Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls

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.

WNBA rescinds fines regarding protest shirts

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 13, 2016 file photo, members of the New York Liberty basketball team await the start of a game against the Atlanta Dream in New York. The WNBA is withdrawing its fines for teams and players that showed support of citizens and police involved in recent shootings by wearing black warmup shirts before and during games. WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement Saturday, July 23, the league was rescinding penalties given to the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and their players for wearing the shirts–which was a uniform violation. The players started wearing them to show solidarity after shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and a number of Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets players wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts in warmups after the death of Eric Garner in New York. LeBron and his then Heat teammates wore hoodies for a photo shoot after the Travon Martin shooting. NBA players have made other protest fashion statements, with no repercussions from the league.

But when WNBA players wore black warmup shirts in support of Black Lives Matter and other anti-violence protests, the WNBA came down with fines for the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury ($5,000) and players involved ($500) for uniform violations. That led to a lot of backlash — including among WNBA players. Some refused to answer basketball questions with the media after recent games.

Saturday, the WNBA rescinded the fines. As they should have.

The women’s players’ union supported the move, via a statement from the director of operations Terri Jackson.

“We are pleased that the WNBA has made the decision to rescind the fines the league handed down to the players on the Fever, Liberty, and Mercury. We look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with the league to ensure that the players’ desire to express themselves will continue to be supported.”

I want a league — for men or women — where player’s individuality and statements can be made — I don’t want the NBA to be the button-down, cookie cutter NFL. Let the players be themselves. And if players want to weigh in on the biggest social issue of our time, they should. Without fear of repercussion.

Good on the WNBA for coming around to that.

Meyers Leonard says he hopes to be ready by start of Blazers’ season

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 8: Meyers Leonard #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes credit for a foul call during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on December 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Meyers Leonard could be poised for a big season in Portland. His minutes jumped last season because he provided spacing. With Portland adding Evan Turner on the wing to go with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, any big who can stretch the floor is going to get run, and Leonard has turned himself into a stretch four.

Leonard just hopes he can show what he can do at the start of the season — he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery. Here is what he told the Associated Press.

“My hope is to be ready right around the start of the season,” he said. “It’s a progression, first introducing rebounding, grabbing stuff overhead, then one-on-one, three-on-three, extending to the full court. We’ll see. You just never know.”

Leonard had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in April (they could have used him in the playoffs), and the timeline then was to have him back around the start of the season. Before he was shut down, he proved enough to get a four-year, $41 million contract extension with the Trail Blazers this summer.

The Trail Blazers will start Al-Farouq Aminu at the four, and Moe Harkless can certainly play there too (I’m far less sold on the future of Noah Vonleh). Leonard wants to get back before someone starts to steal any of his minutes.

Pelicans sign Jones for 1 year, Frazier for 2 years

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 21:  Terrence Jones #6 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a play as Cody Zeller #40 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during their game at Toyota Center on December 21, 2015 in Houston, Texas. 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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) The New Orleans Pelicans say they have signed free-agent forward Terrence Jones and re-signed guard Tim Frazier.

A person familiar with the negotiations says Jones, a four-year veteran, signed a one-year deal Friday for the NBA minimum of about $1.14 million, while Frazier has signed a two-year deal worth about $4.1 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Pelicans have not released contract terms.

The 6-foot-9 Jones, who was Anthony Davis‘ teammates on Kentucky’s 2012 national championship team, has spent his first four NBA seasons with Houston, posting career averages of 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Frazier played in 16 games for New Orleans late last season, averaging 13.1 points, 7.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 29.3 minutes per game.

Deron Williams says he is recovering well from sports hernia, will be ready to go at camp

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 01:  Deron Williams #8 of the Dallas Mavericks during the first half at American Airlines Center on March 1, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.   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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Deron Williams will be back with the Dallas Mavericks next season — and be ready to go by the start of the season.

He’d like to say he’d be back for the next few seasons, but coming off a Sports Hernia injury his options were a little limited. However, his recovery is going well he told NBC Dallas in an interview from American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe (which you can watch this weekend on NBC).

“Feeling really good. It’s healing pretty well, I’m doing a lot of work on and off the court. I haven’t got the full-go clearance yet, but that’s coming soon. I’ll be ready to go definitely by the time training camp rolls around.

“I’m running, I’m jumping a little bit. I’m just not going crazy. I kind of have to wait for August 1 for that, to go see the doc and get the go ahead. But it’s not much restriction right now.”

Williams averaged 14.1 points and 5.8 assists per game for the Mavericks last season and was solid at 32. His efficiency slipped a little (to be expected as he is on the wrong side of 30 and has plenty of miles) but he played well for Dallas.

Dallas signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal. Williams was hoping for a little more security.

“I was happy to come back. Would have liked a little longer deal but I’m back for one year and hopefully can build on last year and improve. I think there’s room for a lot of improvement. Hopefully I can stay healthy. I think that’s the biggest key but I’m excited about this year and this team.”

The one-year deal is more about Dallas than Williams — they could see a significant shift in plans when Dirk Nowitzki steps away (he inked a two-year deal but the second year is only $5 million guaranteed, so he could be in his final run if he wants).

Dallas added Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Warriors to a starting five that also includes Nowitzki, Williams, and Wesley Matthews. If they can stay healthy — no little thing with that group — it’s a quality starting five that coach Rick Carlisle is going to love.