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.
DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.
Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.
Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.
Justin Verrier of ESPN:
Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.
Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.
Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.
That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.
Evan Daniels of Scout:
Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.
Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.
Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.
Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.
There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.
But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.
Watch for Collin Sexton in the 2018 NBA draft.
In the meantime, the Alabama commit had all eyes — include Dwyane Wade‘s — on him with this pass in the McDonald’s All-American Game last night.
Carmelo Anthony scored just nine points on 12 shots in the Knicks loss to the Heat last night — well below his season averages of 22 points on 19 shots per game.
Anthony, via Ian Begley of ESPN:
“I see the writing on the wall. I see what it is,” Anthony said late Wednesday night. “I see what they’re trying to do, and it’s just me accepting that. That’s what puts me at peace. Just knowing and understanding how things work. I’m at peace with that.”
Is Anthony talking about just the Knicks’ final dozen games of this season, when they’re clearly interesting in testing less-proven players? Or is he referring to his entire tenure in New York?
Anthony has said he’d consider waiving his no-trade clause if the Knicks want to rebuild, and they’ll reportedly try again to trade him this offseason. Perhaps, this is Anthony indicating he’s warming up to the idea of allowing a trade.
Anthony’s and Kristaps Porzingis‘ timelines are barely compatible, if at all. It’d make sense for the Knicks to go in a different direction.
Could Anthony be at peace with that?