Kurt Helin

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”

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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.

76ers in danger of matching worst record in NBA history

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia 76ers are on a PR blitz trying to win fans’ patience since they are unable to win on the court.

General manager Sam Hinkie – needing something to do with Jerry Colangelo now calling the shots – filmed a spot for the latest promotional video released Thursday that made it seem like he was stumping for votes on the campaign trail. Wearing a hard hat at the eventual site of their new team headquarters, Hinkie’s voiceover says the team is moving “into a building that will embody a lot of the values important to us.”

Hinkie and the 76ers even have a catchy campaign slogan: “Trust the Process.”

The fans the organization is trying to woo could easily shoot back with a motto of their own: Win Some Games.

Year 3 of – Tanking? Rebuilding? You pick the side – is the worst one yet under owner Josh Harris, Hinkie and coach Brett Brown.

Worst of the NBA season? Well, yeah, that was inevitable in training camp. Worst of all time? Getting close.

The Sixers are 9-66 entering Friday’s game at Charlotte, in danger of matching the worst 82-game record in NBA history. Should the Sixers lose their final seven games, they will finish at 9-73, tying the miserable mark set by – spoiler alert! – the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1972-73 season.

The Sixers have lost 10 straight games and would finish on a 17-game losing streak should they fail to put another “W” in the column.

Under Brown, the Sixers have at one point lost both 26 and 28 straight games, the latter the longest losing streak in the history of pro sports.

Allen Iverson, expected to be named to the Hall of Fame on Monday, once railed against practice but is now preaching another p-word: patience.

“I think in Philadelphia, real fans, you’ve got to be patient and understand how young these guys are and know that the potential is there,” Iverson said. “The talent is there, they’re just young, bro. We’ve got to give them a chance.”

The dysfunctional Los Angeles Lakers are the next closest in the worst-of-the-worst teams with 16 wins.

The biggest win of the season just might come in the draft lottery, where this avalanche of defeats has the Sixers positioned to win the No. 1 pick.

But losing has come at a price, even for the greatest players in franchise history.

“If you’re great here, you’re a legend,” Hinkie says in the video. “Wilt. Allen. Charles. You don’t need a second name.”

Sometimes, the legends don’t need a first one. Like Dr. J.

Julius Erving, the Hall of Famer who starred on the 76ers’ last title team in 1983, is tired of watching the franchise founder at the bottom of the NBA.

“It hurts to see the franchise down,” Erving said. “We want to be associated with a winning team. We’ve got to take crap from other retired players from teams that are winning right now. Then we have to remind them how we used to beat up on them in our day. It’s a little bit back and forth. There’s bragging rights. We’d like for the Sixers to help us get some bragging rights.”

There are the infamous kind of bragging rights, as well.

Fred Carter, who played on that 1972-73 Sixers team and would coach the team in the 1990s, said this year’s team is worse than the 70s edition because of how open the franchise has been about the plan to hit bottom. Carter said his Sixers were not built for losing; it just sort of happened.

Carter wants the Sixers to win at least one more game so the `73 team will continue to hold the dubious mark.

“Sunday, I’ll go to Mass. Sunday, I’ll light an extra candle for them,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know if I’ll be lighting a candle for them or lighting one for me, but I will light one. It’s better to be remembered than not remembered at all.”

This season’s Sixers would rather not go down as the worst of all time.

“Most of the games we’re in, we’ve been able to put up a game,” forward Nerlens Noel said.

So, can a team that had Christian Wood, Sonny Weems and even Elton Brand suit up this season avoid a single-digit victory season?

Let’s take a look:

– Friday, at Charlotte: The Hornets lead the series 3-0 and just thumped the Sixers 100-85 on Tuesday.

– Saturday, vs. Pacers: The Pacers lead the series 2-0 and will play the Sixers on the second night of back-to-backs.

– Tuesday, vs. New Orleans: “Ahhh, that’s their 10!” Carter said. “They shut down Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday. That’ll get them 10.”

Carter might be right. The woeful Pelicans (27-47) won in their only other meeting but have benched their injured stars for the season, meaning this could be Philly’s best shot at the 10th win.

– Friday, April 8, vs New York: Pro: It’s the Knicks. Con: New York leads the series 3-0.

Then it’s games against the Bucks, Raptors and Bulls, teams that are a combined 8-0 vs. the 76ers this season.

There could be hope in the franchise’s bloodlines – four seasons after the nine-win team, the 76ers reached the NBA Finals and they won it all 10 years later.

Can they find that franchise savior in the draft?

“Allen Iverson ain’t walking through the door,” Iverson said.

And the suffering continues.

This story has been corrected to show that the Sixers’ remaining games are in April, not March.

Steven Adams’ late basket lifts Thunder past Clippers 119-117

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Steven Adams hit a go-ahead tip-in with 26.9 seconds left and the Oklahoma City Thunder held on to avoid a potentially embarrassing loss, edging the depleted Los Angeles Clippers 119-117 on Thursday night.

Russell Westbrook added 26 points and 11 assists for the Thunder, who lead the Clippers by 5 1/2 games in the race for the No. 3 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference playoffs.

The Clippers played without usual starters Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick, as coach Doc Rivers chose to rest them. Blake Griffin also was out, serving the last game of a four-game team-imposed suspension.

Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers carried the load offensively, each scoring 32 points and going a combined 12-of-17 from 3-point range. Los Angeles led by as many as nine in the second half but couldn’t hold on as the Thunder outrebounded the Clippers 46-26.

No rebound was bigger than one by Adams that came after Westbrook took a well-guarded, fallaway 15-foot jumper that missed badly. Adams tipped it in to put Oklahoma City ahead. Rivers, who posted a career scoring high, missed a driving shot in the final seconds and Westbrook rebounded with 2.7 seconds left to seal the win for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City made 10 of its first 11 shots and led by as many as 12 in the second quarter, but the Thunder’s poor interior defense and the sharpshooting of Crawford and Rivers allowed Los Angeles to quickly close the gap.

The duo went 8 of 8 from 3-point range in the first half, combining for 40 points, and Crawford made three free throws with 1.3 seconds left to give the Clippers a 69-65 halftime lead. Los Angeles shot 63.2 percent in the first half, the Thunder 58.1 percent.

Data curated by PointAfter

A 12-2 run to open the second half put Oklahoma City up 77-71, but the Clippers scored nine straight to regain the lead and were up 92-83 after a dunk by Wesley Johnson on a play that started with a turnover by Westbrook. Los Angeles led 97-93 entering the fourth quarter.

Consecutive dunks by Durant and Adams, off assists from Westbrook, gave the Thunder the lead again at 110-109 with 5:56 left. Los Angeles went up 115-110 after consecutive 3-pointer by Johnson and Jeff Green.

TIP-INS

Clippers: In addition to the absence of Paul, Jordan, Redick and Griffin, the Clippers were without Paul Pierce, who’s still nursing a sprained ankle. … Los Angeles’ starting lineup was Crawford, Rivers, Luc Mbah a Moute, Johnson and Cole Aldrich. … Rivers’ previous career high was 25 points, against Sacramento on Feb. 21, 2015. He also set a career high with seven 3-pointers in nine attempts.

Thunder: Durant recorded his 60th straight game of 20 or more points, the fourth-longest streak since the NBA-ABA merger. … Westbrook’s double-double was his 50th of the season.

RESTING UP

Doc Rivers said it made sense to rest the majority of his starters against the Thunder, considering the gap between the Thunder and the Clippers in the standings. The Clippers will be off Friday and Saturday before Paul, Jordan, Redick and Griffin all return for a game Sunday against the Washington Wizards.

“I don’t know how much guys need rest or not,” Rivers said. “I think they do. I know Chris, for sure, and J.J. DJ (Jordan) is young, but he’s given us so many minutes. I just thought if we were going to do it, it was a good time. We have two more back-to-backs, so we may do it a couple more times. I’m not sure. I’ll just go by what I see.”