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


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.


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.

Cavaliers beat Raptors, become first team in 27 years to surrender 79 first-half points and win

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The Cavaliers haven’t been good enough throughout the season, especially defensively. The Raptors have – offensively, defensively, starters, bench. Hope has grown in Toronto of winning the Eastern Conference after getting eliminated by Cleveland the last two years.

But LeBron James and Cavs showed why it’s hard to pick any other team – even the first-place Raptors – to win the East in a 132-129 win over Toronto tonight.

Cleveland allowed 79 first-half points and fell behind by 15. But a LeBron-led offense was just too potent. This was the first time since 1990 (Nuggets over Spurs after trailing 90-83) a team surrendered so many first-half points then still won.

LeBron finished with 35 points, 17 assists and no turnovers. No forward has ever dished so many assists without a turnover in Basketball-Reference’s database, which dates back to 1963-64.

And LeBron led the Cavaliers to this win despite Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Korver and Cedi Osman being out.

It’s only one game, and it was in Cleveland. But even with home-court advantage in a potential playoff series, the Raptors must grapple with even more lingering doubt now about their ability to beat the Cavs.

Report: Becky Hammon staying with Spurs, not coaching Colorado State men’s team

AP Photo/Darren Abate
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Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon was a candidate to coach the men’s team at Colorado State, her alma mater. That would have made her the first woman to coach a Division I men’s team.

Alas, it won’t happen.

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports:

It’s unclear whether Hammon was ever actually offered the job.

She’s still on the right track for a head-coaching job somewhere. Most importantly, by all accounts, she’s doing good work in San Antonio. There’s also more attention on her career because of her pioneering status, and that will appeal to some teams.

This dalliance with Colorado State raises her profile even further and shows just how close she is.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: James Harden ‘best offensive player I’ve ever seen’

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

James Harden torched a solid Trail Blazers defense for 42 points on 13-of-25 shooting, including 5-of-7 on 3-pointers, and seven assists.

That prompted his coach to heap praise on the runaway MVP.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“That’s the best offensive player I’ve ever seen,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Harden. “They’re running guys to him and he just steps a little further back and makes a 3. The way he can pass and see the floor, get layups, floaters, maybe a lob, maybe out to the corner — he has so many weapons, and now he’s shooting those step-back 3s.

“It’s impossible to guard him. It’s impossible.”

At first, that sounds like hyperbole from a biased source. But Harden might actually the best offensive player ever. (D’Antoni has been around for all the major contenders.)

Michael Jordan gets overlooked because he was also excellent defensively. Ditto LeBron James to a lesser extent. Another contender: Stephen Curry, whose Warriors might file away D’Antoni’s assessment for if they meet Houston in the playoffs. (The Rockets provide plenty of motivational fodder.)

The list of contenders definitely skews toward the present. Players have gotten progressively more skilled, especially the generation that grew up with the 3-point arc and didn’t suddenly have to adjust to it.

And Harden might be the cream of the crop. He’s an incredible shooter with very deep range off the dribble or spotting up, and he can drive with the best of them. Yes, foul-drawing is a skill. Harden’s combination of scoring volume and efficiency is unprecedented. He’s also an impressive passer, a skill fully unleashed by D’Antoni making Harden a point guard.

I think I’d lean toward Curry, who’s an even better shooter and screener. But it’s very close, and Harden keeps raising his level. Curry probably peaked two years ago (though he obviously remains elite). I definitely wouldn’t dismiss anyone who picks Harden as biased or misguided.

Cavaliers star LeBron James: Raptors ‘in a better place than we are right now’

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP

It’s not enough to say the Raptors have the Eastern Conference’s best record.

The Celtics had the East’s best record last year, and most people thought the Cavaliers were better. Cleveland had a better point difference and more star power – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love – than Boston. The Cavs confirmed that notion by cruising past the Celtics in a five-game conference finals.

The Raptors have been the Eastern Conference’s best team this season.

They rank fourth in the NBA in offensive and defensive rating, the only team top five in both categories. Led by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, their starting lineup has embraced a more dynamic offense with more 3-point shooting and passing. Toronto’s bench is the best in the league.

LeBron, whose Cavaliers host the Raptors tonight, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“They’re in a better place than we are right now because they’ve had more consistency and they’ve had their guys in the lineup for the majority of the year,” James said after the Cavs’ morning workout. “So, they know what they want to accomplish. They know who they are at this point in the season. Obviously, you guys know about us, we’re still trying to figure that out.”

This is so obviously correct. It’s just surprising to see LeBron put it so directly, though it’s unsurprising he’s hanging on the Cavs’ instability to date.

Kevin Love and Isaiah Thomas were injured for long stretches, and Thomas and several others were traded. Coach Tyronn Lue is on a leave of absence.

But the Cavaliers made those major trades because they were struggling, and this new group won’t necessarily simply figure things out with time. Defensive problems persist. Lue’s health is unclear.

LeBron understandably remains confident in himself, even as the Cavs enter the postseason as a middling seed. He’s also setting up a narrative of Cleveland coming from behind if it advances to the NBA Finals. We’ll see whether it happens.

Tonight likely won’t be a referendum, though. Tristan Thompson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver and Larry Nance Jr. are out for the Cavaliers. That roster instability still exists.

If LeBron dials up playoff intensity tonight, that could send a warning to Toronto, though I’m not sure it’s necessary. As far ahead as the Raptors are right now, after Cleveland soundly eliminated them the last two years, I think everyone knows it’s a couple months too early to properly assess these teams’ relative places.