magic in 2023.

With only the No. 38 pick remaining in the July 29 draft, the Bulls will have to explore other ways to improve, Mayberry adds. They’re short on trade assets after investing so much in the roster makeover in March, and they may not have enough cap space to add a meaningful free agent.

Mayberry suggests the Bulls may try to trade back into the first round on draft night, using the expiring contracts of Thaddeus Young ($14.19MM) and Tomáš Satoranský ($10MM), both of which are non-guaranteed, as well as Al-Farouq Aminu ($10.183MM).

They may also reach out to a couple of division rivals who had better fortune at the lottery. The Pistons landed the top overall pick and are likely to draft Cade Cunningham, which could make point guard Killian Hayes available in a trade, Mayberry speculates. Meanwhile, if the Cavaliers get Jalen Green at No. 3, they might be willing to part with Collin Sexton, Darius Garland or Isaac Okoro.

There’s more on the Bulls:

  • Zach LaVine‘s inclusion on the Olympic team could be good for the Bulls’ future, states Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times. He notes that many star pairings in the NBA began when players got to know each other as Olympic teammates. Cowley cautions it might work the other way, and LaVine, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, could get recruited to go somewhere else.
  • Ben Simmons‘ playoff struggles and Spencer Dinwiddie‘s decision to turn down his player option for next season create two intriguing options for the Bulls in their search for a point guard, writes Jamal Collier of The Chicago Tribune. Simmons would be an ideal backcourt partner for LaVine, Collier notes, but it would be hard to put together an enticing offer for the Sixers without giving up LaVine in return. Dinwiddie will be seeking more than the $12.3MM he opted out of, but Collier expects concerns about his partially torn ACL to keep the price tag down.
  • Thaddeus Young has been chosen as this year’s winner of the NBA Hustle Award, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. The honor goes to the player who makes the most energy and effort plays during the season.

LaVine, Grant Commit To Team USA; Harden Withdraws

Bulls guard Zach LaVine and Pistons forward Jerami Grant have committed to play for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

There were already 11 players who had committed to represent the U.S. in Tokyo, but one of those players – Nets guard James Harden – is withdrawing, Charania reports (via Twitter).

Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press had noted earlier today (via Twitter) that there are still concerns about the hamstring injury that sidelined Harden for part of the second half of the season and several games in the Eastern Semifinals. He’ll focus on getting that hamstring back to 100% this summer.

As a result of the new commitments and Harden’s decision to pull out, the 12-team roster for Team USA now looks like this:

Booker, Holiday, and Middleton are still alive in the postseason. However, Team USA managing director Jerry Colangelo previously said that Booker intends to play in Tokyo no matter how late the Suns’ season goes, and he suggested today that Holiday and Middleton have made similar commitments, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

Even assuming those three players all remain committed, it’s possible the 12-man U.S. squad could undergo more tweaks if players suffer injuries or reconsider their summer plans. For now though, we have a pretty good idea of what the group competing for gold in Tokyo will look like. The Olympics are scheduled to begin a month from today.

Sixers’ Simmons: “There’s A Lot Of Things I Need To Work On”

In the wake of the Sixers‘ second crushing Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the last three years, all eyes are on Ben Simmons, whose poor foul shooting and reluctance to put up shots – especially in the fourth quarter – helped doom Philadelphia.

“I ain’t shoot well from the line this series,” Simmons said on Sunday after the Sixers’ loss, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “Offensively, I wasn’t there. I didn’t do enough for my teammates. … There’s a lot of things that I need to work on.”

Simmons made just 15-of-45 free throws in the seven-game series vs. Atlanta and connected on only 34.2% of his total foul shots in the playoffs, the worst mark ever for a player with more than 70 attempts in a single postseason.

He also seemed eager to get the ball out of his hands in fourth quarters, for fear of being fouled. At one point late in the Sixers’ loss on Sunday, Simmons passed up an open dunk attempt to get the ball to Matisse Thybulle, who was fouled and subsequently made one of two free throws. Joel Embiid singled out that play in his post-game comments to reporters, McMenamin notes.

“Man, I will be honest. I thought the turning point was, you know, when we, I don’t know how to say it, but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other and they came down and scored,” Embiid said.

The 76ers have invested heavily in Simmons, who is owed nearly $147MM over the next four years. He was supposed to be a franchise cornerstone alongside Embiid. However, when head coach Doc Rivers was asked after Sunday’s game whether Simmons can be the point guard for a championship team, Rivers didn’t commit one way or the other.

“I don’t know that question or the answer to that right now,” he said.

Here’s more on the Sixers’ three-time All-Star:

  • While Simmons took responsibility for his offensive struggles, he also pointed out that he had 13 assists and played good defense on Trae Young, who was just 5-of-23 from the floor in Game 7, McMenamin observes.
  • Asked if he wants to stay in Philadelphia, Simmons replied, Yeah, I love being in Philly. I love this organization. The fans are great people. I had a bad series. I expect that (boos). It’s Philly (Twitter link via Michael Scotto of HoopsHype).
  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to NBA executives about whether the Sixers should trade Simmons this offseason and received mixed feedback. A pair of execs said they’d explore a trade, while two others said they’d probably hang onto him for now — one of those two suggested a position change. “I’m not sure I’d trade him, but I’d make him a power forward and get a point guard,” that exec told Scotto. “Ben has totally disappeared. He needs to be more aggressive, especially in the playoffs. He’s content getting assists, rebounds, and defending, but to win in the playoffs they need more from him.”
  • While trading Simmons might seem like an inevitability after this postseason, it won’t be easy for the Sixers to move him in exchange for a star after the way his value dropped during the playoffs, writes John Hollinger of The Athletic. Including him in a package for Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard would perhaps be a best-case scenario, but neither of those players seem available for now, according to Hollinger, who wonders if a swap involving Zach LaVine might make the most sense for the 76ers and the Bulls.

Central Notes: LaVine, Turner, Cavaliers Draft, Sabonis

All-Star Bulls shooting guard Zach LaVine appears intent to earn a maximum contract extension with Chicago, but whether or not that happens this summer will have a significant financial impact on the deal, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. A standard extension for LaVine this offseason could only be worth up to about $105MM over four years, so he seems unlikely to accept such a deal — Chicago could offer him significantly more in a renegotiation or once he reaches free agency.

“I definitely want what I deserve, and whatever that is I’ll have it coming to me,’’ LaVine said of a possible extension after the Bulls’ 2020/21 season concluded.

K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes that LaVine’s fate this summer could be directly affected by the Bulls’ lottery luck. Should the team move into the top four in Tuesday’s lottery drawing ahead of the 2021 draft, it will be committed to paying at least $7.2MM to the rookie prospect it drafts. Depending on how some decisions shake out across the rest of Chicago’s roster, this will likely mean the Bulls, who have not made the playoffs in four seasons, will be operating over the salary cap, which would preclude a renegotiation with LaVine this season and make an extension less likely.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Pacers center Myles Turner weighed in on his perceived snub from the NBA’s All-Defensive teams this season, writes Nat Newell of the Indianapolis Star. Turner tweeted, in part, “Right back to it next season, [I’m going to] make it to where it ain’t even a debate.” Newell notes that all of the forwards who made the cut ahead of Turner played at least five more games than he did during a truncated 72-game season, where every appearance counts that much more. Newell observes that, in the last 20 years, the league leader in blocks has not made either All-Defensive team just six times — and Turner accounts for two of those omissions.
  • A lot is riding on the Cavaliers landing some lottery luck, again, in the 2021 draft lottery next week, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Over the last two decades, Cleveland landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003, 2011, 2013, and 2014 drafts. The club hasn’t fared as well lately in the lottery, but is hoping its luck turns ahead of a starry draft.
  • Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis proved he was one of the best big men in the league through his play this season, per Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com. The 25-year-old deservedly made his second straight All-Star game, and boasted a sparkling stat line of 20.3 PPG (on 53.5% shooting from the floor), 12 RPG, and 6.7 APG. Hotchkiss highlights just how valuable Sabonis was on offense, both as a ball-handler and an expert pick-setter, and notes that Sabonis was often tasked with guarding players beyond the paint while Turner manned the middle, resulting in Sabonis traveling 2.7 miles a night on the floor, more than any other big man in the league. Sabonis will suit up for Team Lithuania during a six-game qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics, and potentially the Olympics themselves, before his focus returns to the NBA.