Kurt Helin

KUKOC

Toni Kukoc returns to Bulls as special advisor to owner

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Scottie Pippen as been a special advisor to President & COO Michael Reinsdorf for three years.

Now he has a new running mate in one of his old running mates — Toni Kukoc. The Bulls made the announcement this week.

“You only have to be around Toni for a few minutes to appreciate his personality, passion, and professionalism and recognize the contributions he will make to our team in his new role,” Reinsdorf said in a released statement. “Toni will work across the organization and his duties will be wide-ranging. He will bring valuable perspective that comes with experience to many areas, whether it is relating to the international players on our team or sharing what it means to be a Chicago Bull when talking to partners and fans. Toni will be a strong representative of both the team’s legacy and its future.”

“It is a thrill and an honor to again be a part of the team that helped define my basketball career here in the United States and in Chicago,” Kukoc said in his statement. “The Bulls have become my extended family, and I am really looking forward to the future and being a Bull for life.”

Kukoc was the sixth man for the Bulls second back-to-back-to-back title run from 1996-98 (he won Sixth Man of the Year in 1996). He’s a Bulls legend.

The only interesting thing here is that when Pippen and Kukoc were teammates there was a lot of tension between them. Kukoc was then GM Jerry Krause’s golden boy, and that led to issues between Kukoc and the locker room power structure of Michael Jordan and Pippen. Kukoc was considered Jordan’s whipping boy.

Going on 20 years later, you would think everyone is mature enough to have moved past all that.

Dorell Wright agrees to deal in China, could return for end of NBA season

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Two
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Dorell Wright was buried on the Portland bench last season, then when you add in the fact the small forward is now coming off hand surgery, there wasn’t much of a market for him. There were whispers of Miami and other spots, but these were all minimum contract deals.

So instead, he’s going to get paid in China.

David Pick was first with the report.

Wright has now confirmed this on his Twitter account.

Wright shot 38 percent from three last year and still has some value on the court. This is a situation where he chased a bigger paycheck in China, but he will be done there sometime in February to March (depending on how deep the Dragons go in the playoffs).

Which means he can sign on for the end of the NBA season with a team. By then there will be a team looking for some depth and floor spacing at the three, and he will draw interest.

Phil Jackson’s concern: Could Kristaps Porzingis turn out like Shawn Bradley?

porzingis
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Shawn Bradley wasn’t as bad as Twitter seems to remember him, even if he ended up on the wrong end of a lot of dunks. The 7’6″ center with a stick-figure build had six NBA triple-doubles — not with assists but with blocks — and was double-digit a game scorer with a PER above the league average at his peak. He lasted a dozen seasons in the league.

Still he is widely seen as a bust (it doesn’t help that Penny Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn were taken right after Bradley). He was so thin he simply could be muscled around by guys with lower centers of gravity.

Could the same thing happen to Knicks’ rookie Kristaps Porzingis?

Phil Jackson backs his man but expressed this concern at the possibility when speaking to Charlie Rosen at ESPN.

Jackson projects that Porzingis will add at least 10 pounds of muscle before his first season commences, yet concerns still linger over his prize draft pick. “Like Shawn Bradley, who was nevertheless a pretty good player, KP might almost be too tall for the game. What I mean is that his core strength might never be good enough, and that he might not be able to get low enough to get himself into prime defensive position to body power rebounders or drivers.”

Porzingis showed promise at Summer League, but what also was clear was his need to put on some weight and get stronger because guys like Jahlil Okafor pushed him around with ease. And even if he puts on that weight, as Jackson said his center of gravity may be too high. That said, he showed a skill for using his length to compensate.

Porzingis showed far more skill and potential on offense than Bradley did — and he showed some shot-blocking chops. Not Bradley level, but he could develop into a rim protector.

It’s far, far too early to say how any of this draft class will turn out (Summer League is not a good predictor). But if I were a Knicks fan, I’d not be too worried about the Bradley comparison.

 

DeMarcus Cousins’ response to latest trade rumors: “Blah blah blah”

Atlanta Hawks v Sacramento Kings
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Nobody seems to be as sick of DeMarcus Cousins’ trade rumors as DeMarcus Cousins.

Those rumors are not going anywhere in the short-term. The latest ones came from Howard Beck in a post at Bleacher Report in a video about guys who start the season on the trade block:

“Sacramento, I think, wants to hold onto him. Certainly the onwer Vivek Ranadive absolutely wants to hold onto DeMarcus Cousins. But I’ve been told if you polled the rest of the organization, the vast majority are in favor of trading DeMarcus Cousins and that would include, though he denies it, coach George Karl.”

Cousins’ reaction to this?

Then that was quickly echoed by the Kings’ front office.

The Kings are not going to trade Cousins in the short term. It’s just not going to happen — if your biggest supporter in the organization is the owner, you’re in a position of power.

Can Cousins and Karl get along? That remains to be seen. But if the players can be unified — even if it is in opposition to Karl — this is a team with some real talent and some potential, even in a deep West.

That all starts with Cousins as a cornerstone piece. Which is why you don’t trade him.

Report: Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas nearing four-year, $60 million contract extension

Raptors Media Day
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Big men in the NBA get paid.

Jonas Valanciunas is a big man — officially 7’1″, 255 pounds — who is a skilled scorer near the basket (he averaged 12 points a game on 57 percent shooting last season). He’s got some holes in his game (he’s not a great rim protector, his passing needs work) but still big men get paid.

And he’s going to get paid with a healthy contract extension to his rookie deal, reports Marc Stein of ESPN. Although he’s taking a little less than I expected.

The two sides had until Nov. 1 to get a deal done, but they got it done early.

Because he’s a big and next summer around 20 NBA teams may have max salary money (thanks to the coming spike in the salary cap from the new television deal), it was possible he would push for a max contract extension, which would have started at around $19 million per year. If he had waited until next summer, he would have gotten the max from somebody.

However, like a lot of players did this summer, Valanciunas appears willing to take a little less (although still a large sum) for the security of getting it done and staying in a situation he likes. It’s the bird in the hand theory, and when you saw the rash of injuries around the league last year it’s understandable. He’s about to make the kind of money that sets a family up for generations, you can’t fault him for wanting to lock that down now.

On the court, the Raptors tweaked their roster this summer to become more defensive minded, bringing in DeMarre Carroll for example. But for it all to work on both ends Valanciunas is going to have to take a step forward. He has to become a better defensive presence in the paint. He has to diversify his offensive game.

He’s got to play like a guy who deserves the extension he is about to land.