How this story usually goes: the veteran team looks polished if disinterested at times, but when it’s over they finish it off like a contender; the younger team looks overwhelmed early, overcomes its early struggles to make a game of it but falls short.
This was the opposite of that.
The Chicago Bulls pulled away early and looked dominant, never trailed and looked like the contenders when it mattered, while the Celtics mounted a spirited comeback but ultimately fell short. The Bulls won 88-79.
That’s kind of where we are with teams.
The Bulls are a good defensive team, but you need to combine that with an ice-cold Celtics squad to get a start like this — Boston started this game 5-of-27 shooting. They were down 52-33 Bulls at the half, where Chicago shot 54 percent, Boston just 33 percent. It looked like a blowout.
But Boston would not go quietly into that good night. Rajon Rondo — make no mistake, this is his team now — had six points and five assists in the quarter, and finished with 18 and 11. More importantly the Celtics picked up their defensive intensity.
With 10 minutes left it was 67-66 Chicago and it looked like we were in for a close finish. But that’s when the best player on the floor — Derrick Rose — asserted himself. He had 12 points in the fourth quarter and 25 overall. The Bulls got some easy buckets in transition. Luol Deng looked good all night and finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds. Boston had no good answer for all that, Paul Pierce was 3-for-12 shooting for the game.
This is kind of where we are with these sides right now — the Bulls are clearly title contenders that know how to put teams away. The Celtics have that in them, but there are questions left about the depth of their talent level.
The Chicago Bulls have signed guard Shaquille Harrison.
In a preceding move, the Bulls waived center Omer Asik.
Harrison is a nice pickup, one of the better free agents available and someone who plays a position of need. The Bulls could use several swings at finding long-term point guards, and the 25-year-old Harrison is a potential fit.
Waiving Asik is an interesting move. Asik was injured, and this could end the 32-year-old’s career. But Chicago loses the ability to trade his contract. Just $3 million of Asik’s $11,977,527 2019-20 salary was guaranteed, which could have been useful in a salary-accepting trade.
Instead, Asik will count $11,286,516 against the cap this season and $3 million after that. The Bulls can either pay the entire $3 million next season or stretch it to $1 million each of the next three seasons. Stretching the money would indicate Chicago still plants to be aggressive in free agency next summer. Paying all it once would suggest a more patient rebuild.
Report: Darius Bazley, who’s sitting out awaiting draft, receives $1 million guaranteed on shoe contract
Negotiations on lowering the NBA’s age limit have stalled, though there’s plenty of time to negotiate before the targeted allowance of high school players declaring for the draft in 2022.
In the meantime, the NBA’s minor league will soon offer $125,000 salaries to 18-year-olds – up from the standard G League salary of $35,000. Will players sign those Select Contracts rather than playing college basketball, which comes with cartel-limited compensation?
Darius Bazley – who committed to Syracuse, planned to play in the NBA’s minor league then decided to sit out the upcoming season – could provide an illuminating test case. Represented by Rich Paul, Bazley signed an endorsement deal with New Balance.
According to Paul, Bazley’s multiyear deal will pay him $1 million “no matter what happens” with his N.B.A. career — and can pay up to $14 million if he reaches all performance incentives.
That dwarfs even the increased minor-league salary. Bazley can receive that endorsement money because he no longer cares about preserving college eligibility. The same would apply to Select Contract players.
But the shoe company would become the primary employer. If the shoe company decides playing in the NBA’s minor-league for $125,000 offers the best return on investment, that’s what the player will do. If the shoe company decides the player is better off doing something else, the player will do that.
Bazley ranked just No. 17 in his class, per the 247 composite. He projects as a late first-rounder once draft-eligible next year. The money gets even bigger with more highly touted prospects.
College basketball remains the place that offers them the most exposure, and shoe companies might continue to funnel players there with under-the-table payments. That was no longer an option with Bazley, but this ought to serve as a reminder of who drives the money for elite 18-year-old players. It isn’t the G League.
Gary Harris can’t contain smirk after getting away with fouling Kevin Durant
Gary Harris hit Kevin Durant‘s arm during the Nuggets’ 100-98 win over the Warriors yesterday. Except officials didn’t call a foul. They did call a technical foul on Durant for arguing about it, though.
Meanwhile, Harris made this fantastic face:
When you hit your brother and your mom yells at him.
Report: Rajon Rondo’s girlfriend confronted Chris Paul’s wife in stands after on-court fight
A heated Paul told teammates and coaches in the locker room afterward that Rondo’s girlfriend had sparked a verbal confrontation with Chris’ wife in the stands, according to sources.
Jonatan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
Chris Paul was still so angry after the game, multiple individuals said, because a member of Rajon Rondo's family made "inappropriate" comments to Paul's wife, Jada, in the stands after the altercation.