Bulls GM denies rift between Derrick Rose and the organization regarding his return

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It’s easy to see how the return of Derrick Rose from a torn ACL injury that has kept him out the entire season to this point has become a stress-filled situation for both sides.

Rose has already earned an MVP trophy in his brief, four-year stint in the league. He’s a top-tier, elite level player when healthy, so the organization obviously wants him back on the court just as soon as he’s physically ready.

The consternation has arisen because a report has surfaced that Rose has been medically cleared to return to action.

Rumors that he’s being pressured to play have surfaced as well, even though Rose has told the team he doesn’t feel ready to take the court just yet.

Add in his brother’s comments from a couple of weeks back, and we have the makings of a full-blown controversy.

The reality, however, is that Rose and the organization are, and have always been on the same page regarding his health. Everyone has said that Rose will come back whenever he’s fully ready to do so, and whenever that is will be just fine.

Bulls GM Gar Forman reiterated that on Saturday, stating for the record that no rift exists between Rose’s camp and the organization regarding his getting back on the court.

From Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman denied Saturday that there is any kind of  communications rift between Derrick Rose’s camp and the organization regarding the return date for the all-star guard from his knee injury.

“We talk all the time. We have been in communication throughout the whole process. High-level communication,” Forman told the Tribune before scouting the DePaul-Pittsburgh game at Allstate Arena.

“From Day One, the communication has been consistent and it has been very encouraging. There have been no setbacks and (Rose) continues to make progress,” he said.

Forman said he would not comment on an ESPNChicago.com report that attributed a source as saying Rose has medical clearance to resume playing after suffering a torn ACL 10 months ago.

“I don’t comment on what a source says,” Forman replied.

The follow-up question to ask, obviously, would have been to say “well, has he in fact been medically cleared to play?” But even then, the response matters little in the grand scheme of things.

Rose is all about basketball, and wants to be out there just as much as anyone else wants him to be. He is a genuine individual who truly seems to value the love of the game over all else, and based on everything we’ve seen and heard from him, he will play again for the Bulls the second he feels he’s able to do so.

As an aside, a popular argument that’s surfaced recently goes something along the lines of, “hey, the Bulls aren’t going to win a championship this year, so Rose should just sit out the season.”

Do you know how stupid that sounds?

I hate to break it to those who agree with that line of thinking, but only three teams have a true shot at a championship this season barring freak injuries — the Heat, the Thunder, and the Spurs. That’s it. So does that mean that any player injured on one of the league’s 27 non-championship contenders should simply sit out the rest of the season, even if they’re physically able to come back and play? Of course not.

The pressure is going to continue to build until Rose does make his eventual return to the court. It’s going to come this season, and will likely be before the playoffs begin. Only then will the rumors and speculation subside, but either way, Rose isn’t going to come back until he’s fully ready, and the Bulls organization isn’t foolish enough to push him to come back any sooner than that.

Gordon Hayward does not plan to leave bubble for birth of son

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When Boston first went to the NBA restart bubble in Orlando, Gordon Hayward was upfront: He was leaving the bubble for the birth of his fourth child.

Hayward ended up leaving the bubble for another reason — he severely sprained his ankle and was out for more than a month. During his rehab, Hayward left the bubble and spent time at home, returning a couple of weeks ago. Saturday he played his first game back for Boston, helping it to a win against the Heat.

Hayward’s wife, Robyn, has yet to have their son, but now Hayward does not plan to leave the bubble for the event, something first reported by Rachel Nichols of ESPN during Saturday’s game.

Hayward confirmed this after the game. So did Robyn in a social media post, adding the reports she was in labor already were not true.

I don’t envy the Hayward family having to make this choice. As a parent, I can’t imagine having missed the births of any of my children, but, like everything else in 2020, this is far from a typical decision at a typical time. The Haywards are making the best of it they can. They deserve support no matter what they choose.

LeBron James, Dion Waiters’ son engage in a little trash talk

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“Yeah, right.”

That was Dion Waiters Jr.’s response to pretty much everything LeBron James during the Lakers’ practice on Saturday before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

LeBron was getting up some corner threes and told Waiters Jr. he would make 100 straight.

“Yeah, right.”

When LeBron missed one, “I missed that on purpose.” 

“Yeah, right.”

“I missed that on purpose, so you’d think I’m human,” LeBron joked.

Got to love Dion Waiters Jr. — he’s got some of his dad’s spunk.

Families have been allowed in the bubble for teams for a couple of weeks, although LeBron’s sons are not there, with LeBron saying it’s not a great place for kids (he’s right, for anyone over about 7 or 8, there would be little to do).

Aggressive, attacking Boston drives right into heart of Miami defense, wins Game 3

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On Boston’s first possession of the game, Marcus Smart drove right to the rim and got an and-1 on a reverse layup.

Next possession, Jaylen Brown got a bucket cutting for a layup, with the assist from Smart. Next possession, Brown drove the lane and banked in a floater. The next Boston bucket was a Jayson Tatum driving layup.

The first nine Boston points came with them attacking the heart of the Miami defense (going at Duncan Robinson in particular), and that continued all game with the Celtics getting 60 points in the paint.

“Boston came out with great force. You have to give them credit for that,” Heat coach Eric Spoelstra said after the game.

Throw in 31 quality minutes from Gordon Hayward in his return from a sprained ankle — providing more quality wing play and good decision making — and Boston raced out to a comfortable lead then hung on at the end for a 117-106 win in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 not until Wednesday night (a little delay to allow the West to catch up).

After a sloppy Game 2 loss where the Celtics became passive in the face of Miami’s zone defense in the second half, followed by a postgame meltdown and meeting of the minds, the guys at the heart of the Celtics young core stepped up their game on Saturday night.

Particularly Brown, who had 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting and was getting to the rim all game. He also was playing smothering defense.

Smart — an All-Defensive Team player — had his best game of the series, blanketing Goran Dragic, who had been the Heat’s best scorer and shot creator through two games. Without Dragic breaking down the Celtics’ defense and getting points in the paint, Miami has to live by the three and the Celtics defenders did a better job staying home.

“Marcus’ ball pressure on Dragic was important,” Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens said postgame. “It’s something we need to continue to look at. Marcus did a great job on a guy who is playing better than I’ve ever seen him.”

Boston also got more minutes from Gordon Hayward than expected, minutes Stevens called a “stabilizing force” for the team.

“I’m extremely tired right now. My ankle is pretty sore,” Hayward said postgame, adding with the extra days off he should be good to go for Game 4.

Hayward’s presence also allowed Boston to play small ball without Daniel Theis or any true center on the floor, the Celtics switched everything defensively, and Miami didn’t take advantage. Look for Eric Spoelstra to turn to more Bam Adebayo against that small lineup next game.

“They got us on our heels. They were out there hooping and having fun. I guess that was the difference in the game,” Bam Adebayo said postgame.

Miami didn’t shoot the ball well Saturday night, hitting just 27.3% from three. Jae Crowder, who had been hot, was 2-of-8 from deep, while Tyler Herro was 4-of-12. Adebayo had 27 points and 16 boards to lead the Heat.

Boston had four players with more than 20 points: Brown (26), Tatum (25), Kemba Walker (21), and Smart (20).

Boston will need another game like that — and they will need to close better, Miami made it interesting late — to even the series on Wednesday.

Miami said postgame they saw what happened in this game as a challenge to them. Game 4 is going to be intense.

Ja Morant points out one person who didn’t vote him Rookie of the Year

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Ja Morant was not the unanimous Rookie of the Year — 99 out of 100 media members voted for him, one voted for Zion Williamson.

When the media votes became public Saturday, Morant got to see who the one voter who voted for someone else was: Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Crowley stood up for his vote, and everything was good between them (at least on social media).

While the votes come from media members, the NBA goes out of its way to put together voters who see things differently, something ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne talked about is an excellent thread on Twitter, although she was speaking about the case for LeBron James over Giannis Antetokounmpo for MVP.

To be clear, I was one of the Morant voters, and I will readily admit that Zion is the better player (at least right now). I consider the impact on winning heavily when voting, which led me to Morant because he played 59 games before the bubble and had his team in a playoff position, while Zion played only 19 and did not (only games before the NBA restart in Orlando were to be considered, per NBA rules). I also expect and respect the fact that not everyone will see it that way, or even define what matters most in winning the award the same way. Diversity of thought and views is a good thing, it leads to better outcomes. Crowley should vote what he sees and believes, and that should be respected.

Unanimous or not, Morant will go down as the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year. The voting will be a footnote at most.