Thibodeau says he’s “fine” with contract situation as report states … well, that he’s not

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It’s easy to get lost in the recent past.

The Bulls are a monstrously successful organization. They’ve won six championships in team history, all in the past 21 years, and have consistently made the playoffs. They’re an ATM machine for their owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owns the White Sox, an equally successful venture. They have Derrick Rose, they signed Carlos Boozer, they extended Joakim Noah and Rose. By all accounts they are a team that pays to play and isn’t gunshy about spending for excellence.

Funny story.

Not really the case historically. Reinsdorf is the anti-Dan-Snyder in a lot of ways. He’s reluctant to throw money out there, is inexplicably patient and careful with his spending, and yet consistently manages to win. But dating all the way back to Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan, the most successful coach and player this side of Auerbach’s Russell Celtics, Reinsdorf has unnecessarily drug out negotiations for extensions. The truth of the matter is that Reinsdorf managed to get Jordan for well below market value in a drastically different era of the CBA because, well, to be frank, the man is tighter than a diamond.

And we’re seeing that same trend carry through. He threw  the max extension at MVP Derrick Rose. But reigning Coach of the Year, probable repeat-winner Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau who has made the Bulls into some sort of giant-mawed, carnivorous demon that devours everything in its path? Yeah, he can’t get the dough for his future. And ESPN reports that he’s not so much OK with that.

Thibodeau associates privately insist that the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year is dismayed that he hasn’t been offered a more lucrative extension after signing a modest two-year contract with a team option when he joined the Bulls. Sources close to the situation say, furthermore, that his displeasure with the situation is an open secret in team circles. Although the uncertainty about his future hasn’t had any discernible impact on Thibodeau’s famed game-night intensity, it’s a development that has to be monitored.

Extending Thibodeau sooner rather than later would figure to be a smart move from Reinsdorf, since the coach’s value presumably can only spike if Chicago overcomes its injury woes to win a championship this season. But Bulls historians would note that Phil Jackson and Scott Skiles likewise had to battle Reinsdorf before extracting a representative salary from the boss.

via Weekend Dime — latest word on big NBA coaching decisions – ESPN.

Thibodeau, loathe to ever let a distraction brew a month out of the playoffs with his team humming like a finely tuned engine even without Derrick Rose, still out with an injury, spoke with ESPN Chicago and tried to straighten things:

“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Thibodeau said. “I’m not worried about any of that stuff. I’m under contract. I’m fine with everything here.”

Without going into specifics, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told The Tribune last month that he expects Thibodeau to remain with the team for years to come.

“We certainly hope and expect that Tom will be with the Bulls well beyond his current contract,” Reinsdorf told the Tribune via e-mail.

It’s a stance Reinsdorf re-affirmed to ESPNChicago.com columnist Melissa Isaacson on Friday afternoon.

via Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau ‘fine’ with contract situation – ESPN Chicago.

You can see both sides here.

On one hand, pay the man. He won the most games in the league last year, he’ll likely win the most games in the league this year. He’s pieced together the best defense with a first-and-second-year Turkish guy who looks like Judge Reinhold, Carlos Boozer’s painted-on defense, and Kyle Korver. He’s put Derrick Rose in a position to win MVP. He’s managed lineups, timeouts, made adjustments, and survived significant injuries over the past two seasons to Joakim Noah, Boozer, Rose, and Rip Hamilton. He’s worth every penny. His voice makes Tom Waits sounds like honeybutter and he’s so animated on the sideline he’ a .GIF machine. He’s the coach every team’s fans in this league wants outside of San Antonio. There’s nothing short of a title, well-within reach this year, that he can do more.

Pay the man.

But you know what? Reinsdorf if getting great value everywhere he turns. He has the best team in the league, record-wise, and he’s still not in the luxury tax? He might be able to get the cost of Thibodeau down. Fifteen years ago he scoffed at the value Phil Jackson wanted to return to the Bulls, a meager sum in today’s game. But he did pay him, did get him back in. He’ll get Thibodeau back, this is just about saving a few dollars, which Reinsdorf, ever the businesman, is always looking to do. Even the son and chairman, Michael, is following his father’s approach. You have to admire it, even if it seems insane.

Thibodeau’s not going anywhere. There’s not a better job. He’s set to contend with Rose for 12 more years. Over a decade. He has the support of a major market team and plays in a nice building. This is just an unnecessary drama being played out over some money. It may be unnecessary, but it’s the way the Bulls do business.

Bucks storm back at home, Raptors hang on for 92-89 win, advance to second round

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Nothing can be easy for the Raptors.

They were cruising, up 25 in the third quarter, whipping the ball around on offense, hitting threes, making sharp rotations on defense, and generally overwhelming a Bucks team that did not look ready for the moment.

Then everything changed. The Raptors offense went ice cold, and the ball movement stopped, and the Bucks were getting big plays from Giannis Antetokounmpo and — out of nowhere — Jason Terry. Across the third-and-fourth quarters the Bucks went on a 34-7 run, hitting 5-of-7 from three, one of those a Terry three to put the Bucks up 80-78.

The Raptors then responded like a veteran team, going on a 9-0 run led by DeMar DeRozan, who was the best Toronto player in the series. The Bucks had their chances, but shot 6-of-14 on free throws in the fourth, and Milwaukee started to look tired like the comeback had taken too much out of them. They made the mental mistakes of a young team learning hard lessons.

Toronto hung on for a 92-89 win, and they take the series 4-2.

The Raptors will open their conference semifinal series against the Cavaliers on Monday night in Cleveland.

The star of the night for Toronto was clearly DeRozan, who finished with 32 points on 12-of-24 shooting. Beyond that, he was quick with the recognition of double-teams and was moving the ball, plus had a key defensive play late. However, his biggest moment was this dunk.

The Bucks came out with some desperation early. Antetokounmpo had 14 in the first quarter and got his team off to a good start, but the Raptors settled down, got the ball inside, kicked out for threes, and led by 28-24 at the half.

Milwaukee fell into playing a lot of isolation basketball, while the Raptors were moving the ball and finding the mismatches. The result was a 13-point second quarter from the Bucks (who shot just 3-of-17 from outside the paint in the first half and 1-of-9 from three), and a 51-38 Raptors lead at the half. DeRozan had 16 at the break.

The second half saw the Raptors seem to pull away, going up 25 at one point and being in total control.

Then the Bucks made it interesting. It started with a 15-3 run at the end of the third, which carried over to the fourth quarter and soon the lead was in single digits. The key was some ball movement for the Bucks, some made threes, great play from Antetokounmpo.

However, the larger issue was the Raptors just came apart on offense. From the 6 minute mark of the third quarter through the middle of the fourth, the Raptors were 4-of-16 shooting total, 2-of-8 from three, and that was led by DeRozan suddenly going 1-of-6. The Raptors let them back in the game.

What veteran teams know how to do — and what the Bucks are still learning — is how to bounce back from those stretches. Kyle Lowry made some solid plays, DeRozan dunked, the Raptors got some stops, and they found a way to hang on for the win.

DeRozan and Lowry — 13 points — were the only Raptors to finish in double figures.

Antetokounmpo had 34 for the Bucks and carried his team for long stretches. Khris Middleton added 19, and Matthew Dellavedova had a dozen off the bench.

 

Serge Ibaka, Giannis Antetokounmpo trade massive blocks during Raptors-Bucks (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo is a long dude. So is Toronto Raptors big man Serge Ibaka. The two faced off in Game 6 at the Bradley Center on Thursday night, so it makes sense the two wound up using one of their most impressive physical assets against each other.

Let the battle of length begin!

Via Twitter:

That’s Ibaka blocking the Milwaukee Bucks star on an attempt at the rim, on a dunk no less. That was impressive, no doubt, but just a minute later, it was Antetokounpmo coming through with a big time block on DeMar DeRozan:

But DeRozan got his revenge later in the fourth quarter, throwing down a dunk over the Bucks defense that was perhaps the finger in the wall needed to stop the leak that was Toronto’s disastrous final period.

DeRozan and the Raptors got the last laugh, winning the closeout game on the road, 92-89. Toronto will go on to play the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semi finals.

Should the Trail Blazers go after Pacers star Paul George? CJ McCollum says yes

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The Portland Trail Blazers need to do something drastic this offseason. Fans in Oregon should be expecting something big with a roster of players prime for the trade market and three first round picks in GM Neil Olshey’s pocket for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Who should Portland go after? That is a tough question to answer.

The Blazers are not exactly a huge free agent destination, although the city is changing its reputation toward NBA players in recent years with the help of star players Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who have fully embraced Oregon’s largest city.

McCollum, in fact, has his own opinion on who the Blazers should go after this summer: Indiana Pacers star Paul George.

Via Twitter:

George, who is under contract for 2017-18 but has a player option for 2018-19, has been rumored to desire playing in Los Angeles. In any case, fans around the league are looking at George as a potential trade candidate.

He would certainly do well on the Blazers, who had a disappointing 41-41 season in 2016-17. After a surprising effort last year, the Trail Blazers were slotted to expand upon their finish in 2016. But a sluggish start from Damian Lillard mixed with one of the worst defensive rosters in the NBA found them battling for the No. 8 seed come the end of the season. Even still, a miraculous stretch of good play after the All-Star Game was what it took for the Blazers to beat out the likes of Denver, Dallas, and Sacramento for the final playoff spot.

We know now that the Blazers were swept by the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, and up here in the Northwest it only solidified the fact Portland needs to get better on the wing.

Last season, Al-Farouq Aminu showed he could shoot a league average percentage from 3-point range, which helped relieve some pressure off Lillard and CJ McCollum. But Aminu regressed to shooting 33 percent from deep in 2017, and although Maurice Harkless did an excellent job as a young starter he’s not yet the kind of dynamic offensive player the Blazers need to be a Top 4 team in the West.

Aminu projects for Portland better as a 4, and with Jusuf Nurkic now anchoring the center position, the goal for Portland will be to strengthen the wing and flesh out the bench.

George would be an excellent get, but the Blazers would need to have the salaries match in any trade with Indiana. Allen Crabbe seems the most likely option, given his RFA match for Portland was a clear move to retain an asset. Evan Turner occupied a lot of guard minutes for Portland, and it seems the Blazers aim to keep him.

Meanwhile, you have other players like Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis who still have some value and could help Portland’s cap situation or work as part of a trade with Indiana.

Having watched Portland closely the past six seasons or so, and seeing how parts of this roster has developed, it would make the most sense to add a third star to this team. Turner hamstrings the bench unit with his gargantuan $17 million salary next season, so building out the bench unit under him still won’t put the Blazers in a position to compete with the top teams in the West without another star.

I think the clearest way to capitalize on the prime part of the careers for Lillard and McCollum is to grab another star right now. George might be out of reach — and he reportedly wants to play in LA anyway — but I think the Blazers should think big this offseason. Whether that means trading for George or doing something else bold remains to be seen.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.