Thu Mar 23 8:07pm ET
Field Level Media
The Chicago Bulls are showing signs of making a late-season dash as they look for their sixth victory in eight games when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Chicago (34-38) is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, possessing the final play-in berth by 1 1/2 games over the Indiana Pacers. But the Bulls are also just a half-game behind the ninth-place Toronto Raptors and 1 1/2 games behind the eighth-place Atlanta Hawks.
Chicago is coming off a two-game split with the third-place Philadelphia 76ers. The Bulls recorded a 109-105 double-overtime road win on Monday before being pummeled 116-91 at home on Wednesday.
The Bulls dug themselves early deficits of 17-0 and 23-1 in the rematch.
"We didn't make shots early on, and before you know it, it's 23-1," Chicago guard Zach LaVine said. "Against a team like that, against that deficit, it's going to be tough to crawl back out."
The contest against Portland (32-40) is the start of a three-game road trip that includes a stop in Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Sunday and the Clippers on Monday.
The availability of Bulls star DeMar DeRozan is in question after he departed Wednesday's game in the third quarter with a right quadriceps strain. DeRozan missed all seven of his field-goal attempts while scoring a season-low four points.
Chicago center Nikola Vucevic wasn't overly concerned with DeRozan's injury.
"I think he's feeling OK. It's just something that kind of comes and goes," Vucevic told reporters. "He didn't want to force it too much."
Prior to Wednesday's injury, DeRozan was in the midst of a five-game hot streak in which he averaged 31.6 points, including a season-best 49 in a 139-131 double-overtime victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves last Friday.
Portland is opening a five-game homestand and it can't afford many more setbacks. The team is 3 1/2 games back of the final two Western Conference play-in spots.
The Trail Blazers snapped a six-game losing streak with Wednesday's 127-115 road victory over the Utah Jazz.
Portland star Damian Lillard recorded 30 points and matched a season-high with 12 assists as the Trail Blazers won for just the fourth time in the past 15 games.
"We have played well in parts of all these games, but in this league you can't have lows like we've had," Lillard said. "(Wednesday) night we played a complete game."
With starters Jerami Grant (quadriceps) and Anfernee Simons (foot) out of the lineup, first-round draft pick Shaedon Sharpe and undrafted second-year pro Trendon Watford picked up the slack.
Sharpe registered career highs of 24 points, nine rebounds and four steals, while Watford matched his season best of 21 points to give Portland some much-needed firepower.
The Trail Blazers expect Sharpe's performance to someday be the norm. The 19-year-old is raw and didn't play college ball -- sitting out last season at Kentucky -- before being the seventh overall pick of the 2022 draft.
"He was aggressive," Portland coach Chauncey Billups said of Sharpe. "He looked for his shots early and often. They left him open a few times and he took them and knocked them down. I didn't even care if he missed those shots. I just want him to be aggressive."
Big man Jusuf Nurkic added 20 points and is averaging 21.5 points over the past two games.
Host Chicago won the first meeting 129-121 on Feb. 4 when LaVine poured in 36 points. Lillard scored 40 for the Trail Blazers.
Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul was informed on Wednesday that he will be waived by the team. The 38-year-old soon becomes an unrestricted free agent and intends to play "several more years", per Chris Haynes. It's a significant cost-cutting measure by Phoenix, but Paul is still guaranteed about half of the $60 million he was owed over the next two seasons. The contending Suns now look to retool their roster for another championship push during the upcoming campaign. As for Paul, the first-ballot Hall of Famer immediately represents one of the most coveted players on the open market for squads in win-now mode. The 11-time All-NBA playmaker ends his three-year stay in the desert averaging 15.1 points, 9.5 assists, 1.6 steals, and 2.2 turnovers per game. Paul notably led the association in free-throw percentage (93.4%) in 2020-2021 and APG (10.8) during 2021-2022.
According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, many within the Lakers' organization want D'Angelo Russell to remain with the team. The 27-year-old averaged 17.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 2.9 rebounds in 17 games with LA last season. He also shot 41.4% from behind the arc in those appearances and was instrumental in helping the Lakers make a deep playoff push. Unfortunately, Russell didn't play well in the postseason. However, the club needs a point guard, especially since adding Kyrie Irving isn't a lock. That said, Los Angeles reportedly isn't looking to offer Russell a max contract, so there will certainly be more to this situation in the coming weeks.
According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo.com, the Rockets are expected to target free-agent center Brook Lopez. The 35-year-old was still a reliable fantasy contributor last season, averaging 15.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. He also shot a career-high 37.4% from deep and appeared in 78 games, his most since 2018-19. That said, if Lopez signs with Houston, his production will likely drop, considering the team has Alperen Sengun in the middle. But with the Bucks strapped for cash and looking to retain Khris Middleton, Milwaukee may be unable to afford to bring Lopez back.
According to Jake Fischer of Yahoo.com, many around the league expect forward Khris Middleton will remain in Milwaukee. The veteran has a $40 million player option but is searching for a new deal. While there are still doubts Middleton will be back, he sat in during meetings with prospective coaching candidates after the dismissal of Mike Budenholzer. The three-time All-Star had a down year in 2022-23, averaging 15.1 points, 4.9 assists, 4.2 steals, and shooting 31.5% from deep. At any rate, Middleton is an excellent bounce-back candidate for fantasy managers, although he's likely to miss time because of injuries moving ahead.
Brooklyn Nets guard/forward Ben Simmons (back) posted several pictures to social media of a recent on-court session. The 26-year-old had the worst season of his career in 2022-23, averaging 6.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.3 steals. He also battled a knee injury before his year ended in February because of nerve impingement in his back. While the images are somewhat promising, nobody knows for sure when he'll be ready to play. Of course, even if Simmons is cleared well ahead of fantasy drafts moving into the 2023-24 campaign, he won't garner the same level of attention he did in the past. However, if the former LSU Tiger is added to Australia's roster for the FIBA World Cup and plays well, that will change.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, guard James Harden is expected to either re-sign with Philadelphia or return to Houston. While the update provides some clarity on Harden's future, nobody will know for sure until at least July. The 33-year-old finished the 2022-23 campaign by averaging 21.0 points, 10.7 assists, and 1.2 steals. He also shot 38.5% from deep, the second-high mark of his career. However, Harden has battled injuries over the years, recently suiting up for only 58 games last season. That said, the veteran likely has a few potent seasons left in the tank, although he'll probably never re-enter the MVP conversation.
Denver Nuggets forward Jeff Green recently mentioned that he'd like to finish his career with the organization. The veteran forward said he plans on playing two more seasons and would like to finish his career in Denver. Green is set to become a free agent this summer after spending each of the last two seasons with Denver. He has basically become a role player, but still contributes in limited playing time. He averaged 7.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 56 games with Denver this season. The 36-year-old is still able to contribute at a decent level, so it wouldn't be shocking to see the Nuggets bring him back again next season.
Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving is set to become a free agent this summer. The superstar guard recently said he wasn't going to rush into making a decision this offseason. However, his chances of coming back to Dallas are beginning to look better by the day. Irving recently reached out to LeBron James to see if he'd come to Dallas to play. The two of them have spent six seasons on the floor together during their time on the Cleveland Cavaliers. James is still signed for the 2023-2024 season with a player option for the following season. It's worth noting that James has admitted he's unsure about returning to the Lakers next season. That means, James might decide to take up Irving's offer and join him in Dallas. The fact Irving is trying to recruit players to Dallas means that the Mavs have a good chance of resigning him this offseason.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (wrist) is reportedly still dealing with soreness and swelling in his right hand. The organization was hopeful that Herro would be able to return at some point during the NBA Finals. Herro has been sidelined since fracturing his wrist at the beginning of the postseason. The 23-year-old said he still feels soreness when he is making his follow through motion. The Heat were hopeful that Herro could return for Game 3, but that seems unlikely right now.
The New York Knicks are reportedly looking into forward Torrey Craig as a possible addition this offseason. Craig will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Knicks have a Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception worth roughly $12 million. Craig fits the mold as a 3-and-D veteran who would be a solid role player in defensive-minded head coach Tom Thibodeau's rotation. If Craig is on the move this offseason, the Phoenix Suns will have to look at retooling their supporting cast, especially with a new coaching staff.
Miami Heat forward/center Kevin Love is expected to start Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets. Love recently fell out of the rotation after sitting the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals and the first game of the NBA Finals. Heat could use Love's shooting ability to space the floor against Denver's lengthy frontcourt. Love's return to the starting lineup may push Caleb Martin (illness) to the bench.
Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams is expected to receive interest from multiple teams this offseason. Williams will be a restricted free agent and may be due for a change of scenery. Williams was a DNP-CD in five playoff games for the Celtics before having a prominent role in the Eastern Conference Finals. Rival teams are expected to offer Williams a hefty contract which the Celtics will have to decide if they want to match. With Jaylen Brown eligible for a supermax contract extension, it could prove too costly to keep both.
The San Antonio Spurs are expected to have some interest in New York Knicks guard Evan Fournier during this offseason. Fournier was pushed out of the rotation in New York and has expected to be traded. The Spurs have reportedly had some interest in making a deal for Fournier and would likely not have to give up much. The Spurs would have a mentor for projected first overall pick Victor Wembanyama and the Knicks would be able to unload some cap space as they look to retool this summer.
Miami Heat guard/forward Caleb Martin (illness) will be available for Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night. Martin will suit up against the Denver Nuggets after missing Saturday's practice with an undisclosed illness. Martin shot poorly in Game 1 and may have been feeling some effects of the illness. If Martin is limited in any capacity, Kyle Lowry and Haywood Highsmith would likely see increased roles with Tyler Herro (hand) still out.
Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent (ankle) is good to go on Sunday against Denver. Vincent sprained his left ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Boston Celtics and didn't suit up for Game 5. However, he's been good to go since then, although he hasn't been a consistent fantasy producer.
Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (illness) is questionable ahead of Game 2 of the NBA Finals against Denver. He missed practice on Saturday, which isn't a good sign. However, with Martin being so valuable during the postseason, he'll likely do whatever it takes to get on the floor. At the same time, if he doesn't suit up on Sunday, Kevin Love could move back into the starting lineup. Unfortunately, Love hasn't been an impactful fantasy option, so managers should consider Hayward Highsmith, who had 18 points and two steals in Game 1.
Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (shoulder) is available for Sunday's game against the Denver Nuggets. The 25-year-old has battled shoulder discomfort for quite some time. However, he has been playing through it while wearing a compression shirt for support. It certainly didn't appear to impact his performance in Game 1, as he finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds, five assists, and one block in 40 minutes. Considering Adebayo hasn't had any issues putting up points versus Denver all year, DFS managers should keep him in mind for Game 2.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (hand) is out for Game 2 of the NBA Finals against Denver. It seemed there was a chance he could be back after missing nearly all of the postseason with a hand injury. However, Herro won't return for this one, although he's worth monitoring ahead of Game 3 on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Caleb Martin (illness) is questionable, so Miami could be even more shorthanded versus the Nuggets, who are up 1-0 after winning the series opener. If Martin isn't available, Hayward Highsmith, fresh off an 18-point performance in Game 1, will see more than enough attention from DFS participants.
New York Knicks power forward Julius Randle has undergone arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle, the team announced on Saturday. Randle hurt his left ankle near the end of the regular season, missing the final five games, and also tweaked it in the first-round playoff series against Cleveland. The two-time All-Star will be able to resume basketball activities later this summer and is expected to be fully recovered for the start of the 2023-24 season. Randle completed his fourth season in New York averaging a career-high 25.1 points with 10.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists.
Sacramento Kings forward/center Domantas Sabonis (thumb) has not ruled out offseason surgery on his right thumb. He was diagnosed with an avulsion fracture of the ulnar collateral ligament of the thumb all the way back in December and Sabonis managed to play through the issue, helping the Kings end a 16-year postseason drought, but the team would obviously like to get him fully healthy for next season. Sabonis made the All-NBA Third Team this season and was named an All-Star for a third time, averaging 19.1 points, 12.3 rebounds and a career-high 7.3 assists.