Last season the Bulls could see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this season?
Despite a successful surgery, Derrick Rose is not coming back. And it’s obvious that the Bulls cannot seriously contend without him. They gave an admirable performance last year before falling to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semis in five games.
With another year of its core — built to win now — lost to another devastating injury, the Bulls must consider the best long-term options for the franchise. The first name that comes to mind is Luol Deng. Deng is an excellent small forward who brings it on both ends of the court. He is one of the few players who can give LeBron James headaches on the defensive end. He scores the ball (16.8 ppg), rebounds well for his position (7.5), moves the ball (3.3 apg) and plays a style that will fit in with any system.
While those are all strong selling points, Deng is an unrestricted free agent at season’s, meaning he could just be a half-season rental. What are teams really willing to give up for Deng? The Bulls would likely command a haul of young assets for the two-time All-Star.
Teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers make sense, and they have the assets to be taken seriously, but in the end, Deng could just as easily stay put:
With that in mind, Deng, who will make $14.2 million this year in the final year of his six-year deal, probably will be with the Bulls for the long haul, a person familiar with both sides told USA TODAY Sports. Even though an expiring deal is ideal to trade, both sides appear to want to keep him on the team. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about a potential deal.
Furthermore, not many, if any, teams will be looking to deal high draft picks when the 2014 draft class is loaded, especially at the top.
The question for the Bulls is simple: approaching 30 years of age with an extreme amount of minutes under his belt, his Deng a piece to a future championship contender.
The question is whether they should maintain this roster in hopes of coalescing late in the season upon Rose’s return, or cut bait and begin repurposing the team for its next era — while potentially cutting this season’s tax bill in the process.
That begins, and might well end, with Deng’s $14 million expiring contract. The Bulls tabled extension talks with Deng before the season, but they’ve always maintained privately that they’d like to re-sign him as a long-term piece.
Chicago has an opportunity to bring Rose back to a different team next season. Despite a hefty salary, Deng has strong enough value around the league to bring back an asset to grow with Rose, who will likely take some time to work his way back from over two years away from the court. Still, he’ll only be 25 years old. Jimmy Butler can slide into Deng’s slot at the small forward position. And the Bulls could also clear cap room to bring in another young piece by using their amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer — in his 11th season — or attempt to trade him to a contender. Let’s not forget European star Nikola Mirotic, whom the Bulls have in their back pocket.
So where will all of this lead the Bulls?
Only time will tell.
Mike Woodson does not believe he’s lost the Knicks locker room
Winning solves a lot of problems, but that’s just something the Knicks can’t seem to figure out: how to shut up and win.
With expectations consistently set too high, there always has to be somebody to blame. And the problem for head coach Mike Woodson is that almost every player looks lost this season. Not even Carmelo Anthony has been his usually reliable self on the offensive end. So naturally, the questions turn to Woodson, whether there is merit or not:
“I don’t think I have lost the locker room,” Woodson said during his weekly spot on “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show” on ESPN New York 98.7. “I don’t think I have lost players from an individual standpoint. What I have lost is a Tyson Chandler and a Raymond Felton, that is what I have lost from my starting team.
“And I don’t know if you can go on any roster and take two starters out of their roster and they still survive,” Woodson added. “They might play in spurts like we are doing today. I am not making excuses, but I would sure love to take my chances with Tyson and Raymond in my lineup.”
It is admirable of Woodson to back his players — Chandler and Felton being two key pieces of the team — but at the end of the day, it’s just another excuse out of the Knicks.
The Knicks are a putrid 3-10 and have lost seven of nine without Chandler.
Should this be considered Woodson’s fault, though?
The Knicks are comprised of the same core that won 54 games and a playoff series last year — Anthony-Chandler-Felton-Smith — with Iman Shumpert, Amar’e Stoudemire, Metta World Peace, Andrea Bargnani and Tim Hardaway Jr. supporting them off of the bench. Three new additions in minor roles should not have this negative an effect on a team that won 54 games last season. Injuries may be the cause for an early season slump, but with Chandler or not, this team looks lost, frustrated and uninspiring.
But the Knicks have gone away from what made them successful just a year ago. They blitzed the league last year with a fast paced assault — ‘Melo at the four with a group of shooters flanking him on both sides — spreading the floor for him to operate. This wasn’t Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun offense, though. This was an offense built on patience through ball movement. Finding the right shot and knocking it down. Over and over and over again. That’s how the Knicks won 54 games, setting the single season NBA record for 3-pointers made in the process.
For whatever reason, that is not what identifies these Knicks though, despite being comprised largely of the same cast.
And it’s the coaches job to foster that identity, to blend the talent he has into a competitive team. Unfortunately in New York, sometimes competitive isn’t good enough.
Either way you look at it…
this does not bode well for Woodson.
Onto more from around the NBA
- Ty Lawson is thriving under new coach Brian Shaw: ““He’s an All-Star,” assessed Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, who watched Lawson slice his defense in consecutive games Saturday and Monday for 39 points and 20 assists. “He and [Tony] Parker are probably the two best paint penetration guys in basketball, and so it’s a big problem, it’s a huge problem. His speed is always in play and he’s shooting high 30s [percent] from 3. So if you lay way off of him he pulls up and shoots it.” Fears that the 5-foot-11 speedster would be stripped of his identity and his brilliant ability to blow by defenders and attack the rim would be compromised by Shaw’s plan for a more traditional, playoff-tested approach to offense have gone unfounded. After an 0-3 start that included losses to streaking Portland and San Antonio, Denver has won three in a row, seven of 10 and moved above .500 (7-6) for the first time this season after Monday’s 110-96 win at Dallas.”
“There’s obviously some differences in the way that George Karl played and the way that our team is playing, but we still want to run and try to take the first available shot,” Shaw said. “I think early on he was a little frustrated because my emphasis was on we have to play inside-out and get the ball inside and create penetration that way. But I think he’s picked and found his spots and he has a green light.”
- Washington’s Bradley Beal will be out at least two weeks: “Notably, this is the same type of injury, on the same bone, as Beal had last season. Hopefully this doesn’t become a recurring thing. Beal is Washington’s leading scorer and 19th in the NBA. He is shooting under 41 percent overall but nearly 44 percent from 3-point range. Twenty points per game is not easy to replace. The Wizards may try to do so by starting Martell Webster in the backcourt alongside John Wall. Webster had been starting at small forward in place of injured Trevor Ariza, who will return from a hamstring injury Tuesday night against the Lakers. Washington is 5-8 and right outside the playoff picture in the woefully weak Eastern Conference. Porter, a small forward, has yet to play and there is no timetable for his return from a hip injury, although he did participate in practice Monday.”
- Former NBA All-Star Josh Howard is attempting to work his way back to the NBA: “He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Two years later, he suffered a meniscus tear in the same knee. Nine months after that, he tore the ACL in his right knee. All of which helps explain why Howard is currently playing for the Austin Toros in the NBA’s Development League, making $25,000 for the season. ”Beggars can’t be choosy is what my grandma said,” Howard told Yahoo Sports. “I’m just happy to be out there playing. ”I love the game. Ultimately, this is a game I played as a kid to get outside of the house away from grandma and mama – ‘You ain’t going to make me vacuum today. I’m going to play ball.’ ” Howard said he was “at his lowest” after injuring his knee for the second time. Rather than attempt yet another comeback from knee surgery, Howard could have opted to retire. He said he’s invested well and saved money after listening to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.”
- The Sacramento Kings offer Derrick Williams a second chance: “The Sacramento Kings are hoping he can still fulfill all that early promise, as they finalized a trade for him Tuesday in which they sent veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute to the Timberwolves. The cost was relatively cheap, as first-year general manager Pete D’Alessandro had landed Mbah a Moute from the Milwaukee Bucks in July in exchange for two future second-round picks. The high-scoring Timberwolves were on the lookout for defensive help, which made Mbah a Moute attractive and paved the way for the deal.”
- Grantland’s Zach Lowe examines Paul George’s fast start and superstar potential: “Perhaps no one more than George himself, who has come jetting out of the gates this season as one of the half-dozen best all-around players in the league. He’s eighth overall in player efficiency rating after finishing tied for 87th (with Jason Smith!) last season. He’s playing the best defense of his career, both as an on-ball menace and as a help defender capable of crashing into the paint and darting back out to challenge a shooter without losing his pinpoint balance. And most encouraging of all, George is using a much larger slice of Indiana’s possessions to create his own offense, and he has managed that without the kind of hike in turnovers he suffered last season when he picked up Danny Granger’s slack.”
George has used nearly 29 percent of Indiana’s possessions so far, and coughed the ball up on just 12 percent of those possessions. Only two players league-wide soaked up such a large portion of their team’s possessions last season while turning the ball over so rarely: Carmelo Anthony and Brook Lopez. One is a midrange gunner who lacks George’s commitment to passing and defense. The other is a devastating post scorer whose job is to finish. For George to be scoring so efficiently with the turnover profile of a shoot-first type is remarkable.
- Mavs’ big man Samuel Dalembert was benched for oversleeping: “DeJuan Blair started in the place of Dalembert, whose reputation for being unreliable is one reason the 12-year veteran is playing for his fifth team in five seasons.Bernard James subbed in for Blair before Dalembert started the second quarter. ”I’m very disappointed in myself,” said Dalembert, who had two points, two blocks, three rebounds and three fouls in 18 minutes off the bench. “I don’t have an excuse. It shouldn’t happen. I’m still trying to get over it. I’m very upset.” “Just saying it frustrates me. It pisses me off. I shouldn’t put myself in that situation.” Dalembert has been playing with bruised ribs, but his injury had nothing to do with missing the shootaround. He appeared to be visibly upset while discussing the situation with the media.”
- Dirk Nowitzki has received a warning from the NBA about flopping: “That’s the club of star players who have gotten a warning from the league about flopping. Nowitzki earned his in the third quarter of the Mavericks’ loss to Denver Monday night, when Darrell Arthur closed out and contested the jumper and Nowitzki fell like he was reenacting the Kennedy assassination in honor of the 50th anniversary. The first time a player is called out by the league he gets a warning (as Nowitzki did), then the fines start in $5,000 increments. Which is going to really slow down Nowitzki, who is making $22 million this season. The flopping club is a popular one, other name players with warnings this season are Kevin Love, John Walland Chris Paul — plus James Harden has topped them all with a warning and a second offense earning him a $5,000. Other players hit with warnings have been Iman Shupert, Corey Brewer, Patty Mills, Zaza Pachulia, Anderson Varejao and Jared Sullinger.”
- Mitch Kupchak is certain the Lakers will compete despite Kobe’s large contract: “Even with so much money committed to Bryant — his $23.5 million salary accounts for more than a third of the expected $62.9 million salary cap next season — Kupchak believes the Lakers can fill in enough pieces around him to compete for another Larry O’Brien Trophy. And what a title that would be — Bryant’s sixth, to tie his idol Michael Jordan, and the team’s 17th, to tie the rival Boston Celtics. ”I think we do,” Kupchak said on a conference call with a small group of reporters. “I think we do. The challenges are there. The collective bargaining agreement doesn’t make it any easier for anybody. It’s restrictive and challenging, but yes, I do believe we can.” Asked about the coveted cap space the Lakers have strategically secured for a free-agent spending spree next summer, Kupchak said Bryant took a deal with that in mind.
“Obviously, he took a pay cut,” Kupchak said of Bryant, who will be paid $30.5 million this season and was eligible to be offered up to $32 million next season under the terms of the new CBA. “A substantial pay cut. A lot of people look at it and say, ‘Well, that’s not a huge financial pay cut,’ but it was a negotiation that we felt like was pretty quickly accomplished and fair on both sides. We’re comfortable.”