Los Angeles Lakers v Chicago Bulls

Report: Bulls discussed Taj Gibson trade with Lakers, Wizards and Bobcats

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The Chicago Bulls, at least on some level, aren’t totally concerned with how they fare this season.

Derrick Rose is already out for the year, and no matter how well everything else comes together, the superstar’s injury limits the Bulls’ upside in 2014.

They already traded Luol Deng for zero assets that will help them this year. That they’ve gone 9-4 since the deal is a product of a soft schedule and a small sample – not a reason to reverse course from their greater vision.

If that plan includes pairing Rose with Carmelo Anthony (or another high-priced free agent) next season, Chicago will likely need to clear cap room.

Trading Marquise Teague for the expiring contract of Tornike Shengelia was a small start, but the the Bulls still have $64,124,513 committed to seven players (Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy Jimmy, Butler and Tony Snell plus the buyout of Richard Hamilton).

Amnestying Boozer, who has a $16.8 million price tag in 2014-15, brings that commitment down to $46,203,593. But that still doesn’t leave enough room for Melo.

With a projected salary cap of $62.1 million, the Bulls would still be $6,561,995 short of being able to offer Melo his maximum starting salary ($22,458,402) – and that’s before factoring Chicago’s first-round pick(s)* and roster charges for having fewer than 12 players remove cap room.

*The Bobcats owe Chicago a first-round pick that is top-10 protected this year.

But if the Bulls removed Gibson’s $8 million salary from the equation, suddenly, they’re right in that Melo range.

That would mean the loss of a solid player, but if the Bulls are willing to take a step back this season to take a step forward in the future – a tradeoff the Deng trade says they find appealing – Gibson’s absence wouldn’t be detrimental.

Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:

According to a source, the Lakers, Wizards and Bobcats have each inquired about Gibson, but they were preliminary talks in which the Bulls did not like the return.

First of all, opposing teams calling Chicago about Gibson, who has three years remaining on his contract after this one, hardly means he’s on the block. If I can see why it makes sense for the Bulls to entertain Gibson trades, so can they. NBA front offices discuss trading players all the time. A majority of those discussions are one-sided and lead nowhere.

But let’s look at these three teams.

I doubt the Lakers like Gibson enough to surrender expiring contracts to get him, essentially destroying their own tightly manicured cap room to sign a star free agent. A Lakers deal would almost have to include Steve Nash, who’s under contract for next season and would cut into Chicago’s flexibility. But at a certain point, Nash plus pick(s) for Gibson would appeal to Chicago. It just matters which pick(s).

The Wizards could offer Trevor Ariza’s expiring contract and a sweetener, but they can’t include a first-round because they still owe the Suns theirs from the Marcin Gortat trade – making it much more difficult to find that sweetener. Perhaps, the Bulls really like Martell Webster, and his salary in future seasons is slightly lower than Gibson’s, but it’s unlikely Chicago would accept that drop in production for only a moderate annual savings.

The Bobcats are much more intriguing. With the expiring of Ramon Sessions, who would boost Chicago’s point guard play this season – even if the Bulls aren’t totally focused on winning this season, I doubt they’d mind it – plus several moderately priced young players (Gerald Henderson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo), Charlotte could put together an appealing and fair offer. Gibson would go a long way in shoring up the Bobcats’ weakest position, power forward.

But, in all likelihood, these teams are trying to buy low on Gibson. The Bulls can always try to use him in a sign-and-trade down the road – I bet, say, the Knicks could use him – so Chicago is not forced to deal him now.

Unless other teams approach negotiations with that in mind, I suspect all Gibson trade talk will remain “preliminary.”

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.