NBA Playoffs: The Bulls manage to hold on

9 Comments

The Indiana Pacers were able to put up yet another great fight against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, but they were once again left with nothing to show for their valiant effort.

In game one of the series, the Pacers took the Bulls down to the wire because of their sharp jump shooting. The Pacers didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well from outside as they did in game one, but their defense was able to frustrate the Bulls for long stretches of the game.

On paper, Derrick Rose’s final line doesn’t look much different than it did in game one, as he finished with an impressive 36 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. But the Pacers’ decision to guard Rose with bigger defenders, particularly Paul George, forced Rose to work much harder for his points than he did in game one, and he required 25 shots and 13 free throw attemtps to get his ponits. In Game one, Rose got to the rim or the line at will, only made one shot from outside of 15 feet, and only turned the ball over three times. In game two, 10 of Rose’s 36 points came on jumpers, and he turned the ball over six times.

Indiana caught a seriously bad break when Darren Collison went down with an injury in the first half and subsequently missed the rest of the game. Sophomore guard A.J. Price did a decent job filling in for Collison, but he’s not the same caliber of player, and the Pacers were outscored by 12 points with Collison off the floor.

Fortunately for Chicago, Carlos Boozer showed up in game two. He was in the paint and making baskets from all angles from both hands, was a big part of Chicago’s dominating performance on the offensive glass (Chicago had 20 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s 24 defensive rebounds), and was much better on defense. However, the rest of the Bulls’ supporting cast didn’t shoot particularly well from outside, and Joakim Noah couldn’t buy a basket around the rim. Because of that, the Bulls’ offense was often stagnant on Monday, and the team finished with more turnovers than assists.

Despite the Bulls’ offensive issues, they were able to pull out a win thanks to a dominant size advantage and some timely plays down the stretch, and a win is a win in the playoffs. There’s a reason why teams jockey for home-court advantage all season long: even though the Pacers performed well beyond all possible expectations in Chicago, they are still returning to Indiana with no wins, and if they lose one more game, their season is all but over. The Pacers should be encouraged by their play in the first two games, but they will need to do just a little bit more if they want to avoid elimination.

LaVar Ball confronts wrestler at WWE event (video)

1 Comment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring.

The outspoken father of NBA draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday’s “WWE Raw” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

During the segment, LaMelo Ball twice used the n-word, which was broadcast over the air. WWE says in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that the language “was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.”

For LaVar Ball’s appearance, the ring was decorated with mannequins displaying his Big Baller Brand clothing line. He got in a heated confrontation with WWE wrestler The Miz, and took his shirt off to cheers from the crowd.

Bulls, with Michael Carter-Williams, first team to decline extending qualifying offer to Rookie of the Year

Stacy Revere/Getty Images
1 Comment

Just four years ago, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year.

Now, the Bulls don’t even see a $4,187,599 qualifying offer as worth extending.

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago:

Credit Sam Hinkie for trading Carter-Williams (to the Bucks) at just the right moment, netting the 76ers a valuable Lakers first-round pick that Philadelphia used to trade up for Markelle Fultz. Carter-Williams hasn’t nearly lived up to the typical production of a former Rookie of the Year.

The Bulls got Carter-Williams far cheaper from Milwaukee, for Tony Snell (who had a breakout year with the Bucks). But Carter-Williams continued to regress in Chicago. It’s just hard for a point guard with such a shaky outside shot, and Carter-Williams’ injuries haven’t helped.

With a smorgasbord of point guards that now includes Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, the Bulls can move on.

Carter-Williams can probably latch on as a backup point guard somewhere. As an unrestricted free agent, teams will have greater comfort pursuing him. But this is a blow for someone with such a big accolade on his résumé.

Celtics’ reported plan: Sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George

AP Photo/George Frey
4 Comments

The Celtics are trying to sign Gordon Hayward.

They want to trade for Paul George.

It seems those goals are not mutually exclusive.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.

For salary-cap purposes, Boston wants a Hayward commitment before it can finalize a trade for George and secure the most dynamic free-agent coup in franchise history, league sources said.

For Boston, here’s the hitch: While Indiana believes Boston can offer the best possible package, the Pacers may be unwilling to wait until the start of July free agency on Boston’s timetable and could turn toward making a deal elsewhere for George, league sources told The Vertical.

The Celtics can clear cap space to sign Hayward. They have the ammo to trade for George. They could do both.

But, as covered before, there’s probably not a path to signing Hayward and extending George’s contract.

So, how much would Boston surrender for George on an expiring contract? The risk he walks in a year, particularly for the Lakers, should lower the Celtics’ offer.

Still, Boston could trade for the Pacers star and roll the dice on re-signing him. Playing with Hayward – and Isaiah Thomas and whichever other players the Celtics keep in this arrangement – would be pretty appealing.

Rumor: LeBron James would ‘never’ join Clippers

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
4 Comments

The Clippers hired Jerry West, in part, to help lure LeBron James.

But even with LeBron-to-Los Angeles (Clippers or Lakers) rumors swirling, that plan might not even get off the ground.

Mike Wise of The Undefeated on Freddie and Fritz:

I’m going to give you something on this show, and this is breaking news. Nobody else is going to have it.

I got from a very good authority – a very good authority – that LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I can’t tell you who, but I’m going to tell you it’s somebody that knows, and LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I don’t know if that’s because he remembers what the Clippers used to be, or he just doesn’t want to put his lot in there, or he thinks Steve Ballmer is just too animated on the sideline.

He’s never going to be a Clipper. I’m just telling people right now, for your edification. I’m breaking this on the Freddie Coleman and Fitz show.

I don’t believe in “never” in situations like this. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, teams are just laundry. The Clippers can change owners, general managers, coaches, players. LeBron would remain absolutely opposed to joining?

Maybe, but I won’t go that far without knowing his reason for resisting the Clippers. A lot can change between now and 2018, when LeBron can opt out.

One of the Clippers’ biggest selling points was always going to be Chris Paul, LeBron’s close friend. Reading the tea leaves, maybe this is a sign Paul will leave this summer – for the Spurs, Rockets or somewhere else.