Report: Derrick Rose out until likely March; Bulls close to Belinelli deal

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Bulls’ management will deny it, but this entire summer in Chicago felt like the Bulls have written next season off and will target 2013-14. And maybe beyond that.

The Bulls are about to make a deal for Marco Belinelli — the shooting guard with a sweet three-point stroke who played for the Hornets last year — something has been rumored for a while and is now close, reports K.C. Johnson at the Chicago Tribune.

He also reports the Bulls are unlikely to match the Rockets offer sheet to Omer Asik, three-year, $25 million deal. The Bulls have brought in guys this summer to round out the roster — Kirk Hinrich, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed — but all on shorter term deals.

Those deals likely mean the Bench Mob — which was a key part of the Bulls success last season — takes a step back next season.

It all comes back to Derrick Rose. Johnson’s fantastic piece at the Trib looks at the totality Bulls moves in total this summer and seems them looking ahead.

Management will say its financial decisions are cloaked in basketball reasons. With Rose out until likely March, next season is a treading-water season. So instead of depth being the secondary star, the Bulls hope to add a legitimate one alongside Rose.

With Hinrich, Belinelli, Radmanovic and Mohammed all signing short-term deals, the plan to clear major salary-cap space in 2014 will remain intact. That’s also when Luol Deng’s contract expires, Nikola Mirotic could come over from Real Madrid and Carlos Boozer likely will be a victim of the amnesty provision.

The Bulls will enter that free agency with a lot to offer — Rose, a big city, a chance to win — but it is also a risk. Bulls’ fans know that from the summer the team chased Dwyane Wade and pretty much any of the big three that ended up in Miami.

Rose will return when he returns — Christmas may be the earliest, March more likely — but traditionally guys coming back from ACLs take a little while to really return to form. Part of it is physical (conditioning, getting their leg strength back up) and part of it is mental, really trusting the knee again to make the explosive moves and sharp cuts they did before.

That could hold the Bulls back this season. So they have clearly started to look down the line.

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.