Jeff Van Gundy: No NBA coach does better with his team than Tom Thibodeau with Bulls

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Say whatever else you want about him, but Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls have never underachieved during the regular season.

Thibodeau took over a .500 team and turned it into a 62-win squad his first year. The next season, the lockout-shortened 2011-12, Chicago was even better, going 50-16. With Derrick Rose out all of last year, the Bulls went 45-37. This season, with Rose out again and Luol Deng traded, Chicago is 25-25.

The Bulls play hard and defend physically, winning with a style that clearly stems from their head coach.

Jeff Van Gundy, as transcribed by ESPN Chicago:

“There’s nobody that does a better job with his team in the whole league,” Van Gundy said Monday on The Carmen & Jurko Show on ESPN Chicago 1000. “I would suspect that he would be back for a long time. I know he loves the city, he loves his team, you can tell. Everything I’ve ever heard about Jerry Reinsdorf as an owner is that he’s a man’s man. I’m pretty good friends with [former Bulls coach] Tim Floyd, and Tim Floyd raves about him as does Tom.

“I would suspect if [general manager] Gar Forman or [executive vice president] John Paxson have an issue with Tom, what it could be I don’t know, but if they do, they should try to get it resolved in a positive manner because Tom’s an exceptional talent, and one of the reasons the Bulls have been so good and so overachieving since he’s been there is because of his great work. I hope it works out because it’s a great place and it’s a great basketball city.”

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Coaches loves coaches, and coaches praise coaches, because coaches and want to see coaches get better job security, because coaches believe coaches are very valuable.

Not even a couple months ago, Van Gundy said it’d be ‘ludicrous’ for the Knicks to fire Mike Woodson. A couple weeks ago, Doc Rivers said it would be ‘nuts’ for the Bulls to let Thibodeau leave.

Van Gundy and Rivers both worked with Thibodeau, so they’re even more biased than usual.

No matter how great a coach Thibodeau is – and I believe, if he’s not the NBA’s best, he makes the short list – he doesn’t always get along with Chicago’s front office. That could make a continued partnership between both sides unhelpful for either.

Bulls management should take steps to resolve any rift with Thibodeau, and maybe it has. As Van Gundy and Rivers will tell you, Thibodeau is worth the trouble.

Report: Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson to star in ‘Space Jam 2’

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LeBron James‘ first three picks in the All-Star draft reserve round: Anthony Davis, Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard.

Like many things LeBron does, that sparked theories about him recruiting stars to the Lakers. Casting for ‘Space Jam 2’ is another generator of recruiting speculation.

So, the overlap here will surely only intensify conspiracy theories.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Davis – who tipped his involvement in the film while still with the Pelicans – is already headed to the Lakers.

But Lillard is reportedly set to sign a super-max extension with the Trail Blazers, and Klay Thompson will reportedly re-sign with the Warriors.

Still, if Lillard and Thompson get a taste of Hollywood and enjoy it…

Report: Lakers didn’t negotiate Anthony Davis trade date with Pelicans for initial agreement

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With the Lakers’ trade for Anthony Davis, timing is everything.

The Lakers and Pelicans are reportedly set to complete the deal July 6. By making the trade then rather than July 30, the earliest the No. 4 pick could be traded as a signed player, the Lakers lose significant cap space.

With the later trade, the Lakers could use about $33 million of cap room then execute the deal with Davis getting his full $4,063,953 trade bonus.

With the earlier trade and Davis reportedly intent on receiving his full trade bonus, the Lakers project to have just $24 million of cap room.

That $9 million difference keeps the Lakers from getting a max free agent or reduces their spending power for role players.

Maybe the Lakers completely understood the ramifications of finalizing the trade July 6. It takes two teams to agree, and perhaps New Orleans – which would have faced complications flipping the No. 4 pick, not gotten him into summer league and had cap space tied up through July – refused to do the trade later.

But it sure doesn’t sound as if the Lakers knew what they were doing.

Ramona Shelburne on ESPN2:

If this was really their plan, they want to have a third star, this should have been central to the conversations with the Pelicans. And my understanding is that it was not, that it went all the way down the road and it was more, it has been described to me as, the Lakers called back – after everything had been discussed – about this.

It’s not necessarily too late for the Lakers to use max cap space and get Davis. They’re reportedly scrambling to include Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones in the trade.

But Wagner, Bonga and Jones have either positive or negative value. If they have positive value, the Lakers are surrendering even more in this trade. If they have negative value, the Lakers must surrender even more value – in the form of sweeteners – in the trade.

This could all be worth it. A team with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and a third star will be a championship contender next season. That matters most.

But if the Lakers handled this better, they could be in a stronger position to build around their stars. Though stars matter most, supporting casts also factor.

Or maybe New Orleans would have refused if the Lakers requested a July 30 trade date during initial negotiations. We’ll never know. But considering their massive haul, I suspect the Pelicans would have acquiesced if Los Angeles pushed. Perhaps, it would have taken a small additional asset going from the Lakers to New Orleans. But I can’t imagine it requiring more than that.

Now, by waiting until after to agreeing to terms with New Orleans, the Lakers have lost so much leverage. Their desperation shows, and preying teams – Pelicans or otherwise – will look to take advantage.

Counter-report: Kyrie Irving has been ‘communicative and forthright’ with Celtics

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Kyrie Irving, according to a report, has ghosted the Celtics as free agency approaches.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Whoever leaked the initial information wanted to make Irving look bad. Whoever leaked this wanted to make Irving look good. Who’s telling the truth?

Who knows?

Maybe Irving’s and Boston staffers have differing definitions “communicative and forthright.” They could each be telling their own truths. But neither side is above spreading inaccurate rumors to sully someone else’s reputation.

Breakups get messy, and it appears this one is already there.

Beyond all the noise about how Irving is leaving, the most important detail: This is yet another report he’s leaving for the Nets.

Report: Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist opting in for $13 million

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The Hornets’ last hope for super-maxing out Kemba Walker and avoiding the luxury tax without trading or stretching anyone has been extinguished.

With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s $13 million salary locked in for next season, Charlotte faces hard choices.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

If the Hornets re-sign Walker to the super-max, sign their draft picks (Nos. 12, 36 and 52) and add no other free agents, they’d project to be about $9 million over the tax line.

Would Walker take that large of a discount? That $9 million below the super-max would be for just next season. Over a five-year contract with max raises, he’d be leaving about $54 million on the table. And that’s all to maintain a lottery team that’s not really upgrading.

Would Michael Jordan pay the tax? He never has, and I doubt this mediocre team sways him.

The most likely outcome if Walker re-signs: Charlotte trades an undesirable contract – Kidd-Gilchrist’s, Nicolas Batum‘s, Marvin Williams‘, Cody Zeller‘s) – or stretches Bismack Biyombo. Trading those rotation players would probably require a sweetener. Stretching Biyombo would create a cap hit through 2022.

So, the Hornets get even more depleted in the long-term, maybe also the short-term.

That’s the cost of overpaying so many players – including Kidd-Gilchrist, who plays hard and defends well but hasn’t developed enough of an offensive game.