Scottie Pippen was on fire Friday.
Not in a “that man speaks the truth” way so much as a “he’s going to get a lot of ink” way.
After lighting a fire with his Jordan/LeBron comments, Pippen spoke with ESPNChicago late on Friday and called out Carlos Boozer for his play for the Bulls in the playoffs, saying he was a key reason the Bulls did not advance.
“You can’t hide at this stage of the season. At this point, you have to be able to play through everything because if you’re trying to hide a guy or a guy is not performing for you, it’s going to show offensively in the playoffs and it’s going to be magnified … We all know Carlos did not play at the level the team needed him to and that that hurt them more than anything because they couldn’t rely on him.
“The flagrant foul, the pushing calls, the inability to finish strong around the basket. Now you’re a liability. We can’t hide you and now we have to take you out of the game.”
The flagrant foul in question was a swipe to LeBron James’ face late in the third quarter of Game 5. The Bulls had been up 11 but the Heat quickly cut it to 5. Of course, the Bulls got that back up to double digits late in the fourth quarter before falling apart. Pippen also took swipes at Joakim Noah for not stepping up in the playoffs. Notice that both of those guys were on the bench when Chicago needed a game-tying shot late in Game 5.
Pippen is right, Carlos Boozer did not step up with bigger and better games in the playoffs. Jazz fans would have told you to expect that. But Boozer also is not guy who can create his own shots, he needs to be paired with guys like that. The Bulls have one of the best in Derrick Rose but until they get a second guy who can create on the perimeter the Bulls will be vulnerable in the playoffs.
Markelle Fultz is back with the 76ers.
Not in uniform for games, but he is back from Los Angeles and in Philadelphia working out with the team to recover from thoracic outlet syndrome, according to multiple reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the story, then Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia confirmed it.
Fultz was in the arena for the Sixers game Saturday against the Thunder on national television (though not suited up to play).
There is no timetable for Fultz’s return, although his agent has said he expects Fultz to be back on the court this season. Whether that would be with the Sixers is another question, teams have called about the availability of the No. 1 pick from the 2017 NBA Draft, but the offers have been so lowball that none of them have been seriously considered by Philadelphia.
After consulting with a number of specialists just a few weeks into the season (and just after the Jimmy Butler trade), the 20-year-old Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a pinching of the nerve through the collarbone area. Since December he has been in Los Angeles is doing physical therapy to relieve the issue.
Fultz has returned to Philadelphia and is continuing that therapy.
To bring in some front line depth in the form of Kenneth Faried Monday, the Houston Rockets first have to clear a roster spot.
That led to a lot of speculation it could be Carmelo Anthony who is let go, he remains on the roster but not with the team, in a kind of limbo while the Rockets and ‘Melo’s agent look for a landing spot. (He reportedly has several options and will choose one before the trade deadline, but if he really liked any of those options he would have already taken them rather than waiting for a better offer.)
The Rockets are “aggressively” trying to trade Anthony and find him a new home before Monday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported. However, James Nunnally is the most likely guy out, he was just signed to a 10-day contract.
If the Rockets haven’t waived ‘Melo yet, they’re not going to do it now.
Houston GM Daryl Morey is also working the phone lines to find wing depth to add to the Rockets’ roster. While James Harden‘s historic streak has carried the Rockets back into the playoff picture in the West, this is not the same Houston team that was a threat to the Warriors a season ago. Morey’s off-season gambles — including Anthony — have not panned out, and he is now trying to correct them.
This is bad.
The New Orleans Pelicans are 21-25 and four games back of the eight seed in the West having lost 3-of-4 on the current road trip. When Anthony Davis is not on the court, the Pelicans get outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions.
Davis is not going to be on the court for a week or two due to a sprained finger, the team announced Saturday morning.
Looking ahead at the schedule, Davis is likely to miss between three and seven games.
Davis has played at an MVP level this season, averaging 29.3 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting, plus grabs 13.3 rebounds and dishes out 4.4 assists a night. And that’s just on offense, defensively he is one of the best rim protecting bigs in the league, averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Davis leads the NBA in win shares (8.3) and PER at 30.9. He has been an absolute beast all season long.
Yet he hasn’t been able to lead the Pelicans to a winning record because of the roster around him (and injuries that have sapped what little depth New Orleans had to begin with).
Because of that, the intensely competitive Davis — who has talked about legacy mattering more to him than money — is expected to turn down a $239 million contract extension from the Pelicans next summer. At that point New Orleans will have to consider trading him and 29 teams will be lined up to talk deal (the Celtics and Lakers are expected to be at the front of that line).
This summer, Robert Pera maintained ownership of the Memphis Grizzlies and with that meant the status quo remained — the Grizzlies were going to try to ride the duo of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to the playoffs. There would be no rebuild.
After falling to the Celtics Friday night, Memphis is 19-26, has lost 10-of-11, and are 14th in the Western Conference. Around the league, there is a buzz that Memphis may have to look at trading Gasol, who has a player option this summer and could become a free agent.
With that slide as a backdrop, Gasol and Conley met with Pera recently, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Conley and Gasol, who has a player option for next season worth $25.5 million, sat down with Pera in Memphis this week to discuss the direction of the franchise, league sources said. Pera often meets with key team personnel when he visits Memphis over the course of a season.
Does that mean changes are coming? That’s not what Conley told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
“That’s all there was to it,” Conley said after the Grizzlies’ loss in Boston on Friday night. “There was nothing special that came out of it that’s going to change the world or anything.
“We got to talk to him.”
Pera has resisted any kind of rebuild — and in a smaller market, with a community that has embraced the “grit ‘n grind” mantra, there are economic reasons that has been the smart move. While other teams are circling, so far there is no word out of Memphis that there are trades for stars to be had (Chandler Parsons on the other hand…).
Every GM will say of moving players “better too early than too late.” In Memphis, the franchise may have missed that window.