Most Vegas oddsmakers would favor 2017 Warriors over 1996, 72-win Bulls

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If you’re tired of the comparisons of LeBron James to Michael Jordan, then try this new one.

Who would win a series between these 2017 Golden State Warriors and the 1996 Chicago Bulls?  Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen vs. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

ESPN’s Ben Fawkes went and asked a bunch of Las Vegas oddsmakers, and the answers were interesting.

ESPN spoke with seven Vegas bookmakers and asked them to set the odds in a game and series between this year’s Golden State team and Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls squad that went 72-10 en route to an NBA title.

Five of the six had the Warriors favored, from as high as -8 at the MGM (per Jay Rood, vice president of race and sports at MGM Resorts) to as low as -2 at William Hill US (per Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading, William Hill US).

Chris Andrews, sportsbook director at South Point, wasn’t crazy about the comparison but said, “it would have to be pretty close to pick-em, point spread and series. It would depend on [which team] could force its style on the other.”

There’s a reflexive reaction of some fans — either ones from Chicago, or people who grew up watching Jordan — to aggressively defend him against all comers (LeBron, Kobe, whoever). There’s a lot of people emotionally invested in Jordan being the GOAT and to question that is seen as heresy. Those fans will flip out at this idea.

The reality, it would be close and entertaining series.

There’s one big question that would significantly impact this hypothetical series: Are we using 2017 rules enforcement or 1996? As you can see this season watching the Warriors rout the Cavaliers, the modern defensive rules allowing zone make it much tougher to score in isolation, you can start to take that away. On the flip side, if the strict man-to-man defense and more physical rules of 1996 were allowed, the Bulls would have a massive advantage. Both of these teams were almost perfectly assembled to take advantage of the rules of that era.

But that would be a fun series to watch, and be a lot more competitive than the first two games of this year’s Finals.

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.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.