Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls

Why did the Bulls waive Erik Murphy?


At first glance, the Chicago Bulls waiving Erik Murphy yesterday made no sense.

Murphy, like all players after Jan. 10, has a fully guaranteed salary. The Bulls can’t simply choose to remove his contract from their team salary.

And with just 13 players under contract, Chicago didn’t need to clear room to sign a replacement – or even two replacements. The roster spots were open.

So why waive the little-used Murphy? Was he destructive to team chemistry? Did he want a head start on landing another job in a lesser league?

Maybe there was a different reason. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

By my calculations, using data from, the Bulls are $387,299 below the luxury-tax threshold.

If another team claims Murphy off waivers, Chicago would be $877,479 below the tax threshold – a significant difference.

Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both have incentives classified as unlikely to be achieved, meaning the bonuses, if they’re earned, would cut into the Bulls’ room below the tax line.

Joakim Noah would get $500,000 for making the All-NBA first team. Taj Gibson would get $250,000 for making the All-Defensive second team or $500,000 for making the All-Defensive first team.

So, I’d think, when possible, the Bulls will leave room to handle the bonuses without paying the tax.

If nobody claims Murphy, the Bulls are right where they started. They could sign two players for the rest of the season and still have room to absorb Gibson’s $250,000 bonus and not pay the tax. (Not signing anyone wouldn’t give Chicago room to absorb either $500,000 bonus.)

If someone claims Murphy, the Bulls could sign minimum-salary players for up to 24 days of service and still have a $750,000 buffer under the tax line. Chicago could sign one player today for the rest of the season and then another player Sunday for the season. Or Chicago could sign three players any time after Wednesday for the rest of the season. Or Chicago could dole out those 24 days in any combinations. The Bulls would have more options and more leeway to handle Noah and/or Gibson getting bonuses.

And whom might the Bulls target in free agency?

Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago:

A familiar face, veteran swingman Ronnie Brewer, worked out Thursday at the Berto Center, according to a league source, and could be signed by the Bulls in the near future.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The Bulls have held discussions about re-signing veterans Mike James and Ronnie Brewer, sources said.

Brewer played for the Bulls in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Since, the the 29-year-old wing has bounced between the Knicks, Thunder and Rockets.

James began the season with the Bulls, was waived and then returned on a 10-day contract.

These are both players Chicago familiar with and presumably like.

More importantly for the Bulls is another team liking Murphy and taking him off their hands.

Murphy, a 6-foot-10 stretch four from Florida, was the No. 49 pick in last year’s draft. He didn’t play much in Chicago, but as Wojnarowski says, there could be a few teams who like him.

Though Murphy isn’t eligible for the playoffs, a claiming team would get dibs on him for next season. His 2014-15 salary is partially guaranteed – becoming $100,000 guaranteed Aug. 2 and $200,000 guaranteed Nov. 2 – so it would be easy to waive him during the offseason if his new team ultimately decides to free cap room this summer.

Murphy would be a low-risk addition for a number of teams, and if any of them take that chance, it would be a high-reward play for the Bulls.

Lopez twins don’t live together because their cats don’t get along

Brook Lopez, Robin Lopez
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The Lopez twins have always been close. They were teammates at Stanford, they’re both heavily into comic books (and even write their own together), and they both have Instagram accounts for their cats (here’s Brook’s cat, Poupin, and Robin’s cat, Prince Edward Zephyr). So naturally, this summer, when Brook re-signed with the Nets and Robin signed with the Knicks, the logical thing to do would be to live together. Apparently that isn’t happening, because their cats don’t get along.

Via Kirsten Fleming of the New York Post:

“Brook’s cat is very two-faced,” Robin tells The Post. “Everybody loves Brook’s cat. To everybody’s face, he’s such a nice cat. And it may sound like I’m joking, but I am dead serious. He acts like a lazy, sweet cat when everybody is looking. But when their heads turn, he’ll try to chase after [my cat] Edward. The second I lay eyes on him, he’ll act like, ‘I’m a cherub. I’m innocent.’ I’m not buying it.”

Brook agrees that it would be a bad idea.

“We thought about it,” Brook tells The Post. “But the cats really wouldn’t get along. They just wouldn’t allow it.”

This is an extremely valid reason, even though it’s a disappointing. The Lopez twins are two of the most entertaining people in the NBA, and them living together would have had off-the-charts reality TV potential.

Byron Scott isn’t thinking about next year’s draft

Byron Scott

A month into the season, the Lakers the only team in the Western Conference that can absolutely be written out of any hopes of playoff contention. They’re in an awkward position with the upcoming draft: they still need talent long-term, and they owe their pick to the Sixers if it’s outside of the top three. Not surprisingly, Byron Scott isn’t thinking about it at all.

Via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:

With the Lakers fielding the NBA’s second-worst record, how much effort will the franchise put in retaining its top-3 protected draft pick?

“I don’t think about that whatsoever,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “I probably won’t until April. That’s something I can’t control.”

The Lakers are in a precarious position. They appear likely bad enough to lose a lot of games. But will they lose enough to land in the top three? Otherwise, the Lakers owe Philadelphia their first-round pick as part of the Steve Nash trade.

“It’s impossible to think about the team, try to get our young guys better, the team better and also thinking about a pick,” Scott said. “That’s six months away and you might not even get it.”

Given Scott’s mentality, it’s not at all surprising that he isn’t thinking about the draft. But with his insistence on playing Kobe Bryant and Lou Williams more crunch-time minutes on this dismal Lakers team than D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson, it’s pretty laughable that he talks about wanting to develop their young players.

Scott may not be thinking about the draft, but with the position the franchise is in and the likelihood that they lose their pick, he should be.

Report: Jahlil Okafor stopped for driving 108 MPH three weeks ago

Jahlil Okafor, Derrick Favors

Jahlil Okafor‘s first month in the NBA has been eventful for all the wrong reasons. Early Thanksgiving morning, he was caught on video getting into a fight with a heckler in Boston. Then, a report surfaced of another altercation from October, in which Okafor apparently had a gun pulled on him. Now, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Okafor was recently pulled over in Philadelphia for driving 108 miles per hour:

Four sources independently confirmed to The Inquirer the 76ers center was pulled over on the Ben Franklin Bridge around three weeks ago for 108 miles per hour. Anything over 40 m.p.h. is considered reckless driving.

108 miles per hour in a 40-mile zone isn’t a minor speeding infraction—it’s incredibly dangerous. It might be possible to write off any of these incidents by themselves—particularly the one where he had a gun pulled on him, which doesn’t seem to have been his fault at all. But together, the Boston incident and this speeding report aren’t a good look at all for Okafor. He’s had a solid start to the year for the Sixers, but off the court has been another story.

Harrison Barnes could be out “a few weeks” with ankle injury

Harrison Barnes
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The Warriors’ Friday night 135-116 win over the Suns was bittersweet: Harrison Barnes suffered a sprained left ankle in the third quarter and left for the remainder of the game. He missed Saturday night’s blowout win over the Kings as well, which extended the Warriors’ best-ever start to the season to 18-0.

Warriors interim head coach Luke Walton didn’t have an answer for how long Barnes will be out, but he said it could be a few weeks.

Via’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss:

“He’s being evaluated [Saturday]. We haven’t gotten the results back yet,” interim head coach Luke Walton told reporters before Saturday’s game. “It’s all speculation. It could be a few weeks. It could be a week.

“We’re not going to rush him back because we want to be healthy for later in the season and we don’t want lingering injures, so we’ll have him take his time.”

Losing a starter is never good news, but the silver lining for the Warriors is that they have enough depth and enough of a cushion to be able to take their time and not rush Barnes back. Saturday night, Walton opted to keep Andre Iguodala in his usual sixth-man role and instead start the little-used Brandon Rush in Barnes’ place. Rush responded with a 16-point performance, shooting 4-of-5 from the three-point line. If they can keep getting that kind of production out of their reserves, the Warriors will be able to withstand the loss of Barnes just fine.