Why did the Bulls waive Erik Murphy?

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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 ShamSports.com, 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.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.

 

Celtics to get Marcus Smart back for Game 5 Tuesday

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It’s a series that has hinged on defense — Boston has played it well for the majority of five games, bottling up Milwaukee in the halfcourt. The Bucks only played it with real energy at home (and only for about six of the eight quarters the last two games) but when they do they have overwhelmed the Celtics, then converted turnovers and missed shots into transition and early clock opportunities the other way.

For Game 5 Tuesday night, Boston gets its best perimeter defender back — Marcus Smart. He has been out since before the playoffs following thumb surgery last March.

Stevens, via NBC Sports Boston:

“He hasn’t played in six weeks, so it’s hard to say how much (time he will get) but will certainly play,” Stevens said. Stevens said there would not be a minutes restriction on him, but added that the fourth-year guard wasn’t going to play 35 minutes.

Smart is a very good perimeter defender who is very physical and usually assigned to the other team’s best guard (or wing, depending upon the matchup). When Smart was on the court this season, the Celtics allowed less than a point per possession and were 3.6 points per 100 better defensively than when he sat.

Smart likely will get time against Eric Bledsoe and Kris Middleton of the Bucks. Just his presence brings needed depth to the Celtics in what is a critical Game 5 in a series tied 2-2.

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over two to three years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?