Bulls face big roster decisions over the next month

The Chicago Bulls have some big decisions to make in the fairly near future, and there are no easy answers or obvious suggestions as to what those decisions should be.

Via the Sun-Times:

There are 15 games left before the Feb. 8 trade deadline comes and goes, and the part of the schedule that softens up for this team.

Two games with Charlotte in that span, a couple of tussles with Toronto and Memphis, the slumping Lakers, San Antonio, Portland … realistically there could be eight to nine more wins to cash in on before final decisions have to be made on the trade front.

The danger becomes what if the Bulls front office again decides to chase fool’s gold?

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley have done it before, opting to err on the side of “continuity” both at the trade deadline last year and again over the summer.

Would they jump back into those murky waters for a team that was suddenly 25-27 sitting in a solid play-in spot?

Hopefully lessons have been learned.

This is where it gets tricky, however.

The Bulls are 16-21, which is the 10th best record in the Eastern Conference. Their defense has been solid this season, but their offense has been one of the least efficient in the league.

Bulls guard Zach LaVine might return to action soon

The Chicago Bulls could have scoring guard Zach LaVine back in action soon.

Per the Chicago Tribune:

Zach LaVine is working back from a foot injury that has sidelined the Bulls star for more than a month as trade rumors swirl around his potential exit from Chicago.

LaVine has been out since Nov. 29, when the Bulls shut him down because of inflammation on the exterior of his right foot. The team set an estimated recovery window of three to four weeks on Dec. 6.

The Bulls are 10-5 in LaVine’s absence, having undergone an offensive transformation amid a crucial turning point in the season — both on and off the court.

The Bulls are 15-20, which is the 10th best record in the Eastern Conference.

On what comes next for the Bulls

Per the Chicago Tribune:

January will be a formative month for the future of this franchise. Although executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas often prefers the methodical approach, this is a time for decisiveness. Over the next six weeks, the front office will be forced to determine which players to build around — a decision that will be equally informed by injury recoveries, game results and the trade market.

Everything turns on a decision that might not even be in the front office’s hands: whether or not to finally split from Zach LaVine.

After missing the last 15 games with a foot injury, LaVine could begin practicing with the Bulls within the next week. Coach Billy Donovan said LaVine will stay home from the back-to-back trip to Philadelphia and New York to ramp up his training with team staff. He remains on track for his original recovery timeline with a potential return to the court by mid-January.

But what does that even mean? Donovan and team leaders like DeMar DeRozan have insisted LaVine wasn’t the problem and winning 10 of their 15 games without the maximum contract star is an unfortunate coincidence. LaVine insists he’s prepared and eager to mold his play around the style that has brought the Bulls success in his absence.


Bulls sign forward Torrey Craig

The Chicago Bulls have signed forward Torrey Craig.

Craig, 6-7, 221, recorded career-high averages in points (7.4), rebounds (5.4), assists (1.5), blocks (0.8) and minutes (24.7) while appearing in 79 games (60 starts) with the Phoenix Suns in 2022-23. Craig shot a career-best .395 from three-point range and made 100 three-pointers (100-253 3FG) on the season. He was the only Suns player to total at least 50 steals (50) and 50 blocks (62) in 2022-23.

Bulls sign Nikola Vucevic to contract extension

The Chicago Bulls have signed center Nikola Vučević to a contract extension.

Vucevic’s extension is reportedly a three-year, $60 million deal.

“During his time in Chicago, Nikola has proven that he is a special player both on and off the court,” said Artūras Karnišovas, Executive Vice President – Basketball Operations. “He has produced at an elite level since we acquired him and will remain an integral part of our foundation moving forward. Nikola’s willingness to do whatever is asked of him to help us win, while also being an established veteran leader for our group, makes him a valuable component of the culture of our organization. He is a consummate professional and tremendous teammate, which plays a big role in making us an attractive destination for other players. We are excited to have him continue to be part of our journey.”

Per the Chicago Tribune, “the Bulls’ decision to trade for Vučević has been a point of contention since he arrived in Chicago. The acquisition cost the Bulls a pair of first-round draft picks, Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr. And while Vučević has been an upgrade at center, the Bulls have relatively little to show for it — one winning season and one playoff win.”

“I’m excited to continue my journey as a Chicago Bull,” said Vučević. “Since I have arrived in Chicago, everyone in the organization has been incredibly welcoming to my family and me. I am motivated more than ever to achieve our mutual goals as a team. I want to thank the Reinsdorf family and Artūras for continuing to believe in me. I also want to thank Bulls fans for the constant support, you guys are the best part about playing in Chicago. We will work harder than ever to bring success to the city of Chicago.”

Vučević, 6-10, 260, averaged 17.6 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 33.5 minutes while playing in all 82 games (82 starts) for Chicago in 2022-23. He finished third in the NBA in double-doubles (51) a year ago, becoming the fourth player in Bulls history with 50-plus double-doubles in a season (A. Gilmore, C. Oakley, P. Gasol). The Montenegro native and former USC product was the only NBA player to make at least 100 three-pointers (121) and grab 800-plus rebounds (903) last season and is the only Bulls player to ever do so. Vučević ranked second in the league with 903 total rebounds, while leading the NBA with 744 defensive rebounds. His 744 defensive boards marked the sixth-highest season total in Bulls history, including the highest since 1997-98 (D. Rodman).

LeBron James returns, but Lakers lose to Bulls

LeBron James made his return to action today, but the results for the Lakers weren’t good. Via the LA Times:

Yet Sunday, the surprise return, in part, translated into a turnover-riddled mess with no real purpose in a 118-108 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Players inside the Lakers’ locker room didn’t find out James would be back until after his pregame workout Sunday, the type of addition that does so much good long term while throwing the short term into a bit of chaos.

He came off the bench for just the second time in his career, joining the Lakers for their final eight games of the season.

In his return, James scored 19 points. Troy Brown Jr. and Malik Beasley each had 18, while Dennis Schroder contributed 17 and Austin Reaves 13.

Anthony Davis scored 15 points and shot six for eight from the field — Beasley, Brown, James, Reaves and Schroder all attempting more shots.

The Lakers turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 34 Chicago points.


Prepare for some Patrick Beverley-related fun

Via the Chicago Sun-Times:

Bulls guard Patrick Beverley had studied the schedule weeks in advance.

After the Lakers traded Beverley at the deadline in February, the Magic bought out his contract and his hometown Bulls eventually signed him, he knew exactly what was coming.

Two games against the Lakers in four days, starting Sunday at Crypto Arena. Or, as Beverley initially stated, his chance to eliminate them from their current play-in standing in the Western Conference.

Let the revenge tour begin.

‘‘That’s fine. He can try,’’ Lakers big man Anthony Davis told Los Angeles-area media about Beverley’s comments. ‘‘He can come try. We’ll see Sunday.’’


Bulls sign Patrick Beverley, waive Tony Bradley and Malcolm Hill

The Chicago Bulls have signed guard Patrick Beverley.

And in a related move, center Tony Bradley and forward Malcolm Hill have been waived.

Beverley, a 10-year veteran, appeared in 45 games (all starts) and averaged 6.5 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 26.9 minutes with the Los Angeles Lakers before being traded to Orlando on Feb. 9 – part of a four-team trade. Beverley never suited up with the Magic and was waived by Orlando on Feb. 12.

He has played for four NBA franchises (Houston Rockets, L.A. Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the L.A. Lakers) across his decade tenure in the league, logging career averages of 8.7 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 27.4 minutes across 571 NBA games (483 starts). Beverley has also been named to three All-NBA Defensive Teams, including first team honors in 2016-17. That same season, he also became the first player in NBA history to win the NBA Hustle Award.

Beverley will wear No. 21.

Bulls guard Lonzo Ball will not return to play this season

On behalf of Chicago Bulls Executive Vice President – Basketball Operations Artūras Karnišovas:

“Despite making significant increases in strength and function over the past several months, Bulls guard Lonzo Ball continues to experience performance limiting discomfort during participation in high level basketball-related activities. Considering the required time period to achieve the necessary level of fitness to return-to-play and the current stage of the NBA season, Ball will not return this season. The focus for Ball will continue to be on the resolution of his discomfort and a full return for the 2023-24 season.”