Why is Chicago slumping? Go back to this summer’s moves.

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The Chicago Bulls are in a slump. They have lost 7-of-10 and are 6-9 in their last 15. Their already weak offense has slipped a little but it is the defense that has taken the bigger step back. They have slid down the ranks in the Eastern conference to the sixth seed, making their road through the playoffs that much harder.

What is going on in the Windy City?

Yes, they still are without Derrick Rose, and that is a blow. But the team that was 24-16 after 40 games didn’t have Rose either. Yes, injuries to guys like Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are part of it. And sure, the Bulls have shown a lack of focus at times, particularly on the offensive end (where they will struggle regardless with this lineup), but that’s not it either.

No, if you want to know why the Bulls are struggling now you need to look at what they did in July.

The Bulls shipped out veterans to put them on a track for a lot of cap space in 2014 (to go get another star to play next to Rose). Gone are Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and John Lucas. In their place are Marco Belinelli, Nazr Mohammed, Kirk Hinrich, Daequan Cook and Nate Robinson. Those guys simply aren’t as good.

K.C. Johnson broke it down well at the Chicago Tribune.

Really, the numbers most worth comparing between last season’s team and this season’s are these: 37-14 in 2011-12 and 15-17 in 2012-13. Those are the different won-loss records when at least one starter was out for the Bulls. Don’t forget: Rose missed almost a lot of time last season, as he has this one. Still, depth and defense, not to mention the occasional John Lucas III’s heroics, often prevailed.

That difference in winning percentage is .725 and .469, or roughly the disparity of contribution between Omer Asik and Nazr Mohammed. For another comparison, this season’s winning percentage of .561 trails last season’s of .667 from the 27 games Rose missed with injury.

The Bulls were going to take a step back without Rose this season, but the size of the step is dictated in part by the depth of the team. That’s why Reggie Rose’s frustration at the deadline was not out of line with what a lot of Bulls fans were thinking (even if he shouldn’t have opened his mouth).

Tom Thibodeau is keeping up the “we have enough to win” mantra but the fact is he doesn’t, not at the same pace. And that’s coming home to roost as the season wears on.

Report: Celtics telling teams Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart absolutely not available in trades

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The Celtics – run by Trader Danny Ainge – entered the season with as much trade speculation as ever.

But off to an impressive 11-3 start, Boston sounds content with its current roster.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Boston has made it clear to anyone who has asked that their core players are absolutely not available. That includes, sources said, both Hayward and Smart, players who have been floated as possible trade chips in the past.

Only a few players are absolutely not available, and they’re all far better than Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart. For the right offer, the Celtics would trade either.

But this report is significant because, if Boston isn’t willing to even engage negotiations, that makes it much more difficult to find that right offer.

Hayward was returning to All-Star form until hurting his hand. Smart is playing incredible defense. They help a Celtics team trying to win now. Hayward (29) and Smart (25) are also young enough to have staying power. Though Hayward can opt out this summer, Boston will have his Bird Rights, and he just chose the Celtics during his last free agency. Smart is locked up a couple additional seasons at a very-reasonable salary.

With trade speculation, the question is always: Why would another team value a player more than his current team does? Perhaps, another team just adores Hayward and Smart so much, it would surrender enough to entice Boston. But we know how the Celtics feel about those two, and that’s why a deal is so unlikely.

Report: 76ers didn’t offer Jimmy Butler five-year max contract once free agency opened

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The 76ers offered Jimmy Butler a five-year max contract, according to Tom Haberstroh of NBC Sports. However, Adrian Wojnarowski reported Philadelphia wasn’t offering Butler a five- or even four-year max deal.

What explains the discrepancy?

Maybe timing.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

But on June 30, there was no five-year maximum offer for Butler, multiple sources say.

That doesn’t explicitly say the 76ers offered Butler a five-year max earlier, but it intentionally leaves the possibility wide open. After all, when Philadelphia traded for Butler in the final year of his contract, everyone knew he expected a max contract. He said so himself. After early tension, the 76ers still expressed desire to re-sign Butler. As free agency neared, they kept sending those signals.

What changed?

Maybe Philadelphia had second thoughts about paying Butler so much. There are reasonable concerns. But it’d be odd if the 76ers went so far down the road toward re-signing Butler only to reverse course at the last moment because of internal evaluations. That assessment could have been made earlier.

Al Horford unexpectedly became available, and Philadelphia used Butler’s vacated cap space to sign him. With Butler and the capped-out Heat wanting him in Miami, the 76ers also leveraged another good playerJosh Richardson – in a sign-and-trade. Perhaps, once realizing it was an option, Philadelphia just preferred Horford and Richardson to Butler (and retaining J.J. Redick‘s Bird Rights). That’d be simple enough.

Whatever happened, I bet it’s the crux of the secret story Butler recently alluded to.

Nets to wear ‘Bed-Stuy’ jerseys (video)

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Nets forward Kevin Durant said, “The cool thing now is not the Knicks.”

Brooklyn is cool.

So, the Nets are getting more overt about connecting to the image of their borough. After wearing Notorious B.I.G.-inspired uniforms with Coogi-sweater-style trim, Brooklyn is slapping “Bed-Stuy” – the neighborhood brought to mass popularity by Biggie, Jay-Z and others – onto its jerseys.
Nets:

I can’t decide whether these jerseys are actually cool or trying too hard to be cool.

Also, the Nets apparently aren’t daunted by a Coogi lawsuit.

First non-white player in modern professional basketball, Wat Misaka dies at 95

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wataru “Wat” Misaka, the first non-white player to play in the league that was the predecessor to the NBA, has died. He was 95.

Misaka played three games for the New York Knicks during the 1947-48 season in the Basketball Association of America. He was the league’s first player of of Japanese descent.

A 2008 documentary called “Transcending: The Wat Misaka Story” told the story of what Misaka went through as a trailblazing athlete.

Misaka attended a 2013 Utah Jazz game to watch Jeremy Lin play.

The University of Utah athletic department said in a news release Thursday that Misaka died Wednesday in Salt Lake City. He grew up in Ogden, Utah.

Mikasa was the point guard on the Utah team that won the NCAA Tournament in 1944 and the NIT in 1947.