Thibodeau says he’s “fine” with contract situation as report states … well, that he’s not

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It’s easy to get lost in the recent past.

The Bulls are a monstrously successful organization. They’ve won six championships in team history, all in the past 21 years, and have consistently made the playoffs. They’re an ATM machine for their owner, Jerry Reinsdorf, who also owns the White Sox, an equally successful venture. They have Derrick Rose, they signed Carlos Boozer, they extended Joakim Noah and Rose. By all accounts they are a team that pays to play and isn’t gunshy about spending for excellence.

Funny story.

Not really the case historically. Reinsdorf is the anti-Dan-Snyder in a lot of ways. He’s reluctant to throw money out there, is inexplicably patient and careful with his spending, and yet consistently manages to win. But dating all the way back to Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan, the most successful coach and player this side of Auerbach’s Russell Celtics, Reinsdorf has unnecessarily drug out negotiations for extensions. The truth of the matter is that Reinsdorf managed to get Jordan for well below market value in a drastically different era of the CBA because, well, to be frank, the man is tighter than a diamond.

And we’re seeing that same trend carry through. He threw  the max extension at MVP Derrick Rose. But reigning Coach of the Year, probable repeat-winner Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau who has made the Bulls into some sort of giant-mawed, carnivorous demon that devours everything in its path? Yeah, he can’t get the dough for his future. And ESPN reports that he’s not so much OK with that.

Thibodeau associates privately insist that the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year is dismayed that he hasn’t been offered a more lucrative extension after signing a modest two-year contract with a team option when he joined the Bulls. Sources close to the situation say, furthermore, that his displeasure with the situation is an open secret in team circles. Although the uncertainty about his future hasn’t had any discernible impact on Thibodeau’s famed game-night intensity, it’s a development that has to be monitored.

Extending Thibodeau sooner rather than later would figure to be a smart move from Reinsdorf, since the coach’s value presumably can only spike if Chicago overcomes its injury woes to win a championship this season. But Bulls historians would note that Phil Jackson and Scott Skiles likewise had to battle Reinsdorf before extracting a representative salary from the boss.

via Weekend Dime — latest word on big NBA coaching decisions – ESPN.

Thibodeau, loathe to ever let a distraction brew a month out of the playoffs with his team humming like a finely tuned engine even without Derrick Rose, still out with an injury, spoke with ESPN Chicago and tried to straighten things:

“I don’t know where that’s coming from,” Thibodeau said. “I’m not worried about any of that stuff. I’m under contract. I’m fine with everything here.”

Without going into specifics, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told The Tribune last month that he expects Thibodeau to remain with the team for years to come.

“We certainly hope and expect that Tom will be with the Bulls well beyond his current contract,” Reinsdorf told the Tribune via e-mail.

It’s a stance Reinsdorf re-affirmed to ESPNChicago.com columnist Melissa Isaacson on Friday afternoon.

via Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau ‘fine’ with contract situation – ESPN Chicago.

You can see both sides here.

On one hand, pay the man. He won the most games in the league last year, he’ll likely win the most games in the league this year. He’s pieced together the best defense with a first-and-second-year Turkish guy who looks like Judge Reinhold, Carlos Boozer’s painted-on defense, and Kyle Korver. He’s put Derrick Rose in a position to win MVP. He’s managed lineups, timeouts, made adjustments, and survived significant injuries over the past two seasons to Joakim Noah, Boozer, Rose, and Rip Hamilton. He’s worth every penny. His voice makes Tom Waits sounds like honeybutter and he’s so animated on the sideline he’ a .GIF machine. He’s the coach every team’s fans in this league wants outside of San Antonio. There’s nothing short of a title, well-within reach this year, that he can do more.

Pay the man.

But you know what? Reinsdorf if getting great value everywhere he turns. He has the best team in the league, record-wise, and he’s still not in the luxury tax? He might be able to get the cost of Thibodeau down. Fifteen years ago he scoffed at the value Phil Jackson wanted to return to the Bulls, a meager sum in today’s game. But he did pay him, did get him back in. He’ll get Thibodeau back, this is just about saving a few dollars, which Reinsdorf, ever the businesman, is always looking to do. Even the son and chairman, Michael, is following his father’s approach. You have to admire it, even if it seems insane.

Thibodeau’s not going anywhere. There’s not a better job. He’s set to contend with Rose for 12 more years. Over a decade. He has the support of a major market team and plays in a nice building. This is just an unnecessary drama being played out over some money. It may be unnecessary, but it’s the way the Bulls do business.

Watch Donovan Mitchell drop 43, upstage LeBron return as Cavs top Lakers

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CLEVELAND (AP) — As a kid growing up in New York, Donovan Mitchell idolized LeBron James. On Tuesday night, he upstaged him.

Mitchell scored a season-high 43 points and Jarrett Allen returned from injury to add 24, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 116-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in James’ only visit home this season.

With Anthony Davis missing the final three quarters because of illness, the Cavs improved to an NBA-leading 11-1 on their floor, their best start at home since 2015-16, when James led them to a championship.

Mitchell, who has Cleveland fans dreaming of another title run, took over in the second half and scored 29 points with the kind of performance James had routinely during his 11 seasons for the Cavs.

“You always want to spoil the homecoming,” Mitchell said with a smile.

With Cleveland leading by 12 in the fourth, Mitchell buried a 3-pointer from the left wing to finish the Lakers. After dropping the shot, the All-Star guard strutted around the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse floor nodding his head as James helplessly watched.

“He’s Mitchell,” James said. “He’s a special kid.”

Darius Garland added 21 points and 11 assists for Cleveland.

James finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds, losing for just the third time in 20 games against the Cavs.

Dennis Schroder and Russell Westbrook added 16 points apiece as Los Angeles had its four-game winning streak stopped.

Davis went out after eight minutes with flu-like symptoms. The eight-time All-Star had scored 99 points in his previous two games and had been playing as well as he has in several seasons after being plagued by injuries.

Davis didn’t attempt a field goal and scored just one point before leaving.

“It got progressively worse as the day went on,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “His temperature was 101 and some change. A-D wanted to try to play, but he felt too weak. He’s drained and dehydrated.

“That’s a huge loss, obviously, with the way he’s been playing lately.”

Without Davis clogging the middle, Allen, who missed the last five games with a bruised back, made his first 10 shots and helped the Cavs take a 57-49 halftime lead.

“Next man up,” James said when asked how he reacted to losing Davis. “That’s a tall task – literally and figuratively.”

The Cavs welcomed James back with a video tribute during an early timeout. After a montage of clips, including some from 2016, James waved to the crowd and then blew kisses to show his appreciation.

The warm scene was in contrast to what happened almost exactly 12 years ago, when he came back with the Miami Heat and was met with boos and worse on a night James has said he’ll never forget.

James said he was caught off guard by the tribute.

“It’s always love coming back here,” he said. “The memories I have here will never be forgotten.”

 

Ben Simmons targeting Friday vs. Hawks to return from calf strain

Toronto Raptors v Brooklyn Nets
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Ben Simmons has missed the Nets’ last three games with knee pain tied to a left calf strain, and he will be out Wednesday, too, when Brooklyn takes on Charlotte.

However, he plans to return on Friday (Dec. 9) against the Hawks.

Simmons was adjusting to a new role in Brooklyn. In Philadelphia he was a point-forward with the ball in his hands playing off Joel Embiid (at least at first), but in Brooklyn the ball needed to be in the hands of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in the halfcourt. Simmons is playing more small-ball five, and is asked to be aggressive and attack when he gets the ball — not shoot jumpers — and to push the rock in transition. It took a while for Simmons to settle into that space, but he seemed to in games against Philadelphia (11 points, 11 assists), Toronto (14 points, six assists) and Indiana (20 points). Then the injuries hit.

Brooklyn sits at 13-12, with a middle-of-the-pack offense and defense for the season. While there are doubts about the ceiling for this team, it has a talent level that should be better than this record, it’s just been beset by injuries, controversy causing Kyrie Irving to miss time, and a coaching change. The Nets have yet to hit their stride.

But they could have a clean injury report on Friday night, and maybe that can be the start of this team getting on a run.

Suns, Hawks reportedly show interest in Kuzma trade, Wizards see him as cornerstone

Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets
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Kyle Kuzma was the kind of quality, two-way role player the Lakers needed around LeBron James and Anthony Davis to win the 2020 NBA title (the type of player the Lakers wish they had now).

In Washington, his role has been elevated — he’s a 20-point-a-game scorer (20.6 points per game this season, to be precise) who is a key part of generating offense, not just playing off the stars of Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. As he told Shams Charania of The Athletic:

“As soon as I got traded, I was ready to be more,” Kuzma told The Athletic.

It’s been enough to draw the interest of a couple of teams looking for a trade, Charania adds. The Wizards are not necessarily interested in moving on, however.

Several teams, such as the Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns, have expressed trade interest in Kuzma, according to league sources. By the same token, the Wizards have shown interest in Hawks forward John Collins, and the sides seriously discussed a potential deal last offseason, league sources added…

However, the Wizards’ front office, led by general manager Tommy Sheppard, has made clear that it views Kuzma as a cornerstone moving forward as the franchise has seen him thrive since the mega-trade in the 2021 offseason. The Westbrook trade provided future flexibility and assets for the Wizards, who have been known to be aggressive and active in research across the league.

Kuzma has a $13 million player option for next season that he will unquestionably opt out of, making him a free agent in search of a healthy raise (north of $20 million a year, although expect something more in the ballpark of the four-year, $104 million Jalen Brunson contract). If the Wizards are willing to pay they likely can keep him (they have his Bird rights). But if Washington isn’t sure it wants to pay market value, or if management sees a shifting path for future seasons, it should consider trading Kuzma at the deadline.

If he becomes available, far more teams than the Hawks and Suns would be interested, quality two-way forwards are in demand around the league. Kuzma would have some leverage over where he gets sent because he can leave as a free agent (teams would offer up less if they believed Kuzma would only be a rental for this season).

Magic send Jonathan Isaac to G-League for practice, rehabilitation

2022-2023 Orlando Magic Media Day
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There was a time when it was thought Jonathan Isaac might be the Magic’s next big star.

However, he has not stepped on an NBA court since he was in the bubble (Feb. 8, 2020), then he tore his ACL in August of that year (which came on the heels of missing much of that season with an injury to the same knee). Last March he had a setback and another procedure, and at this point he has missed two full seasons plus the start of this one.

Isaac is still working toward recovery and the Magic have assigned him to the Lakeland Magic of the G-League to get in some practice.

Because NBA teams barely practice during the season — the schedule of games nearly every other day plus travel and recovery doesn’t permit more than film sessions and walk-throughs — these kinds of baseball-style minor league rehab assignments are more and more common.

The story from the Magic’s official website notes this will be the first time Isaac will play 5-on-5 with other players during his rehab, which is a significant step forward.

There is no timeline for his return, but the Magic have him under contract this season for $17.4 million and two more fully guaranteed years at the same price. There is no reason for the franchise to walk away, even if some around the league question if his knees will ever let him back on an NBA court again.

The Magic have found their next star in Paolo Banchero and have built a promising young core, something Isaac — an elite defender before his injuries — should fit in well with. If he can get healthy and back on the court.