The Bulls, Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, and walking the walk vs. talking the talk

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See, here’s the problem with the superstar team-up era. The Chicago Bulls have put together a team that features a perennial MVP candidate at 23, an All-Star wing defender who can shoot, a hyper-active emotional powderkeg with some offensive skills built in at seven-feet, a deep bench, some microwave scorers… and Carlos Boozer. (No one’s perfect.) And yet when CSN Chicago reports that the Bulls are planning to make a run at either Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, both unrestricted free agents this summer, I have nothing but skepticism because Chicago has not been a franchise that has pursued being “elite” since Jordan walked away. That team they have is good enough, it’s great enough. But I still can’t believe Chicago will really try and make that monster move, because of the money involved and their past history. From CSN Chicago:

While the front office may seek out minimum-salary veterans at several positions, including point guard, a source tells CSNChicago.com that the Bulls will take a run at future Hall of Famers Steve Nash and Jason Kidd in free agency, trying to convince the former All-Stars that they will have an opportunity to win a championship, of which Kidd has one, from last season with the Mavericks, and Nash has none, in Chicago.

According to the same source, the rest of the team’s “core”–starters Rose, Deng, Hamilton, center Joakim Noah and power forward Carlos Boozer, as well as reserve big men Taj Gibson and Omer Asik, the latter of whom is a restricted free agent this summer, though the Bulls are likely to match any offers for him from opposing teams–is “safe,” though team management will surely at least listen to trade offers.

via Rose making progress, Bulls thinking big?.

Perhaps you’re wondering how on Earth either of those guys will be willing to make a massive paycut to play backup. Well, here’s the thing. They may not have to. We saw this year a lot of teams playing two-point-guard lineups effectively. Honestly, with how fast the league is moving, you almost have the luxury of playing smallball a lot of the time against most teams. Kidd is probably reaching a point where he’s best suited as a role player on the bench anyway, but Nash could excel with Rose next to him. There’s no reason Rose can’t guard some of the bigger 2-guards, and the ones he can’t? Luol Deng can cover. The number of teams with incredible scorers at both the 2 and 3 spots is really in the 3-4 range, with Miami and OKC the obvious inclusions there.

But still, you can’t help but be concerned. Jerry Reinsdorf, the Bulls owner, has made noise about going into the luxury tax this summer which would be a big departure for him. He’s going to have to if he wants to keep that core mentioned above together, considering Asik’s likely offers in restricted free agency and Derrick Rose’s extension kicking in, and that’s before trying to add a Hall of Fame point guard.

So, no, I don’t think the Bulls will swing for the fences with either player. I think we’ll see the same Bulls team back, but it may not be as good. But then, I don’t know why that’s a problem. When healthy, that’s still more than enough for the Bulls to win the title.

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.