Kurt Helin

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Pistons’ Stanley Johnson fires back at Kevin Durant over celebration comments


This whole tempest in a teapot is getting ridiculous.

It started this week when the Pistons hosted the Thunder and OKC decided to rest Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. Durant was dismissive of Detroit pregame when asked about sitting it out. The Pistons won the game, and Reggie Jackson was celebrating — of course he was, Detroit needed the win in the middle of their playoff chase, plus Jackson still harbors a whole lot of ill will toward the Oklahoma City organization (remember he was there before Detroit). Jackson savored the win. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook don’t like Jackson or the way he left OKC, so they used the celebration to sound off. Here is what Durant said.

It was bush league, in my opinion. Jumping up and down, running around. I understand that you’re happy you won the game, but our whole team didn’t play. We’d beat the hell out of them if we did. I normally won’t talk like that, but that pissed me off. But what can I do about it? Some guys are who they are.

Now Pistons’ rookie Stanley Johnson has decided to fire back at Durant. For some reason. Here’s what he said, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“If he wanted to have an impact on the game, he should have just played,” Johnson said after this morning’s shoot-around…

“No one is scared of playing against him on this side of town,” Johnson said. “Next year we have two games scheduled, and I know, for me, it’s circled on my schedule from now on.”

Why do I feel like I’m writing about an argument between 7- and 9-year-old daughters?

So we have a budding Pistons/Thunder rivalry? Great. That might make otherwise tedious midseason matchups between these teams more fun next season. But they might be fun anyway as the Thunder are an elite team (if they can keep the core of the roster together) and the Pistons are a team on the rise, but this will add a layer of spice.

But for now, this should back and forth should die.

Report: Chicago Bulls “softening” on statement they will bring back Pau Gasol


Paul Gasol is going to be a free agent this summer.

He is going to opt out of his deal with Chicago that would pay him $7.8 million next season because the man wants to get paid. Even at age 36 (which he will be by next season), he is going to get more money and a longer-term deal in a summer market flooded with cash once the salary cap spikes north of $90 million. Gasol has value, the All-Star is averaging 16.5 points and 11 rebounds a game, he has a solid true shooting percentage (52.6 percent, right about the league average), and he’s a gifted passer.

Earlier this season Bulls GM said that they planned to re-sign Gasol this summer, but that stance may be changing reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune in an article mostly about the Bulls not trading Jimmy Butler (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

Sources said the Bulls are softening on the public stance general manager Gar Forman issued at the trade deadline that Gasol “is part of the core,” not to mention Gasol is open-minded to entertaining rival offers.

A few thoughts here.

First, Pau Gasol is going to get overpaid this summer by some team that strikes out on its first choices. More than just money, the question is how long do teams want to pay a 36-year-old, even one who is still productive?

Second, the Bulls should let Gasol go. If they are going to build around Jimmy Butler in a system that fits Fred Hoiberg’s preferred offensive style, Gasol does not mesh with that future. Well, unless he wants to come off the bench as a scoring big (he does not). The Bulls should look elsewhere for help up front, particularly with someone who can defend. I’d say they should try to bring back Joakim Noah at a fair price, but that relationship may be damaged after Hoiberg tried to use him as a sixth man so Gasol could start.

Third, this should be just one step in a major roster overhaul in Chicago. One that should include serious consideration of trading Derrick Rose.

Lakers’ Julius Randle fined $15,000 for “big balls dance” after game winner vs. Heat

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There are a few things that are predictable in the often roulette-like NBA fine structure.

One of those consistent, predictable things: Do the “big balls dance” and you get fined. That’s the celebration that has been around the league for a long time and may best be remembered as Sam Cassell’s go-to celebration.

The latest victim, the Lakers’ Julius Randle. After he hit the game winner against Miami this week, he ran down the court celebrating with the banned dance. Friday, the league announced a $15,000 fine for Randle. Just another “welcome to the NBA” moment for the improving forward.

Jimmy Butler on trade rumors: “I don’t plan on going anywhere”


The rumors cropped up on Thursday: This summer the Chicago Bulls would test the trade market for Jimmy Butler.

Test the market is one thing — maybe some GM or owner would be willing to overpay and offer the Bulls a deal they can’t refuse (Boston and Orlando are rumored to be interested). It’s highly unlikely, but not impossible. However, if Bulls management is seriously thinking of moving him then they are fools — who are they going to build around, what’s left of Derrick Rose, 36-year-old (by next season) Pau Gasol, and Fred Hoiberg? That’s not a recipe for success. Bulls’ management knows Butler is the future, even if he is stumbling learning how to lead a team.

Butler doesn’t want to go anywhere, as he told Nick Friedell of ESPN.

“That’s why I’m here,” Butler told ESPN.com after Thursday night’s 103-100 win over the Houston Rockets. “I don’t plan on going anywhere. I can’t control what everybody else does. I know that this is the city that I love, Chicago. And I want to wear that jersey. I want to wear that name on the front, and I wear it proudly. All I got to do is continue to control what I can control. That’s try to help this team win games.”

Next fall, Butler is still going to be a member of the Bulls, he is the young cornerstone they need to build around. The question is what the rest of the team around him will look like — expect some major roster shakeups.

Part of the reason for the trade rumors was the sense that Butler and Hoiberg did not get along. First, if the Bulls were going to pick between the two, are they going to take Hoiberg? Second, Hoiberg says there is no issue.

“I haven’t heard anything about [the report],” Hoiberg said before the game. “But again, I don’t read a lot right now. I think Jimmy and I have a really good relationship right now. I’ve been communicating a lot with him. Since he had the injury and has come back we’ve really limited his time. He hasn’t done much in shootaround just to try and save his legs for the game. I obviously think the world of him for how hard he pushes himself and how much he’s just improved his game over the years with his work ethic. I think that rubs off onto the other guys. So Jimmy absolutely is a very important part to this team.”

It’s going to be an interesting offseason in Chicago.

Three Takeaways from NBA Thursday: Bulls win to keep playoff dream alive, hurt Rockets in process

Associated Press
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What you missed around the NBA while rats were climbing on you in the subway….

1) Bulls win keeps playoff dream alive, while Rockets loss drops them to nine seed. Two teams desperate for a win as they try to claw back into the playoffs and — stop me if you’ve heard this one before Rocket fans — but up by 14 in the third the Rockets got away from what was working. Houston couldn’t play defense, Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic was draining his threes, Jimmy Butler was dunking, and after a 10-0 Bulls run put the game away (we thought, the Bulls tried to collapse but Trevor Ariza‘s three to tie missed the mark) the Bulls beat the Rockets 103-100.

It was a game that left you saying, “Do either of these teams deserve to make the playoffs?”

But one might. With the win the Bulls keep their dream alive — they are just one game back of eight seed Indiana (which lost to Orlando Thursday) with seven games to play. It helps that the Bulls beat the Pacers this week, next up for them is Detroit on Saturday, a team two games ahead of them in the standings. Fivethirtyeight.com has the Pistons at an 85 percent chance to make the playoffs, the Pacers at 84 percent, and the Bulls at 22 percent — not great odds, but better than one-in-five. They need some consistency, but the Bulls dream is not dead.

The Rockets, with their loss, fell out of the playoffs if they started today, falling half a game back (one in the loss column) from both Dallas and Utah, which are tied for the 7/8 seeds. The Rockets face a good Oklahoma City team next on Sunday, then next Wednesday have a huge showdown with Dallas. Because of their play lately and upcoming schedules, fivethirtyeight.com still thinks the Rockets will make it and the Mavs (without Chandler Parsons) will fall — the site has the Jazz at 91 percent, the Rockets at 76 percent, and the Mavericks at 33 percent. But a couple more sloppy losses like this will cost the Rockets. At least James Harden was dunking for them.

2) Thunder pick up a win against shorthanded Clippers. Barely. They are not going to send the video of this one to the Hall of Fame, but for the Thunder a win is a win. Doc Rivers decided to rest every Clipper you can probably name outside of Jamal Crawford (he had 32 points), and in the end that makeshift Clippers lineup couldn’t stop Steven Adams from getting the game-winning tip-in by overpowering Clipper defenders. Nor could they stop Russell Westbrook all night (26 points), who was doing stuff like this.

3) LeBron James passes Dominique Wilkins to move into 12th on NBA All-Time scoring list. LeBron has rocketed up the NBA All-Time scoring list this season, just because a lot of players (from Reggie Miller through active guys like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan) are all bunched together. Thursday night LeBron moved past Dominique Wilkins. Oscar Robertson is next, and LeBron should move past him in a game or two, he is just 21 points back.