Morning Shootaround

Morning shootaround — July 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bird uses trade market to rebuild Pacers | Familiarity a key for Parsons’ move to Memphis | Knicks “activate” to get ‘Melo back to the playoffs | Ezeli’s journey leads him to Portland

No. 1: Bird uses trade market to rebuild Pacers — While other teams have made big changes through free agency, Larry Bird has taken the Indiana Pacers down a new path via the trade market. The Pacers did sign Al Jefferson this week, but they also added two new starters by making trades for point guard Jeff Teague and power forward Thaddeus Young, who give Indiana a quicker and more versatile roster, as Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star writes:

Rebuilding in the NBA can be a painstaking, rigorous process. The usual years of losing, the hopes and fate of the franchise decided by lottery balls.

A free agency signing can bring jubilation. A rejection in free agency can be crushing.

Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird has chosen a different path.

Every year for Bird is about winning, improving, contending. Forget a conventional rebuild. Bird, in many ways, is unconventional. The way the Pacers’ roster was built is the latest example.

For 24 months, Bird has been on a quest. He has transformed the Pacers from a big, traditional, lumbering team into a modern one that will spread the court and run whenever given the opportunity. Bird’s design, after two years and a long list of transactions, appears to be close to completion.

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No. 2: Familiarity a key for Parsons’ move to Memphis — Chandler Parsons made his second free agency move in three years this week, leaving Dallas after just two seasons for Memphis. And for him, it was an easy decision thanks, in part, to his familiarity with new Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale and assistant J.B. Bickerstaff. Tom Schad of the Memphis Commercial Appeal was there as Parsons was introduced in Memphis on Friday:

Parsons picked Memphis over Portland, which also reportedly offered him a max contract, in part because of trust. He played for Fizdale during the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge and said they immediately established a rapport. He also spent three years in Houston with Bickerstaff, who is “like family to me,” Parsons said.

Former high-school teammate Nick Calathes and close friend Courtney Lee gave Parsons rave reviews about playing in Memphis, he said. The opportunity to play with point guard Mike Conley, who helped recruit him with text messages over the past several weeks, was another major factor.

“Any time that you’re comfortable with someone that’s already here, it makes things a lot easier,” Parsons said. “That’s someone that I wanted to talk to and I know who would shoot me straight and someone who I greatly respect. He’s been here for nine years. He’s had a great career here.”

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No. 3: Knicks “activate” to get Melo back to the playoffs — Since last year’s Draft, the New York Knicks have been in a position where the timeline of their best player (Carmelo Anthony) hasn’t aligned with the timeline of their best asset (Kristaps Porzingis). But with the trades and free agency additions that he’s made this summer, Knicks president Phil Jackson has clearly decided to prioritize short-term success over the long-term outlook. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes that, even with all the changes the Knicks have made, it’s still all about Melo at Madison Square Garden:

It’s a player’s league. Not a coach’s league or a system league. The triangle doesn’t win a championship in Chicago without Michael Jordan, and the Knicks weren’t winning much of anything the last two seasons.

So Phil Jackson reached the correct conclusion after a recent meeting with an increasingly impatient Carmelo Anthony: As long as Anthony is here and All-Star capable, the 31-year-old’s career timeline should be placated. If not, what’s the point of paying him $124 million with a no-trade clause?

“One of my questions to Carmelo was, you know, we haven’t made the playoffs and now this is three years, two years, since I’ve been here — are we moving quickly enough for you and your anticipation of trying to be into a competitive playoff situation?” Jackson said. “I think that was our conversation and established the fact of his desire, the idea that he is getting into an age where things have to happen for him. So we decided to activate ourselves.”

This is Anthony’s responsibility now. His burden to win games. No more excuses or demands through the media. That was the implication Friday from Jackson, who reversed the roles after a year of Anthony publicly pleading that the team president be better at his job.

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No. 4: Ezeli’s journey leads him to Portland — Festus Ezeli didn’t start playing basketball until he was 14 years old and has had some bumps in the road along the way. But after winning a championship with Golden State, Ezeli is expected to bring some toughness to the Trail Blazers. The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman chronicles the path that Ezeli took to get to Portland:

Ezeli chose Vanderbilt over several colleges because it offered an excellent blend of education and basketball. Also, coach Kevin Stallings agreed to his only request — that Ezeli be allowed to redshirt his first year to learn the game. It was an easy decision for Stallings, who knew he had a project on his hands.

“He had no basketball playing experience, so it was like having this really big, awesome piece of clay that we could help mold,” Stallings said Friday. “In the beginning, he was extremely raw and inexperienced. He literally didn’t know a lot of the rules of the game.”

And even after sitting out that first year, Ezeli was raw. Forget grasping the nuances of the pick-and-roll. Never mind figuring out when to leave your man on defense to offer help on the weakside. Initially, Ezeli couldn’t handle playing in front of a crowd. One of Stallings’ favorite stories about the challenges Ezeli faced on his path to the NBA came early during his redshirt freshman season, when Vanderbilt participated in a closed, preseason scrimmage against eventual-champion North Carolina. Ezeli played so well, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was amazed.

“Who is that guy and where did you find him?” Williams asked Stallings after the scrimmage, during which Ezeli held his own against the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and future Blazers big man Ed Davis.

A week later, however, during an exhibition game against the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a tiny Division II school, Ezeli was a shell of the player that had impressed Williams. He was so bad, Stallings had to pull him early in his first shift.

“He comes to the bench and he’s hyperventilating,” Stallings said. “I’m like, ‘We scrimmaged North Carolina and you were fine. What’s wrong?’ He goes, ‘I know Coach, but all these people weren’t there.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Kings are looking to make a trade … Damian Lillard is one of many players speaking out about the violence that has happened around the U.S. this week … Jackson wants Brandon Jennings to be the Sixth Man of the Year.

Morning shootaround — July 8

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Whiteside would have taken less money | Rondo: Bulls are ‘Jimmy’s team’ | Durant arrives in Golden State

No. 1: Whiteside would have taken less to keep Wade or get Durant — The Miami Heat will be markedly different once the 2016-17 season gets rolling as, for the first time since the 2003-04 season, Dwyane Wade will not be in uniform for them. In a letter to the Associated Press, Wade told the media outlet that he is leaving the Heat to instead sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls. As well, the Heat had designs on signing Kevin Durant in free agency but that didn’t happen either (he’s in Golden State now). Center Hassan Whiteside will be back for 2016-17 and although he just got a big payday, he says he would have taken less money if it meant Durant would come aboard or Wade would stay. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel has more:

It turns out that Hassan Whiteside did not delineate where his potential giveback would go when it came to his offer to help the Miami Heat attempt to sign free-agent forward Kevin Durant.

A party involved in the process confirmed Thursday to the Sun Sentinel that Whiteside had been willing to forgo as much as $9 million for the Heat to both add Durant and re-sign Dwyane Wade, if such a package could be completed.

While Whiteside winds up with the maximum deal he could have received from the Heat for a player of his NBA tenure, there was a point where his Heat deal could have come in at $89 million had Heat President Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison been able to convince Durant to instead leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for South Florida.

Such a concession from Whiteside would have had him accepting less than he otherwise could have received from outside suitors such as the Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers, who were able to offer a four-year package up to a maximum of $94 million.

With Wade having taken a two-year, $47 million package from the Bulls, Whiteside will enter next season with the second-highest salary on the Heat roster, at $22 million, behind only the $23.7 million due to power forward Chris Bosh, who has yet to be cleared by the Heat to return after last season’s recurrence of blood clots.

Teammates embraced the finalized agreement.

“He loves a joke, but at the end of the day, he’s a hell of a player,” forward Justise Winslow said. “He’s a game-changer with his ability to protect the rim and also guard smaller guys. He can play against a Draymond Green in small ball and other teams in that situation. So to have him back there, as a cornerstone of our franchise, really means a lot and it’s a good piece to start building from.”

Before the Heat formally announced Whiteside’s agreement Thursday, Whiteside confirmed to the Sun Sentinel that he had not wavered amid Wade’s defection.

“No way,” Whiteside responded when asked if he had reconsidered the commitment. “Four more years.”

***

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — June 26

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Jazz seek depth | More straight talk, less Bull, please | Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax

No. 1: Jazz seek depth  — The reported addition of George Hill allows the Utah Jazz to turn their focus to role players, according to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, after a 2015-16 season in which injuries pulled back a curtain on a roster lacking depth:

Though Utah brass like their young core — including rehabbing Dante Exum and Alec Burks, both expected to be healthy by training camp — the organization has an offseason objective of fortifying the roster.

That means, if possible, acquiring more talent via free agency and/or trades.
Securing veteran playmaker George Hill — whom ESPN’s Zach Lowe described as “a really good point guard” — was a good start for this playoff-hungry franchise.

But Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has even more in mind. He’s used words like “active” and “aggressive” in describing how his staff will approach the upcoming free-agency period.

In retrospect, Lindsey took responsibility for not having enough depth on the Jazz roster in 2015-16 to help Quin Snyder deal with the unexpected rash of injuries that the team experienced, including to Exum, Burks, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.

“We’re not going to sit here and alibi. Every single sports team has injuries,” Lindsey said the day after the team’s 40-42 season ended a couple of wins shy of a playoff spot. “Ultimately, I’m the most responsible up here on the dais — not Quin, not the coaches, not the players — about roster construction.”

The Jazz’s plan last offseason seemed to make sense. The team had finished the 2014-15 season on a tear, winning 21 of their final 32 games led by a dominating defensive surge.

Instead of rolling the dice on acquiring experienced free agents to bolster the up-and-comers, Lindsey & Co. opted to gamble on youth. Injuries — and a late-season collapse — made that plan backfire on a team that came oh-so-close but not close enough.

“If we do this the right way with the right character — and Quin’s such a good communicator — we’ll be able to manage the season better,” Lindsey said. “The players are like everybody else. They saw what happened last season and they know that we know that we need some reinforcements. Come early July, we plan on being very active in the free-agent market.”

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No. 2: More straight talk, less Bull, please — A year ago, it was the coach’s fault. This season, it was the players’ fault. At some point, it’s going to be management’s fault, even if the Chicago Bulls’ top-heavy down management style doesn’t acknowledge that. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has a reputation for backing the suits in his front-office, be it with the Bulls or the MLB White Sox. But sooner or later, general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson are going to face some measure of scrutiny and have to ‘fess up for the team’s underperformance the same way former coach Tom Thibodeau did in 2015 and the way Derrick Rose did with his trade last week to New York. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune looked at the Bulls’ monolithic approach and the growing distrust from many of the teams’ fans:

The bigger issue that emerged is this: Will Bulls fans trust a rebuilding plan designed and executed by a man so many find hard to believe?

With Rose gone, Forman instantly becomes the most polarizing member of the organization, lacking Butler’s popularity while eliciting the most emotional reaction. Lately, it’s Grrrrrrr, Forman. Chicagoans can detect BS as easily as they can spot red-light cameras, and they dislike both.

Forman first sounded disingenuous when he insisted on saying the Bulls are retooling, not rebuilding. Then consider Forman’s muddled confirmation of the Bulls’ interest in Providence point guard Kris Dunn, selected fifth by the Timberwolves

“We liked him. … We had talks like we do about moving up,” Forman said.

Of course the Bulls did. On draft day, teams in flux as much as the Bulls weigh a variety of options, which is what made Forman’s flat denial of [Jimmy] Butler trade talks so implausible. How did the Bulls admittedly explore trading up for Dunn with the Celtics and Timberwolves without dangling Butler — whom both teams wanted?

Forman comes across to those of us who know him as likable and funny, but you never will hear the words candid or transparent used to describe the Bulls GM. With a return to respectability the most realistic goal for 2016-17, the Bulls could use a little candor and a lot of transparency. Anything less threatens to turn people off. A team likely to struggle on the court need not give fans another reason to look away.

The Bulls have no worries related to attendance — the United Center regularly sells out — but the Rose deal reminds us that this is the wrong week to ignore how perception can shape reality in Chicago sports. No metric accurately measures civic confidence, but experience tells me the Bulls rank lower in that category than any other professional sports team in town, at least rivaling the lack of faith in the White Sox. Since the day the Bulls replaced coach Tom Thibodeau with Fred Hoiberg — Forman’s hand-picked candidate — skepticism has surrounded a team whose dysfunctional decline only intensified the scrutiny

Everybody understood how badly Rose needed a change of scenery because of his incompatibility with Butler. But isn’t it fair to wonder how Hoiberg’s arrival exacerbated the problems that hastened Rose’s departure? And who is most responsible for Hoiberg coaching the Bulls? The same executive who just added “I Traded Derrick Rose” to his legacy.

Yet the Bulls have left no doubt whom they want associated most with their latest plan to get past LeBron James. To articulate the Bulls’ biggest transaction of the post-Jordan era, Forman appeared alone to face questions. To discuss drafting Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine, an excellent pick that created a positive ripple, Forman again sat solo behind the microphone.

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No. 3: Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax — Reputations matter. So do resumes. So when a successful team completes a trade with an unsuccessful team, there might be some bias involved when folks on the outside evaluate the deal, tilting its apparent merits ever so slightly. That’s what Orlando Sentinel columnist Brian Schmitz sees in the reactions to the Magic-Thunder trade in which veteran power forward Serge Ibaka was shipped to central Florida in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the draft pick that became Domantas Sabonis. What allegedly looks so lopsided to some doesn’t appear that way to Schmitz:

This is what happens when you lose as much as Orlando has the past four seasons: You lose credibility locally and nationally.

A lot of what you do will be panned by the public – no matter if essentially trading Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka makes sense for the Magic.

The Magic had, as [GM Rob] Hennigan called it, a “logjam” of wing players, thus making Oladipo expendable. The Thunder had a stable of big men, thus making Ibaka expendable. The underlying theme in both scenarios is that Oladipo and Ibaka will be looking for new contracts after next season. Neither player was particularly happy at times with their role last season.

So instead of the trade being portrayed more as good for both teams – ESPN’s Chad Ford did call it that — it is being hailed as a win for the Thunder.

“We need to call the cops — OKC robbed Orlando,” tweeted HBO Sports’ Bill Simmons.

“I don’t bet against [Thunder GM] Sam Presti when it comes to picking players. Trading Ibaka for Sabonis/Oladipo/Ilyasova? Advantage, OKC,” tweeted Skip Bayless of Fox Sports.

After I lauded Hennigan’s move, I received an-email from a ticked-off Magic fan that echoed others: “That’s a bad trade and a bad column. Let’s face it. This Magic GM is just as bad as the last one.”

Perception is a funny thing.

The trade made by the Thunder is largely considered genius because they’re contenders. The deal made by the Magic is largely considered wrong-headed because they’re bottom-dwellers.

Orlando also is perceived as a somewhat dysfunctional franchise, and it’s not without merit. They couldn’t keep Dwight Howard or — most recently — Scott Skiles from walking out.

I get it: OKC earns the benefit of the doubt.

But when you have All Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, any move the Thunder make tends to look brilliant. They skew the evaluation system.

Why, all of a sudden, Oladipo has morphed into Dwyane Wade and Ibaka is viewed as a spare part. An ESPN.com article even suggests that this trade moves OKC ahead of Golden State in the West. Wow, if Oladipo had that kind of impact, the Magic should have won more games.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: With Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes on board, Team USA’s roster finally looks set. … There is a Minnesota media crush on Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio that might not be shared by new coach Tom Thibodeau and it has some in the Twin Cities fretting. … What is life like for Knicks’ prospect Kristaps Porzingis back home in Latvia? Esquire magazine with the answer to everyone’s most pressing question.

Morning Shootaround — June 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Is Ingram the next big star in LA? | Bucks big on Maker | Rose sounds off

No. 1: Is Ingram the next big star in LA? — These are enthusiastic times in Los Angeles regarding the Lakers. They have Luke Walton as head coach, they no longer need to deal with the Kobe retirement tour, and the draft fetched Brandon Ingram, the promising forward from Duke who should pay immediately, or at least the Lakers hope. He’s the most anticipated rookie since Kobe if only because the Lakers are awaiting the next star and also coming off a poor season that led to the draft lottery. Here’s Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times going full cuddle on Ingram:

In his first and only season at Duke, the kid shot 46% on two-pointers, 41% on three-pointers, both figures which would have led all Lakers playmakers last season. Throw in the kind of defensive havoc that a 7-foot-3 wingspan can cause and you’ll understand how even cool hand Luke Walton got excited.

“We got the player I wanted in the draft,” said Walton at a buzzing Lakers training facility. “I don’t know if he’s the best or not, but we got the player I wanted, for sure.”

Oh, he’s the best. The majority of scouts who follow these things agreed. The sly smile on General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s face agreed. The perception was even shared by the crowd of Lakers season-ticket holders sitting on folding chairs watching a giant TV on the facility’s gym floor, as they cheered loudly before Ingram was even picked.

They were cheering because the Philadelphia 76ers, picking first, went for the glitz selection of Louisiana State’s Ben Simmons. Many of them then erupted in a standing ovation when the obvious pick of Ingram was next.

“We felt we’d be very lucky to get Brandon into this organization,” said Kupchak.

The celebratory mood was in contrast to the defensiveness that permeated the organization last June when the Lakers shrugged off the natural No. 2 pick of Jahlil Okafor and instead reached for D’Angelo Russell. In some ways, they’re still reaching for Russell, trying to connect with him, and this pick of Ingram may lead them to eventually trade him for a stabilizing veteran if they feel a core of Ingram, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle is their future.

“We’re going to stress competition here, and we’re going to compete,” said Walton. “And if that means a young guy we’re developing isn’t playing the way he should be, then he’s got to come out of the game.”

Or out of the organization? Stay tuned. For now, the Lakers are thrilled to add a player who, unlike Russell last year, played bigger as the games became bigger, growing from an early benching to playing 119 out of a possible 120 minutes in three NCAA tournament games, averaging 23 points, six rebounds and three assists.

“We’re picking a player that played at, some might say, a very established college basketball program,” said Kupchak with a grin, the former North Carolina star taking his usual draft-day shot at Duke. “And he played big minutes in an excellent league with excellent competition

The Lakers love Ingram’s maturity, which was in evidence from the first answer he gave as a Laker, saying on national TV that he wanted to bring leadership to the team. The young Lakers could certainly use some of that, and while it’s unlikely an 18-year-old kid can lead anyone right now, it’s revealing that he aspires to do so.

“You need leadership, you need cohesiveness, you need energy, and everything I’ve heard about this kid, he brings all those to the table along with his skill set,” said Walton.

The biggest hindrance is his weight, which is officially 190 pounds, which unofficially makes him look downright reed-like even though he’s reportedly gained nearly 30 pounds in the last year. He’s always been thin, and the target of jokes because of it. When he was growing up in Kinston, a town of about 22,000 in eastern North Carolina, he was so thin he could barely wear his souvenir Duke jersey. Even today, he hears it all the time, including immediately after being drafted when his first interviewer called him “Skinny.”

“I think it just gives me motivation to show these guys that the skinny part doesn’t matter,” said the quiet Ingram in a conference call with Los Angeles reporters. “It got me here today … and being skinny didn’t mean nothing when I was battling with each and every guy, each and every night.”

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No. 2: Bucks still defending Maker decision — The Milwaukee Bucks rolled the biggest pair of dice on draft night when they used the 10th pick to select seven-footer Thon Maker, a human question mark, as far as the average NBA fan is concerned. Bucks coach Jason Kidd and GM John Hammond believe Maker, in time, will become a solid player if not a star with the Bucks, even though his name wasn’t a prominent one prior to the draft. He grew upin South Sundan and then Australian before coming to the States and impressed the Bucks during his workout. Here’s Charles Gardner of the Journal Sentinel with more clues:

Maker wasn’t even in ESPN international expert Fran Fraschilla’s top five international players.

“The reason why is he’s neither fish nor fowl,” Hammond said. “He wasn’t an international player; he wasn’t a college player. He was the only high school player in this year’s draft.”

Hammond said when Maker worked out for the Bucks a few weeks ago, he stayed around after the six-man session and went through drills with some of the Bucks coaches for another hour and 45 minutes.

“I didn’t know if we were going to be able to draft him, but we got in the car and I said, ‘Thon, if you get drafted, you just got a taste of what’s going to happen with you.’

“The blueprint is real simple. It’s called hard work and it’s going to happen here in this gym. He’s willing to do it; that’s the most important thing.”

Hammond said the Bucks explored moving up in the draft but decided they had to give up too much to do that. Published reports said Boston was seeking deals with multiple teams, trying to get shooters or scorers, and Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker were Bucks players named as sought by the Celtics.

Maker played for two schools in Ontario, spending last season at the Athlete Institute Academy in Mono. Earlier he played for Orangeville Prep and was a teammate of Kentucky recruit Jamal Murray, who was selected seventh overall by Denver on Thursday.

“He’s really multifaceted,” Hammond said. “At 7 feet tall, he has the ability to handle the ball more effectively than you realize. He has good vision with the ball.

“The fact he shoots it makes it extra exciting. His experience is limited but I think he does have a pretty good feel for the game.”

Hammond said the age controversy did not affect the Bucks’ interest at all.

“Look, he’s 19 years old,” Hammond said. “We’ve been through this before with international players at times. Sometimes guys are questioned on age. It’s tough. You look at Thon Maker coming from the South Sudan and there are difficult situations.

“But we’re comfortable with who he is and what he is.”

In the evolving NBA, what position will he play?

“We’re going to figure it out,” Hammond said. “I don’t know. You have a vision.

“Could you ever imagine, three years down the line when we’re moving toward becoming a championship-caliber team, could you see having Giannis and Jabari and Thon at the floor at one time?

“I think it has a chance to be pretty dynamic and I don’t know who is playing what position, but hopefully we’re going to be pretty good doing it.”

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No. 3: Rose sounds off — The biggest trade of the summer so far is Derrick Rose going to the Knicks, and in a hard-to-please city, the news was met with mostly positive reviews. So Rose has conquered one demand, at least for the short term. But what does he think about the Knicks, especially after leaving his hometown Bulls? KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune found out:

“It still don’t feel real,” Rose said in New York. “Driving in and seeing my picture on a billboard or a screen outside the building, it kind of blew me away a little bit. It probably won’t hit me until I step on the floor and put a uniform on.”

“Chicago is more than just like a home. It grew me into the man I am today,” Rose said. “All my family and friends are back there. It’s one of the reasons why I changed my number to 25.”

That’s Rose’s number from Simeon Career Academy, the high school that officially retired it in 2009 to honor the late Ben Wilson. Previously, Simeon’s best player, including Rose, wore it to honor Wilson.

Now, the Knicks, who acquired Rose in Wednesday’s stunning, five-player trade, hope Rose becomes one of their best players.

“I feel like I’m great right now,” Rose said. “I felt like the only thing I was missing was my rhythm. … Last year, I feel I had a hell of a year coming off three injuries. And I think it’s only going to get better.”

Rose, who once famously said he’d roll with Keith Bogans as his running mate at shooting guard, served as a tepid participant in the Bulls’ recruiting pitch to Carmelo Anthony in 2014. After his first trade and fresh start with a new franchise, Rose said he likely would change his approach to recruiting players. And he started with a passionate pitch to Joakim Noah, with whom he partied Thursday night in New York.

“I want him,” Rose said. “He knows that. I think his family knows that. I think everyone knows that.”

Rose raised eyebrows last fall when, in unsolicited fashion, he raised his 2017 free agency on the first day of Bulls training camp. Though he often has been linked to returning to Los Angeles, where he makes his offseason home, Rose sounded committed to the Knicks.

“I hope I’ll be able to play the rest of my career here,” he said.

Rose clearly sounded like someone who had moved from cherishing the ability to play in his hometown to getting worn down by the burden. Now, looking odd in Knicks blue, he has a fresh start.

“I don’t hold any grudges with the front office or anybody in Chicago,” he said. “I loved all the teammates I had there. … I don’t know why I was traded. But I would like to tell them, ‘Thank you.’ For real. Giving me another start, I’m grateful to be where I’m at.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Suns are big on Dragan Bender and suspect he can get big minutes right away on a front court that’s as thin as he is … The Nuggets are telling third-year pro Gary Harris not to worry, he’s the starting two-guard this season … Remember, the Jazz are still a developing team, so it’s small steps for them until a franchise player arrives, and no such player is coming from the draft … Remember when the Pistons drew a few scattered thousand fans per game and routinely missed the playoffs, like a few years ago? Well, incoming Pistons rookies have nothing but good things to say about the franchise.

Morning shootaround — June 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Trade talks for Butler fizzle out | Celtics stand pat on Draft night | Magic, Thunder both benefit from trade

No. 1: Reports: Trade talks for Butler fizzle on Draft night — On Wednesday, the Chicago Bulls dealt former MVP and hometown hero Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks. On Thursday night, the Bulls held the No. 14 pick in the NBA Draft and as the night unfolded, rumors began to circulate that the Bulls were looking to trade their lone remaining star, Jimmy Butler, to perhaps the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ultimately, Butler wasn’t dealt and remains in Chicago, but K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune details why that’s the case (and some of the deals Chicago was offered):

The Bulls held advanced discussions with the Celtics centered on Butler and the No. 3 pick. One proposal featured Avery Bradley, a source said. Another involved Jae Crowder, a second source said. Other pieces would have been included.

But the Celtics have a reputation around the league of trying to win trades, and the overall package kept changing and never met the Bulls’ liking, sources said. Management understands the talent and value of Butler. And the Bulls ultimately liked the package they received from the Knicks for Rose more than the package offered for Butler.

Butler is on a favorable deal in the age of the rising salary cap. And the Bulls appreciate his two-way talents and hard work ethic, which is why the internal debate proved so engaging. Talks with the Timberwolves, who selected Dunn at No. 5 after the Celtics passed on him, stalled when they offered Ricky Rubio and the No. 5 pick, sources said.

“We like Jimmy Butler,” Forman said. “We didn’t shop Jimmy Butler.”

In a scene reminiscent of Elton Brand visiting the Berto Center in 2001 after Jerry Krause traded him to the Clippers for the draft rights to Tyson Chandler, Butler stopped by the Advocate Center for a workout. He was in an area off limits to reporters.

Timberwolves coach and President Tom Thibodeau told reporters in Minnesota he drafted Dunn to keep him.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has more on how the Wolves angle of the trade sputtered out and how Forman tried to recover after it:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Timberwolves drafted Dunn, after the Providence guard unexpectedly lasted until the fifth pick, then pushed hard to see whether they could hammer out a trade with the Bulls, who are also known to be big fans of Dunn.

But the Bulls, sources say, ultimately decided not to go ahead with a deal in which they’d be forced to surrender Butler just one day after completing a blockbuster trade with New York that sent Derrick Rose to the Knicks.

Butler was actually spotted at the Bulls’ facility Thursday evening, a source told ESPN.com, but Bulls general manager Gar Forman said after the draft that he didn’t even know Butler was in the building and tried to cool off trade speculation regarding the two-time All-Star.

“Jimmy’s in and out of the building all the time when he’s in town,” Forman said, “During the draft, we started getting some texts and saw something on TV that we were in heated talks with somebody. I don’t know what it was saying. We were in no talks with anybody. There was no discussion during the entire draft this evening as far as Jimmy Butler was concerned.”

Butler rubbed teammates and front-office personnel the wrong way last season when he tried to take a more vocal leadership role within the locker room. But Forman, in a display of semantic gymnastics, held to the fact that the Bulls weren’t actively shopping Butler.

“We have never made a call in regards to Jimmy Butler,” Forman said. “We’ve talked about, we value Jimmy Butler, we’re very happy to have Jimmy Butler. We’ve got a phenomenal basketball player who was an All-Star and All-NBA defender, is still young. Obviously we’ve got him under contract long-term, those are all positive. He, again, is what we want to be. We’ve said this all along. We like Jimmy Butler, we did not shop Jimmy Butler. Did we receive calls? Of course we did, and that’s our job to listen to calls. We get calls on a lot of our players, and that’s stuff that happens all throughout the league.”

“You’ve got to keep an open mind,” Forman said in regard to a potential future Butler deal. “I think [Bulls executive vice president] John Paxson said it best when we met [with the media] in [April]. He was only around one guy in an 11-year career that was untradable, and that was Michael Jordan. I mean, you’re always going to listen, but we value — and I’ve said this — we value Jimmy. We appreciate Jimmy. We think Jimmy is a heck of a basketball player. We love his work ethic. And for us to ever consider anything, it would have to be something that just absolutely knocked our socks off.”

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Morning shootaround — June 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bulls side with Butler over Rose | Report: George to play for Team USA | Russell reassured by Lakers about trade chatter

No. 1: Bulls make their choice for future, deal Rose — If you somehow missed it yesterday, the Chicago Bulls sent their former MVP, Derrick Rose, to the New York Knicks in a trade that ends a memorable-yet-difficult era in Chicago. Yes, Rose was the league’s top player in 2010-11, the Rookie of the Year in 2008-09 and a three-time All-Star. But his greatness was sapped by a multitude of knee injuries and in his absence, swingman Jimmy Butler emerged as a star. In dealing Rose, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago made it clear who it is siding with as the face of its future:

It’s Jimmy Butler’s team now.

Gar Forman hesitated to call it that, but the general manager couldn’t hide from the obvious on Wednesday, after the Bulls announced that they had traded Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks in a five-player deal.

That meant Rose’s long-standing health concerns are no longer a Bulls problem. His camp’s inability to consistently have civil conversations with his hometown organization? His brother/manager, Reggie, spouting off? Rose’s questioned work ethic by Butler and others?

All of it, sent packing in a deal with the New York Knicks that now has Rose in the “Big Apple,’’ along with Justin Holiday and a 2017 second round pick.

“Knowing Derrick as I do makes this trade a hard one,’’ Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. “Everyone knows him as the local kid who became MVP for his hometown team, but not everyone got to know him like I did. While he is a terrific basketball player, he is an even better person with a tremendous heart.

“I wish him the best of health for the remainder of his career, and I want to personally thank him for everything that he did on the court and in the community during his time with the Chicago Bulls.’’

Forman reiterated that sentiment.

“It’s always difficult when you’re going to trade somebody like Derrick Rose,’’ Forman said in a news conference at the Advocate Center. “Derrick obviously has meant quite a bit to this team, to this organization, and to this city, and we’re very thankful with everything Derrick brought to the table.

“Even though it’s very difficult to move someone like Derrick, we thought it was the right decision for the direction that we’re headed.’’

Privately, the Bulls were getting the sense that Rose would want a max deal coming off a 2016-17 season in which he was scheduled to make $21.3 million, and rather than have to deal with the headache of negotiating or the public relations hit they might take, the decision was obviously made to move on now.

Forman called it a “basketball decision’’ rather than a financial decision, but reiterated that the cost uncertainty of free agency over the next few seasons because of a rising salary cap was a factor.

A graduate of Simeon High School, Rose’s game hit its ceiling during the 2010-11 season in which the 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 25 points and 7.7 assists per game. It was a year later in the playoffs, however, that Rose’s climb would come to an abrupt ending.

Tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in the first-round playoff loss to Philadelphia, Rose sat out the entire 2012-13 season, and when he did return lasted only 10 games because of a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Since those injuries, Rose’s game was never the same, with his healthiest season coming this year, as he averaged 16.4 points and played in 66 games.

With Hoiberg and Butler both signing five-year deals last season, staying power wasn’t favoring the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year.

“The decision really was what I said,’’ Forman said, when asked if the clash of egos between Butler and Rose played a factor. “We felt that we needed to start changing the roster. We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic. It was more from a team building standpoint in trying to get this process started.’’

With Rose now out the door, it was further evidence of the break-up between free agent-to-be Joakim Noah and the Bulls also underway.

As the Sun-Times reported last month, Noah had already set his mind on going elsewhere because of a mistrust in the front office, specifically Forman. The Rose trade does very little to change that, especially with how tight Noah and Rose were.

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Morning shootaround — June 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Celtics rebuffed in attempt to acquire veteran | Calipari says Murray wants to play for Wolves | Report: Embiid cleared for 5-on-5 scrimmages

No. 1: Report: Celtics denied in attempt to deal for veteran — If you haven’t checked out the piece by our Ian Thomsen on how Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge has no shortage of assets to play with in the 2016 draft and beyond, it’s a must-read. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Ainge apparently tried to leverage at least the No. 3 overall pick in his draft and possibly others to try and pry some young superstars away from the Utah Jazz, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks, but was rebuffed on all fronts:

The Boston Celtics have been pursuing a number of established veterans in the buildup to Thursday’s NBA draft, offering trade packages built around the No. 3 overall pick, according to league sources.

But sources told ESPN that the Celtics, to date, have been rebuffed in their efforts to assemble a sufficiently enticing deal to acquire any of these four prime targets: Chicago Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler, Utah Jazz guard Gordon Hayward and Milwaukee Bucks teammates Jabari Parker or Khris Middleton.

Who the Celtics like at No. 3, if they end up keeping the pick, has likewise emerged as one of the bigger mysteries of draft week, sources say.

The Bulls, sources say, continue to show little interest in dealing Butler to the Celtics, who previously tried to trade for him before the league’s annual deadline in February.

Sources say the Celtics are one of just a number of teams trying to convince Utah to surrender Hayward — Phoenix, which holds two lottery picks (No. 4 and 13) in Thursday’s draft, is another — but the Jazz have been telling interested teams that he is not available.

The same, sources say, goes for Parker and Middleton in Milwaukee, since the Bucks regard both of those young cornerstones, as well as Giannis Antetokounmpo, as untouchables.

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Morning shootaround — June 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: LeBron leaning toward skipping Olympics | Durant to play in 2016 Games | Pippen, Rodman maintain ’96 Bulls are best team ever | Thompson, Green likely in for Olympics

No. 1: Report: LeBron leaning toward skipping Olympics — What a season it has been for LeBron James. The Cleveland Cavaliers star is fresh off perhaps the biggest win of his career after guiding the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first NBA title on Monday. Understandably, the reigning Finals MVP is a bit tired and according to The Vertical’s Chris Mannix, James may not take part in the 2016 Olympics in Rio:

In the aftermath of a grueling NBA Finals, LeBron James is leaning toward not competing at the Olympics in Rio this summer, league sources told The Vertical.

While James has not informed USA Basketball of his decision, team officials are operating with the expectation that it is unlikely James will be part of the team.

James, 31, has been a member of USA Basketball since 2004. He is one of three players – along with Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony – to be part of three men’s Olympic teams and has been integral to the United State’s resurgence as a basketball super power.

James will likely join a growing list of notable players electing not to play in Rio this summer. Two-time MVP Stephen Curry withdrew earlier this month. Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Houston’s James Harden and San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge have also chosen not to play.

Morning shootaround — June 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron on the verge of a dream realized | Curry understands stakes are high | Role players could play huge role in Game 7 | Kerr wants Warriors to embrace the moment

No. 1: LeBron on the verge of a dream realized After two weeks of games, tonight it’s finally time for the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals. And for the Cleveland Cavaliers there’s plenty on the line, as they try to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a title. It would also be the first championship for the city of Cleveland in over 50 years. As our own Shaun Powell writes, those hopes and dreams are at the mercy tonight (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC) of LeBron James, who hopes to author history with the Cavs

LeBron returned to Cleveland two summers ago to create a new image for a sobbing city with a sports inferiority complex, and that can only be secured with a championship. That’s heavy. That’s a burden. How many more times will he get this close?

And he’s one win away.

“I don’t think people imagined it this way, the route we’ve taken,” he said.

He was the teenaged basketball messiah from Akron drafted No. 1 by the sad-sack Cavs and therefore planted a seed of hope. That initial tour of duty in Cleveland resulted in one championship appearance, where the Cavs were rudely swept by the Spurs, to be followed shortly afterward by a nasty defection to Miami. After living out his mid-life crisis with the Heat, winning two rings, LeBron returned two summers ago to a hero’s welcome only because Cleveland was just as miserable as when he left, maybe more.

The Cavs last season were simply unlucky, harpooned by injuries and therefore ran out of gas last summer against the Warriors. LeBron was the most important player on the floor, then and now, especially the last two games, both 41-point masterpieces, forcing a winner-take-all Game 7.

His averages in this series: 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 2.7 steals, 2.5 blocks in 41.2 minutes of heavy labor. He’s away from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his All-Star teammates in Miami who relieved him of all the leadership responsibilities and pressure, and blessed only with Kyrie Irving, which magnifies what he has already accomplished. Win or lose in Game 7, LeBron should be a strong favorite if not a lock for MVP — Jerry West is the only MVP winner on a losing Finals team — and he managed a wisecrack about that.

“The last time I answered a question about MVP, it didn’t go so well for me,” he said, “so I’m not going to do it.”

Why should he? His play speaks loudly and boastfully. If you combine this series with last summer’s, nobody has more points, rebounds, assists or blocks than LeBron. He shot only 40 percent last summer, mostly because he wore down from the load without Irving and Kevin Love, but is far more efficient now. Besides, his defense and especially shot-blocking has been brilliant if barely noticed from the outside; when the subject came up Sunday, he took the opportunity to mention his pet peeve: “I’ve been highly upset that I haven’t won Defensive Player of the Year.”

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Morning shootaround — June 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Salary cap higher than expected | Bucks working on Kidd extension

No. 1: Salary cap higher than expected — This year’s free agents (those getting max contracts, in particular) are in for bigger deals than they had previously thought. Thanks to more money than expected flowing into the league, the projected salary cap for the 2016-17 season will be $94 million instead of $92 million, Yahoo‘s Shams Charania reports:

The NBA has informed all 30 teams that the salary cap for the 2016-17 season is projected to be $94 million, higher than its previous estimates, league sources told The Vertical.

The NBA sent a memo on Friday afternoon that the Basketball Related Income (BRI) for this past season is ongoing and that the increased projection for the next salary cap is due to “business outperformance since the previous estimates.”

The salary cap for the 2015-16 season was $70 million.

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No. 2: Bucks working on Kidd extension — The Milwaukee Bucks took a step backward this season, falling out of the playoffs and winning eight fewer games than they did in 2014-15. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not still moving forward or that they’re unhappy with head coach Jason Kidd, who has one year left on his current contract. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel‘s Charles Gardner reports that the Bucks and Kidd are close to an agreement on an extension:

A key front office hiring and a three-year contract extension for coach Jason Kidd have kept Milwaukee Bucks ownership busy in recent days.

Now throw in Saturday’s ceremonial groundbreaking on the new downtown arena.

It’s all part of the plan to build a championship team, according to Bucks owner Wes Edens, who met with reporters after the draft prospects workout on Friday.

Edens said the extension for Kidd is close to being finalized and praised the addition of assistant general manager Justin Zanik, who recently agreed to a multiyear contract.

“It’s well-deserved,” Edens said of Kidd’s deal. “Jason has done a terrific job the last couple years. We’re very happy with the continuity and where the team and the organization are headed. Jason obviously is a big, big part of that.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Bulls and Pistons made a minor trade … and the Blazers have hired Kevin Calabro as their new play-by-play man.