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.”

Hawks battle back to knot series with Wizards, 2-2

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Paul Millsap shoved Markieff Morris out of the way, grabbed an offensive rebound in the middle of the paint and pushed through a shot while Marcin Gortat bumped him to the floor.

The Wizards knocked down Atlanta. They didn’t stop the Hawks.

Millsap and Atlanta showed plenty of fight, topping Washington 111-101 in Game 4 Monday to tie their first-round series 2-2 after falling behind 2-0.

Have the Hawks seized meaningful momentum? History says no.

Teams that have won the first two games of a best-of-seven series at home then lost the next two on the road have won 81% of the time. The Wizards’ regular-season superiority still speaks loudly, and up to two more home games – starting with Game  5 Wednesday – also help.

Still, credit Atlanta for making the series competitive after digging such a big hole.

Millsap (19 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two steals) soundly outplayed Markieff Morris (nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, -10) in the latest round of their personal feud. Millsap also got plenty of help with seven Hawks scoring double digits.

Kent Bazemore (16 points, seven assists and three steals) played meaningful defense and hit a couple big shots. Jose Calderon (10 points, five assists, +29 in 20 minutes) provided a huge spark. Dwight Howard (16 points and 15 rebounds) asserted himself for the first time this series. Taurean Prince (11 points on 5-of-7 shooting) picked his spots well. Dennis Schroder (18 points on 6-of-15 shooting) had his ups and downs. Tim Hardaway Jr. (15 points) at least offset some of his defensive shortcomings.

This was a total team win.

Washington, on the other hand, got little outside its starting backcourt. Bradley Beal (32 points) thrived, and John Wall (22 points and 10 assists) was still good in an off-by-his-standards performance. But the Wizards crumbled when either sat – especially with both on the bench in the late third/early fourth quarters. Erasing those few minutes with staggering would’ve helped, though it wouldn’t have been the answer tonight.

This has become a far less certain series than Washington hoped, but the Wizards don’t need a wild fix. They just need their top players to play better. Maybe going home will help.

Raptors break out best game of postseason, rout Bucks 118-93 to take 3-2 series lead

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Norman Powell was draining threes, throwing down dunks that would have won the contest All-Star weekend, and he finished with a career playoff-high 25 points on just 11 shots. Plus defensively he caused Khris Middleton trouble.

The Raptors finished with 28 assists, the most in a playoff game since Dwane Casey took over as coach.

Toronto shot 57.7 percent overall, a franchise playoff best.

The Raptors bench played well pitching in 27 points and growing the lead when they were in, part of an overall strong night from the role players in Toronto.

Combine that all with the expected good nights from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan and you get the Raptors best game of the playoffs. It looked like a different team than the one in Milwaukee.

Toronto raced out to an early lead and went on to rout the Bucks 118-93, giving the Raptors a 3-2 series lead.

This was a game where the Bucks tried to force the ball out of the hands of Lowry and DeRozan as much as they could, using their length and athleticism. However, Lowry had 10 assists, and DeRozan would get the ball off pindown screens and feel the double coming, move the ball, and another quick pass or two later the role-playing player Raptors were getting good looks and knocking them down. Or throwing it down like this.

Or this.

Toronto just looked more comfortable against the Bucks pressure, having seen it for so many games in a row, than they have all series.

Powell had 25 points for Toronto, Serge Ibaka had 19 and three blocks, Lowry had 16 points and 10 assists, DeRozan had 18 points and six assists, even DeMarre Carroll had 12 points on six shots.

The question for the young Bucks team is how does it bounce back from this kind of loss in the biggest NBA game most of them have ever played? Can they get their defensive edge back?

“We’re going to miss some shots, and we can’t let our offense dictate our defense,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said postgame. “And also the turnovers, again. Right off the bat we had three…

“Our defense kind of got hit there in the first quarter, we knew that they were going to come after us, we had to expect that. And we just couldn’t respond.”

The Bucks had some runs in the second quarter and got the lead to nine at one point, but the Raptors always seemed to be in control.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had another strong game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting, and rookie Malcolm Brogdon pitched in 19 points on 11 shots, but for the most part the Bucks struggled with their offense in this game. As their coach noted — and as often happens to young teams — they let their offensive woes impact the other end of the court.

At home, the Bucks will likely feel more comfortable, and they will fight for their playoff lives.

The question is, can the Raptors be this sharp again and close them out? Or will the yo-yo nature of this team continue?

 

Kevin Durant will play in Game 4 for Warriors vs. Trail Blazers

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In case you were curious how serious Golden State was about closing out Portland in four…

After missing the last two games with a strained calf, both Warriors wins to put them up 3-0 in the series, the Warriors are bringing back Kevin Durant for Game 4.

Steve Kerr is also out tonight for Golden State, Mike Brown will coach the team.

There was buzz that Durant could have gone in Game 3 if needed, but the Warriors felt confident they would win without him and they don’t want this injury to linger. There’s no more holding him back now.

Durant averaged 25.1 points a game, and thanks to the space created by the other stars on the team had his most efficient season, with a true shooting percentage of 65.1. He also pulled down 8.3 rebounds a game, dished 4.9 assists, and had his best defensive season in a long time as well. If not for an injury after the All-Star break that had him missing games, he would have made a lot of voters’ All-NBA team.

He adds to Golden State’s size advantage against Portland. The Warriors would like to close out the series tonight and get additional rest before facing the Clippers or Jazz in the next round.

Serge Ibaka is dunking and Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t going to stop him. Twice. (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors had their best half of their first-round series against the Bucks, taking an early lead and, despite a little shooting slump midway through the second they were up nine at the half.

That was all topped off by two emphatic Serge Ibaka dunks. Ones Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn’t going to stop.

Ibaka dunked around him more than over the Greek Freak, but still.