Kurt Helin

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Reports: Utah, Detroit teams most interested in Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic

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The Bulls are going to trade Nikola Mirotic. He wants to be traded, and for the rebuilding Bulls he is not part of the long-term future so it’s wise to trade him now and get the most for him. If you’re going to bet on one guy to get traded before the Feb. 8 deadline, it should be Mirotic.

The question is where?

There is mutual interest between the Jazz and Mirotic — picture him in a pick-and-pop with Donovan Mitchel — but now reports of a second team come in from Marc Stein of The New York Times and K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

Not all first-round picks are created equal — the Jazz and Pistons will want protections on any pick they send to the Bulls. What those protections are and how they evolve over time if not met the first year is the part to be negotiated. Other teams likely will get serious about Mirotic as well.

One little housekeeping note for people who love cap details.

Kyle Kuzma has Luke Walton’s back; Brandon Ingram says team must keep “noise” out of locker room

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LaVar Ball’s comments — all the way from Lithuania — that Luke Walton had lost control of the team and the guys weren’t playing for him set off a firestorm around the Lakers (even though Ball himself softened those comments later). Dallas’ Rick Carlisle came to Walton’s defense saying he’s one of the best young coaches in the game. Stan Van Gundy is cutting back ESPN access (they put the mic in front of Ball in Europe). Golden State’s Steve Kerr said it best, calling Ball “the Kardashians of the NBA” and saying fact that anyone pays attention to LaVar Ball at all speaks to society’s need to be entertained above everything else. (Neil Postman would have been proud.)

But what do the Lakers’ players think?

Lonzo Ball didn’t help matters with a tepid endorsement of Walton, saying he would “play for anyone” when asked about his coach. Lonzo is in an awkward spot, he is pretty good at tuning his father out but everyone around him does not have that gift. Asking Lonzo to tell his father to shut up is both unfair — “hey, Lonzo, choose between your dad and your coach” — nor is it going to work (Luke Walton went through that with his father when Bill Walton was an NBC game analyst back in the day).

Kyle Kuzma, however, stepped up and had Luke Walton’s back. Via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN: 

“I don’t think that’s the case (guys not wanting to play for Walton),” Kuzma said Monday. “When you lose games, at the end of the day Luke isn’t the one going out and shooting 2-for-15, turning the ball over, having turnovers or missing free throws. That’s us. Can’t blame the coaching staff for everything. It’s mutual, of course. Players mess up, coaches mess up. We as a team have to be more accountable.”

“It’s just a lot of white noise, in a sense,” added Kuzma…. “Luke is my guy. I love playing for him. I’m sure most of us love playing for him too. … We stand by Luke. I know the front office does.”

That much is true — Walton’s job is not in jeopardy. Not now, not this summer.

The Lakers’ recent slide is what you get with a young, rebuilding teams —it’s a roller coaster. Two steps up, one step back (and the recent nine-game losing streak with poor efforts from the Lakers was an unquestioned step back). The Lakers simply are not a good team. Walton deserves a little blame, but the idea he is not doing his job by motivating the team is wrongheaded — these players are pros, they get large paychecks, they have to be self-motivated at this point. They have to be professionals. College is over.

The Lakers need to keep this noise out of the locker room, Brandon Ingram said, as reported by LakersNation.com.

“It’s our job to come in here and listen to our head coach every single day, listen to the assistants. We can’t control what’s on the outside or who’s talking on the outside. We just try to stay within this team and see how we can make each other better. I think it’s important for us to let that stay out of the locker room.”

Watch C.J. Williams game-winning three for Clippers vs. Hawks

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — C.J. Williams took a shot coach Doc Rivers didn’t want him to take, and Rivers could only laugh. Just as he’s prone to do with these Clippers.

Williams hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with nine seconds left to lift Los Angeles over the Atlanta Hawks 108-107 on Monday night.

“I’ve made that shot before. It was just a rhythm dribble to my left,” Williams said. “Once we got the offensive rebound, I felt the momentum and I felt the excitement of the moment, so I wanted to take the 3. I took that dribble and I shot it with confidence. As soon as I let it go I knew it was in.”

Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 34 points but missed a late 3 that resulted in a long rebound by Wesley Johnson. He passed the ball out to C.J. Williams for a shot that snapped the Clippers’ two-game skid.

“The thing about Doc is he didn’t necessarily want the 3, but he lets you play,” C.J. Williams said. “I was in rhythm. As soon as I took the dribble it felt good. I didn’t want to take it all the way to the basket and take a chance of getting my shot blocked.”

With his team down 107-105, Rivers wanted the Clippers to go for a two-point basket to tie it, only to be overruled by his rookie in the final seconds.

“I was actually yelling, `We don’t need a 3,”‘ Rivers said. “But you could see he was comfortable and he wanted it.

“I’ve said I love coaching this team,” he added. “They play hard. We laugh a lot. We have to with some of the things we do out there on the floor. We make some crazy mistakes at times. But with this group you’ve just got to laugh it off and move on to the next play.”

Atlanta set up its defense to keep Lou Williams from taking the Clippers’ last shot.

“We didn’t want him to make the last shot, but he was able to get one off,” coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Long rebound and Wesley Johnson comes up with it and kicks it to C.J. Williams, who makes a tough 3. That’s just a bad break for us.”

On the final possession, Atlanta got the ball to Kent Bazemore, who was guarded by Johnson. He forced Bazemore to pass across to Taurean Prince, who missed a 15-foot jumper with three seconds remaining.

“Wes saved us with the switch,” Rivers said. “When Prince got the ball, he was shooting over Lou and I was dying over there.”

DeAndre Jordan added 25 points and 18 rebounds as Los Angeles won despite blowing a 13-point lead in the third quarter. The Clippers played without leading scorer Blake Griffin, who suffered a concussion Saturday against Golden State.

 

Three Things to Know: Isaiah Thomas ejection caps another ugly Cavaliers loss

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Isaiah Thomas ejected for Andrew Wiggins caps off ugly night for Cleveland, while Timberwolves keep on streaking. Make no mistake, Minnesota earned this win. Over the past 10 games, Minnesota has outscored opponents by a best-in-the-league 11 points per 100 possessions — more importantly, the bad defense that had marred their season has been fifth best in the NBA during that stretch. Jimmy Butler is leading and the Timberwolves are not just going to break a playoff drought that stretches back to 2004, they are going to be dangerous in the postseason.

On the other side of that coin, Cleveland has been a hot mess of late. Monday night, Minnesota routed Cleveland 127-99, highlighting just how far off their game the Cavaliers are right now.

Fortunately for Cleveland, the sporting world Monday was focused on Georgia vs. Alabama, and if they saw any highlight from the Cavs/Timberwolves it was Isaiah Thomas getting ejected for clotheslining Andrew Wiggins (it wasn’t intentional, but it was basically a karate chop to the neck and that warrants an ejection every time).

Cleveland was a mess all around Monday — LeBron James had a season-low 10 points (the fewest points he’s had in a game since 2007) and sat for good midway through the third quarter. This one felt over early: Minnesota raced out to a 20-4 lead to open the game, and in the first quarter the Cavaliers shot 8-of-23 (34.8 percent), while the Timberwolves knocked down 59.1 percent of their looks. The blowout continued, with the Cavaliers going down by 41 at one point.

LeBron, coach Tyronn Lue, and others have shrugged off the Cavaliers struggles this season (there was the impressive 18-of-19 win streak and not much else) but it gets harder and harder to do that. There’s a reason other teams in the East think the Cavaliers are vulnerable. The offense was off on Monday night, but those nights happen — games where Thomas, Kevin Love, and J.R. Smith combined to go 0-of-18 in the first quarter are not the norm. Cleveland’s offense is fine. However, the Cavaliers defense is 26th in the NBA over its last 10 games allowing 111.9 points per 100 possessions and that is not a fluke — they allow 109 points per 100 for the season (29th in the NBA). Teams shoot a high percentage at the rim, the Cavaliers don’t run teams off the three-point line, and the Cavaliers allow the second-most transition opportunities in the NBA (16.4 percent of opponent possessions start in transition, and teams score a very good 124 points per 100 on those). (Stats courtesy Cleaning The Glass.)

This feels like the annual mid-season malaise that has struck the Cavaliers the past few years, that they will turn it around and start to play better eventually (the Cavs next two games are at Toronto and Indiana, two teams playing well right now). However, the underlying issues with the Cavaliers are legit. I’m still not convinced any team in the East (as currently constructed) can beat the Cavaliers in a seven-game series, but it seems plausible. Which is a big change from where things have been in the East in recent years.

2) Kyle Lowry goes down hard and appears to injure back, DeMar DeRozan leads Raptors to win anyway. DeMar DeRozan has gotten all the highlights and a lot of acclaim this season, but Kyle Lowry has been more than impressive in his own right leading a changed Raptors offense.

But he took an ugly spill Monday night and had to be carried off the court by teammates.

We don’t yet know the severity of the injury.

With Lowry gone DeRozan stepped up and carried the team in the fourth quarter, with 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and the game went to overtime in Brooklyn. In the extra period, DeRozan had 5 of the Raptors 7 points, and Toronto got the 114-113 win on the road. The Raptors get a rare national television game next, Thursday night against the Cavaliers (Toronto gets screwed on nationally televised games because their Canadian fan base doesn’t count in U.S. television ratings, so take this chance to watch them).

3) Steve Kerr speaks for a lot of us on LaVar Ball. To be honest, we’ve run a lot more LaVar Ball stories than I prefer the last few days. The reason is simple: You care. I may have a distaste for a father of a player — one currently on the other side of the globe — ripping his son’s coach, the simple fact is that story has generated more traffic than any other for us in recent days (and I’d bet ESPN, which put the mic in front of LaVar, had a similar impact — plus it helped feed the network’s talking head cycle for a day). If you don’t want to see more LaVar, stop reading what he says. Make him irrelevant — which is how the Lakers feel about his opinions.

You want to read more game-related stuff? Click on that. Read that. The simple fact at every NBA (and sports) site is trade rumors/roster speculation/GM talk drives far, far, far more traffic than game breakdowns.

Steve Kerr — the Warriors’ coach who has defended his good friend Luke Walton — got into all of that in a rant that sums up how I feel pretty well.

Here are Kerr’s full comments, hat tip to NBC Sports Bay Area:

“This is the world we live in now. I was thinking about ESPN. They laid off, I don’t know, 100 people. How many people did they lay off over the last year? More? Well over 100. Many of whom were really talented journalists covering the NBA. This is not an ESPN judgment, it’s a societal thing more than anything.

“Where we’re going is were going away from covering the game and getting close to sensationalized news. It’s not even news really, it’s just complete nonsense. But if you package that irrational nonsense with glitter and ribbon, people are going to watch. I’ve talked to people in the media this year. I say ‘Why do you guys have to cover that guy?’ They say they don’t want to, nobody wants to, but our bosses tell us we have to because of the ratings, because of the readership. Somewhere, I guess this is in Lithuania, LaVar Ball is laughing at all of us. People are eating out of his hands for no apparent reason, other than he’s become like the Kardashian of the NBA, and I guess that sells and that’s what’s true in politics, in entertainment and now in sports. It doesn’t matter if there is any substance involved with an issue. It’s just, can we make it really interesting, for no apparent reason. There’s nothing interesting about that story.

“Do you know how many parents of my players are sitting at home going ‘Why isn’t he playing my kid?’ And yet, we’re sticking a microphone in his face because it apparently gets ratings. I don’t know how cares, but people care. They must care, or ESPN wouldn’t be spending whatever they’re spending to send reporters to Lithuania when they are laying off people who are writing really substantial (stories), people like Ethan Strauss and Marc Stein are getting laid off. Again, this is not a condemnation of ESPN. It’ not. It’s a societal issue. It’s been going on for many, many years. And it’s invading the sports world now.”

Warriors Steve Kerr: LaVar Ball “the Kardashian of the NBA”

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Golden State coach Steve Kerr calls LaVar Ball “the Kardashian of the NBA,” and he thinks the father of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball has zero credibility.

Kerr made his remarks in response to a question about LaVar Ball after Ball told ESPN that the Lakers no longer want to play for coach Luke Walton, a dear Kerr friend and former top assistant with the Warriors.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, has called the ESPN article “a disgrace” and LaVar Ball’s comments an “ignorant distraction.”

Kerr says Monday night: “People are eating out of his hands for no apparent reason, other than he’s become like the Kardashian of the NBA or something, and that sells, and that’s what’s true in politics and entertainment and now in sports. It doesn’t matter if there’s any substance involved with an issue, it’s just can we make it really interesting for no apparent reason.”

 

Here are Kerr’s full comments, hat tip to NBC Sports Bay Area:

“This is the world we live in now. I was thinking about ESPN. They laid off, I don’t know, 100 people. How many people did they lay off over the last year? More? Well over 100. Many of whom were really talented journalists covering the NBA. This is not an ESPN judgment, it’s a societal thing more than anything.

“Where we’re going is were going away from covering the game and getting close to sensationalized news. It’s not even news really, it’s just complete nonsense. But if you package that irrational nonsense with glitter and ribbon, people are going to watch. I’ve talked to people in the media this year. I say ‘Why do you guys have to cover that guy?’ They say they don’t want to, nobody wants to, but our bosses tell us we have to because of the ratings, because of the readership. Somewhere, I guess this is in Lithuania, LaVar Ball is laughing at all of us. People are eating out of his hands for no apparent reason, other than he’s become like the Kardashian of the NBA, and I guess that sells and that’s what’s true in politics, in entertainment and now in sports. It doesn’t matter if there is any substance involved with an issue. It’s just, can we make it really interesting, for no apparent reason. There’s nothing interesting about that story.

“Do you know how many parents of my players are sitting at home going ‘Why isn’t he playing my kid?’ And yet, we’re sticking a microphone in his face because it apparently gets ratings. I don’t know how cares, but people care. They must care, or ESPN wouldn’t be spending whatever they’re spending to send reporters to Lithuania when they are laying off people who are writing really substantial (stories), people like Ethan Strauss and Marc Stein are getting laid off. Again, this is not a condemnation of ESPN. It’ not. It’s a societal issue. It’s been going on for many, many years. And it’s invading the sports world now.”