Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Another loss exposes Bulls’ dysfunction

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The funniest thing you’ll see today comes from that traditional home of great comedy, the Washington Post. Their version of if Star Wars was retold by Ken Burns in a documentary is classic. If you discovered it last night and missed NBA games because you were sharing it with friends, then don’t worry we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know from a busy Monday around the NBA.

1) After an ugly loss to Brooklyn (where Joakim Noah was injured), the dysfunction in Chicago was put on public display. During the ProBasketballTalk Podcast Monday, our own Sean Highkin — who lives in Chicago and covers virtually every Bulls’ home game — expressed a theory: The Bulls front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson were so blinded by their personal hatred of Tom Thibodeau that they misjudged the serious flaws on this Chicago roster. They were convinced that bringing in a more laid back coach with a more modern offense would bring together a roster that they thought had underachieved. They didn’t get it — this core looks done. Derrick Rose isn’t the same, Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol are on the downsides of their career, Mike Dunleavy is out for a while, Nikola Mirotic‘s shot remains an issue, and only Jimmy Butler is a guy that you can build around long-term.

Monday night the Nets went into Chicago and bullied the Bulls, and the visitors picked up the win 105-102. After the game, Both  Hoiberg and Butler admitted didn’t play tough and were a defensive mess. Gasol said that if this loss didn’t hurt them they might not be salvageable, and that Butler’s comments the day before about the coach were something that should have been handled in house, not through the media. The Bulls looked dysfunctional on and off the court. This isn’t on Hoiberg — this roster isn’t designed to fit his system at all. Thibodeau kept it together and drove it as far as it would go, but the roster’s flaws — that you’d go under the pick and clog the lane against everyone with the ball — are the reason this is a bottom-five offense, not the coach. The transition to being Butler’s team is a rough one. This team is no threat to Cleveland. This team looks like making the second round of the playoffs would be a best-case scenario. It’s going to be a cold winter at the United Center.

Add to all that, that the Bulls could be without Noah for a while after he felt a pop in his shoulder when trying to defend Andrea Bargnani. After the game the Bulls said it was a shoulder sprain, but it would be re-evaluated Tuesday. Noah could miss some time, further exposing this roster.

2) Too much Kevin Durant late means the Clippers drop another game they circled on the calendar.  The Clippers have played in some of the most thrilling games we’ve had this regular season — against the Warriors, the Spurs, and now the Thunder.

Los Angeles lost them all. It’s a concern. The Clippers are good but appear a step behind the elite in the West, at least it felt that way again after there was too much Russell Westbrook all night (33 points, seven assists, five rebounds) and too much Durant late and the Thunder picked up a win over the Clippers in L.A. Another game the Clippers circled on the calendar, led in the fourth quarter, and lost. Another one to make you question just how good Los Angeles really is. But credit where it is due, the Thunder needed their superstar and former MVP to earn it. First Durant hit the tough game-winning jumper. Then he helped off Wesley Matthews in the corner and blocked Chris Paul‘s attempt at a game winner.

3) Atlanta’s Dennis Schroder is going to need some dental work. During the Hawks’ win over the Trail Blazers Monday, Dennis Schroder went to the floor trying to get a loose ball and his face hit Meyers Leonard‘s knee. In this video you can see his tooth come flying out. Schroder did return to the game.

4) Utah’s Alec Burks had the dunk of the night, and it wasn’t close. This is monster.

5) John Wall had 19 assists in Wizards’ win, but ankle bothering him so much he may sit out. Usually when a guy sets a career high in assists he’s feeling good, Wall certainly played well in the Wizards 113-99 win over the Kings. Wall dished out 19 dimes. But after the game said his ankle is so sore  he may need to sit out, reports J. Michael at CSNWashington.com.

“All my trainers know what it is. All I know it’s a real, real bad sprain,” Wall, who had an MRI on Thursday after the Wizards returned from a four-game road swing, told CSNmidatlantic.com before Monday’s game when he set a career high with 19 assists vs. the Sacramento Kings. “I’ve sprained it like five, six games in a row so it wasn’t getting no better.

“A high ankle sprain. I probably should take time off but when we start getting a couple guys back I’ll see how it feels and make a decision.”

The Wizards are 9.4 points per 100 possessions better when Wall is on the court, mostly because their defense is dramatically better. If he is gone for an extended period it hurts their chances of climbing back into the playoff picture in the East (the Wizards are currently the 12 seed, three games back of a playoff spot).

 

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

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Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

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This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

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Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

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After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.