Close to 15 years after the 2006 NBA draft, could LaMarcus Aldridge affect the Bulls’ fortunes again?
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters Wednesday that the organization and Aldridge, whose draft rights the Bulls infamously traded for those of Tyrus Thomas, “have mutually agreed to work out some opportunities” for the classy former All-Star forward.
In other words, Aldridge either will be traded by the March 25 trade deadline or bought out to join a contending team.
Aldridge, 35, is a seven-time All-Star. And while his best days are behind him, he’s still averaging 13.7 points and 4.5 rebounds. Perhaps most importantly, he plays the same position as Thad Young.
Already, some teams that had been speculated for fits for Young at the trade deadline -- like the Boston Celtics and Portland Trail Blazers -- are being mentioned as possible landing spots for Aldridge.
Young, 32, has played at such a high level this season that management likely would have to be bowled over by an offer for him. Particularly since he’s held in such high regard by teammates as wide-ranging as a veteran All-Star in Zach LaVine and a rookie in Patrick Williams.
Young also has a team-friendly contract for next season that carries a partial guarantee. That gives his contract trade value during the offseason and through next season, too, either as an expiring deal or one with that partial guarantee.
Speaking after Wednesday’s evening practice at the Advocate Center, coach Billy Donovan said management is doing what all teams’ executives do at this time of year -- talking.
“He’s (Artūras Karnišovas) always going to look to field phone calls and take phone calls from different teams, make phone calls. That’s his job,” Donovan said. “In talking to him, we feel good about the growth of the team and the team improving and getting better. Like I said before the break started, we are not excited or happy with being under .500. But I think the guys have done a good job and we are trying to get better. Those will be conversations I think between Artūras and I that will continue on for the next couple of weeks leading up to the deadline.
“Artūras is meeting with his staff constantly. They’re always meeting and talking and looking at all sorts of situations, not only around the league but with our team going forward. Long-term plans future. Short-term plans future. Those kind of things. Artūras has been very gracious, always inviting me into those situations.”
As for another speculative rumor that surfaced over the All-Star break, that of Otto Porter Jr. possibly seeking a buyout, the veteran forward answered “absolutely” when asked if his focus remains on impacting and improving the Bulls.
“I’ve just been in the gym every day, trying to get my body back,” said Porter Jr., who is close to returning from a lengthy absence with back spasms. “Whatever is going on out there, I have no idea about. My agent would probably tell me if something was going on, but he hasn’t said anything.’’