Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer are the pivot points in Bulls’ pursuit of Carmelo Anthony

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Derrick Rose, whose play varies from MVP-caliber to non-existent due to injury, is the Bulls’ most important player and biggest X-factor.

Carmelo Anthony knows this, which is why he wanted to see Rose in action. Assuming Melo is satisfied – if he’s not, likely none of this matters – Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer become essential to any negotiations between Melo, the Bulls and Knicks.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Sources said both the Bulls and Anthony, should he choose Chicago, want to keep Gibson for a core that would significantly improve their chances for an Eastern Conference championship.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

But the Knicks, according to sources, will not cooperate with any plan that involves them taking back Boozer.

It’s no wonder the Bulls and Melo, if he signs there, want to keep Gibson in Chicago. He’s a very good player – a top-shelf defender and rebounder and, at times, aggressive scorer. He makes his team better.

He also makes $8 million next season, a roadblock to Chicago creating enough cap room to sign Melo.

If they amnesty Boozer, waive the fully unguaranteed contracts of Ronnie Brewer, Mike James andLouis Amundson, renounce all their free agents and trade Mike Dunleavy, Anthony Randolph, Tony Snell and Greg Smith without receiving any salary in return – the Bulls could offer Melo a contract that starts at $16,284,762 and is worth $69,535,934 over four years based on the projected salary cap.

That’s far short of the max salary – $22,458,402 starting, $95,897,375 over four years – Melo could get signing outside New York, and it might be difficult to move some of those contracts (Randolph and maybe even Dunleavy) without offering a sweetener.

The bigger challenge would be convincing Melo to leave more than $26 million on the table – and that’s not even considering how much more the Knicks could offer him.

The Bulls could bump the offer to a max deal by also dealing Gibson without returning salary, but Melo might not want to play in a Gibson-less Chicago. If Melo is going to the Bulls to win now, he knows Gibson is a big part of that.

Chicago could bypass this issue by arranging a sign-and-trade with the Knicks. Of course, that requires convincing New York to agree.

If Phil Jackson wants to take a hardline stance against sign-and-trading Melo, I could understand that. As you can see, the Bulls would have a difficult time keeping their core together while making space for Melo. Another prominent Melo suitor, the Rockets, could strip their roster to just Dwight Howard and James Harden, and they still wouldn’t have enough room below the projected cap to offer Melo his full max starting salary. By refusing to entertain sign-and-trades, Jackson might significantly diminish the odds Melo leaves the Knicks.

But if Jackson is willing to conduct a sign-and-trade, refusing to take Boozer is asinine.

Neither the Knicks nor Bulls need to enter negotiations under any illusions about what Boozer is. He’s a player with negative value whose expiring contract would be used only to make the deal’s finances work.

A simple trade of Boozer and one of Brewer, James or Amundson for Melo would allow Melo to receive his max starting salary. New York would have no obligation to Brewer/James/Amundson beyond the trade and none to Boozer beyond next season. Considering the Knicks don’t project to have cap space until 2015 anyway, Boozer wouldn’t interfere much, if at all.

Of course, New York would never go for that.

Brewer/James/Amundson is a worthless piece, and like I said before, Boozer has negative value. It’s up to the Bulls to tweak the deal to include other positive assets – future draft picks, Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott – that compensate the Knicks for both parting with Melo and accepting Boozer. Armed with all its own first rounders, a Kings’ first rounder if it falls outside the top 10 in the next three years and the right to swap picks with the Cavaliers outside the lottery next season, Chicago has the tools to create a tempting offer.

But to make the finances work – unless they include Gibson, whom Melo wants left on the team – the Bulls need to include Boozer in the trade.

Boozer is nothing more than a contract to make the deal work. Sure, he might give the Knicks a little interior and scoring and rebounding in the final year of his contract, but neither New York nor Chicago needs to value that when determining a fair trade. Boozer is a contract.

He’s also a contract who could be useful in another trade for the Bulls sometime before the trade deadline for the same reason he’s useful here. Expiring contracts grease the wheels of larger deals.

Why is Phil Jackson so opposed to this? Maybe he understands the situation and is just posturing. If so, it’s a little annoying, because it’s not necessary. The Bulls, who might just amnesty Boozer, understand his value.

If there’s more to this, and Jackson thinks Boozer’s mere presence would harm the Knicks, he could always tell Boozer not to report. That would still allow New York to trade Boozer later without risking him infecting the team with whatever Jackson believes Boozer carries. (That Boozer has fit in Chicago’s strong organizational culture suggests these fears are unwarranted.)

If Jackson is willing to discuss a sign-and-trade, he should listen to offers that include Boozer. The Bulls will surely add valuable assets in exchange.

But if Jackson flatly refuses and Melo still wants to sign in Chicago, he faces a dilemma – playing with with Gibson or making $26 million extra dollars over the next four years.

 

Report: Allen Iverson had backpack containing $500K of jewelry stolen

Allen Iverson
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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Allen Iverson, like the rest of us, has been dealing with the incredible shock of Kobe Bryant dying. Iverson released a statement that includes a story that truly captures both stars:

“Words cannot express how I’m feeling today. The only 2 words that ring in my head — devastated and heartbroken. I cannot seem to shake this feeling no matter what I’ve tried to do since hearing this yesterday.

“People will always remember how we competed against each other in the league, but it goes so much deeper than that for me. The story of us being drafted in arguably the deepest class of its kind ever in the NBA can be debated for many years to come. However, his generosity and respect for the game is something that I witnessed first-hand every time we stepped on the dance floor to compete.

“It’s one memory of him that I can’t stop thinking about. It was our rookie season and my first trip to LA for a game against the Lakers. He came to my hotel, picked me up and took me to a restaurant. When we returned before he left, he asked me, “What are you going to do tonight?” My reply was, “I’m going to the club, what are you going to do?” He said, “I’m going to the gym.” That is who he always was, a true student of the game of basketball and also the game of life. He prepared relentlessly. There is something we can all learn from the “Mamba” mentality and from the way my brother lived his life. He will always have my respect as a competitor, as a friend, as a brother.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Vanessa, their children and the families of all of the victims of yesterday’s tragedy. As a father, I cannot wrap my head around how they must feel.

“We are not okay. But we will find the strength to pull through this together because that’s what Kobe would want us to do.”

Amid his grief, Iverson now has another issue to deal with.

NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Police are searching for a man accused of stealing a half-million dollars’ worth of jewelry from Philadelphia 76ers legend Allen Iverson.

Police said the unidentified man entered the Sofitel Hotel at 120 S. 17th Street Monday around 10:30 a.m. and snatched a backpack containing jewelry valued at approximately $500,000. NBC10 later confirmed with sources that the jewelry belonged to Iverson.

I can’t imagine many people in Philadelphia helping someone get away with stealing from Iverson.

Gordon Hayward: I didn’t step into lane to help Kobe Bryant score 60

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Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his final NBA game – an incredible sendoff for a great career and, tragically, a moment with added significance considering its proximity to his death.

Bryant’s final point came on a free throw with 14.8 seconds remaining in the Lakers’ win over the Jazz in 2016. Before Bryant attempted his free throw, Utah forward Gordon Hayward stepped into the paint. A story swirled in the last day that Hayward deliberately committed the violation so Bryant, if necessary, would get an extra free throw to score 60.

Hayward – now with the Celtics – set the record straight:

Did the Jazz, who were already eliminated from the playoffs, play their absolute tightest defense on Bryant? No. Do players sometimes help opponents – especially a revered star like Bryant – reach milestones in otherwise-insignificant moments? Yes.

But unintentional lane violations happen somewhat frequently (and are often uncalled). There was just a big one last night. It’s not an area where players or referees stringently follow the rules.

It’s totally believable Hayward didn’t have some deeper meaning behind his step into the paint.

I’d take him at his word.

Report: No teams requested Sunday’s games be canceled after Kobe Bryant’s death

Kobe Bryant tribute at Spurs-Raptors
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Kobe Bryant’s death devastated the basketball world.

The NBA even postponed the Lakers-Clippers game originally scheduled for tonight. That led to the question: Why didn’t the league postpone games Sunday, the day Bryant died? Obviously there should be special consideration in Los Angeles, where Bryant spent his entire career. But nobody – from those involved to onlookers – had their hearts and heads in Sunday’s games.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

I wonder how many teams thought to request a cancellation. I bet many awaited guidance from the league office.

Likewise, I wonder how many players felt they could step away. Kyrie Irvingwho was quite close with Bryant – missed the Nets’ game for personal reasons.

Eight teams hosted games Sunday:

  • Nuggets (vs. Rockets)
  • Spurs (vs. Raptors)
  • Hawks (vs. Wizards)
  • Grizzlies (vs. Suns)
  • Pelicans (vs. Celtics)
  • Knicks (vs. Nets)
  • Clippers (vs. Magic)
  • Trail Blazers (vs. Pacers)

Postponing games (finding makeup dates, extra travel) or canceling games (refunding tickets, unbalanced schedules) would have created different headaches down the road. Maybe it would’ve been better to deal with those issues than playing. But playing also gave teams an opportunity to honor Bryant, find distraction amid grief and start the process of moving forward.

I wouldn’t get too hung up in the debate of whether the NBA should have canceled games Sunday. Whether or not games were played, Bryant was gone. There was no good solution here.

Three Things to Know: Tributes for Kobe Bryant keep pouring in

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The tributes for to Kobe Bryant continue to pour in from every corner of the NBA — and globe. The Shock of Kobe Bryant’s unexpected death on Sunday — in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven others — is wearing off and sadness fills its place. Tributes to the future Hall of Famer kept on pouring in on Monday.

Every NBA game on Monday started with a 24-second violation by one team and an 8-second backcourt violation by the other — 24 and 8 celebrating Kobe’s numbers.

In Los Angeles, where Kobe played for 20 years and became part of the image and fabric of the city — the man even won an Oscar — the grief from the loss has been particularly acute. Monday night you could feel the city’s love when an impromptu crowd filled the area around Staples Center — where a memorial has sprung up — as well as the L.A. Live plaza across the street to watch an outdoor, big-screen replay of Kobe’s finale (shown outside the West Coast ESPN offices) — a 60-point game that was the perfect ending to his career. Laker fans showed up and chanted his name.

There will not be a Lakers’ game in Los Angeles for a few days, however. The Clippers/Lakers game for Tuesday was postponed (likely until April). The Lakers’ first game back will be home Friday against the Trail Blazers.

The tributes were not limited to Los Angeles. There was Madison Square Garden, home to some of Kobe’s biggest nights.

And there were arenas in Utah and Portland — two franchises Kobe particularly tortured on the court — where tributes were paid because of the respect the man had earned.

Kobe tributes poured in from around the globe, including in the Philippines.

Back in the NBA, Gregg Popovich summed up how Kobe seemed to impact everyone.

No player seemed hit harder by the tragedy than the man who took over the Lakers’ mantle, LeBron James.

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I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had! I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!! 😢😢😢😢💔. Man I love you big bro. My heart goes to Vanessa and the kids. I promise you I’ll continue your legacy man! You mean so much to us all here especially #LakerNation💜💛 and it’s my responsibility to put this shit on my back and keep it going!! Please give me the strength from the heavens above and watch over me! I got US here! There’s so much more I want to say but just can’t right now because I can’t get through it! Until we meet again my brother!! #Mamba4Life❤️🙏🏾 #Gigi4Life❤️🙏🏾

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2) No James Harden. No Russell Westbrook. So Eric Gordon drops 50 on the Jazz. This was your upset of the night. Or, conversely, this is why you don’t want to bet NBA games.

The Jazz entered the night the hottest team in the NBA having won 14-of-15. The Rockets came in sitting guys who account for 62.1 points per game in Harden (thigh bruise) and Westbrook (rest), or 51.6 percent of their points.

So Eric Gordon — who has battled injury much of the season himself — just took over and dominated, dropping 50.

Houston won 126-117. Danuel House Jr. scored 21 with 11 rebounds, while Austin Rivers also had 21 points. Utah lost at home for the first time since Dec. 9.

3) Kings come from 27 down — 17 in the final three minutes — to beat the Timberwolves in overtime. Welcome to “the comeback of the year” or the “most painful of our 10 straight losses,” depending on how you want to look at this one.

Minnesota had this one. They were about to snap a nine-game losing streak, Andrew Wiggins had just nailed a three with 2:49 left to put the Timberwolves up 17. It’s empty the bench and ice the knees time… except the Kings close the game on a wild 21-4 run that is capped off by De’Aaron Fox, down 2 with 4.7 seconds left, intentionally missing a free throw off the front of the rim, getting his own rebound and tying the game.

Boxing out people. It’s not just a 1950s skill. (It will be interesting to see if the Last Two Minute Report says that should have been a lane violation on Fox; still you got to seal him off there.)

That sent the game to overtime and the Kings got the win.

Buddy Hield, who grew up idolizing Kobe (as many of his generation did), came off the bench to drop 42 — he has found a spark as a sixth man for the Kings.

Here is your Hield/Kobe stat of the night to tie everything together.