Ding Dong the Heat are dead… or at least their 27-game winning streak is. But because of it the Chicago Bulls are the toast of the NBA. So in their honor, here is an all-Chicago Three Stars of the Night.
Third Star: Kirk Hinrich (7 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds)
He isn’t here because of his stats, he’s here because he embodied the toughness and tenacity the Bulls brought to this game. He stood in front of a hard-charging LeBron James, wrapped him up and wasn’t afraid of the hard foul. He ripped the ball out of Chris Bosh’s hands in a key moment. He helped keep the Bulls organized and he made smart passes and plays. And most of all, he never backed down. Just like the Bulls.
Second Star:Carlos Boozer(21 points, 17 rebounds)
Carlos Boozer simply outplayed Chris Bosh all night long and it was one of the keys to the Bulls win. He was a key part of the Bulls ability to take a lead in the first half, but he was there late in the game, too, taking the brunt of a LeBron James charge that led to a foul. And making a key tip-in. It’s the kind of game people wish they got every night from Boozer.
First Star: Luol Deng (28 points, 7 rebounds)
With Joakim Noah and of course Derrick Rose out, the Bulls biggest question against the Heat was simply “where will the offense come from?” Luol Deng, to start. He had nine first quarter points to help the Bulls rush out to a lead. He was making plans and throwing alley-oops to Jimmy Butler for poster dunks, all the while dropping threes (he made four in the game). Then when it mattered most he had 12 points in the fourth quarter, hitting big shots down the stretch to secure the Bulls win.
Report: Unless they trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, Celtics likely to keep main assets
With less than 24 hours until the NBA’s 3 p.m. trade deadline today, the Celtics were said to be still holding out hope that internal discussions within the Bulls and Pacers would lead to one or both making their best player available.
But short of that, the view from around the league is that the Celts are becoming more and more enamored with the idea of keeping their main assets and using the first-round draft pick they have coming from Brooklyn in June via a swap of positions. (They also have the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder unencumbered.)
Sources continued to say that, while there remains a chance things could change as the deadline draws nearer, Chicago and Indiana are more likely to retain Jimmy Butler and Paul George, respectively. Those All-Star talents have been the Celtics’ two main targets
This could just be the Celtics playing hardball — either through leaks to the media or through conversations with other teams that have trickled out. But Bulpett is well-connected, especially in Boston. This is more likely than most reports of this nature to be accurate, but it’s always difficult to break through the smokescreens this time of year.
The Nets’ upcoming first-rounder is extremely valuable, as they’ll likely finish with the NBA’s worst record. The Celtics could do far worse than keeping that pick.
But Boston’s top players — Isaiah Thomas (28) and Al Horford (30) — are already at ages where they can’t necessarily wait for a 2017 pick, even someone as talented at as Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, to develop. It makes sense to cash in chips now.
Still, the Celtics’ deep pool of assets mean the window isn’t closing yet. There should be no desperation to make a win now trade.
If Boston keeps its main assets — mainly the Nets picks — past the trade deadline, we’ll just revisit all this again in the summer.
Cavaliers sign forward Derrick Williams to second 10-day contract
The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.
The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.
Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.
The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.
Hornets’ Miles Plumlee out at least two weeks with leg injury
The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.
They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.
So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.
And now he’ll add even less.
The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.
The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.
Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.
Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor
Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.
Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.