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

“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 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).


Nowitzki, Wade, Gasol, Popovich reportedly headline Hall of Fame class


It will not become official until Saturday, but this is shaping up to be a legendary Hall of Fame class.

Dwyane Wade. Dirk Nowitzki. Gregg Popovich. Pau Gasol. Tony Parker. Becky Hammon. They are all in, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a deep class, and there was no question about any of those players’ Hall of Fame credentials.

Wade is one of the (arguably THE) greatest shooting guard in the history of the game, winning three rings as a member of the Miami Heat, plus making eight All-NBA teams and 13 trips to the All-Star game. Nowitzki is the greatest Maverick ever and the greatest European player in NBA history, an NBA champion and Finals MVP, plus he won the regular season MVP in 2007.

Popovich, the legendary coach of the five-time champion San Antonio Spurs — a team that won 50+ games 18-straight seasons with him at the helm, plus he coached Team USA to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Parker was the point guard for much of that Spurs run, is a four-time NBA champion and was Finals MVP in 2007. Gasol is a two-time NBA champion, four-time All-NBA,and led Spain to the FIBA World Championship in 2006 and won three Olympic medals.

The Hall of Fame class will officially be announced on Saturday.


Draymond Green is good with facing Kings in first round — because of the travel


If the NBA playoffs started today, the Golden State Warriors would be in the play-in and host the Pelicans in the 7/8 game. Win that and they would hop on a more than three-hour flight to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies.

Draymond Green said on his podcast he is hoping the Warriors finish as the No.6 seed and dodge the play-in, then face the Kings to open the playoffs (which is how the standings stood 24 hours ago). Why? It’s a 90-mile drive to Sacramento.

“The reason why I said Sac is simply just because of the travel. That’s a lot on your body. If we can bus ride an hour and 10 minutes up the way, I just think that’s much better for us. At the end of the day, I don’t really care who we play in the playoffs, I think we can win.”

Green is not wrong about the travel.

While some teams may have looked at the top four in the West (Nuggets, Grizzlies, Kings, and Suns) and seen Sacramento as the obvious target, that plan could backfire. The Kings’ offense is diverse and elite, and they have the Clutch Player of the Year in De'Aaron Fox, and their building will be rocking like no other after the franchise has not been in the playoffs since 2006. In a West filled with flawed teams, the Kings winning a couple of rounds is well within the realm of possibility.

This could be the first year since the Kings moved to Sacramento that all four California teams make the playoffs (it is likely that all four at least make the play-in). The Kings are all but locked in to be the No.3 seed, while the Warriors, Lakers and Clippers are in the crowded field at the bottom of the playoff bracket where three games separate the No.5 and 11 seeds.

Bradley Beal reportedly under investigation after confrontation with fan who lost gambling

Washington Wizards v Orlando Magic
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On March 21, Bradley Beal had an off game — 16 points on 4-of-15 shooting — as the Wizards fell to the Magic in Orlando.

Walking off the court, Beal got into a confrontation with a couple of fans, one of whom blamed him for a gambling loss. The next day that incident became a complaint filed with the Orlando Police Department by the fan. David Purdum of ESPN summarized the police report this way:

Beal and the Wizards were exiting the court and in the visitors’ tunnel, headed to the locker room, when, according to the police report, an unidentified man remarked to Beal, “You made me lose $1,300, you f***.”

Beal, according to the report, turned around and walked toward a friend of the man who made the comment and swatted his right hand toward him, knocking the man’s hat off and contacting the left side of his head.

Police reviewed video footage of the altercation and heard Beal say this is his job and he takes it seriously, and the man is heard apologizing, implying he did not intend to offend him, according to the report.

At this point, no charges have been filed against Beal. According to TMZ, Beal told the heckler, “Keep it a buck. I don’t give a f*** about none of your bets or your parlays, bro. That ain’t why I play the game.” The entire incident lasted less than a minute.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass said, “We are aware of the report and are in the process of gathering more information.”

Sports betting is not currently legal in the state of Florida.

While there is nothing official from the team, speculation abounds that the Wizards have shut down Beal and Kyle Kuzma for the season.


Trail Blazers shut down Lillard for season… and here comes the trade speculation


While it was unofficial but understood for some time, now it is official: Damian Lillard has been shut down for the season. Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (who has close ties to the Lillard camp) Tweeted out the news.

The Blazers are five games out of the final play-in spot with seven games to play, they aren’t making up that ground. They are tied for the fifth-worst record in the league, which comes with a 10.5% chance at the top pick and Victor Wembanyama. This was the right play.

Before it became official, Shams Charania at The Athletic wrote in “The Bounce” newsletter Monday that Lillard is “essentially” shut down for the season – and then lit a fire under the topic that makes Trail Blazers’ fans’ eyes roll:

Damian Lillard trade talk.

On the other side of things, you now have to wonder if Lillard ever steps on the court again for Portland. There was a ton of optimism going into this season after the team landed Jerami Grant and got off to a good start to the campaign. Now, not making the playoffs for a second year in a row, a soon-to-be 33-year-old star of this league who has never gotten a chance to win it all will have tons of questions to ask the front office this offseason, and I expect there to be serious conversations about what’s next for both sides.

We all knew the Lillard trade speculation was coming. Same with Bradley Beal in Washington. The same core rule applies to both of them:

Lillard will not get traded unless he asks to be moved. He has never done so, in fact saying just weeks ago about playing the rest of his career in Portland, “To that point, I’m also willing to die on that hill.” Portland has been loyal to him and Lillard signed a massive contract extension last offseason and has four years, $216.2 million left on that deal, including about $63.2 million in the contract’s final season when he is 36. He’s happy where he is and has deep roots in the community.

The odds are better than not that Lillard will retire a Trail Blazer, even if that’s not the path other stars would walk. Lillard is wired differently.

Can you construct an argument that the Trail Blazers should trade Lillard while his value is sky-high — he will be an All-NBA player again this season — because the organization’s best path to a ring is with whoever and whatever’s next? Maybe. However, that ignores the financial reality of the Blazers — Lillard brings the fans in the door, brings in team sponsors who want to be associated with him, and he sells jerseys. Lillard is good business for Portland, there is no incentive for ownership to move on right now.

In fact, it may be the opposite. Portland can throw multiple picks and good young players such as Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons into a trade to bring in another star to play with Lillard. That is more how their front office pictures this summer — they want to go all in on building around Lillard. Not sending him away.

Other teams covet Lillard, and trade packages can be constructed (would Miami be willing to move on from Bam Adebayo for the chance to pair Lillard with Jimmy Butler?). But it’s all idle talk until Lillard sits down with franchise ownership/management and says it’s time for him to move on. That has yet to happen. It may well never happen.

Just expect the avalanche of Lillard speculation to begin. Warranted or not.