Report: Bulls to start contract extension talks with Taj Gibson

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The Bulls still have to fill out the edges of their roster for next season — do they match the offer sheet for Omer Asik? Who can help back up at the point guard spot? — but once they get past that, they want to get back to focusing on their core.

They want to talk long-term deal with Taj Gibson, reports Aggrey Sam at CSNChicago.com.

Gibson, who will be a free agent following next season, is highly coveted around the league, but the Bulls believe he fits into their future plans, so in the fashion of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, there is hope that a deal can be reached prior to the beginning of the regular season.

Gibson stepped up his game last year in his third season, although he averaged just 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game he became more efficient doing it. Also, he’s a good defender at multiple positions. He’s entering his fourth year in the league but is older at age 27, he’s going to want to get paid now.

It’s hard to see the Bulls matching the Asik offer sheet then trying to talk long-term deal with Gibson. The Bulls have been shopping Rip Hamilton around this summer and they might amnesty Carlos Boozer next year. As Sam points out, maybe the biggest question will be whether to start talking new deal with Luol Deng next year, and what is the price tag there? Is it too steep for a team that avoids the luxury tax? If Deng leaves will the Bulls have some space to bring in another star player?

Lots of questions. Do any of the answers have you saying, “This team will do what it takes to win an NBA title?”

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.