Do the Bulls have a problem in the paint?

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The Chicago Bulls — without Derrick Rose and playing John Lucas III 45 minutes at the point — beat the lowly Washington Wizards Wednesday night thanks to their suffocating defense.

And defense is why the big men on the floor for the key moments of the game for Chicago were Omer Asik and Taj Gibson — not Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. Just as they had been the game before that. Tom Thibodeau is a pretty straight ahead coach — if it works he’s going to use it. And right now Asik and Gibson is working. They were working in the playoffs last year too, when Thibodeau went with the bench bigs for long stretches.

If your backups are working well and your high-priced stars are sitting a lot late, do you have a problem?

Maybe it’s a sign of bigger issues to come, wonders Aggrey Sam at CSNChicago.com.

After praising the “lockdown defense” ability of Gibson and Asik, the coach talked about how some of his post players bring scoring, indicating Boozer’s strong suit, while others bring defense before throwing in that some bring playmaking, a nod to Noah’s unique ball-handling and passing, which is, at the present moment, his only advantage over his fellow big men, as he’s struggled to score the ball this season. Boozer, though one wouldn’t know it from his solid field-goal percentage, has also experienced scoring issues….

At the same time, Noah’s perceived regression on offense could fuel newfound rumors about the Bulls’ willingness to engage Orlando in a potential deal to acquire Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard.

Chicago could put together a heck of a package — Noah, Luol Deng, Gibson, and a couple of picks, including one from the Bobcats. There are other guys that could be thrown in as well.

Rose and Howard would make the Bulls annual contenders for a decade at least (providing health and them not leaving after their deals are up). Two franchise players, one inside one outside. But, Chicago would be trading away a lot of its key role players to do it — the roster would have to be rebuilt, and it’s not easy under the new labor deal. Also, they would never do this without Howard agreeing to stay in Chicago after this contract, and there are reports Adidas doesn’t want that because they don’t want their two biggest stars in one market.

More importantly — why mess up what you have? The Bulls are title contenders. It is them and the Heat in the East, and unless the Bulls front office thinks the current roster will never best the Heat why take all these risks?

Maybe because they’re not as sold on Noah and Boozer as it appears? Hard to say, but when Orlando does put Howard seriously on the block after the All-Star break, Chicago has some difficult questions to answer.

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.

 

 

Video of Kawhi Leonard struggling to board team plane concerning

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The San Antonio Spurs have been very tight lipped about how serious Kawhi Leonard‘s ongoing quadriceps issue is. He hasn’t played in the preseason or now the start of the regular season, with no timetable for his return. Part of that is the nature of the Spurs organization, but it leads to the feeling there is something more there.

Now surfaces this video of Leonard gingerly, slowly making his way up some stairs to the team plane, and it’s concerning.

To be fair, there is a real lack of context here, but according to the San Antonio Express-News, he had just come out of a rehab session. That means he might have been especially sore (and could have been iced up for the flight).

Still, this video makes one think it could be a while longer before we see Leonard back on the floor for San Antonio. (By the way over the past three seasons, including this one, the Spurs are 15-4 when Leonard sits. They will be fine short term.)

Nike “very concerned” after LeBron James’ jersey rips on opening night

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In the team’s first preseason game, the jersey of the Lakers’ Tyler Ennis was torn in the back with a tug from an opponent. Everyone made tearaway jersey jokes and moved on, thinking it was a one-off situation.

Then LeBron James‘ jersey ripped down the back on opening night, on national television.

Now Nike is looking into the issue, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

Nearly three days after one of its jerseys tore in the first regular-season game of its new deal with the NBA, Nike released a statement Friday expressing worry about the issue, without offering insight as to what happened or what will be done.

“The quality and performance of all our products are of utmost importance,” the company said in a statement. “We are obviously very concerned to see any game day jersey tear and are working with the NBA and teams to avoid this happening in the future.”

This is the first year Nike has the NBA apparel contract, having just taken it over from Adidas. They made the jerseys similar to what had been done for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where there were no issues, but these jerseys are lighter than the former Adidas ones. It’s unclear what, if any, changes could be coming.

Like many of the jerseys from opening night, LeBron’s ripped one is being auctioned by the NBA to raise money for hurricane relief.