NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding LA Lakers, Chicago Bulls and More

Injuries are an unfortunate part of sports, but they have hit some teams harder than others in the early going of the 2014-15 NBA season. As a result, rumors about free-agent pickups are circulating around the Association because of available roster spots.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls in particular are in need of some more healthy players, so it should come as no surprise that they are the teams in some of the most recent speculation. 

Read on to see the latest from Los Angeles and Chicago and some interesting developments in the fate of one of the top NBA draft prospects.

 

Los Angeles Lakers 

David Pick of Eurobasket provided an update on the Lakers:

Gal Mekel, Jordan Hamilton, Dwight Buycks, Quincy Miller, Tyrus Thomas and Roscoe Smith have all reportedly been called in for recent tryouts. There is everything from pass-first point guards to athletic forwards who can slash to the rim on that list, so it is difficult to pin down exactly what Los Angeles is looking for here.

The Lakers do have a disabled player exception thanks to the injury of Julius Randle and could land another one because Steve Nash is out.

Between season-ending injuries to both Randle and Nash and hamstring issues that have kept Ryan Kelly off the floor, the Lakers simply need healthy bodies. With so many players working out, it may take some time to evaluate which player to keep, if any. 

Of course, the Lakers have won two of three games, so perhaps the front office is seeing if the current roster comes together a bit with Nick Young healthy again before making any moves.

 

Chicago Bulls 

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune provided an update on the Bulls’ short-term plans:

Chicago plays the Utah Jazz on Monday as the next step in its current seven-game road trip. It is only November, but Derrick Rose has missed most of the season with various ailments, Pau Gasol has missed time with a calf injury, Taj Gibson is dealing with an injured ankle, and Kirk Hinrich is now out. 

With no Rose or Hinrich, the point guard duties fall on the shoulders of Aaron Brooks. While he has been an impressive player off the bench for the Bulls this season, it is asking a lot of Brooks to carry the majority of the load by himself.

The Bulls have dealt with injury issues for the past two years. A glass half-full approach would suggest that it’s better to have this spate of setbacks in November than closer to the playoffs, but it has become a worrisome pattern.

Some credit goes to Tom Thibodeau for directing his team into the playoffs recently at far less than 100 percent, but the Bulls are supposed to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference this season. The only way to do that is with healthy bodies, which may warrant a short-term roster move, as Johnson suggested.

 

Emmanuel Mudiay 

Emmanuel Mudiay originally gave a verbal commitment to SMU to play college basketball this season, but he decided to play professionally in China instead as a member of the Guangdong Tigers.

The 6’5” point guard is an athletic specimen who can blow past defenders off the dribble and hit from the outside. He is a potential top-five pick in the upcoming draft, which sparked rumors about his upcoming plans and anonymous quotes from front offices, via Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com:

His fast start is enough to spark speculation from front offices that Mudiay will leave before the regular season ends in mid-February to keep him healthy and keep his Draft standing high — and keep him from the prying eyes of NBA scouts.

“They could,” an executive said of the decision to shut down that Mudiay‘s inner-circle may face. “They could for sure.”

Said an NBA general manager: “I could see, if his stock is raised, him saying, ‘I’m checking out.’ I could see that. Does he do it? I don’t know. But look what happened with [Dante] Exum last year. It didn’t really hurt him, did it? There’s an argument to be made that [Mudiay] doesn’t have to do anything.”

Dante Exum’s situation was a bit different because his high school career ended in Australia before working out during the second half of the 2013-14 NBA season.

For what it’s worth, Mudiay himself responded to these rumors, via Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv:

Emmanuel Mudiay denied reports he might leave China before their season ends in order to boost his NBA stock.

‘This is all rumors, it’s completely false,’ Mudiay told reporters in China, according to this report which was translated. ‘The media are the ones that like to come out with these things, but it’s not the reality.’

Mudiay’s talent is well-known, but scouts have picked apart other top-notch prospects in the past. Between that and the injury risk that comes with playing in China, it is not hard to see why speculation has popped up regarding Mudiay’s plans.

However, it’s hard to argue with a statement from Mudiay himself.

Regardless of whether he finishes the season in China or not, Mudiay is an elite talent who will hear his name called early on draft day. The only thing that really matters at this point in terms of his NBA future is staying healthy.

 

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Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler playing at All-Star level

Jimmy Butler was not supposed to be the Bull’s best player this season. So far he has been. Derrick Rose has made his second return back from season ending knee surgery, Pau Gasol was signed to add a more potent offense at the power forward position and Joakim Noah is coming off the best season of his career. Yet, Jimmy Butler has been the go to man for Chicago and is playing at an All-Star level.
He is averaging a career high and team high 20.4 points per game to go along with 1.5 steals, 3.6 assists, and 6.4 rebounds per game while averaging 40 minutes played per game which is second best in the NBA this season. Butler is coming up huge for the Bulls and is helping them win while Derrick Rose is sidelined with injuries.
Jimmy Butler has been leading the Bull’s offense this season averaging 20.4 points per contest.
Butler and Rose have only played together three times this season. Jimmy Buckets is producing at a high level on both sides of the court even while Rose isn’t playing. Once DRose gets back o

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No. 19 Michigan State tops Loyola of Chicago

Denzel Valentine finished with 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

      
 

 

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Chicago Bulls vs. Portland Trail Blazers 11/21/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The red-hot Portland Trail Blazers looked to continue their recent run of success on Friday night when they took on the Chicago Bulls. The Blazers’ explosive offense and lockdown defense had carried them to five straight wins, but they faced a tough test from a dangerous Bulls squad, which had lost two of its last three. 

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Chicago Bulls’ Most Surprising Players of the Early Season

Everybody likes surprises.

It’s early, but there are a handful of Chicago Bulls players who are turning heads this season with their play on the court.

Tony Snell isn’t one of those guys, at least not yet. Following an up-and-down rookie campaign, the 6’7” New Mexico product was supposed to have a breakout sophomore year.

However, he hasn’t received much playing time (11.1 minutes per game) and is averaging 2.9 points on 35 percent shooting.   

Perhaps he can make a “Most Surprising Player” list at some other point in time.

Let’s look at five players who actually have been surprises for the Bulls.

 

All stats are from Basketball-Reference.com. and accurate as of Nov. 21, 2014.

Begin Slideshow

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Taj Gibson Injury Causes Chicago Bulls PF to Writhe in Pain

Chicago Bulls blue collar PF Taj Gibson was one of the bright spots during their game in Portland on Friday night. Then, the big man went down, writhing on the hardwood in pain.
Taj Gibson Injury Video

Gibson had seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes when he landed on an opponent’s foot in the middle of the third quarter. Gibson turned his left ankle badly, and the Taj Gibson injury comes at a bad time in a familiar place for the Bulls.
It was almost exactly one year ago, sans a day, in Portland, that Derrick Rose tore his meniscus. While he sat out tonight, along with Kirk Hinrich and Pau Gasol, the bench was already thin.
Gibson has a left ankle sprain and will not return to the game against the Trailblazers.
 

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Chicago Bulls vs. Sacramento Kings 11/20/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The red-hot Chicago Bulls looked to continue their recent run of success on Thursday night when they took on the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls had won three of their last four but faced a tough test from a Kings squad who had dropped four of their last five after a 5-1 start. 

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Chicago Bulls vs. Sacramento Kings: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

The surprisingly potent Sacramento Kings host the Chicago Bulls Thursday. 

The Bulls have won each of their first six road games this season, but they will go against Sacramento without the services of Derrick Rose and Pau Gasol, as noted on the TNT telecast.

The game tips off at 10:30 p.m. ET. TNT has the national TV feed.

Keep it right here for all the action. 

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Just How Good Can Emerging Star Jimmy Butler Be for the Chicago Bulls?

The Chicago Bulls have unexpectedly held their own early on in the NBA season despite the injuries to Derrick Rose. Pau Gasol has been playing better than expected, but the biggest surprise might be Jimmy Butler’s rise as a legitimate scoring option for the Bulls.

How has Chicago handled all of Rose’s injuries? What’s Butler’s ceiling with the Bulls? What does Chicago need to improve?

Find out from Steve Aschburner of NBA.com as he plays “finish the sentence” with Stephen Nelson in the video above. 

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Do Chicago Bulls Really Need Healthy Derrick Rose to Contend for NBA Title?

The Chicago Bulls can be a dominant two-way force without a fully healthy Derrick Rose.

But the line separating really good teams from full-fledged contenders is one Chicago can only cross with the former MVP at his best.

After getting only 49 games out of Rose the past three seasons, the Bulls have learned to live without him. Thanks to a combination of internal development and external acquisitions, they have even started to thrive in his absence.

They are 8-3 on the season, having scored four of those victories while Rose was sidelined by ankle and hamstring injuries. They are one of only four clubs—one of only two in the Eastern Conference—with top-10 rankings in both offensive (eighth) and defensive (seventh) efficiency.

Those are the tell-tale markings of an elite NBA team. The fact that those numbers have largely been compiled without Rose’s assistance highlights the tremendous depth on this roster.

“They may have two or three All-Stars minus Derrick,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, per Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin, “so they’re a good basketball team.”

And Rivers’ praise came before the Bulls, missing both Rose and Pau Gasol (calf), reeled off a double-digit road victory over the Clippers.

The Bulls have both star power and a deep supporting cast.

Gasol, the prized piece of Chicago’s offseason haul, has seamlessly transitioned into his new home. The skilled 7-footer leads the team in rebounds (10.6) and blocks (2.5), while ranking second in scoring (18.6).

Chicago’s only player pumping in more points is fourth-year swingman Jimmy Butler. The Marquette product, who is slated to hit restricted free agency at season’s end, has exploded out of the gate. He currently holds career highs in points (21.3), field-goal percentage (50.8), rebounds (6.2), assists (3.9) and player efficiency rating (22.5).

“Jimmy Butler, what can you say?” coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after Butler tallied 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds against the Clippers. “When that game was on the line he made big play after big play. He’s playing great basketball.”

Center Joakim Noah, an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, has been rounding into form after undergoing left knee surgery over the summer. Learning to play alongside a low-post weapon like Gasol has been another adjustment Noah has had to make.

The high-motor big man has dished out six assists in five straight games and grabbed 12-plus rebounds two of his last four times out. As a defensive cog and offensive catalyst, he positively impacts the game in so many different ways.

Those are Chicago’s stars. Add Rose’s name to the mix, and it becomes an embarrassment of riches.

But the supporting cast might be equally impressive.

Taj Gibson remains one of the league’s top reserves. He’s shooting a career-best 56.9 percent from the field and has matched his previous high with 13.0 points a night. His energy level on both ends of the floor is as high as it’s ever been, and his importance to Chicago’s success hasn’t diminished a bit despite all the new weapons around him.

“Taj is probably the most selfless player in the NBA,” Noah said, per Bulls.com’s Sam Smith. “A guy who is depended on all the time and never gets the credit he deserves. I appreciate everything he does. We can’t get to where we want to get to without Taj.”

Decorated rookie forward Nikola Mirotic has only found 12.1 minutes a night, which speaks volumes about this team’s talent.

Ditto for rookie sharpshooter Doug McDermott and his 12.5 minutes per game. It’s hard to find him time when veteran sniper Mike Dunleavy is converting his long-range looks at a 40.4 percent clip.

Kirk Hinrich is a pesky defender and a major three-point threat (39.5 percent). Aaron Brooks is a wildly effective scorer (19.4 points per 36 minutes on .483/.469/.789 shooting) and willing passer (6.3 assists per 36 minutes). Tony Snell adds to Chicago’s collection of shooters and provides another athletic presence on the perimeter—if he’s able to make it off the crowded bench.

With Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls are always going to play a relentless brand of defense. And with all this added firepower, they can now frustrate their opponents on either end of the floor.

“We’re scoring a lot of different ways,” Noah said, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “I remember when the score was 81-76, just fiending to get a basket. Now we’re scoring 100 every night. And I feel like it can get better.”

That’s where it all comes back to the 26-year-old face of the franchise.

The Bulls are showing how good they can be even when Rose isn’t a constant presence in the lineup. But greatness only comes within the realm of possibilities once he can start logging significant minutes.

“As stacked as Chicago’s roster may be,” Martin wrote, “this team would hardly have a prayer of competing for the franchise’s seventh championship without a healthy and effective Rose leading the way.”

There have already been signs of the impact Rose can make.

Individually, he has appeared understandably rusty. The career 46.0 percent shooter has hit only 43.3 percent of his attempts and just seven of his 24 threes. His 18.0 scoring average and 5.4 nightly assists trail his career numbers (20.8 and 6.7, respectively), but that decline has been a direct result of logging a career-low 28.0 minutes a night.

While Rose has had some issues with his shot, he has not had any trouble leading his team.

On the season, the Bulls have outscored their opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s good enough for the sixth-highest net efficiency rating in the league. With Rose on the floor, that number jumps to 15.4, which easily tops the Dallas Mavericks‘ top mark of plus-12.6. Without Rose, the Bulls have a plus-3.3 net rating, which would check in at 10th overall.

And for the Rose haters conspiracy theorists out there, no, Rose hasn’t planned his absences around avoiding the toughest tests. The five teams he has squared up with have a combined record of 27-31, a .466 winning percentage. The six games he missed came against clubs with a 23-43 record, only a .348 winning percentage.

Rose helps Chicago put constant pressure on a defense. He’s still lightning-quick off the dribble and a devastating finisher at the basket (career-high 68.8 percent conversion rate inside of three feet).

He was a willing passer before he had help. In 2011-12, when Rose averaged 21.8 points and no other Bull topped 15.3, he had a 40.3 assist percentage. Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who has had a wealth of scorers around him, has never done better than 39.9.

The Bulls have other weapons, but they all become more powerful when Rose is involved.

Chicago needs Rose to make a championship run. He’s a necessity, not a luxury.

That being said, the Bulls don’t need him on the floor until he’s physically and mentally ready to return. They have more than enough to keep pace in the Eastern Conference without him, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers struggling to create any chemistry.

Chicago’s depth doesn’t make Rose expendable, it allows this team to play things as safe as it can with regard to his health.

“Everybody on the team, from subs to starters to stars, can play key roles this year,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes. “In the early going, depth and Thibodeau‘s ‘we have enough’ attitude can carry the load so the bigger names can rest and recover. As the season progresses, the rotation will shrink and the marquee players can start to take over.”

The supporting cast is growing without Rose, and he is taking every step to put himself in the best possible position.

“[I'm] just trying to do everything right,” he said, per ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell. “Eat right, hydrate right, stretch right, work on my flexibility, just trying to put everything on my side so at the end of the day I’m just trying to get better.”

It’s hard to ask for more patience from a franchise that has already spent two years waiting for his return. It’s no easier to avoid thoughts of despair every time his body forces him off the floor.

Still, there’s a chance this all works out for the better.

The Bulls are a two-way wrecking ball, destroying every team in their path regardless of who’s sitting at the controls. The pieces are in place to contend for a title. If this rest period aids Rose in his recovery and helps develop the players behind him, Chicago’s ceiling could continue to climb.

But Rose must be involved to help this team fulfill its massive potential. As has been the case for the last several years, Chicago’s success once again hinges on his health.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

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