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Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez lead Bulls to 121-108 win over 76ers

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CHICAGO (AP) Jimmy Butler scored 28 points and Robin Lopez added a season-high 21 points and had 10 rebounds as the Chicago Bulls defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 121-108 on Sunday night.

After a week of tension, the Bulls bounced back from consecutive home defeats to Atlanta and Miami despite blowing a 20-point lead.

Ersan Ilyasova scored a season-high 31 points for Philadelphia, and Robert Covington added 21 points and a season-high 12 rebounds. The 76ers have lost 12 straight to the Bulls.

The 76ers played without Joel Embiid, who stayed in Philadelphia as he rested with a left knee contusion. Embiid is day-to-day.

Butler and Dwyane Wade returned to the starting lineup after being benched as starters in Friday’s blowout loss to the Heat. Wade and Butler were critical of teammates after they blew a late double-digit lead in a loss to the Hawks on Wednesday. Rajon Rondo responded to his teammates’ criticism on an Instagram post on Thursday, taking multiple shots at the team leadership. Wade, Butler, and Rondo all were fined by the Bulls.

After a team meeting, Butler and the Bulls had one of their worst performances of the season against Miami. Butler struggled off the bench, scoring just three points on 1-of-13 shooting. Against the 76ers, Butler was more aggressive, getting to the free throw line and setting up his teammates. He had seven assists and eight rebounds.

The Bulls closed out the first quarter with a 13-0 run. Rondo made a pass that traveled three-quarters of the court to Nikola Mirotic to put the Bulls up 37-23 at the end of the quarter. They extended their lead to 20 early in the second quarter.

The 76ers got the lead down to six at one point in the second quarter, and came back from the 20-point deficit in the third. T.J. McConnell had back-to-baskets to tie it at 79. Butler answered for the Bulls, making a jumper and then, on the defensive side, stole a pass and finished with a dunk to give the Bulls a 92-83 lead late in the third quarter.

The Bulls bench outscored the 76ers bench 49-15.

TIP-INS

76ers: Despite the recent success, coach Brett Brown wouldn’t kid himself about where it was in the rebuild process. “We are a long ways, in my eyes, away from doing what I want to do, what we want to do as an organization,” Brown said. “To be one of the elite teams annually in the NBA takes a lot. So that question to me is a very distant type of feeling.” At 17-29, the 76ers are in position to reach the 20-win mark for the first time in four seasons. … C Jahlil Okafor did not play despite suiting up. He has a sore right knee and has played only 31 minutes in the last four games. It was his eighth DNP of the season due to a coaching decision.

Bulls: F Taj Gibson missed the game after taking a cortisone shot to ease pain in his left ankle. … G Denzel Valentine was back with the Bulls after a one-game stint with D-League affiliate Windy City Bulls. The first-round pick scored 24 points and had eight assists and seven rebounds for the Windy City. In limited minutes, Valentine is averaging 3.3 points per game for the Bulls.

UP NEXT

76ers: Return to Philadelphia on Monday to host Sacramento.

Bulls: Head to Oklahoma City on Wednesday to begin a six-game road trip. The Bulls don’t return home until Feb. 14.

Stephen Curry Curry to play Web.com Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic

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HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — Two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry is set to test his golf game against the pros.

The Web.com Tour said Wednesday that Curry, coming off his second NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors, will play in the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae on Aug. 3-6.

It’ll be the first PGA Tour-sanctioned event for Curry, who has competed in various celebrity events and pro-ams. The top 25 on Web.com Tour’s regular-season money list will earn PGA Tour cards.

Curry will maintain his amateur status, competing on an unrestricted sponsor exemption in the event that benefits the Warriors Community Foundation.

Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice played in the event in 2011 and 2012. He missed the cut in 2011 with rounds of 83 and 76 and withdrew in 2012 after playing 27 holes in 23 over.

Also Wednesday, Nissan’s upscale Infiniti brand announced that Curry would be its new global brand ambassador. The point guard will be featured in ads for the Q50 sports sedan beginning this summer.

Report: Clippers never committed to offer Chris Paul five-year max contract

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The Clippers projected to be able to offer Chris Paul a five-year, $201 million contract that would have culminated with a $46 million salary in his final season.

Did they offer that much before sending him to the Rockets?

Just as one side is trying to pin all the Clippers’ problems on Doc Rivers and Austin Rivers, the Clippers surely want to spin Paul’s exit to another way – that they shrewdly chose when to part ways rather than that they lost the best player in franchise history due to nepotism.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

If Paul really wanted that five-year max, he could have pushed harder for it by bringing counter offers to the Clippers in July rather than engineering his way to Houston before free agency even began.

Would the Clippers have eventually relented and offered the five-year max? We can never know for certain.

But it’s pretty clear why the Clippers would want this version out there. Accurate or not, it makes them seem far more on top of things and is less likely to taint them with free agents they covet in 2018.

How Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza complicate Rockets’ pursuit of third star

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After pairing Chris Paul and James Harden, the Rockets are reportedly chasing a third starPaul George, Carmelo Anthony or someone else.

But Houston parted with significant assets to land Paul from the Clippers. And the Rockets will have a tricky time dealing two remaining players, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Unloading Ryan Anderson to sign Paul outright would have helped Houston keep one of their outgoing guards, but the market for the three years and $60 million left on Anderson’s deal was frigid. Not even the Kings wanted him for free. At least two teams would have demanded two Houston first-round picks in exchange for absorbing Anderson, according to several league sources.

The salary filler probably can’t be Trevor Ariza, by the way. Ariza and Paul are close after years together in New Orleans, and playing with Ariza factored at least a little into Paul’s decision, per league sources. The Clippers had tried to trade for him in prior seasons, sources say. Ariza is also still good at a coveted position, and his Bird Rights will be valuable to a capped-out Rockets team next summer.

Anderson would be dangerous as a stretch four in pick-and-pops with Paul and Harden. Even if he’s overpaid, might be better to keep him than surrender more assets to dump him.

Likewise, Ariza is a nice two-way player and can play small-ball four. There’s a use for him on this team.

But beyond them, Houston is left with Eric Gordon and Clint Capela as movable players. Gordon, with a higher salary and less obvious fit with Paul and Harden, would almost certainly be a key cog in a trade for another star. Capela is younger and more valuable, though the Rockets would probably want to keep him as a defensive anchor.

That might not be possible while trading for a third star, though. Houston can’t even guarantee sending out another first-round pick in a trade after sending a protected first-rounder to the Clippers. (The Rockets could agree to convey a first-rounder two years after sending one to L.A., which would is highly likely to convey next year.) Including Capela in a trade might be the only way to assemble a suitable package.

Even then, Houston would be hard-pressed to surpass an offer from the Lakers or Celtics for George. Plus, if Indiana is rebuilding around Myles Turner, Capela is an awkward fit. That trade might require a third team – causing further complications.

Hoping Anthony gets bought out by the Knicks then signs for the mid-level exception is much simpler – though that route returns the lesser third star.

But Daryl Morey just brought Chris Paul to Houston before free agency even began. Now is not the time to underestimate the Rockets general manager.

Report: Knicks won’t consider Isiah Thomas to run front office

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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A couple years ago, Knicks owner James Dolan said there was no scenario Isiah Thomas would return to the Knicks.

But Dolan also said a few months ago he’d keep Phil Jackson for the duration of Jackson’s five-year contract.

With Dolan effectively firing Jackson today, could Thomas become the Knicks’ next president?

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The Post also learned Liberty president Isiah Thomas would not be considered for Jackson’s successor.

It’s sad that this needs to be reported. It’s even sadder that, even if this the Knicks’ plans right now, there are no assurances Dolan holds steady.

Dumping Jackson is a reason to celebrate. But as long as Dolan owns the team, it must be a reserved celebration.

At least the Knicks’ next step won’t include Thomas. Probably.