Kurt Helin

J.R. Smith with off-the-backboard alley-oop to LeBron James (VIDEO)

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Once they got rolling, the Cleveland Cavaliers toyed with the Phoenix Suns Wednesday night. And they got to showboat a little.

Such as J.R. Smith going with the off-the-backboard alley-oop pass to LeBron James for the dunk.

The Cavaliers won the game 115-93 behind 21 points apiece for James and Kevin Love.


It’s official: Tyronn Lue will coach Eastern Conference All-Stars


After the Cavaliers waxed the lowly Suns on Wednesday night, Tyronn Lue is now 2-1 as a head coach in the NBA.

He also will now be the head coach of the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

With that win over Phoenix, Cleveland is now 32-12 on the season and when it gets to the Feb. 1 cut off the Cavaliers will have the best record in the East. By rule, their coach gets to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars.

Even if they’ve been on the job for three games.

This wasn’t a surprise. After Wednesday’s game Lue said what he had said before — this is a tribute to former coach David Blatt and the players.

The NBA has said Blatt cannot coach the All-Star team in place of Lue, using the rather logical reasoning that he is not a head coach in the NBA right now.

Gregg Popovich will coach the Western Conference All-Stars. (Yes, the Warriors have the better record, but Steve Kerr coached the West last year and under the “Riley Rule” the same coach cannot coach the All-Star game in consecutive years.)

The All-Star Game takes place Feb. 14 in Toronto. The fans have voted in the starters for both conferences (Lue will get to coach LeBron James), the reserves (voted in by the coaches) will be announced Thursday.

Report: Rather than trade Pau Gasol, Bulls may try to re-sign him this summer

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A couple of weeks back, the sense around the league was that the Chicago Bulls would try to move one of their bigs before the trade deadline. Then the injuries hit — Joakim Noah is out for the season after shoulder surgery, and now Nikola Mirotic had an appendectomy Wednesday and is out until after the All-Star Game. The Bulls now need all that front court depth.

One of the guys rumored to be shopped around was Pau Gasol, although with him expected to opt out this summer and being 35 there were doubts he would bring back as much value as the Bulls got from keeping him around.

The Bulls have come to that conclusion, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

Gasol can and would be foolish not to opt out this summer and cash in on the windfall of television deal money around the league. Even at age 35, he averaged 16.6 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, he remains an efficient scorer. He also shows good chemistry with Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose.

Signing Gasol is not going to be just about the money — likely north of $15 million a season, way more than the $7.7 he is scheduled to make — but the years. Gasol will be 36 when next season starts, are teams willing to give him four years? Three years? Plus maybe a team option year for another season? The Bulls are going to do some restructuring of their roster the next couple summers, how long do they want to be committed to Gasol?

Gasol may have a solid, fundamental game, but he’s not going to outrun father time.

Dwight Howard returns to Rockets’ starting lineup Wednesday vs. Spurs

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After missing three games with a sprained ankle, Dwight Howard is back in the Houston Rockets’ lineup Wednesday. Howard went through shootaround and will head straight back into the Rockets’ starting lineup.

The Rockets won all three games Howard sat, with a combination of Corey Brewer and Clint Capella starting and allowing Houston to go small and play faster. They also got a boost from the return of Josh Smith.

Houston still needs Howard if they are going to climb the standings and be a playoff threat — they are 4 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court than off it, with the team playing better on both offense and defense.

J.B. Bickerstaff’s rotations will be interesting in this one.

Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic has appendectomy, out until after All-Star break

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Nikola Mirotic has had a disappointing season. Call it a shooting slump, a crisis of confidence, maybe he’s just not that good, whatever the reason he has not been the stretch four offensive force Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg had wanted him to be. That said, he had a quality 17-point game in the win over Cleveland, then bounced back with 15 in the loss to Miami. Maybe he was starting to turn the season around.

Now comes another setback.

Mirotic was diagnosed with an acute appendicitis, and an appendectomy was performed Wednesday at Rush University Medical Center, the team announced. He is expected to be out until after the All-Star break.

Mirotic had been selected to play for the world team in the Rising Stars Challenge All-Star Weekend in Toronto (you know, the old rookie/sophomore game), but he clearly can no longer do that. The league will need to replace him on the roster.

This could also could keep the Bulls from trading one of their big men at the deadline, as had been expected around the league. As Marc Stein of ESPN noted, now both Mirotic and Joakim Noah are out injured until the trade deadline, making the Bulls hesitant to move someone like Taj Gibson in a deal.