The Bulls have done an excellent job remaining more than relevant with Derrick Rose sidelined for the entire season to this point, as he works his way back from a knee injury.
Chicago is just a half-game behind the Nets for third in the East, a game and a half behind a Knicks team the Bulls have beaten three times already this season, and only three games out of first behind the defending champion Heat.
The Bulls have done it on the strength of their defense, along with two All-Star caliber performances this season from Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, as well as a massive increase in production from Carlos Boozer.
One or two more pieces offensively might push this Bulls team from the fringe to a legitimate championship contender. But help isn’t likely to be coming via trade — if Chicago is going to get over the hump, it’ll have to do it with their current roster intact.
“We’re up against what’s called a hard cap,” Paxson said Friday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN Chicago 1000. “In order for us to do something we’re not in a position to take on any real salary so we’re kind of limited in what we can do. I think our team has grown — it’s not always pretty, let’s face it; we’ve had some ugly games this year and that’s kind of who we are right now. But we do grind it out and play hard.
“You’re always on the lookout to do certain things, but I think our move hopefully will be bringing Derrick back into the fold.”
Rose’s return, if he ends up coming back anywhere near the level he was playing at during his MVP season in 2010-11, will be better than anything his team could do via trade before the Feb. 21 deadline comes and goes.
Still, Paxson will undoubtedly be involved in multiple trade discussions until then, just like every executive in the league. But the Bulls don’t have a lot of assets desired by other teams that they’d be willing to part with, so Rose’s return will be it in terms of player additions in Chicago before the end of the season.
The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.
Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.
He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.
Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.
However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.
That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?
The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.
Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.
Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.
Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.
Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.
He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.
But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.
Except we now know he apparently likes karate.
Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.
If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.
Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.
Michael C. Wright of ESPN:
Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.
Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.