Kurt Helin

Watch Kyrie Irving alley-oop to Tristan Thompson against Toronto

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The most interesting NBA game of the night is in Cleveland Tuesday, a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Both teams bring back largely the same teams but with new wrinkles, such as a red hot DeMar DeRozan for the Raptors.

One thing that hasn’t changed: Kyrie Irving knows how to throw the lob, and Tristan Thompson knows how to finish.

Legendary Chicago Bulls “circus trip” to come to an end next season

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There are a handful of long, named road trips for specific teams in the NBA: The Rodeo Trip for the San Antonio Spurs when the rodeo kicks them out of the AT&T Center for a couple weeks; the Grammy trip for the Lakers/Clippers when Staples Center turns into the center of the music world; and the Chicago Bulls’ Circus trip, a tradition dating back to the Jordan era and starts this week.

Except, the circus trip is about to die.

Chris Kue at the Chicago Tribune explains it well.

But the Tribune has learned that when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ends its run at the UC later this month, it won’t be returning to the arena. In addition, when the teams are forced to take another two-week break in February for Disney on Ice, that will be the final time it will result in the Hawks and Bulls hitting the road for an extended period as that show will be condensed to a one-week run beginning in 2018.

The Circus and Ice Show trips have been a staple for the teams for decades and date back to when they occupied the Chicago Stadium. But when the present contracts expired, changes were made.

It’s the end of a tradition. Not that it’s a bad thing, but Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, and other coaches have been able to turn that into essential bonding and growth moments for the team. There were silver linings.

But everyone would rather sleep in their own beds.

Report: New CBA will have shorter preseason, new domestic violence policy


Another day, another report that the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the players’ union and the owners is nearly complete. This time it comes from Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer, which confirms what everyone around the NBA is hearing — the two sides are treating each other with respect (a vast change from the David Stern/Billy Hunter era), and since they figured out the money quickly it’s been smooth sailing.

This new report adds a couple of new details to what we know — or really, think we know, everything is subject to change — about what is coming in the new CBA. First, there will be a shorter preseason, something coaches and players have wanted.

The sources indicated that the NBA preseason schedule will be shortened under the new CBA. Stretches of four games in five nights and back-to-backs were reduced to all-time lows in recent seasons, but steps are being taken to further decrease those instances.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this before. The idea is to shorten the preseason by a week with fewer games, start the NBA season a week earlier, and that allows more space in the schedule to reduce back-to-backs. It makes sense. If you’re about to say “why don’t they just shorten the too-long schedule by 15 games?” you clearly forgot we live in a capitalistic society where making money is worshiped like a god.

Also, look for changes to the NBA’s domestic violence policy.

The new CBA will likely clarify the disciplinary procedures in dealing with domestic-violence policy violations, according to a source. The terms haven’t been finalized, but the measures will go well beyond a fine and a suspension. “I think as we’ve all seen in those situations that it needs to be more than discipline,” a source told The Ringer. “It needs to be about counseling, support services, intervention, outreach, and providing resources behind the scenes to help.”

Consistency of discipline has never been an NBA strong suit, so this would be welcome. The NBA needs to get out in front of this issue and be a leader in a society where domestic violence is far too prevalent and easily swept under the rug.

Here are some other things we believe to be coming in the new CBA

• The roughly 50/50 split of revenue will remain (it ranges between 49-51 percent depending on if the league meets revenue goals). This is always the real issue in negotiations, and everything else is secondary. The fact the two sides agreed on this split quickly — in part because the rising tide of the new national television contract has floated all boats — made the rest of this relatively straightforward.

• The college one-and-done rule will remain. Nobody likes it much but the players want the age limit gone, the owners want it bumped up to 20, and neither side apparently was willing to give up enough on other issues to move the needle.

• The NBA will create a fund to help with medical expenses and more for retired players who need it, particularly older ones that have been out of the league for some time.

• The scaled salaries for rookies will increase.

• There will be some changes to cap holds that will make it harder to do what Kawhi Leonard and Andre Drummond did with their rookie deals, delaying signing an obvious max extension to allow the team to use that cap space to put a better team around them. The cap hold increases also could make it difficult for the Warriors to keep Andre Iguodala and other role players around Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

• The salaries for D-League players — which currently have a max of $26,000 — will jump to $50,000 to $75,000. This brings the D-League in the ballpark of what undrafted players would make in their first season in Europe, making it more likely some of them stay here and chase their NBA dream and grow their game rather than get a paycheck. Eventually, some (many?) of those players will head overseas, but they will stay here longer and that’s good for the D-League.

Report: Michael Jordan, NBA shopping 10-hour Jordan documentary


Would you watch a 10-hour, authorized, full-access Michael Jordan documentary? Stupid question, of course you would. We all would.

Which leads to the next question: How much would a network — ESPN, HBO, Fox, etc. — be willing to pay for such a documentary? Does $20 million sound about right?

The idea is well beyond the formative stages and is being shopped around, reports Richard Johnson at the New York Post (hat tip Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie).

The NBA and CAA (Creative Artists Agency) are shopping a 10-hour authorized documentary about Jordan. Production has not yet started, but the film will mostly be about His Airness’ comeback in the late ’90s (after his stint playing baseball), when he won three of his six championship rings.

The producing team is led by Mike Tollin, who spearheaded ESPN’s acclaimed “30 for 30” series and is partners with Peter Guber in Mandalay Sports Media. The project has been pitched to ESPN, Showtime, HBO and Fox Sports, and Jordan’s reps are looking for a deal somewhere north of $20 million.

Michael Jordan remains a captivating story and draw — his name still sells shoes, books, underwear, pretty much anything it’s attached to. He is now the primary owner of the Charlotte Hornets, but his business interests run far and wide.

And as we can tell you from the buzz around his 50th birthday recently, there is still plenty of people who want to read, watch, and know all things Jordan. The team putting this together is a good one, the kind of team that is not going to let this become a PR puff piece — there are difficult questions around Jordan that need to be part of a documentary, that need to be addressed. They can’t gloss over the gambling allegations, the punching of teammates and more.

As a side note, if you want to know Michael Jordan’s story well, read Roland Lazenby’s fantastic biography “Michael Jordan: The Life.”

Jrue Holiday set to return to court for Pelicans Friday

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After a rough 0-8 start to the season, the New Orleans Pelicans have won two of their last three and are starting to get on the track. Whether they can get back on the track they wanted — a playoff track — is another question.

This news will help: Jrue Holiday should be back on Friday.

We knew this was coming, and New Orleans GM Dell Demps confirmed it to John Reid of the Times-Picayune on Tuesday.

New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps announced on Tuesday that point guard Jrue Holiday will return to the team on Thursday and is expected to play Friday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Holiday has missed the entire season to be with his wife, Lauren, who underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor last month. In September, Lauren gave birth to a healthy six-pound, 4-ounce baby girl.

The good news that Holiday is returning is most importantly good news for his family — they are in a good enough position he can return to the time-consuming grind of his job.

Holiday will be on a minutes limit to start as he plays himself back into game shape. He reportedly has been working out through his time away, but nothing can prepare you for what it takes to play in a game.

Holiday brings the Pelicans a much-needed second shot creator and scoring option besides Anthony Davis. While Davis is averaging 30.7 points and 11.1 rebounds a game, one man can only do so much and he has had less help than other stars like Russell Westbrook or James Harden. Holiday brings assistance, and he allows Tim Frazier — who has started to come into his own as a point guard — to the bench to add depth.

The Pelicans also have Tyreke Evans, who is getting closer to returning.

Swingman Tyreke Evans could be returning to action soon after missing the first 11 games to recover from undergoing three surgeries on his right knee since last May. The Pelicans announced that Evans started on-court work on Tuesday, but there remains no set timetable when he may return.