Joakim Noah defends Derrick Rose, says critics should ‘shut up’

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After the Bulls stunned the Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday, Joakim Noah fielded a question about how proud he was of his team, considering all they’ve been able to accomplish so far without the services of their All-Star and MVP point guard, Derrick Rose.

Noah wasn’t exactly pleased with the line of questioning, and used it as an opportunity to publicly defend his teammate for all of the grief he’s taken from both fans and media throughout this season — not entirely because Rose has yet to play a single game, but because he and the Bulls organization continue to say that he might, despite the lateness of the date on the calendar.

Fron Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago:

“If you tore your ACL and you have to be the starting point guard and have the expectations that Derrick has, then maybe you can judge, but everybody who hasn’t been in that situation before should really shut up because I feel like it’s just so unfair to him and to this team. We’re fighting, and everybody’s going to just s— on somebody who’s been giving so much to this organization. It’s crazy to me.”

There was more from Noah, who went on to praise Rose’s toughness in dealing with it all while trying to do his best to get ready for a return to the court, but you get the idea.

Again, the issue is not Rose’s readiness to play, or lack thereof, despite having been cleared publicly by the team’s medical staff, and despite the fact that Rose has been practicing with the team for two months. The frustration comes from the constant teasing from Tom Thibodeau, who said “we’ll see” in response to a question about whether Rose might play against the Heat, and from Rose himself, who says his return in these playoffs is “still up in the air.”

There would have been no harm or shame in the Bulls ruling Rose out for the playoffs before they began. It would have ended all the speculation, and by the way, he still could come back and play even after the team made such a declaration — look no further than David Lee’s brief appearance in the Warriors’ closeout game against the Nuggets, after the team said he’d be out for the entire postseason with a torn hip flexor muscle.

Unfortunately, the scrutiny surrounding Rose isn’t likely to stop at any point in the postseason as long as the Bulls are still alive. What’s been made clear by Noah’s comments, though, is that all criticism is coming from outside the organization. As far as the team is concerned — and this has been the case all along — they are fine with Rose’s situation, and will continue to have his back throughout this process.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.