Derrick Rose: Bulls are more talented than at any point in his career

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Derrick Rose has reportedly patched up his beef with the Chicago Bulls.

Or it never existed in the first place.

The Rose-Bulls saga has been tough to read, because there has been so much innuendo with few – even under the cloak of anonymity – direct complaints. Have Rose’s injuries led to discord? What sides do ownership, the front office, coaches and other players take? As far as rifts, this one is mostly blurry.

But there was one exception: Derrick Rose’s brother complaining on the record the Bulls hadn’t built a good enough supporting cast around the point guard.

Considering that’s the strongest indication we have of a divide between Rose’s camp and the Bulls, maybe we don’t need to look too deeply into why Rose and the Bulls are on such good terms. The answer might be pretty simple.

Chicago had a good offseason.

Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott are impressive additions to a team that already includes Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy.

Rose can work with that.

Rose, via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

“I think this is the most talented team I’ve played on in my NBA career to tell you the truth,” Rose said after Team USA’s practice on Wednesday. “With all the players that I have, with the experience that everybody’s bringing to the table. And the way that everybody’s working out individually during the offseason and what I’ve been hearing.”

Rose is pleased with the efforts made by general manager Gar Forman and executive VP John Paxson in upgrading the roster.

“I have that sense that they went for it,” Rose said. “That they gave their all. We got who we could get and who wanted to come. And that’s who we have to ride with. We have a lot of confidence in the players that we just signed and we know that the guys that’s already there is working out very hard. So it’s just a matter of getting in the gym, working out together, jelling very quickly, since we’re not going overseas early.”

Rose has played for a team a team that went 50-16 and another that went 62-20 and reached the conference finals. Could this edition of the Bulls really surpass those two?

In terms of talent, maybe. One of those prior teams started Keith Bogans, and the other started Ronnie Brewer. Whether you consider Jimmy Butler or Mike Dunleavy the weak starter, he’s better than Bogans and Brewer.

However, there are diminishing returns on a team that features four solid big men. Ninety-six minutes might not be enough for Noah, Gasol, Gibson and Mirotic, and I doubt any of them can play the three with any regularity. Plus, Mirotic and McDermott might need time to adjust to the NBA – not a knock on their talent, just their readiness.

Undoubtedly, the Bulls are talented. How many wins that eventually translates into and how quickly Chicago reaches peak form are yet to be determined.

Of course, Rose’s health is the lynchpin. His brother can complain about the Bulls’ supporting cast and Rose can praise it all they want. Chicago isn’t reaching its highest goals unless Rose is healthy.

Without him, they’re not nearly talented enough.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.