When Gary Neal got into it with Larry Sanders in the locker room after a blowout loss to the Suns on Saturday, it wasn’t hard to figure out which player the franchise would be siding with.
Neal is a reserve who’s under contract for just one season beyond this one at $3.2 million, while Sanders was anointed as the face of the franchise with a four-year, $44 million contract extension this past summer.
Not that Sanders has earned it. He’s only appeared in eight games this season after sustaining an injury in a bar fight that required surgery, something Neal alluded to when he told Sanders, “I earn my money. Why don’t you try it?” before storming out of the locker room in Phoenix.
Still, the team doesn’t have much of a choice here, so it will apparently try to alleviate any issues by shipping Neal out of town before the Feb. 20 trade deadline passes.
Neal’s production combined with his price makes him semi-valuable on the open market for a team looking to bolster its bench, but it’s unclear what level of asset a playoff team would be willing or able to give up to retain his services.
Neal is averaging a career-best 10.4 points in 20.5 minutes per game for Milwaukee this season.
Zach LaVine was the centerpiece in the Bulls’ return for trading a star. Chicago was reportedly willing to match a max offer sheet for LaVine in restricted free agency.
But maybe the Bulls have at least somewhat soured on him.
Nick Friedell of ESPN:
I don’t know why the Bulls would be down on LaVine now. I also don’t know why they were so high on him the first place.
LaVine is a good 3-point shooter and impressive dunker. But, despite his athleticism, his all-around contributions are lacking. He also hasn’t looked completely over his February 2017 ACL tear.
This leak could just be strategy. Instead of trying to scare off teams with the threat of matching any offer to LaVine, Chicago could be trying to dissuade suitors by projecting its own reluctance.
The Bulls don’t want to overpay LaVine. But they also don’t want to lose him for nothing.
Will anyone make a hard push for the 23-year-old? He surely wants a lucrative long-term contract, whether he re-signs directly with Chicago or gets an offer sheet. But, if the Bulls aren’t sold on him, I’m not sure any team will is.
LaVine’s qualifying offer will be $4,333,932. That might wind up his next salary.
The Phoenix Suns got it right at the top of the draft — they took Deandre Ayton.
But what of their move to trade for Mikal Bridges, the No. 10 pick, surrendering a valuable pick and the potential of Zhaire Smith for what should be a solid “3&D” wing to go with their athletic stars?
How did the Kings do at No. 2? What about Dallas’ big trade up to land Luka Doncic at three, or the Atlanta bet on Trae Young?
In this PBT Extra, I grade the top 10 picks in the draft, from the moves I like (I think Dallas did well) to ones I’m not sold on (sorry Chicago).
Have questions leading up to free agency? Submit your questions via e-mail for our PBT Mailbag feature. Drop us a line at email@example.com.
LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.
Paul George never said that, though.
So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.
Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:
Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational
When you were just a kid
In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale
We were dreaming too.
While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival
And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.
Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.
The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too
Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?
My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?
That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?
Sam Amick of USA Today:
As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.
Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.
Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.
Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.