Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Bulls’

Bar for Gasol: Better than Boozer?


VIDEO: Two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol joins the Bulls

LAS VEGAS – We come not to praise Carlos Boozer but not to bury him, either.

The Chicago Bulls’ signing of Lakers free-agent Pau Gasol means that one veteran NBA power forward will be replacing another, with the benefit of the move to be measured, ultimately, in how much more success Chicago has as a team.

Here’s the bar Gasol has to scale: A .657 winning percentage (205-107) in four seasons, four postseason berths, one conference finals, no rings.

Some weight will be given, too, to the newness of it all and public relations aspect, with the 34-year-old Gasol coming in as a fresh face and personality for a team that tried and failed to land its primary target in free agency, Carmelo Anthony. He’ll be filling not just the position, then, but the role that Boozer had in salvaging something from Chicago’s free-agent plunge in 2010, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson all declined the Bulls’ overtures.

Finally, the marginal superiority of Gasol’s game over Boozer’s will matter to a certain degree. Let’s presume superiority, anyway, since Gasol’s signing is coming directly at Boozer’s expense: The Bulls will be using the amnesty clause on the final year of Boozer’s contract, worth $16.8 million, to open the salary-cap space needed to sign the 7-foot Spaniard.

So is Gasol better than Boozer? And if so, by how much?

Over Boozer’s four-season run with the Bulls, he averaged 15.5 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 49.1 percent. He had a 17.4 PER, to go with a 102 offensive rating and 98 defensive rating.

Gasol’s numbers since 2010-11 with the Lakers: 17.1 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 49.9 percent shooting. He had a 20.5 PER, a 112 offensive rating and a 104 defensive rating.

They’re different types of power forwards, clearly. Gasol is three inches taller and has pterodactyl arms, which explains his blowout victory in blocked shots over Boozer (1,484 to 334). Part of that might be due to his instincts and a few defensive IQ points, though Gasol’s limited mobility could find him planted next to coach Tom Thibodeau late in the games just like Boozer was. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson figure to remain the Bulls’ defensive closers among their bigs.

None of this is intended to sell Gasol short. He is a heady player, widely respected within the NBA and a solid citizen who drew heavy interest from Oklahoma City, San Antonio and New York, as well as the Lakers. He is considered to be a far better passer than Boozer, likely to thrive with Noah in the Bulls’ ball movement. He possesses great offensive skills overall, playing a finesse game that might hold up better to the ravages of time and mileage than someone who relies on explosiveness or vertical leap.

Gasol definitely is a quieter type than Boozer, which might or might not serve him well with United Center fans, depending on his early Bulls’ performances. (Boozer’s vocal exuberance has become the butt of jokes in Chicagoland.) But Boozer has been more durable of late, missing 32 games the past four seasons compared to Gasol’s 56.

Gasol’s decision to sign with Chicago was greeted with excitement on multiple fronts, including Noah and Gasol’s old coach in Los Angeles, Phil Jackson.

Gasol’s signing, however, could limit Chicago in what it can do financially on a couple other fronts. Money will be tighter now to spring stashed Euro star Nikola Mirotic and to upgrade their wing scoring.

Speaking of money, some might give the Bulls’ generally tight-fisted management some credit for being willing to swallow Boozer’s salary – amnesty only gets him off the cap, not the books for 2014-15 – for whatever marginal improvement Gasol brings. That’s a bold but not necessarily prudent move.

Even in his least productive Chicago season in 2013-14, Boozer was good for nearly 14 points, eight rebounds and 28 minutes. He’ll no doubt find work, and he’ll be double-dipping from both the Bulls and his new team’s payroll.

It would have been a tough sell to bring Boozer back, without some splashy signing or trade to provide cover and flip the organization’s script. It remains to be seen whether Gasol can help enough to flip it.

Morning shootaround — July 12


VIDEO: Gasol close to deal with Bulls

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Gasol headed to Chicago? | ‘Melo back to Knicks | Wade, Haslem next for Heat | Wiggins for Love? | New Cavs coach ecstatic to coach the King

No. 1: Gasol, Bulls getting closer – After he turned down contract offers from the Lakers, it appears 7-foot center Pau Gasol, and not Carmelo Anthony, could be headed to play for the Chicago Bulls. Gasol is considered the Bulls’ top choice if they were unable to land Anthony. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein has the details of a story broke in the wee hours of Saturday morning:

Pau Gasol is inching closer to becoming a Chicago Bull, according to the Spanish newspaper Marca and other media reports.

The paper first reported late Friday that the Bulls are closing in on a deal with Gasol despite the absence of a sign-and-trade agreement with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne late Friday that a sign-and-trade arrangement had not been struck, with the Lakers still looking for draft compensation — as they received in Friday’s earlier trade with the Houston Rockets to take back the contract of Jeremy Lin — as the primary return for Gasol.

ESPN.com reported earlier Friday that the Bulls and San Antonio Spurs had emerged as the two leading candidates to land Gasol, with San Antonio poised to land the Spaniard if the Bulls and Lakers could not finalize a sign-and-trade deal.

Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein late Friday that the Bulls were prioritizing their pursuit of Gasol even ahead of their long-running efforts to sign Carmelo Anthony, fearing that Anthony is likely to stay with the New York Knicks.

The Lakers appear resigned to seeing Gasol exit after a successful six seasons together. Prior to Friday, the Lakers offered Gasol two deals: two years worth $23 million, and three years worth $29 million, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin. Gasol turned down both offers, according to the source.

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No. 2: Melo preparing for New York return — The process has taken longer than anybody expected, but it appears the end result will be what everybody expected, and that’s Carmelo Anthony returning to the New York Knicks. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that forward will reveal his plan in the next 24 to 48 hours:

Carmelo Anthony will be competing against LeBron James for at least five more years but he wasn’t about to begin battling James for the national spotlight on Friday.

With James stunning the basketball world by announcing he was leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, a source close to Anthony said that the free agent forward would reveal his plans within the next “24 to 48 hours.” The same source said that Anthony was preparing to re-sign with the Knicks.

When reached in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Anthony told the Daily News that he would make a decision on Thursday. The News reported that Anthony, according to a close friend, was committed to re-signing with the Knicks. However, the Chicago Bulls made another strong push early Thursday, and Anthony postponed his announcement.

If Anthony agrees to return to the Knicks, he will sign a five-year contract worth $129 million. The Bulls can offer only $75 million over four years. For the past two days, however, the Bulls have been trying to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with the Knicks that could potentially increase Anthony’s deal to $90 million.

But the same source claims that a sign-and-trade is unlikely. If the Bulls are unable to acquire Anthony, they will shift their focus to signing Lakers free agent Pau Gasol, whom Knicks president Phil Jackson is also pursuing.

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No. 3: Riley begins reconstruction job — The headline on the website of the Miami Herald screamed “ALL IS NOT LOST” and that’s because hours after the news broke that LeBron James was leaving the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Heat president Pat Riley secured All-Star forward Chris Bosh and will also bring back Dwyane Wade plus Heat lifer Udonis Haslem, who had also opted out of his contract prior to the start of free agency. Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald has the story:

James’ pending decision had put the Heat’s free agency plans on hold for several intense days, but the rebuilding process moved quickly for team president Pat Riley after the stunning announcement. It didn’t take long for Bosh, Wade and Udonis Haslem to sign off on returns to the Heat.

Bosh – who all along said he wanted to stay in Miami but was considered by many a lock to sign with Houston after James’ departure – agreed to stay with the Heat and will get a five-year deal worth a reported $118 million. Deals were also being worked out for Wade and Haslem.

Wade, who brought Bosh and James to Miami four years ago and helped keep Haslem in the fold, attempted to engineer magic at the 11th hour for the Heat on Thursday. He attended James’ basketball camp in Las Vegas and then flew back to Miami with James on Thursday night. At that point, the around-the-clock coverage of the Heat’s saga appeared to be playing out positively for Miami. But behind the scenes, James had already made up his mind. He was going home.

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No. 4: Wiggins in deal for Love? — The Cavaliers would love, no pun intended, to pair Kevin Love with LeBron James. But to get the discontented Timberwolves star in a trade, the Cavs will have to knock the socks off Minnesota president and coach Flip Saunders. And that means making No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins the centerpiece of the deal. There’s been conflicting reports as to whether the Cavs will be willing to do that. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com is hearing they just might:

A new superteam could form soon in Cleveland. CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger reported that there’s a feeling that the Cavaliers could make No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins available in a Kevin Love trade.

In addition, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Love is “intrigued” by the idea of playing with LeBron James and would sign a long-term deal with the Cavs.

Meanwhile, according to Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears, Wiggins’ camp doesn’t believe he’ll be moved to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s a tricky situation, as teams generally don’t like to trade 19-year-old potential stars. Generally, teams like Cleveland don’t get them, though. With James back in the fold, the Cavaliers are looking at contending for championships, and acquiring Love would get them to that point much faster than waiting for Wiggins to develop.

One has to wonder what James’ preference is. He obviously knows how great Love is, and has played with him on Team USA. He’s also known Wiggins since he was a high schooler, and discussed being a mentor to Cleveland’s young players in his announcement. Then again, he didn’t mention Wiggins by name in that story.

Thinking logically, it shouldn’t be surprising if a Love-Wiggins blockbuster is one of the moves set in motion by James’ signing. Love wants to win, and would have a great chance of doing that in the Eastern Conference alongside the best player in the world. Minnesota needs to get some young talent with star potential if it’s going to trade Love, and that’s exactly what it could get with Wiggins. It’s not the talented rookie’s fault he’s being mentioned in trade rumors, he’s just found himself in an extremely unusual situation.

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No. 5: Cavs coach ecstatic to work with LeBron — Four years ago, Byron Scott took over the Cavaliers, surely expecting to coach LeBron James, who was a free agent. Scott never got the chance. When new Cavs coach David Blatt recently signed on, he had no inkling that he would coach James. Now he will, and he’s thrilled about the opportunity. The Associated Press caught up with Blatt at the Las Vegas Summer League:

“First and foremost I’m happy for LeBron, because he made a very difficult decision,” said new Cavaliers coach David Blatt after his team’s 70-68 win. “Obviously he made a decision from the heart more than anything else and I respect him for it and I’m joyful for it.

“Second of all, for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the state of Ohio – if you were around Cleveland today you would understand what I’m talking about – he just lifted a whole state by himself.”

Blatt said he learned the news at 9:45 a.m. Las Vegas time – 12:45 p.m. Cleveland time, about 30 minutes after the news broke — during his team’s shootaround.

Friday night, from media row, to fans in the stands, Summer League staff, to the person pushing buttons in the freight elevator — everyone was talking about King James.

“When I learned about it, I wasn’t altogether surprised, particularly after reading what LeBron wrote, which was heartfelt and so indicative of the kind of person that he is; that just made it all the sweeter,” Blatt said. “I thought ‘I’m gonna have an awfully good seat to watch the best player in the world play this year.’”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: After LeBron news, Cavs sell out season ticketsMemphis steals Vince Carter from Mavs … LeBron reaches out to friend, former Heat teammate Mike MillerJeremy Lin gets fresh start with the Lakers … Hawks sign Lakers swingman Kent Bazemore to two-year deal … Rookies Parker, Wiggins make Summer League debut in front of packed houseLamar Odom‘s comeback bid with Knicks ends quicklySuns acquire Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas in trade.

Morning Shootaround — July 11


VIDEO: Like the rest of us, Phil Jackson is waiting to see what happens next in free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Wade served as late Heat pitchman? | Report: Bulls staying in ‘Melo chase | Rockets face Parsons dilemma | Journeyman Wallace questions LeBron’s ‘fight’

No. 1: Report: Wade as last-minute Miami pitchman for LeBron?LeBron James finished up his skills camp in Las Vegas yesterday, concluding an eventful few days for the NBA star in the desert as he met with Heat boss Pat Riley out there a few days ago. The hubbub yesterday that James was all-but certainly headed back to Cleveland reached a boil yesterday, but by the end of the night, no word had come from LeBron about his choice. The Associated Press and other outlets reported that James had left Vegas with Heat teammate Dwyane Wade to fly back to Miami. But did that flight include a final Heat pitch from James’ longtime friend? Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has more:

Hours after the Cleveland Cavaliers believed they were on the cusp of a commitment out of LeBron James, the superstar free agent jetted 30,000 feet over America with Dwyane Wade on his way back to Miami.

The fight for the generation’s biggest free agent raged out of the desert and back to the shores of Biscayne Bay on Thursday night, with James tempering a brimming belief within the Cavaliers into a trepidation that Wade could be playing the part of Pat Riley’s closer for the Miami Heat.

Cleveland had been carefully listening to the direction of James’ agent Rich Paul, who has been privately telling people for weeks – even months and years – that he has been determined to deliver the prodigal son of Northeast Ohio back home.

In the late morning, the Cavaliers operated with a belief James would soon commit to them, that it was only a matter of time. They had word out of everyone, except as one high-ranking source said, “It still hasn’t been confirmed by the only man whose confirmation counts.”

If James had left the free-agent process to his agent in the days after July 1, leaving him to meetings described as “a tremendous waste of time,” by one executive pitching the Cavaliers, James had returned and taken over the process himself. For all Paul’s leveraging and positioning with teams, James was back and he was running things again. Suddenly, there was no commitment on Thursday.

James played in games in his skills camp in Las Vegas and found himself photographed throughout the day with Wade. Twenty-four hours earlier on Wednesday, Heat president Pat Riley and assistant general manager Andy Elisburg met with Wade and Paul for an hour, discussing the possibilities of a Heat extension and roster overhaul. James left unconvinced, and Riley stayed with the franchise’s cool, nonplussed disposition over the James’ free agency. Riley hasn’t been bombarding James with text messages and calls, but ultimately left Wade as a most intriguing, last-gasp suitor in the desert. As much as anything, Wade’s bad knees could be chasing him out of Miami, and suddenly he had been cast back into the recruiter’s role.

Only there was no contract signed on late Thursday night, sources said. Chis Bosh remained committed to staying if James commits to Miami, or moving onto the Houston Rockets should James leave for the Cavaliers, sources said.

For a fleeting few hours on Thursday, Cleveland awaited a telephone call that never had come out of LeBron James four years ago. The Cavaliers believed they had James again, and perhaps maybe they still do. James did one more victory lap with Wade in Vegas, flew back to Miami and his next call might be the hardest of all.

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Live Blog: James back to Cleveland

From NBA.com staff reports

Free-agents could sign deals yesterday and we saw some movement on that front Thursday, but the guys everyone is waiting to hear from — LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony — still haven’t revealed their choice. We’re here to keep up with everything going on in the free-agency world, so be sure to check back often …

Free Agent Tracker | More Free Agency updates

Update, 12:17 p.m. — LEBRON IS GOING TO CLEVELAND

He tells Sports Illustrated in an exclusive.

Update, 11:58 a.m. — Report: Letter a non-issue?

News about LeBron James, Dan Gilbert and the impact of Gilbert’s letter posted to the Cavs’ website four years ago are flying about. Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel has an update on just what that letter might actually mean to LBJ …

Update, 11:55 a.m. — That ‘other’ contender in the East

While folks are worrying where you-know-who might be headed, let’s not forget the team that did finish with the best record in the East, the Indiana Pacers. Coach Frank Vogel had a couple of things to say about LeBron, the team’s efforts to land Lance Stephenson and more

(And, ICYMI, the Pacers added to their roster today by adding C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez and re-signing Lavoy Allen)

Update, 11:03 a.m. — Report: Wade unsure of James’ leaning

LeBron James reportedly boarded a flight to travel from his basketball skills camp in Las Vegas to Miami with his Heat teammate, Dwyane Wade, who was said to be on the flight. Who knows what they talked about, but Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski ventures a sourced report that Wade may have been there to provide a last-minute sales job to James on staying in Miami

Wojnarowski provided another update on that flight and chat, which basically keeps the LeBron decision as ambiguous as its always been …

Update, 10:56 a.m. — Magic officially ink Gordon

The Orlando Magic aren’t expected to make a lot of noise in free agency this summer, but they’ve made one move official that was one of the early shockers of the offseason — signing Ben Gordon to a multi-year deal:

Update, 10:34 a.m. — Pierce out at WSOP

Paul Pierce is one of those many, MANY free agents waiting to make his next move in terms of a roster decision. While he was doing so, he spent some time participating in the World Series of Poker tournament, but, alas, he’s out of the running.

ESPNNewYork.com’s Mike Mazzeo has more:

Paul Pierce made a remarkable run in the 2014 World Series of Poker Main Event.

But his dreams of cashing were squashed early Friday morning, when he was eliminated just shy of the money.

According to ESPN.com’s poker expert Andrew Feldman, Pierce finished in around 800th place. The top 693 finishers get paid.

Nevertheless, Pierce has nothing to be ashamed of. This year’s tournament field featured 6,683 entrants, and the future Hall of Fame forward, who played last season with the Brooklyn Nets, nearly made it to Day 4 in the $10,000 buy-in No-Limit Texas Hold ‘Em event.

Pierce was ousted in tough fashion. He went all-in with a board of A-J-3-6-4. Pierce held A-4, two pair, but his opponent, after thinking for a few minutes, called and showed A-J, top two pair. (You can find more details here).

Update, 10:27 a.m. — Hulk Hogan & LeBron James, world changers

Fans of the NBA (and late 1990s pro wrestling) might like this little piece from SI.com’s Extra Mustard crew about how the decisions Hulk Hogan and LeBron James made forever changed sports fandom …

Update, 10:12 a.m. — Morrow getting attention

Most free agents are waiting it out to see what Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James do next. One free agent that continues to draw interest — as our David Aldridge tweeted last night — is New Orleans Pelicans sharpshooter Anthony Morrow

Update, 10:02 a.m. — Some dollars-and-cents facts on LBJ

If LeBron James ends up shifting from Miami to another destination, how does it affect the Heat’s bottom line? ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell spells it out a bit …

Update, 9:18 a.m. — A little look inside the LBJ’s Vegas Camp

The main reason LeBron James was in Las Vegas the last few days was to hold his LeBron James Skills Academy for top-flight high school and college players. The folks over at BallIsLife.com and PointGuardU provide some insight into what went on at the actual camp on the court …

Update, 9:05 a.m. — Just in the neighborhood

He might be in Miami (or who knows where), but hopeful Cavs fans have set up a camp of sorts near LeBron’s home in Ohio

Update 8:46 a.m. — Cleaning up the Bath …

One of the big storylines last night in regards to a potential LeBron James-Cleveland Cavaliers reunion was that the police in Bath Township, Ohio, had been notified by LeBron’s crew to alert them to an announcement last night.

The Akron Beacon-Journal‘s Jason Lloyd clears up what that was all about:

Update, 8:15 a.m. — Report: Gilbert’s letter still an issue for LeBron

Shortly after LeBron James famously made his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in 2010, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert authored a scathing takedown of James that was published on the Cavs’ website. The letter lingered on the site for years and was recently removed (SB Nation details the process here), but it seems that letter might be hurting the Cavs’ chances of getting James back.

Chris Broussard of ESPN.com has more

One reason, if not the major reason, that LeBron James has taken so long to decide whether to play in Miami or Cleveland next season is the infamous letter Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert penned about James after the superstar left Cleveland in 2010, sources said.

In the letter, written in Comic Sans font, Gilbert called James a “coward” and mocked the many nicknames and catchphrases attached to James, such as “King James,” “The Chosen One” and “Witness.”

The letter remained on the Cavs’ website for the past four years until the team removed it earlier this week.

While James recognizes that informing Cavs fans and Gilbert, who was told of James’ decision to leave Cleveland in a telephone call five minutes before it was announced, on national television was a mistake, he is still wrestling with whether or not to return to play for Gilbert’s team.

“If it wasn’t for that letter, this would’ve been done awhile ago,” one source said.

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Morning Shootaround — July 10


VIDEO: What might LeBron James do next in free agency?

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: LeBron leaves meeting with no decision made | Uncertainty reigns in Anthony’s decision | Report: Nets to pay $90M in luxury taxes | Report: Bulls pick up pursuit of Gasol

No. 1: Reports: LeBron leaves meeting with no commitment to Heat — Well, the LeBron James-Pat Riley-Miami Heat summit in Las Vegas is done and the team has no more of an idea of where LeBron will choose to play next season and beyond. The choices, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, seem to come down to the incumbent Heat and his old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Depending on which report you read, the decision may happen soon … or, who knows when. First, here’s Wojnarowski first on the meeting:

Superstar free agent LeBron James met with Miami Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday in Las Vegas and left without committing to a new contract, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

No decision date has been set, a source close to James told Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears.

James and his agent Rich Paul met with Riley on the same day the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to a three-team trade to clear enough salary-cap room to make James a maximum contract offer, opening a path for his possible homecoming, sources said. The Cavaliers are also pursuing a trade for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, contingent on James returning to Cleveland, sources told Yahoo Sports.

If James leaves Miami, Chris Bosh‘s intention is to also leave the Heat, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Bosh has been speaking with the Houston Rockets, who are prepared to clear enough cap room to offer him a four-year, $88 million contract.

If the Cavs can’t get James, their backup plan remains making a run at signing free-agent forward Trevor Ariza, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Timberwolves will demand Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs’ No. 1 overall pick from last month’s NBA draft, be a part of any proposed deal, sources told Yahoo Sports.

ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard and Brian Windhorst also have a report on the meeting and what might be next for James:

LeBron James met with Miami Heat officials for more than an hour Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas but emerged without a decision about his future, sources told ESPN.com.

James and his agent Rich Paul are done meeting with teams, according to sources close to the situation. James now will talk with his family and make his choice.

There is no timetable for James’ decision, but with him reportedly planning to attend the World Cup this weekend in Brazil, a decision before then seems likely.

The Rockets’ position, however, got more complicated on Wednesday when their restricted free agent Chandler Parsons signed a three-year offer from the Mavericks for more than $45 million, which the Rockets have three days to match.

If the Rockets match, they will lose the requisite cap space needed to sign Bosh. They can match the offer and still afford Bosh, but only if they sign Bosh first. To make room for Bosh, the Rockets will need to execute at least two trades, likely involving Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, to clear cap space.

The Heat were represented at Wednesday’s meeting with James by president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg. James was joined by Paul. This was the first known face-to-face meeting James has held since officially becoming a free agent on July 1. James’ agent met or spoke with officials from the Mavericks, Rockets, Suns, Cavaliers and Lakers last week, but James was not present.

James spent Wednesday morning and evening working out, playing pickup and speaking to high school and college stars at his LeBron James Skills Academy basketball camp.

(more…)

Blogtable: Say LBJ goes to Cleveland …

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: Idle summertime chatter | LeBron + Cavs = ??? | The Good & Bad of ‘Melo in NY



VIDEO: Four years later, former NBA exec Stu Jackson reflects on “The Decision”

> There are a lot of “ifs” to consider, but IF LeBron goes back to Cleveland, are the Cavs really good enough to win the East?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI like the idea of LeBron going back to Cleveland and leading all that potential and raw talent to the top of the East standings. The roster now looks better to me than the crew that won 66 games in 2008-09. Several of the Cavs would get better almost overnight from the defensive attention paid to James. What would they be lacking? A savvy veteran backcourt player would help. Also: Bubble-wrap for Anderson Varejao to keep him healthy.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: If he were to go back to Cleveland, it obviously means the best team in the East has broken up. The Cavs would lack overall experience, cohesion and any real clue what it takes to get though the playoffs.  But hey, they’d have LeBron and a puncher’s chance.  He’s taken a team with less raw talent to The Finals in 2007.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.comOnly because the East is so weak, the answer is yes. It would take Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao to stay healthy — and that’s never a given — and for last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett to contribute. They could use a knock-down 3-point shooter or two. You figure a LeBron-less Miami falls out and Indiana might not have Lance Stephenson plus they’ve got a major mental reconstruction job. Toronto and Washington should be on the rise. Maybe the Nets under Lionel Hollins will have a say. But any team with LeBron has to be given a legitimate shot.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: TBD. Who do the Cavaliers have to offload to make the money — and possibly the sign-and-trade — work? Do the Bulls get Carmelo Anthony? Cleveland could be good enough. I’ll go that far. James, Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Andrew Wiggins is a nice first five for the future, plus maybe Dion Waiters. But I would still pick Chicago with Carmelo, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, Doug McDermott and others.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: No. I’m not ready to vault this theoretical Cleveland team past Indiana right now. That said, with LeBron, the only thing the Cavaliers would be lacking is the needed seasoning to compete at the highest level. All that young talent they’ve piled up is fine, save for the fact that they’ve only seen the playoffs on TNT and other networks. They’ll also need to piece together some chemistry overnight. But they’d be right there behind Indiana and capable of overtaking the Pacers if we see the same kind of mental and emotional fragility we saw from the No. 1 seed Pacers we saw last season.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Last season the Cavs didn’t even make the playoffs. Adding LeBron and Andrew Wiggins would be about the best one-two punch you could find. But to me, experience and outside shooting are the two things lacking that jump out at me. The Cavs were in the bottom half of the league last season in 3-point shooting, and that was how the Spurs dissected Miami last year — spreading them out and knocking down jumpers. Miami’s Achilles’ heel was rebounding, and I don’t know that the Cavs have much better depth along the front line than the Heat. It’s funny to me that everyone kinda writes off the Heat — they made it to the Finals and actually split the first two games. To me, the Heat with Bron are closer to another Finals run than Cleveland would be.

Marcelo Nogueira, NBA Argentina: It wouldn’t be enough to just have LeBron back in Cleveland to win the Eastern Conference. The Cavs would need LeBron and a scientist to create a LeBron clone.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: First of all, any team with LeBron in the starting five becomes a contender. Moreover the Cavs have the talent to support him. Andrew Wiggins is a player with tremendous potential and Kyrie Irving has showcased his All-Star quality. Anderson Varejao if healthy is a great role player, Spencer Hawes can reallly stretch the floor and become a great asset for a LeBron-James-playing-style, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett are rising stars. If their core can overcome their injury-filled destiny they can be the next big thing, for sure.

Rodrigo Méndez, NBA Mexico: The Cavs, for those seven years LeBron James played in Cleveland — with a championship eluding them — had a chance to learn a few things. Now if LeBron returns, those lessons come to fruition: build a team around the star, a complete team with a good defense and a full suit of complements on the court and on the bench. That last lesson they can take from the Heat, which had trouble surrounding LBJ in 2013-14.

Deng weighing options, including one (Chicago) seldom mentioned


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses Luol Deng’s strengths

CHICAGO – LeBron James would have to get past the flaming jerseys, the Comic Sans and the instant chasm that opened between him and Dan Gilbert, owner of the team for which he performed and amassed profits for the first seven NBA seasons.

Luol Deng would have his own set of baggage with which to grapple if he were to consider returning to the team that drafted him 10 years ago.

Putting to the test the old Thomas Wolfe-inspired aphorism “You can’t go home again” might seem quaint when the likes of Jason Kidd and others involved in last week’s Brooklyn-Milwaukee sleight of hand kept repeating “this is business”. But then, this is business, so maybe – somehow, some way – James can go back to Cleveland. And Deng can go back to Chicago.

While the former possibility (however slight) has the NBA and its fan base intrigued, maybe even fixated, the latter is generating nary a peep in the vast Chicagoland sports media market. Despite all those airwave hours and blank Web pages to fill, the idea that Bulls VP John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman would turn to the third-most desirable small forward in 2014 free agency (after James and Carmelo Anthony) seems to captivate no one.

Too awkward?

Too weird?

Too bad.

The Bulls claim to be committed to goosing the roster and changing the movie of Derrick Rose‘s second major comeback from knee surgery in as many years. But the prospect of bringing back Deng, the two-time All-Star who toiled longer and harder than any Bulls player over the past decade, hasn’t garnered a blip on the radar.

Blame the baggage. The steamer trunk in that set came in January, when the Bulls came at Deng with a 1-2 punch in a hurried-up bit of contract-extension negotiating. They offered him a reported three-year, $30 million deal that wasn’t so much take it-or-leave it as it was take it-or-leave US; when Deng declined, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for draft picks and payroll relief via Andrew Bynum‘s contract.

It was an abrupt parting considering all Deng and the Bulls had been through together, his status as one of the team’s leaders, his skill set and the way Tom Thibodeau relied on him every way an NBA coach can. The locker room shook that day, emotional center Joakim Noah went into a temporary funk and, on the heels of Rose’s latest injury six weeks earlier, it looked like a tank job and felt even worse.

Being banished to the Cavaliers was no prize for Deng, either. His production and enjoyment faltered, and the “the Bulls don’t miss Deng” stories coming out of Chicago didn’t help. (They were 10-13 with Deng, 38-21 without or after him.) (more…)

No takers in Chicago?


VIDEO: The Bulls were on Carmelo Anthony‘s short list of teams he visited

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If the answer was an easy one, Carmelo Anthony might have already committed to continuing his NBA future in Chicago. Or perhaps LeBron James would have chosen to take his talents to the Windy City in the summer of 2010 instead of to South Beach.

There is no question the Chicago Bulls offer the proper platform for any superstar looking to chase his championship dreams. The organization has a rich title-winning history (the Michael Jordan era remains fresh in the minds of many). There is a resident superstar, albeit one who is coming off two straight seasons of significant injury issues, in Derrick Rose. There is already an elite rim protector and defensive backbone in KIA Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. And there is a coaching savant in charge in Tom Thibodeau.

The Bulls have stable ownership, a shrewd front office led by Gar Forman and John Paxson, cap space, again, and with the league’s moratorium on free agent signings just days away from being lifted, the Bulls don’t have a taker for all that they offer.

The Bulls are not out of the ‘Melo sweepstakes yet. According to the Chicago Tribune they are still alive, but they are not the favorite to land him despite being the logical fit. The Bulls need an elite scorer to pair with Rose and Anthony can basically get 30 in his sleep.

Why is it so hard for the Bulls to snag one of these available superstars?

And I don’t want to hear anything about the harsh climate. Chicago is a world-class city and the Bulls don’t play outdoors. So we can toss the weather report out as a factor right now.

There are deeper issues at play here, in my mind, and they have more to do with the nuts and bolts components of the Bulls team awaiting the player who takes the leap.

  • Is it the trepidation about what Rose will be like in his latest comeback, the worry that his MVP days are over and perhaps he’ll be merely a good but not great player? Rose’s future is easily the most pressing issue for any superstar considering the Bulls. The Bulls couldn’t get over the hump when he was healthy, so there is no guarantee they’ll be able to do so now.
  • Maybe the prospect of playing for a grinder like Thibodeau, who is relentless in his approach to everything from practice to the postgame messages he delivers to the media, isn’t as attractive to the superstar crowd as it is to blue-collar studs like Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and others.
  • And even though we are two full NBA generations removed from the Jordan era, elite stars like Anthony and James have to wrestle with the vast shadow cast by the player considered by most to be the greatest that’s ever played. The prospect of trying to live up to his legend, in the same jersey, is added pressure no one needs.

To be fair, the Bulls didn’t enter free agency last week with all of the flexibility of some of the other major players on the market this summer, as K.C. Johnson of the Tribune pointed out:

Entering free agency, the Bulls always knew that, without a sign-and-trade transaction, they couldn’t compete with the Knicks’ five-year, $129 million offer or even the Lakers’ four-year, $96 million deal without gutting their team. But Anthony is the one who emphasized winning is a priority. And athletes often can maximize endorsement potential by doing exactly that.

Even the most jaded free-agency observer might agree the Bulls offer the best chance to win in 2014-15.

The fact Taj Gibson played an active part of the Bulls’ pitch played to Anthony’s desire to keep Gibson and possibly join a ready-to-win roster. A source familiar with the Bulls’ pitch said Anthony and Gibson “connected.”

Without a sign-and-trade and by keeping Gibson, the Bulls only can offer Anthony a four-year, roughly $73 million deal via salary-cap space. This is one of the many reasons acquiring Anthony via a sign-and-trade is more ideal. It can make Anthony’s offer far more lucrative and allow the Bulls to remain over the salary cap, thus allowing them to sign other players via exceptions.

Multiple outlets, including the Tribune, have reported that Knicks President Phil Jackson hasn’t shown much inclination for sign-and-trade talks. This, obviously, could change should Anthony inform Jackson he’s choosing the Bulls.

The Bulls have been used before in the post-Jordan era. Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill and even Tim Duncan all flirted with the Bulls in free agency and ultimately decided to go elsewhere, for whatever their specific reasons were.

I’m convinced the Jordan factor, no one wants to follow “The Man,” was at play for all of those guys. Trying to live up to that sort of standard would have made their basketball lives far more difficult than going somewhere else and establishing a championship legacy of their own (And Duncan has certainly done a fine job of that).

The challenge for today’s stars, however, is much more about Rose than the ghosts of Jordan, Scottie Pippen or even former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, whose reputation hurt the Bulls with big-time free agents for years after he was gone.

Rose is not only the Bulls’ resident superstar, he’s the hometown kid who will always have sway with the organization. He was the first Bulls’ star after Jordan to reach MVP status and put the team back into the ranks of the league’s elite. No one will ever forget that. And anyone who shows up trying to force their way into his realm will no doubt be viewed through that prism.

These superstar conglomerates require some shared sacrifices, financial and otherwise, among players who consider themselves friends and even brothers, in a sense. Rose has been a reluctant, at best, recruiter and a loner of sorts in a league where relationships between players are paramount this time of year.

Having grown up in a previous era of the league, I can appreciate Rose’s “we’ll win with or without you” approach.

But it’s become clear to me that perhaps the biggest impediment to the Bulls attracting another superstar is the superstar already in place …

Morning Shootaround — July 7


VIDEO: Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports joins GameTime to talk about free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Cavs have shot at landing LeBron | No word on ‘Melo for Bulls | Report: Hibbert being shopped? | Uncertainty reigns for James, Anthony

No. 1: Report: Cavs trying to get in position for LeBron offer; James listening to offer? – Seemingly from the start of last season, there has been talk that perhaps and just maybe, Cleveland could find a way to bring Ohio native LeBron James back to the team that originally drafted him. Although James would have nothing to do with such talk — or any free-agency chatter — during the season, the notion remained out there. As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports, the Cavs are doing everything they can roster-wise to be in position to sign LeBron if he so chooses to return to them:

At the urging of LeBron James’ agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers are pursuing a maximum contract salary slot to bring back the free-agent superstar, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Rich Paul, the president of Klutch Sports, has been funneling belief into the organization that the Cavaliers are in strong position to lure James from the Miami Heat, sources told Yahoo Sports.

For years, Paul has confided to people that bringing back James to Cleveland has been something of a mission for him, and he’s encouraging Cavaliers officials to offer no restraint in the recruitment of James, sources said.

Paul will be joining James for a sit-down meeting with Miami president Pat Riley early this week, when there could come more clarity on James’ future with the Heat. Riley has been recruiting free agents to join Miami, but has been limited in salary cap space to make competitive offers and limited in the ability to promise players they’ll get to play with James.

For the Cavaliers, the shedding of contracts to create salary-cap space isn’t a tremendous risk. For James, a four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion, the stakes are far higher. If Paul gets up the hopes of the franchise and Northeast Ohio without delivering James’ return, Paul risks playing a part in turning James into a villain all over again.

Nevertheless, the Cavaliers have little choice but to dutifully make the moves necessary to make James an offer. The biggest obstacle remains unloading the contract of Jarrett Jack. The Cavaliers have found a landing spot for Jack and his $6.2 million annual salary in the Brooklyn Nets, but only if the Cavs can find a third team to take on Brooklyn’s Marcus Thornton, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Cleveland is offering Thornton and future draft considerations as incentive to absorb his $8.7 million expiring contract, sources said. The Cavaliers need to unload more contracts and have made 2013 first-round pick Sergey Karasev, among others, available in deals, sources said.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein report that James may in fact be listening to the Cavs’ offer, but they have work to do to land the former MVP:

After more than two years of planning, the Cleveland Cavaliers, believe they have LeBron James legitimately listening to their pitch to leave the Miami Heat and return to his home state in free agency, according to sources close to the process.

There has yet to be a firm indication that James actually is ready to leave Miami after four years and two championships with the Heat, but sources told ESPN.com that the four-time MVP is increasingly considering the Cavaliers as an option as he moves into the final stages of deciding which team to sign his next contract with.

A critical face-to-face meeting looms with Heat president Pat Riley on a day to be determined this week, sources confirmed Sunday night, so that James can hear the Hall of Famer’s plans for the Heat’s roster. But James’ agent, Rich Paul, has already sat down with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in what is regarded as the first formal step toward trying to shrink the gulf between James and Gilbert after the ocean of hard feelings stemming from James’ departure from Cleveland in 2010 to sign with the Heat.

Sources say that the Cavs’ pitch made to Paul last week — which they also hope to make this week to James in their own face-to-face meeting — revolves around Kyrie Irving and the other young prospects they have, in addition to the numerous options Cleveland possesses to add to the roster over the next year.

The Cavs also believe they have made the greatest move yet this summer, convincing Irving to sign a five-year maximum contract extension in the first few hours of free agency. With No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins under control for the next five seasons as well, the Cavs are pitching youth and roster stability to James, who played on one of the oldest teams in the league last season.

The team also potentially owns three first-round picks in the 2015 draft, including the Heat’s pick if they fall outside the top 10. They also have the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick if it falls between Nos. 6 and 14 and their own pick. The Cavs believe they can use these as assets in potential trades to further upgrade the roster if James will come aboard.

(more…)

Morning shootaround — July 5



VIDEO: GameTime reports on Carmelo Anthony’s visit with the Lakers

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bosh as Miami’s “go-to” free agent | Bulls closer to Mirotic arrival | Lakers face empty summer, long season | Blazers’ market woes show in Hawes signing

No. 1: Bosh as Miami’s “go-to” free agent — The pecking order to 2014 free agency seemed clear from the start: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and everybody else. Even James as the marketplace’s big kahuna deserved an asterisk, given the conventional wisdom that he simply was stepping back temporarily to a) allow Miami president Pat Riley some financial elbow room to maneuver for help, and b) hold the Heat’s feet to the fire a little in rounding up that help.
The thinking then, anyway, was that once Anthony made his decision – or gave an indication of his leanings, which in this case suggest the New York scoring star might stay with the Knicks for a five-year, $129 milllion maximum offer – other dominos would fall. Only now it’s looking as if Chris Bosh, Miami’s “third” among three Super Friends over the past four seasons, not only might be one of those tiles but that he might be leapfrogging James in his impact on this summer’s market.
There might be unexpected uncertainty around James – might he actually sign elsewhere? – but there’s no doubting the interest in Bosh, for the same sort of maximum money The King would get, from multiple teams. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com touched on that and the ways Bosh might wind up better off if the doesn’t re-sign with the Heat:

Perhaps the biggest sign pointing to Anthony re-signing with the Knicks is the growing interest from one of his suitors, the Rockets, in Heat free agent Chris Bosh. Bosh possibly going to the Rockets (or to the Lakers or Mavs) proves why the notion of Bosh taking a $10 million pay cut to stay in Miami was never realistic. With the Bulls, Rockets, Mavs, Lakers, Cavs, Suns and potentially others chasing James, Anthony or both, there are more teams than there are LeBrons and Melos (only one of each). Once James and Anthony have made a decision, the teams that lost out will be lining up to create a market for Bosh.
Thus, with James waiting for Heat president Pat Riley to revamp the roster and with Dwyane Wade leaving $42 million on the table at age 32, Bosh is the member of the Big Three most likely to break away. Multiple league sources say there will be a close-to-max market for Bosh if Anthony and James stay with their respective teams. One of those people, an executive with a rival team, said the growing belief around the league is that Bosh would prefer a four-year max deal with another team to a discounted longer deal with Miami.

***

No. 2: Bulls closer to Mirotic arrival – Chicago ranks fifth among the five primary suitors for Anthony in terms of the money it can pay him. If the Bulls keep their core intact to stay attractive enough to Carmelo as a title contender, they’ll be limited in cap space and need him to leave more than $60 million on the table for what wouldn’t be a sure thing in the ring department. That reality was starting to sink in for the team’s fans as it learned more about Nikola Mirotic, the Euro-stashed “stretch four,” along with available Lakers forward Pau Gasol from Chicago Tribune beat writer K.C. Johnson:

Per league rules, the Bulls can contribute up to $600,000 of Mirotic’s buyout without that amount going on their books. Exceeding that would be considered a signing bonus and would take away valuable salary-cap space.
That’s space the Bulls most want to use to sign Anthony. But in the wake of reports that the Knicks and Lakers have offered the All-Star forward a maximum contract, the Bulls started their contingency plans by traveling to Los Angeles on Thursday to meet with Pau Gasol and other free agents.
The Bulls face strong competition for Gasol, who has drawn interest from the Knicks, Thunder, Spurs and Heat. The Lakers, who paid him $19.3 million last season, also want him back at a reduced salary.
The Bulls could outbid all of those suitors except perhaps the Lakers. They left their meeting with the impression Gasol’s decision wasn’t imminent.
***
Mirotic, who reportedly had issues with his Real Madrid coach that could have hastened his decision to try the NBA, fits the Bulls’ desire to add shooting around Derrick Rose. That process began with the draft-day acquisition of Doug McDermott.

***

No. 3: Lakers face empty summer, long season — It’s going to take some getting-used-to, this sense of the NBA getting bigger and better with two of its most storied franchises (ever notice how you only read “storied” in sportswriting?) stuck in extended pit stops. Boston’s basketball version of the Big Dig continues at about the same pace as the tedious highway project there, while the Los Angeles Lakers have almost swapped identities with the old L.A. Clippers in terms of any “wow!” factors. Longtime L.A.-based NBA scribe Mark Heisler, in a piece for Forbes’ Web site, held a magnifying glass up to the Lakers and their currently squished hopes in free agency. He drops a “storied” in there, too:

Just asking: If they wanted to pursue James and Anthony, why, oh, why did they give Kobe Bryant that $48.5 million extension, cluttering up next season’s salary cap with $23.5 million of it?
With Steve Nash waived and “stretched” so his cap charge goes down to $3.2 million, that would have left four more players under contract (Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly, rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson) with enough for a maximum offer ($22.4 million in first-year salary for Melo, $20 million for Bron) and $10-12 million to give six more players… after renouncing Pau Gasol.
Thus the Lakers were asking Anthony–and will ask James–to play with the 36-year-old Bryant; two rookies; one second-year second-round pick and eight guys off the waiver wire.
Hopefully, no one laughs in their face but for a storied franchise in what was once the NBA’s destination of choice, that’s not a serious offer.
In fact when the team gave Bryant that extension–at the prompting of Jeanie Buss, the popular member of the family, before Kobe returned from injury and lasted six games–the word around the organization was: We did this knowing that James and Anthony aren’t likely to be on the market and if they are, we’re not likely to have a shot at them.
It’s now clear that the Buss kids weren’t capable of thinking Bryant’s extension through. Many misadventures later, with Kobe as frantic as they are, they’re desperate for a big score, even with James and Anthony the only stars on the market and little chance that either of them would leave.

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No. 4: Blazers’ market woes show in Hawes signing — Maybe fans in downtrodden NBA markets such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, Minnesota and Orlando can take a little solace in this: You don’t have to be frigid or years away from a .500 record to be considered “unglamorous” as a destination for NBA players. Portland – a terrific Northwest city that offers a swell blend of cosmopolitan and outdoorsy living – feels dissed too, and the Trail Blazers were a fun-to-watch playoff team two months ago.
Apparently, though, Spencer Hawes had a bigger stage in mind when he chose the Clippers over the Blazers for the same mid-level exception payout (which frankly would spend bigger in Oregon than in the L.A. market). That’s how Portland ended up instead with Chris Kaman rather than Hawes, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com tells it. And come to think of it, we don’t hear Portland as a destination for Kevin Love, despite the fact that the Timberwolves antsy-to-leave All-Star grew up in the area:

All Portland could offer Hawes was the midlevel exception, which is what he accepted from the Clippers. In fact, according to league sources, Portland offered Hawes the same exact contract — length and terms – that the Clippers will pay out.
At the end of the day, after stops in Sacramento, Philadelphia and Cleveland, the lure of playing in an area he knows all too well being a Seattle native wasn’t enough to prevent Hawes from seeking out a team on the upswing in a major market such as Los Angeles.
The Trail Blazers quickly executed Plan B to perfection, but what’s concerning is the stigma that seems to remain that big-time free agents won’t come to Portland. And no disrespect to Hawes, but he’s nowhere close to being a “big-time” free agent. The Trail Blazers met with Channing Frye this week in Portland, we’re told. He resides in the city during the offseason. One can conclude that he was out of their price range.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Assuming Melo can’t be got, Houston would love to lure Bosh. He’d fit, first of all, and he’d be the adult among their three stars. … Here are some fallback positions for the Mavericks and the Lakers, too, along with the Rockets and the Bulls. … Derrick Rose wouldn’t have pursued a career in sales. Can’t we just leave it at that? Some people’s work personalities are best suited to quiet cubicles. … Mike Budenholzer‘s cachet as coach and the presence of former teammates Kyle Korver and now Thabo Sefolosha might steer forward Luol Deng to Atlanta . … Remember Bobby Simmons, the NBA’s Most Improved Award winner in 2005? He was honored again in June.