NBA Buzz: Bulls pass on chance to start roster makeover


NBA Buzz: Bulls pass on chance to start roster makeover

The NBA trade deadline hit at 2 p.m. on Thursday with the Bulls standing pat, outside of the salary dump of Kirk Hinrich to Atlanta for seldom-used bench player Justin Holiday and a 2018 second round draft pick from Utah.

According to multiple national reports, including a detailed story from the well-connected Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Sacramento Kings aggressively pursued a deal for Bulls’ All-Star Pau Gasol, and made a generous offer that included promising young shooting guard Ben McLemore, back-up center Kosta Koufos, and reduction of the protection on the first round pick they owe to the Bulls (currently top 10 for this year and next).

The Bulls front office ultimately decided to pass on the deal, mostly because they didn’t want to be saddled with the contract of Koufos, a serviceable career back-up who’s owed over $8 million in each of the next three seasons. Now, I understand the perils of taking on a long-term contract for a player you don’t really love, but with the salary cap expected to grow by about $20 million in each of the next two summers, that contract might not look so bad.

Plus, the front office knows they need to add more shot creators and athletes to the roster, and that’s where McLemore comes in. When he arrived at the University of Kansas, McLemore was considered one of the top freshmen and NBA prospects in the country. To this point, McLemore has failed to live up to that enormous potential in his two and a half professional seasons, averaging just under 10 points a game on .415 shooting from the field, and .345 from 3-point range. But you can certainly blame some of that lack of development on playing for such a dysfunctional franchise like Sacramento, and you have to like McLemore’s odds of improving dramatically in his next NBA stop. He certainly has youth on his side after just turning 23 earlier this month.

[MORE: Chicago's goodbye to Kobe Bryant]

The opportunity to add a 6-foot-5 shooting guard with athleticism and upside sure looked like the perfect opportunity for the Bulls front office to start re-shaping the roster for the style of play their hand-picked young coach prefers. Especially when you consider the possibility Gasol can walk away in free agency this summer and the Bulls would get nothing in return.

General manager Gar Forman says he considers Gasol (who turns 36 in July) part of the team’s core group, adding that the Bulls would try to re-sign both Gasol and Joakim Noah this summer. Doing that would cancel any opportunity to improve the team in the free agent market, where the Bulls could create approximately $20-21 million of cap room by letting their two veteran big men walk. Plus, there are no assurances Gasol is interested in re-signing, saying what happens during the rest of the regular season and playoffs will determine whether he believes the Bulls are still a championship contender.

Why the Bulls front office wanted to pass up an offer of McLemore and Koufos to jump-start their plans to get younger and more athletic for a 36-year-old player who may or may not be interested in staying in Chicago, plus throw-in Tony Snell, is a mystery to me. We can only hope the summer strategy involves a lot more than just adding another draft pick of two to an aging and underachieving roster.

Niko's Nightmare

Second year forward Niko Mirotic returned to the Advocate Center following the All-Star break and met with local reporters last Wednesday. Mirotic looked noticeably thinner after dropping 18 pounds after an appendectomy, followed by a second emergency surgery to remove a hematoma.

Mirotic told the harrowing story of how the follow-up surgery came about, saying the surgeon told him in all his years of doing appendectomies he had never seen such a serious complication. “It was maybe bad luck," said Mirotic. "It was no one's mistake. It just could happen. I'm trying to forget that and focus on my recovery. Last year, I just missed one game. The good thing is I know my body is young and I can recover soon. Maybe two, three weeks. I don't know what the time is. The one thing I know that I will do the best job I can to get on the floor soon and help my teammates. Now I'm just walking; so I'm trying to move around a little bit. Let's see when I can do that. After that, try to get some shots. It's all about days. We'll see. I don't know. I know I'm going to be back before playoffs."

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So, Mirotic is weeks away from returning to the court, with Fred Hoiberg telling reporters Mirotic will start with low-impact conditioning work in the pool.

The reality is the Bulls probably won’t get a good read on what they have in Mirotic, given his erratic play earlier in the season, then all of the health issues. And since Niko only signed a three-year contract when he came over from Spain, he’ll be a free agent in the summer of 2017. Just another element of uncertainty as the Bulls try to decide which players will remain part of the team’s core group going forward.

Around the Association

No blockbuster deals on trade deadline day after all the rumors involving Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.  Detroit picked up 23-year-old forward Tobias Harris from Orlando for two players that were not going to be part of their future, Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova. And later, the Pistons strengthened their bench by acquiring Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton from Houston for a first round draft pick.

Cleveland also picked up a potentially valuable bench piece, getting veteran stretch four Channing Frye from the Magic, and the Cavs are considered the front-runners to sign Joe Johnson if he agrees to a buyout with Brooklyn.

All told, there were 12 deals made during deadline week involving 26 players. Here’s a look at how that compares to the last five years. 

2015: 46 players traded (22 still with team), 12 draft picks. Notable: Isaiah Thomas (Suns to Celtics), Arron Afflalo (Nuggets to Blazers), Reggie Jackson (OKC to Pistons), Goran Dragic (Suns to Heat).

2014: 26 players traded (1 still with team), 6 draft picks. Notable: Aaron Brooks (Rockets to Nuggets), Evan Turner (76'ers to Pacers)

2013: 29 players traded (1 still with team), 2 draft picks. Notable: JJ Redick (Magic to Bucks), Tobias Harris (Bucks to Magic), Josh McRoberts (Magic to Bobcats).

2012: 28 players traded (2 still with team), 8 draft picks. Notable: Andrew Bogut (Bucks to Warriors), Monta Ellis (Warriors to Bucks), Nene Hilario (Nuggets to Wizards), Gerald Wallace (Blazers to Nets).

2011: 50 players traded (4 still with team), 16 draft picks. Notable: Carmelo Anthony (Nuggets to Knicks), Deron Williams (Jazz to Nets), Danilo Gallinari (Knicks to Nuggets), Derrick Favors (Nets to Jazz), Wilson Chandler (Knicks to Nuggets). 

A number of players coming with some big number out of the All-Star break. Chicago native Anthony Davis set a New Orleans Pelicans franchise record with his 59-point performance Sunday against the Pistons, it’s also the highest scoring game in the history of the Palace. Davis also pulled down 20 rebounds.

And, another Chicago native, Jabari Parker, appears to be fully recovered from ACL surgery in December of 2014. Parker has been dunking on players with regularity in recent weeks, and he scored a career-high 28 points in the Milwaukee Bucks’ win in Atlanta last Saturday.

Warriors pursuit of 72 wins

Golden State came out of the break with an embarrassing 32-point loss at Portland, but then bounced back with a good road win over the Los Angeles Clippers. At 49-5, the Warriors are one game ahead of the pace set by the 1995-96 Bulls when they won 72 games, and they’re also trying to become the first NBA team to go through an entire season without losing back-to-back games. The schedule is tough for Golden State over the next few weeks, but I’m still giving them a 55 percent chance to get to 72 wins.

Stats of the Week

Courtesy of CSN’s stats whiz Chris Kamka:

Derrick Rose 20+ point games this season:

Nine in last 15 games

Six in first 33 games

20+ point trios vs. Bulls (this season)

Feb. 19 (TOR): DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry

Feb. 6 (MIN): Andrew Wiggins (21), Karl-Anthony Towns (26) and Gorgui Dieng (24)

Jan. 3 (TOR): Luis Scola (22), DeRozan (24) and Lowry (22)

Dec. 18 (DET): Andre Drummond (33), Reggie Jackson (31) and Marcus Morris (20)

Nov. 18 (PHX): Brandon Knight (23), Eric Bledsoe (21) and P.J. Tucker (20)

Oct. 30 (DET): Morris (26), Jackson (22) and Drummond (20)

Bulls longest losing streak by season under Tom Thibodeau (regular season)

2010-11: two games (four times)

2011-12: two games

2012-13: three games

2013-14: four games (twice)

2014-15: three games (twice)

Under Fred Hoiberg

2015-16: five games (longest by Bulls since 10-game losing streak Feb. 27-March 19, 2010 under Vinnie Del Negro).

Quotes of the Week

Hoiberg used to work in the Timberwolves’ front office as an assistant to the GM, so he has some personal experience on what goes on at the trade deadline: "People like to lie to each other all the way up to those last 48 hours.”

And here are the thoughts of Taj Gibson on whether the Bulls disappointing season is the most challenging of his seven-year career. “I think, yeah. Just because we got a lot of young guys too. In previous years we [were] able to muster up because we had guys that had been together for a while, we had a good belief system. But it's a little different, we got different guys, and it's different. You're a veteran now. It's not like you're the young guys on the curb anymore so it's frustrating but I believe in this team…"

Gibson has definitely emerged as a team leader. We’re all waiting to see if this Bulls team is capable of sustaining a run of winning basketball once Jimmy Butler returns from his knee injury in a couple weeks.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago launches new show Bulls Outsiders

Chicago, IL (October 15, 2018) – NBC Sports Chicago – THE Home of the #AuthenticFan – has announced it will launch Bulls Outsiders, a brand new, live, multi-platform, fan-interactive Bulls program that will provide a fresh take on that evening’s game and much more from three non-conventional sports show hosts.  Bulls Outsiders will make its network debut after the Bulls 2018-19 road/season opener this Thursday, October 18 (approx. 10:00 PM CT) immediately following Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois on NBC Sports Chicago+, via live stream to authenticated NBC Sports Chicago subscribers at NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive, and -- on Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago). NOTE: Bulls Outsiders will also re-air on the main NBC Sports Chicago channel on this night at 11:00 PM; the majority of airings will also air live on the main channel location.

Hosted by three, die-hard Bulls enthusiasts – Matt Peck (@Bulls_Peck), David Watson (@bawlsports), and John Sabine (@jsabine214) – Bulls Outsiders will provide viewers with the hottest takes, insightful analysis, and spirited commentary from the fans' perspective. This new half-hour program will immediately follow the network’s dedicated, season-long presentation of Bulls Postgame Live for all 82 Bulls games this season.  

In addition to the lively post-game discussion with the show’s hosts, Bulls Outsiders will also emphasize heavy viewer interaction via fan engagement on a number of the network’s social media platforms including Twitter (@NBCSBulls; fans urged to utilize the Twitter hashtag #BullsOutsiders in their posts) and Facebook Live (Facebook.com/NBCSChicago), which will enable Bulls fans to directly interact with the show’s hosts via comments and questions pertaining to that particular evening’s game, the key topics presented to them that night, or anything else they want to discuss from a league-wide NBA perspective. 

“Our primary goal at NBC Sports Chicago is to super serve our fans and with the introduction of Bulls Outsiders to our multi-platform programming line-up, we are able to continue that mission with a fresh and fun new program that not only speaks to Bulls fans, but one that directly involves them in the dialogue,” said Kevin Cross, Vice President of Content for NBC Sports Chicago. 

In preparation for the hiring of the program’s three primary hosts, NBC Sports Chicago reached out to a number of notable local (and vocal) die-hard Bulls fans who stood out among the vast Bulls social media community. Candidates who responded back with interest were simply asked to shoot a one-minute video on their phone and offer up their take on Chicago native/Simeon Career Academy H.S. grad Jabari Parker joining the Bulls via free agency.  From there, the initial two dozen candidates were narrowed down to eight, who were then all brought in for in-studio auditions. Following the lengthy on-camera process, Cross, along with Bulls content producer Kevin Anderson, finalized their decision and welcomed Peck, Watson, and Sabine to the NBC Sports Chicago family.  

“It was an intricate process in choosing our hosts, but there’s no doubt Matt, David, and John have a great chemistry and solid individual strengths,” added Cross. “I’m also excited about how Bulls Outsiders will take fan interactivity to a brand new level and I couldn’t be more pleased that we will be able to deliver this show to the passionate and undeniably-dedicated Bulls fan base.”

Please note the following Bulls Outsiders host bios:

Matt Peck - Podcast host/writer for ‘Locked On Bulls’

Age: 31

Hometown: Glen Ellyn, IL

Favorite Bull of all time: “MJ, obviously…but Rodman is a very close second.” 

Favorite Current Bull: Lauri Markkanen 

Favorite Bulls moments: 

1st place – “1997 NBA Finals Game 1. MJ hits the game-winner at the buzzer after Karl Malone misses 2 FTs...Mailman doesn't deliver on Sundays."

2nd place – “2011 Eastern Conference Finals Game 1…Bulls blow out the ‘Heatles.’ Taj destroys Dwyane Wade's soul. And has a FILTHY put back dunk late with the route on. The Madhouse goes insane. We all leave that night thinking we were about to win the title.” 

David Watson - Bulls writer/podcast host for BawlSports.com

Age: 39

Hometown: Chicago, IL                            

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: Michael Jordan

Favorite current Bulls player: Lauri Markkanen

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan Flu Game in ‘97…Noah dunk on Paul Pierce in ’09 first round Game 6 Triple OT…oh, and that Pippen dunk on Ewing in the ’94 playoffs.”

John Sabine - Actor, copywriter, and improviser…he has performed with The Second City IO and The Improvised Shakespeare Company.

Age: 34

Hometown: Originally from Dallas, TX…has lived in Chicago for the last 11 years

Favorite Bulls player of all-time: “Pippen or Rodman, it's probably Rodman. Is it weird it's Rodman?”

Favorite current Bulls player: “Lauri Markkanen, but really Bobby Portis. I want to be friends with Bobby Portis.” 

Favorite Bulls moment: “Jordan's return from baseball. As a kid I couldn't understand, I said "wait ...he just decided to not play and now he decided to play, but like he has a new number and he's still awesome...what?!’ or…either 2013 Round 1 Game 4 against the Nets 3OT, Nate Robinson. It was a Marvel Movie.” 

REMINDER: NBC Sports Chicago will carry the 2018-19 Bulls HOME OPENER on Saturday, October 20 (Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light at 6:00 PM; Bulls vs. Pistons tip-off at 7:00 PM; Bulls Postgame Live presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois at approx. 9:30 PM, which will immediately be followed by Bulls Outsiders at approx. 10:00 PM).