Kurt Helin

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As expected, Kentucky’s Jamal Murray declares for NBA draft

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We already knew just about everybody who played for Kentucky last season was going into the NBA draft, but now things are becoming official.

On Friday, guard Jamal Murray sat down in front of the media, with his father by his side, and said he was going pro.

“When I first committed to Kentucky, it was the biggest moment of my life, being able to hug my dad and all my family members behind me as we took the next step,” Murray said. “I came here with a goal to improve myself and I did. I cherished every moment I was on the court. I made Kentucky my second home to Canada. Coach Cal and the staff told me that I would have to work hard every day and that they would demand the best of me. I’m thankful for how much they’ve pushed me to become a better player, teammate and person.

“With that said, I’m ready to take on the challenge of playing at the next level and I have declared for the NBA Draft. I want to thank the fans for all their support. It was a crazy experience and we had a lot of fun this year. I’m excited to take on new challenges in the journey ahead of me.”
Murray is expected to be a top 10 pick (DraftExpress.com currently has him going No. 6). He’s not considered an explosive athlete, but he’s skilled, and he can shoot — 41.1 percent from three this season.

John Calipari had nice things to say about the player he was losing.

Want a scouting report? Here is what PBT’s NBA Draft expert — and Rotoworld writer — Ed Isaacson wrote about Murray for us at the start of the NCAA Tournament.
After an up-and-down start to the season, Murray flourished in the second half of the season once Coach John Calipari altered the offense to run him off of screens to get open for shots instead of letting him try to create. Murray is a great spot-shooter, with NBA range, but he is much worse off the dribble, knocking down just 33 percent of his dribble jumpers. While not exactly the point guard he was touted to be, he is a decent ballhandler, though Murray has a tendency to over-dribble hoping to create something. If he can get into the lane, he can be a creative finisher, with an array of short jumpers and floaters, but he doesn’t always have the speed burst to beat defenders off the dribble, so he relies on screens to get open. Murray can also be frustrating with his passing; he has shown good vision and passing ability, but his decision making is not very good. It’s not often you see someone touted as a point guard have a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. On defense, Murray is not very good, and needs works on a lot of the basic concepts, such as positioning. Murray has shown that he can knock down spot-up jumpers, but at just 6’4”, and as a poor defender, it may take a while for him to gain traction at the NBA level.

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

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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.