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Blogtable: Cavs or Warriors in 2016?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?



VIDEOThe Starters reflect on The Finals of 2015

> Which team is more likely to reach The Finals in 2016: Warriors or Cavaliers?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Easy. Cleveland. Because the East.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: With the Western Conference being a much tougher neighborhood, there will be more challenges to the Warriors. The other question is can they expect/hope to get through another entire season and playoffs virtually injury-free?  The Cavs will still have the best player in the game in LeBron James, an All-Star in Kyrie Irving and we assume, for now, Kevin Love. GM David Griffin is likely to upgrade the talent on the rest of the roster, and I’m expecting a Cleveland with a bit more good health and good luck to be back knocking on the door next June.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I would not be surprised to see either or both make it back. The Warriors are the safer bet, though, because the core will be returning. It’s more difficult to project the Cavaliers’ roster until we know if Kevin Love returns, and the specifics of the new lineup if he does not. How is Anderson Varejao’s health? Where is Irving’s rehab? There are a lot more unknowns. But as long as there is also LeBron James, and if the medical situations have positive outcomes, Cleveland is a contender.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: This is easy: Cavaliers. The have LeBron. They’ll be healthy (assuming). And here’s the biggest advantage: They play in the East. The Warriors, meanwhile, must deal with an irritated Kevin Durant and ornery Russell Westbrook, and perhaps the Los Angeles Clippers.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Cleveland is the answer, because they have LeBron James and they’re in the Eastern Conference. But the Warriors were the much better and more complete team. We know that they have what it takes to be an elite squad on both ends of the floor. The Cavs improved defensively in the playoffs, but they still have to prove that they can play top-10 defense over the course of 82 games with a couple of offense-first stars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’ll take a rematch with everybody healthy. Lock it in right now and I’m buying. That said, I think the Cavaliers (provided they are healthy) have the more realistic path back to The Finals. The Warriors will have to grind through the more rugged Western Conference again next season. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and several other teams not on the radar will be there to give chase. Cleveland won’t have nearly as many legitimate threats to their Eastern Conference crown. Again, I’d be all in for a Warriors-Cavs healthy rematch, if only to see what might have been this time around with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to go along with LeBron James.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Cavaliers, health willing: They’re in the easier conference, and they figure to be the NBA’s hungriest team next year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI could honestly answer either team right now and feel pretty confident in that answer. Right now, in the afterglow of The Finals, both teams seem like they’re set to make multiple Finals runs over the next half-decade, a rematch the ratings suggest people would like to see. But if I’m picking a team to make it back soonest, I’ll go Cleveland. They’ve shown they can make it to the Finals using a lineup basically composed of LeBron James and four guys from the YMCA, and the landscape in the East remains easier than the gauntlet out West.

Green: No comfort at home for Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. — The alarm bells have been silenced. The missing persons reports for the high-powered Golden State offense have been called off. The team that has lost only four games at Oracle Arena all season has regained home-court advantage and so one might think the Warriors have a sense of comfort back in The Finals.

“Absolutely not,” said forward Draymond Green. “If we could, we’d like to win this one and the next one on their court. We’re not looking at this and saying, ‘Oh, we’re at home. The series is over.’ It doesn’t work that way, especially not in The Finals.

“We got to come out and compete, play with an edge, play with an aggressive nature and just be ready for whatever. They’re gonna come and give it their all. They feel like, ‘Hey, we gotta win one on their court. Why not be tomorrow?’

“That’s gonna be their mindset. We have to make sure we come out ready to play. Not depending on the crowd. Let the crowd feed off us. Not us try to feed off the crowd.”

Rough nights, different reasons, for centers Mozgov, Bogut in Game 4

It was hard to know which of the two starting centers in the 2015 Finals, Golden State’s Andrew Bogut or Cleveland’s Timofey Mozgov, had a rougher night Thursday in Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Bogut certainly qualified because he wound up as the Warriors’ not-starting center when coach Steve Kerr opted to “go small” to put more spacing and pace in his team’s offense. Bogut, the veteran 7-footer who had been touted all season as an indispensable defender in the paint and a gifted passer and screener in Golden State’s attack, wound up playing in his team’s 103-82 victory for just 2:46.

Even Kendrick Perkins, the Cavaliers’ deep-reserve big, played more than that Thursday.

This came on the heels of a Game 3 performance in which Bogut played only 17:07. His time has diminished with each game and he’s chipping in only 2.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game after averaging 6.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg and 23.6 mpg in the regular season. Bogut had called himself out, in fact, prior to Game 4 for not doing enough to help.

“I need to play better,” Bogut had said. “There is no excuse for it. To say you’re tired, injuries, Finals, minutes, there’s no excuse for it. Just be aggressive and hopefully have a good game.”

Adding insult to inactivity. Bogut took heat from some precincts for his post-Game 4 comments stating that LeBron James jumped into the baseline cameraman on the play in which the Cavs star suffered a gash on his head. The Australian center fouled James under the basket and his sprawl into the area behind the basket where photographers sit drove his head right into an NBA Entertainment camera lens.

“Yeah, I think he came down and took two steps and then fell into the cameraman,” Bogut said. “I definitely, definitely didn’t hit him that hard.”

Ordinarily Mozgov might figure to be the reason for Bogut’s struggles. The 7-foot-1 Russian had gotten the better of their clashes early in the series. But with Bogut yielding to Andre Iguodala in Kerr’s reconfigured lineup, Mozgov had a career night – 28 points, 10 rebounds.

Mozgov couldn’t fully enjoy it, though, beyond the Cleveland defeat. He felt his points were due, at least in part, to Bogut’s absence and a sense that the Warriors were conceding some things to him and Tristan Thompson to better hold down James and others. Also, Mozgov got visibily frustrated having to defend, or chase anyway, Iguodala and other wing far from his comfort zone.

“I always want to stay in the paint and protect the paint,” Mozgov said. “They tried the stretch defense, whatever they’re doing. We’ve got three more games and we all have to learn something from this game.”

Said James: “When your big is accustomed to guarding a big for three straight games and there is a change, now our big, meaning Timo, has to make a change. He has to guard a smaller guy, which he’s not been accustomed to ever.”

Right & Wrong: Warriors even Finals in impressive fashion


VIDEO: The Hang Time crew report on an impressive Warriors win in Game 4

CLEVELAND — Trailing 2-1 in the NBA Finals, it was natural to expect Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr to make some sort of adjustment heading into Game 4. He did, alright, deploying a handful of moves that tipped Game 4 into Golden State’s tempo, helping them defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers, 103-82, evening the series at 2-2.

Here’s a look at what went right and wrong in Game 4…

Right: After allowing Cleveland to dictate pace and progress for the majority of Games 1 through 3, in Game 4 the Warriors shook things up by benching center Andrew Bogut and instead starting forward Andre Iguodala for the first time all season. Considering the Cavs had been dominant on the boards, going small had potential to work against the Warriors. Although Cleveland got off to a 7-0 start, The Warriors quickly bounced back and closed the quarter by outscoring the Cavs, 31-17. Kerr also had the Warriors double-team LeBron James more often, and inserted David Lee into the rotation, all moves that helped the Warriors regain the tempo and swagger they played with throughout the season.

“We controlled the tempo and the rhythm of the game,” said Steve Kerr. “But that, I think, had more to do with us competing and getting to long rebounds and loose balls. I thought the first three games they were the more competitive team. Maybe it’s our first trip to The Finals, we thought we can play hard. It’s not just about playing hard. It’s about playing every single possession like it’s your last. And I thought tonight our effort took a step up and that’s why we were able to win.”

Wrong: With the Warriors focused on making LeBron give up the ball, James finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 8 assists. That’s a terrific line to be certain, but James’s lowest scoring total of the Finals. While James is happy to play the role of facilitator, his teammates weren’t able to do their part, combining for just 22 made field goals. Although he scored 20 points in Game 3, Matthew Dellavedova finished Game 4 with 10 points on 3-for-14 shooting with 3 turnovers. After arriving for Game 4 on a hands-free scooter, J.R. Smith went 0-for-8 on 3-pointers. He also left on that scooter. “I think also the fact that we didn’t make shots tonight from outside, that really had an impact on [LeBron’s] ability to find seams and to score the ball,” said Cleveland coach David Blatt. “Because there is a dynamic to that. When you’re constantly, constantly on the defensive end, it’s just like in football with possession time. When your defense is on the field all the time, you know you’re in trouble.”


VIDEO: The Cavs shot an abysmal 4-for-27 on 3-pointers in Game 4

Right: Before this season, Andre Iguodala had started every game of his NBA career. This season, he didn’t start a single game. So when Steve Kerr moved Iggy into the starting five on Thursday, it was nothing new. Iguodala reacted as such, finishing with a team-leading 22 points in 39 minutes, and contributing 8 boards and tough defense against LeBron James. The front line of Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green gives up size to the Cavs, but also provides the Warriors with a versatility and ability to stretch the floor they don’t have when Bogut is in the game.

Wrong: It’s no surprise to note that the Cavaliers’ depth is being tested right now — with Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao all out injured, the Cavs’ roster was sure to be tested. But the Cavs aren’t able to get anything of value out of Mike Miller, Kendrick Perkins, Joe Harris, Brendan Haywood or Shawn Marion. It’s nice to have veteran leadership and locker room presence, but it would probably be nicer right now for Cleveland to get some minutes out of these guys. The Cavs were reduced to using a 7-man rotation for the majority of the game, including 18 minutes from James Jones, a 3-point specialist who only shot one trey. Against the newly revitalized Golden State offense, the Cavs looked increasingly slow and worn down. And there are no options remaining to be played for coach David Blatt from the bench for the Cavs.

Right: Through injury and necessity, the Cavaliers have discovered a nice two-man team in the post in Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. And in Game 4, Mozgov had his most effective game of The Finals, finishing with 28 points and 10 boards. Golden State went small, and the 28-year-old seven-footer made them pay, repeatedly backing the ball in and finding easy buckets, and also displaying a nice sense of timing within the offense and understand when to flash to the rim. The Cavs had to give up two first-round picks to get Mozgov, a haul that seemed questionable at the time. If he keeps playing like this, it might even seem like a bargain.

Wrong: Just before halftime, LeBron James took a foul and landed among the cameramen on the baseline, slicing open his head and requiring stitches following the game. “I was just hoping I wasn’t bleeding,” said James. “But obviously the camera cut me pretty bad. Our medical staff did a great job of stopping the bleeding. I knew I had to shoot the free throws or I wasn’t going to be able to come back into the game, so it didn’t matter what was going on with my head at that point in time. I had to go up there and shoot those free throws so I could continue to play.”


VIDEO: LeBron James takes a hard spill in the first half of Game 4

Right: One more right, at least for tonight, as Golden State’s Shaun Livingston came off the bench and scored only 7 points, but he finished with a plus-minus rating of +25 in 24 minutes of play. Livingston is in many ways emblematic of all the things that made the Warriors so dangerous this season. At 6-foot-7 with guard skills, Livingston is ideal as a secondary defender, coming over to double-team and distracting a ball-handler. He’s also big enough to switch on screens, and at least momentarily defend  James until help arrives.

Game 4: 24-second thoughts

VIDEO: Andre Iguodala put on a show for the Warriors in Game 4

24Steve Kerr blinks first. Andre Iguodala in starting lineup for Andrew Bogut.

23 — Time for the Warriors to get inspiration from national anthem singer Usher? Here I Stand.

22LeBron James with the no-look, over-the-head pass for Mozgov dunk is pure Magic.

21 — They can’t find those escaped convicts from N.Y. prison, but bloodhounds seem to have located Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green in first quarter for a change.

20 — Nine minutes, 1-for-4 shooting, 0-for-2 on treys. “Oh yeah, just remembered I’m Matthew Dellavedova, not Jerry West.”

19 — Kerr got everything he wanted out of his lineup change. Better pace, spread the floor, moving the ball, Iguodala everywhere. Your serve, David Blatt.

18 — After telling his team in huddle, “They’re only using seven players, they’ll wear down,” where does Kerr go with his own rotation? Do Bogut and Festus Ezeli get to take off their warmups?

17 — Got to give credit to Iguodala for making the sacrifice to come off the bench all year and to David Lee for being virtually buried, but staying ready to perform in The Finals.

16 — Dear Cavs: As much as they’ve struggled at times in the series, it’s never really a good idea to leave the Splash Brothers open.

15 — Warriors have 12 assists on first 16 baskets. Oh, so that’s the team that won 67 games this season.

14 — Think about it: LeBron just six shots in first 17 minutes. Hardly a plan for success.

13 —LeBron bleeds after collision with TV camera. Would you blame any of the other players on the court for licking their chops and wishing they could get a few pints of that stuff?

12 — World back spinning properly on its axis. Small-ball Warriors moving, scoring, rebounding, in control.

11 — Matthew Dellavedova back-to-back 3s out of the locker room. Did he return to his old routine and get a triple-shot of espresso at halftime?

10 — You can talk about the Warriors shooters cooling off early in third quarter. But pace, pace, pace. The Cavs go back to grinding and get back in the game.

9 — Sure, he’s got an unflappable, unflinching air about him, but Stephen Curry looks a bit disengaged from all of the emotion of what’s at stake in what has become a three-point game.

8 — OK, who had the prop bet in Vegas where Timofey Mozgov (21 points) plays a virtual draw with the combined Splash Brothers (22) in the first three quarters?

7 — How much does it say that on a night when LeBron appears a little out of sorts, fatigued, he’s closing in on another triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds, seven assists going into fourth quarter?

6 — How is it that J.R. Smith can arrive at the arena riding a hoverboard, but his game usually needs training wheels?

5 — Was David Blatt getting paid by the word for that long-winded answer to Doris Burke or just trying to talk his team back into the game? Where is grunting Smiley Popovich when we need him?

4

3 — Oh, Mama, can this really be the end? To be stuck inside of Mobile with with the Memphis blues again.  Now the Cavs got a taste of Golden State playing with desperation. Just as they responded in conference semifinals down 2-1 to Grizzlies, the Warriors started off adversity and responded on the road.

2 — Best thing for the Cavs after a 103-82 thumping? The calendar. Two days off. It looked like a plow horse against American Pharoah.

1 — Gettin’ Iggy Wit It.  Move of the series so far by Kerr — Iguodala gets first start of the season and comes through with 22 points, four treys, eight rebounds and defense on LeBron.  If Warriors win series, he could the MVP.

LeBron proud of Cavs’ playoff newbies


VIDEO: James addresses media before Thursday’s Game 4

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – There are times, LeBron James acknowledged Thursday, when he forgets just who it is he’s working with in these 2015 NBA Finals.

During a heated moment on the court or maybe in a timeout huddle, James’ muscle memory built from six trips to the Finals and 175 playoff appearances kicks in and he starts pushing hard. Then he remembers how raw his teammates are, by comparison, on the NBA’s biggest stage.

James’ two more important teammates through the first three games, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova, will be playing in the 18th postseason games of their young careers, all this spring. Among Cleveland’s other starters, Timofey Mozgov has 24 games under his belt already and Iman Shumpert was sitting on 30 as the Cavaliers prepared to face the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

That doesn’t even account for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, playoff newbies whose playoff tickers stopped at 13 and four games, respectively, due to their season-snuffing injuries.

“They’ve done a great job,” James said after the Cavaliers’ shootaround session at their practice facility. “We’ve had some bumps along the way. We’ve had some bruises along the way. And obviously we know what the bruises are. We’ve had quite a few learning experiences. We had a learning experience last game where we didn’t quite close out the game like we should have.

“At the same time, I expect so much out of our group. [Tuesday was] our 17th playoff game together. I expect so much out of us, and then I look back at it and say, ‘This is our first time being in that situation. I shouldn’t be so hard on ’em.’ But we learn from it. We watched the film yesterday, we learned from it, we know how to approach it the next time.”

The Warriors aren’t exactly salty old playoff veterans – four of their starters had played in 37 games prior to Thursday, while Andrew Bogut was at 35, owing to some injuries and lost years in Milwaukee.

Much of the talk out of Golden State’s camp between Games 3 and 4 focused on change, both in strategy and in intensity. There was a sense the Warriors felt they hadn’t imposed their style, their will and their emotions on the Finals through three games.

James, though, didn’t sound interested in what the Cavaliers’ opponents might or might not change.

“We’re going to play our game,” he said. “For us, it’s not what they do, it’s how we approach the game. We know they’re gonna come in, understand probably for them, feeling like it’s a must-win. But for us, we just go and play our game. We have nothing to lose. We’re undermanned, we’re outmatched. We just go out and play hard, we live with the results.”

Cavs’ James confident in durability, skeptical of Finals scheduling


VIDEO: James speaks with media after shootaround

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Had David Blatt known the first two games of the 2015 Finals would go into overtime, the Cleveland Cavaliers coach said Tuesday, he might have found more opportunities to give LeBron James a little rest.

But no Finals before this one ever required overtime for both Game 1 and Game 2. That’s how James is up to 96 minutes played out of the 106 in the series so far.

“That wasn’t necessarily in the plan,” Blatt said after his team’s shootaround session at their practice facility. “But he is strong. He has prepared himself the whole season for this time of the year. There are very few guys who can do what he did throughout the course of the year with the understanding of where he needs to be at the key moment of the season. And he’s ready to go.”


VIDEO: Blatt addresses the media on Tuesday

James talked a little about the physical preparation that he heeds in advance of games and the hurry-up of that routine now that the days between games, for each of the next two, have dwindled to just one.

“There’s not much recovery time,” James said. “I’m getting my body as close as it can to 100 percent. I still have a lot of time through today to stay on the treatment regimen I’ve been on. Try to get some rest as well. … You’ve got to cram everything in there. Hopefully the body reacts accordingly to it.”

Among the other Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson has logged 87 minutes, J.R. Smith 73 and Iman Shumpert 71. Golden State, though generally considered the deeper team, has four players at or above 80: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, 85 each; Draymond Green 82 and Harrison Barnes 80.

When someone wondered if James might feel the energy of a crowd at Quicken Loans Arena hosting only its third Finals game ever (two in 2007), the Cavs star said: “I mean, I’m fine. I can use the energy from the home crowd, I can use the energy from the away crowd. But for me, my focus is so laser-sharp that it doesn’t matter. I don’t need something to get me to where I need to go.”

James and his teammates apparently do feel a little slighted by the schedule, which has tightened up during this period in Cleveland after an almost leisurely pace to Games 1 and 2. There was a whole week after the conference championship round before The Finals began and then two more days before Game 2.

The Thursday-Sunday-Tuesday rotation is largely set according to network TV needs, regardless of the markets involved, but James made it sound more discretionary. And not favoring Cleveland.

“I don’t need any extra motivation or no extra lift,” James said. “I looked at the schedule. They have more time in their home than we have. They gave us every other day back home. They gave those guys two-and-a-half days of rest when they go back home. But that’s the schedule, and it is what it is.”

Cavs’ Irving skips practice for MRI, evaluation of left knee


VIDEO: Update on Irving before his MRI

OAKLAND – Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers point guard who left Game 1 of the Finals in overtime Thursday after aggravating his troublesome left knee, was being evaluated Friday and did not participate in his team’s practice or media sessions.

Cavs coach David Blatt said did not see Irving before he went for medical evaluation but heard that Irving still was using crutches as he left the team’s San Francisco hotel.

Blatt said he was more concerned with Irving’s physical condition – his initial diagnosis dating back to Game 2 of Cleveland’s first-round series vs. Boston was tendinitis, at least before he re-injured himself Thursday – than how frustrated his All-Star performer has grown while forced to compete at less than full strength.

“It’s our hope that the news we get back from the evaluation is good, or at least not bad,” the coach said. “Our main concern right now is Kyrie’s health.”

The Cavaliers were expecting to provide a formal update on Irving’s condition after the guard underwent a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam and was evaluated by medical staff.

Irving scored 23 points with seven rebounds and six assists, while logging more than 43 minutes before slipping and hurting his knee again midway through overtime.

Next labor deal without work stoppage? Silver, Roberts share hope, at least


VIDEO: Adam Silver news conference

OAKLAND – Maybe it was only some California dreamin’, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver agreed Thursday with the head of the NBA players union that the next league’s collective bargaining agreement might be negotiated without the usual rancor or threat of a lockout.

“Yeah, I hope there is an opportunity for that,” Silver said during his traditional pre-Finals news conference held each year before Game 1. “Certainly we’ve had discussions [with] the players association about getting together as early as this summer to begin talking about how both sides the collective bargaining agreement is working [and] if there were to be changes, what changes we’d like to see made.”

The current CBA, a 10-year deal hammered out during a lockout that reduced the 2011-12 season to 66 games, can be re-opened by either side after the 2016-17 season. That has seemed a certainty almost from the start, with many players feeling the give-backs in the deal were too great, essentially reducing the players’ share of revenues from 57 percent to about 50. Meanwhile, the owners have issues of their own, such as the flood of increased TV rights fees that could swell the salary cap from $67 million per team next season to $90 million one year later.

But earlier this spring, Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), said in an interview with the Boston Globe she was “optimistic that not only a new deal could be reached without another work stoppage but perhaps prior to the current CBA expiration.”

“There’s going to be a deal and my view is let’s get it done,” Roberts was quoted as saying. “[Silver] has said the same to me, so I think the good news is we don’t have the backdrop of poverty. There’s all this money. The game is growing in popularity. Everyone should be singing, ‘Hallelujah.’

“Wouldn’t it be great for everybody … if we could say these were the major issues that we knew we had to deal with and we saw no reason to wait until 2017, so we got them done?”

That outlook might come easier now, with a re-opening two years away and each side focused on what it probably assumes are reasonable demands or concessions the other surely would be happy to make. That could change in 24 months, but for now …

“My feeling is the league is doing incredibly well,” Silver said. “The players are doing really well. Popularity is at an all-time high. So I think it would be very constructive to sit down sooner than later to start talking about, to the extent there should be changes in the collective bargaining agreement, what both sides would like to see.”

The commissioner touched on a variety of other topics during his initial remarks and a Q&A session, including:

  • The scary injuries to Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson in back-to-back games brought scrutiny to the league’s concussion protocol because both players returned to play in the games in which they were hurt. But Silver said the protocols worked as intended in both cases. “I’ve had discussions with the players union as to whether there are other ways to do it,” Silver said, “and my response has been, we’re all ears.”
  • There’s no indication the international soccer scandal involving FIFA has anything to do with FIBA, the governing body of international basketball with which the NBA works closely.
  • The new financing proposal for arena construction in Milwaukee is an example of the energy brought by NBA’s recent crop of owners, Silver said. Details still are getting hammered out in what he termed a private-public partnership. Silver said: “I think that team’s going to be in Milwaukee for a long time. And in relatively short time that negotiation will be completed and they’ll be announcing the team is staying with a new arena.”
  • No news on topics such as playoff seedings, revisions to the draft lottery or Hack-a-Shaq strategies, all of which continue to be evaluated for discussion by the Board of Governors this summer.

Reports: Bulls, Hoiberg nearing deal

UPDATE, 11:07 a.m., June 1: The Chicago Bulls are closing in a deal with Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and could name him as the successor to Tom Thibodeau as soon as today. CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish says Hoiberg is expected to travel to Chicago sometime today to put pen to paper:

Fred Hoiberg is expected to travel to Chicago later Monday and finalize a deal to become the next head coach of the Chicago Bulls, a source has told CBSSports.com.

A formal announcement could come as early as Monday night.

An NBA source said the Bulls would like to hold a press conference Tuesday.

CBSSports.com reported last Friday, a day after Chicago fired Tom Thibodeau, that Hoiberg and the Bulls already had what amounted to a “gentleman’s agreement” in place.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports a deal will be done no later than Wednesday and that star forward Pau Gasol addressed the firing of Thibodeau on his website:

Pau Gasol, who earned his first starting All-Star berth in the first season of his three-year deal with the Bulls, used his blog on his website (www.PauGasol.com) to thank Tom Thibodeau.

“Coach Thibodeau, (I) want to thank your trust and support this season,” Gasol wrote. “I am sure that his departure was a very difficult decision for the organization of the Bulls, but I am convinced that they have a solid plan for the success of the franchise. We all have high expectations for the coming season and will do anything to bring the ring to Chicago. Go Bulls!”

The Bulls are expected to announce Hoiberg’s hiring no later than Wednesday, according to sources.

That will shift at least partial focus to Hoiberg’s staff.

Speaking last week, Forman said the new coach — and Hoiberg obviously has college head coaching experience — will pick his staff.

“Our coaches have the ability to hire who they want to hire, with approval from the front office,” Forman said. “But more times than not, we’re going to be very supportive of who they want on their staff.”

Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for management to suggest a veteran coach

(more…)