Bulls owner was willing to go into luxury tax to get Pau Gasol… generous bajillionaire he is

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So that Pau-Gasol-to-Chicago rumor before the dealing fell apart pretty quick because, to be honest, the idea of anyone saying “Heck yeah, we want Carlos Boozer!” right now is like the joke in a trailer for one of those teen romcoms. You know it’s coming and though it is technically humorous, it’s not actually funny. But ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported Friday that the Bulls were so serious about it, they were willing to give the most serious commitment their organization can. It was willing to go into the luxury tax.

Gasp!

From ESPN.com:

Chicago’s talks with the Los Angeles Lakers regarding Pau Gasol before the trade deadline never got too far, largely because the Lakers had no interest in taking back Carlos Boozer … and because the Bulls weren’t about to find a third team willing to join the talks to absorb the three years and $47 million remaining on Boozer’s deal to help Chicago get the Spaniard.

File this away, though.

Sources with knowledge of Chicago’s thinking told ESPN.com that Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was prepared last week to go into the luxury tax if necessary if a legit trade scenario involving Gasol had materialized.

via Weekend Dime — Scouts on Lakers, Knicks and more – ESPN.

For those that don’t know, this is a really big deal. Despite consistently being one of the most profitable teams as the owner of Jordan’s former and Rose’s current club in a large market, Reinsdorf basically acts like paying the tax is pulling teeth. So maybe, if things went really well, he’d consider paying the tax if he were to get one of the top five big men in the NBA. That’s just swell. Reinsdorf has been pushing the “maybe I’ll pay the tax!” line for a while. This is from November:

Chicago Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf on Wednesday reiterated through a team spokesman that he would give strong consideration to incurring the luxury tax if the player acquisition gave the team a reasonable chance to win a championship.

That answer is similar in sentiment to Reinsdorf’s response on the subject from a 2009 interview. However, with a more punitive luxury tax poised to take effect in 2013-14 of the pending 10-year collective bargaining agreement, as well as increased revenue sharing, the question applied anew.

via Reinsdorf: Luxury tax won’t preclude Bulls’ bid for key addition – Chicago Tribune.

This actually may show more about the Bulls’ realization regarding Boozer than anything. With Rose’s extension kicking into high gear next season and with the luxury tax rates set to raise to painful levels in two seasons, the Bulls are probably starting to understand that giving Boozer his huge deal may have been, oh, what’s the word, a complete and total disaster.

Which is a bit of an exaggeration. Look, Tom Thibodeau has found a way to make Boozer a competent member of an elite defense. Boozer’s ability to hit the mid-range jumper is something the Bulls have needed for years and that Joakim Noah will probably never have consistently. Is he overpaid? Sure. But in a few years, Kobe Bryant will be, too. These are pretty standard problems. At least Reinsdorf is saying that if the team is good enough and worthy of the investment he’ll make it, even if that belies the obscene amount of money he makes off the team anyway.

And if you think no one will take Boozer, I would ask that you look around the league and witness the kind of deals which have been moved over the past three seasons. There’s always a sucker out there somewhere.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.