In a way, this game’s must-win status for the Bulls was a microcosm of their relationship with the Cavs in LeBron James’ first year back. If there is any year Chicago will get past Cleveland, it’s this one, since James and his new teammates are feeling each other out. And if there was any game in their second-round they would be in position to steal, it’s one of the first two. Kevin Love is out, and so is J.R. Smith. Smith will be back for Game 3, and the Cavs missed his shooting badly on Monday as the Bulls held on and withstood a late run to take Game 1 in Cleveland, 99-92.
Despite a late scare with a hit to the shoulder, Derrick Rose was mostly spectacular in Game 1. He led the Bulls with 25 points on 11-of-26 shooting and even shoot 3-of-6 from long range. It was exactly the kind of statement game Chicago needed from him to start the series, especially with Joakim Noah so ineffective.
The Bulls started the game with a 27-15 lead after the first quarter, thanks largely to a slot start by Kyrie Irving. But Irving heated up and finished with 30 points. He was forced to do a lot of the heavy lifting with Jimmy Butler tailing LeBron all game.
After being ineffective for most of the first-round series against the Bucks, Pau Gasol took advantage of the Cavs’ weak frontcourt defense for a 21-point, 10-rebound, four-block night.
This is only the beginning, and there aren’t a lot of sustainable takeaways for either team. James was comparatively forgettable, which is probably not going to happen again. The Bulls shot 55.6 percent from three-point range, which is also probably not going to happen again. But without Love, the Cavs look much more beatable than they would otherwise.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported that DeMarre Carroll and the San Antonio Spurs have agreed to a buyout. Carroll will then sign with the Houston Rockets:
ESPN’s Tim McMahon added in a subsequent report that the Rockets will bring in free agent forward Jeff Green:
Green will first sign a 10-day contract with the Rockets, so he can get used to their system and see if there is a fit, Woj reported.
Carroll signed a three-year, $20.65 million contract as part of a sign and trade from the Brooklyn Nets to the Spurs this past summer. That agreement was part of a three-team trade that saw San Antonio send forward Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards. The 10-year veteran is owed $7 million for this season, $6.65 million for 2020-21 and $1.35 million guaranteed for 2021-22. San Antonio will incur a cap hit for each of the three seasons as part of the buyout process with Carroll. How much of a cap hit will depend on how much money Carroll gave up as part of the buyout agreement.
Carroll was added via sign and trade after Marcus Morris spurned the Spurs in free agency. Morris had originally agreed to sign with San Antonio, but backed out after the New York Knicks offered him $15 million as a free agent. The Spurs moved on to Carroll as a backup plan, but he was never able to crack the rotation. He’s played only 135 minutes over 15 games with San Antonio.
Green was with the Utah Jazz earlier this season, before being waived to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker. The 11-year veteran Green averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances with Utah. The Rockets will be the ninth different franchise Green has played for.
In Houston, Carroll and Green will join Mike D’Antoni’s small-ball crew as big man depth. Carroll and Green will likely back up P.J. Tucker and Robert Covington up front. Their experience at both forward spots will give the Rockets additional depth for their playoff run. Carroll and Green are also likely be to asked to play some center, as Houston has downsized dramatically at that position, including trading Clint Capela at the trade deadline.
Better pay. Better working conditions. Not to be treated as disposable parts by their employers.
The players in the G-League want the same thing out of a union that auto workers, teachers, and (most obviously) NBA players do. As had been expected (talks had been going on for a while), on Monday the National Basketball Players Association (the NBA players’ union) voted to support the formation of a G-League union, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.
The G-League players are expected to support this. Sources have told NBC Sports that team and league officials will not oppose the players unionizing, they believe there will be benefits, too.
The primary issue will be pay. Most players in the G-League earn a $35,000 salary, unless they’re an elite high school prospect, or on a two-way contract (which means they are tied to an NBA team and can be called up for 45 days a season). Some players make more through an Exhibit 10 contract with a team — meaning they go to training camp with a team, then get a bonus ($50,000 or so) if they sign with that team’s G-League team.
Other issues would include freedom of player movement, work benefits, and giving the players a voice in other matters like discipline issues.
The NBA continues to push toward each of its teams having a minor-league affiliate. Right now, only the Trail Blazers and Nuggets do not. As the G-League grows, it’s understandable the players want a larger voice in how things are run.
In other news out of the players’ union meeting, Kyrie Irving was voted in as vice president, replacing Paul Gasol. Via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Chris Paul remains the union president.
CHICAGO — In a weekend filled with spectacular tributes to Kobe Bryant, this one stood out.
Legendary rapper, songwriter, record producer, and businessman Dr. Dre — a guy who grew up in Los Angeles — released a tribute that stood out (and was highlighted on TNT). Dre did this with Gibson Hazard and Jackson Bannon.
Kobe’s public memorial service takes place Feb. 24 at Staples Center.
CHICAGO – James Harden has griped about Giannis Antetokounmpo winning Most Valuable Player last year.
After his team lost to Harden’s in the All-Star game Sunday, Antetokounmpo got in a dig at Harden.
“Offensively, we were just trying to find whoever James Harden was guarding,” Antetokounmpo said of his team’s strategy late. “That’s who we thought we’d have the opportunity to score on.”
Harden is not a good defender. But this is playing right into his hands. He’s at his best in isolation, especially in the post. He faces far more difficulty when run through actions off the ball or trying to keep up in transition.
Down the stretch, Harden defended more effectively than usual. Not great, but above his usual standard. Good enough for LeBron James‘ team to win.
At least, as Giannis previously noted, the MVP trophy is at his house.