NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Bulls, Deng likely to stick together — Derrick Rose‘s season-ending knee surgery brought up a host of questions for the Bulls in 2013-14, but perhaps some of the biggest questions surround the roster. Namely, should Chicago think about trading its moveable players — like Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer — in hopes of landing first-round picks in the 2014 Draft? Or should they hold tight, play through the season and figure things out in the offseason? For Deng, at least, it seems he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reports that he and the team plan to stick together long term:
By ruling out Derrick Rose for the season, the Chicago Bulls eliminated any speculation about his return. That allows them to concentrate on this season without his status overshadowing everything.
So who will lead the team to those wins now that Rose is out? It seems that role will fall to forward Luol Deng. He has done it before. He is Chicago’s leading scorer (16.3 points a game), third-leading rebounder (7.3 a game) and a capable passer (3.4 assists a game). He is also Chicago’s best perimeter defender.
With that in mind, Deng, who will make $14.2 million this year in the final year of his six-year deal, probably will be with the Bulls for the long haul, a person familiar with both sides told USA TODAY Sports. Even though an expiring deal is ideal to trade, both sides appear to want to keep him on the team. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about a potential deal.
Furthermore, not many, if any, teams will be looking to deal high draft picks when the 2014 draft class is loaded, especially at the top.
Carlos Boozer’s big contract expires after 2014-15, and he will make $16.8 million the final year. It will be tough to move his deal and get what they want in return. The Bulls could always amnesty Boozer in the offseason, but their philosophy on that has always been: “Where else are we going to get 17 points and eight rebounds a game?”
Guard Jimmy Butler is an asset, but the Bulls aren’t interested in moving him.
There’s no indication the Bulls are going to fall apart. They didn’t last season without Rose, and they are have veteran leadership with Deng, Boozer, Kirk Hinrich and Joakim Noah. Butler is due back from a toe injury within the next couple of weeks.
All those adidas commercials shining light on Rose’s painful rehab and then his anticipated return left everyone joyous to see Rose on the court again this season. And like that, he’s gone again.
In a statement, adidas said, “As fans of the game and a close partner, we wish Derrick a quick recovery. His hard work, dedication and love of the game is inspiring to his millions of fans worldwide and to all of us at adidas. Our support for him will continue to be unwavering.”
A person familiar with Rose’s relationship with adidas told USA TODAY Sports that Rose commercials will continue to air while he is out. That person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about Rose. Without providing specifics about future commercials, the person said all plans remain unchanged in regards to Rose.
No. 2: Gay bans scoresheets in the locker room – For a couple seasons running now, Raptors swingman Rudy Gay has been a favorite target of the NBA analytics crowd for what they claim to be his lack of efficiency as a scorer. (ICYMI, our own Jeff Caplan caught up with Gay about that very topic during the offseason.) This season, the Raptors are leading the (not-so-great) Atlantic Division and Gay has taken to banning postgame scoresheets from the locker room in an effort to not boost his own cause, but that of his team, writes Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun:
A locker room is a sanctuary for the players on a professional team.
It is the primary space away from the court where they develop the chemistry and bonds that help them become even better than their collective talents.
Which brings us to what you are not going to find in the players’ locker room anymore.
And that would be scoresheets.
It’s common practice that after every game each player is provided a scoresheet. The sheet breaks down the individual players’ contributions as well as team totals.
That won’t be happening anymore in Toronto. Rudy Gay has put a stop to it.
Gay sees the scoresheets as an unnecessary barrier to team unity or even a temptation to be more focussed on what is best for the individual as opposed to what is best for the team.
“We’re not playing for stats,” Gay said.
Gay said there was no incident or no moment that pushed him toward this decision but as a leader on this team, he felt it was just something that was best for the team.
“I wanted to just nip it in the bud before it became an issue,” he said. “We come in here after losses, after wins and people are staring at those stat sheets, but that’s not what we’re about. We’re a team and the stat that matters is the W.”
Gay said there were no objections from his teammates when he delivered the news.
“No, none. It was pretty easy.”
No. 3: Kobe says no ‘negotiation’ involved in new deal — At almost the same time Bulls fans got the heartbreaking news about Derrick Rose yesterday, Lakers fans got some good news when it was learned that Kobe Bryant and the Lakers had agreed to a two-year, $48.5 million extension. Analysis is already running rampant about how this deal will affect L.A.’s ability to be players in free agency, but one thing is clear, writes Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski – this was a deal Bryant and the Lakers didn’t have to tussle over:
Between his signature on a two-year, $48.5 million contract extension and a cross-country flight to the East Coast on Monday, Kobe Bryant was left befuddled and bemused by those who declared him greedy and uncaring about chasing championships.
“This was easy,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports on Monday night. “This wasn’t a negotiation. The Lakers made their offer with cap and building a great team in mind while still taking care of me as a player.
“I simply agreed to the offer.”
Until the hours before the Lakers’ meeting with the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, that’s all Bryant would say about the contract extension. He is 35 years old, working his way back from a torn Achilles and the Buss family is still betting Bryant is the best free-agent star available on the market, betting that Bryant can still drive ticket sales and TV ratings and make these Lakers relevant again.
In this basketball universe, that’s what a max player does for a big-market franchise. The late Lakers owner, Jerry Buss, was always brutally honest about the value of his superstar players – so much more so than his ownership peers. Once, Buss told Bryant he believed he was worth $60 million to $70 million a year to the Lakers.
With Bryant’s deal – which will pay him $23.5 million and $25 million in 2015 and ’16, respectively – the Lakers have room to recruit a max player this summer, and only Bryant’s contract is still on the books for the summer of 2016.
No. 4: Pacers driven to lock up East’s No. seed — Save for a blowout loss to the Bulls in Chicago, the Indiana Pacers have made quick work of just about every opponent they’ve faced this season. Such was the case last night as Indiana took what was a mostly close game with the Minnesota Timberwolves and turned it into a blowout by the middle of the fourth quarter. The Pacers are playing with a purpose and focus that few teams in the NBA right now can match and Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star says that’s because Indiana has a laundry list of goals clearly set in its mind:
It’s as if everything they do now, even in these early days of the season, is informed by the predicament they found themselves in last year, playing in Miami’s house for a chance to reach the NBA Finals.
A special season is now off to a special start, a potential record-breaking start, the Pacers beating a really good Minnesota Timberwolves team, 98-84, Monday night to push their record to 13-1.
It’s all about Game 7 in Miami.
They never want to be on the road again for a Game 7.
“That was the motivation for this year,’’ Paul George said after a 26-point, eight-rebound performance. “It came from coach (Frank Vogel). We were special in the playoffs at home and we knew, if we can give ourselves the opportunity to play Game 7 in our house, we can do some special things.’’
This team isn’t playing around, not even in late November, long before things really start to count in the long NBA season. They want that No. 1 seed. They want to send Vogel and his staff and a couple of players to the NBA All-Star Game. They want to be the talk of the NBA.
Yes, there will be injuries and there will be lulls and there will be nights when the schedule — like an upcoming five-games-in-eight-nights run — will catch up to them.
Or will they?
This suddenly looks like a team that can win 60 games or more.
“We knew that we sometimes put ourselves in tough situations last year, and that’s where we’ve matured this year,’’ Hill said “We’re really coming together. Even when things aren’t going well (like several foul calls the Pacers argued throughout the first three quarters), we know how to play through those things. We’re a more complete team now. Guys can come off the bench and fill their roles and not have there be a drop off. The starting five has a year under its belt together. We know each other, the way each other plays. Coach (Vogel) always says we should be the most together team in the NBA.’’
For the Indiana Pacers, it’s No. 1 seed or bust, Finals or bust. They’re not afraid to say it. They’re not afraid to believe it. And they’re not afraid to pursue it.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Mavs owner Mark Cuban says his one-year feud with Jason Kidd is over and may end up retiring Kidd’s number … Rookie forward Otto Porter, Jr., the third pick in the 2013 Draft, finally participated in practice with the Wizards …
ICYMI Of The Night: Paul George shows that he knows what to do when given a nice breakaway dunk opportunity …