Grizzlies hold on for overtime win over shorthanded Bulls

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It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the Grizzlies will take the result.

Memphis was able to hold off a shorthanded Bulls team in overtime for the 85-82 win in Chicago on Saturday, thanks to some timely rebounding from Zach Randolph and some well-placed shot making from Marc Gasol.

Chicago was without its leading scorer in Luol Deng coming into this one, who was forced to sit out with a strained right hamstring, a condition he aggravated during the Bulls win over the Celtics the night before. The team was also without Joakim Noah for the entire fourth quarter and all of the overtime session, but that appeared to be due to a coach’s decision.

Even without two of their three best players, the Bulls did what they always do, which is scrap on the defensive end of the floor to stay close enough to give them a chance. The Grizzlies led by as many as 17 points on the night, and took a 13-point lead into the final period. They led by 10 with under seven minutes remaining, before the Bulls went on an 11-0 run to take a one-point lead with 3:20 to go in regulation.

It was essentially back and forth the rest of the way. The Bulls had plenty of questionable possessions offensively, but that’s to be expected when you put your fortune in the hands of either Nate Robinson or Marco Belinelli to initiate the offense. The two combined to shoot 8-24 from the field, while each playing right around 30 minutes apiece.

Jimmy Butler got the start in place of Deng, and finished with a team-high 18 points, while seemingly getting all of Deng’s usual heavy workload by logging 48 minutes. Noah was a team-worst -19 if you’re a fan of the plus/minus stat, which might have accounted for him riding the bench for extended minutes late in the game. But that’s just speculation; it seems odd that Tom Thibodeau would simply bench one of his best players in a tight game just for a sub-par performance, so we’ll have to wait for his postgame comments to see if there were any other factors in play.

On the Memphis side, the team really isn’t as good as the record would indicate. The Grizzlies currently sit at fourth place in the Western Conference standings, with a noticeable distance between them and the three elite teams ahead of them this season. They are a disaster offensively, averaging just 81.6 points over their last five games, and defensively aren’t good enough to make up for it against the league’s top teams, or over an extended period of time.

This was the third straight overtime game for the Bulls, and they had their chances in this one after winning their previous two against the Celtics and the Raptors. Next up for them is the Lakers on Monday, and we’ll have to wait to see if they’ll be 100 percent for that one after getting an update on the status of Deng — and to a lesser extent, that of Noah, as well.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.