Report: Bulls “actively shopping” Jimmy Butler for trade; Cavaliers, Celtics at front of line

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Retool around Jimmy Butler or trade him and rebuild completely?

That was the question hanging over the Bulls for at least a year now, and it has been hard to read what Bulls management was thinking, their actions were inconsistent. Last year they were going to go young, then went out and signed Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo.

Now it looks like trading him may be the call. From Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

The Bulls routinely say they’ll take phone calls from teams about Butler’s availability around this time and at the trade deadline but this time around, multiple sources tell CSNChicago.com the Bulls are doing more than listening: they’re shopping Butler to many teams….

The Boston Celtics have always been fond of Butler and have the assets the Bulls, in theory, would be attracted to in terms of multiple draft picks and affordable contracts on the current roster. The Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to be on the Bulls’ doorstep before abruptly ending their partnership with GM David Griffin Monday evening.

On the surface they would appear to be the favorites as the Phoenix Suns have been “doing due diligence,” according to league sources. And the Denver Nuggets were on the periphery at the trade deadline, acquiring about Butler.

The most interesting thing is that the Bulls seem serious this time. Maybe. Ownership there doesn’t like the idea of a rebuild, they want to make the playoffs every year and sell out (contending is nice but not required). This would be a rebuild and the Bulls are out of the playoffs for a few years. Butler has said he wants to stay, and he likely would qualify for a designated player super max contract in 2019 when he is a free agent if they want to keep him.

The Celtics would be interesting, they have the pieces to pull this off, but in the past they haven’t put all that on the table for Butler. If they are willing to trade the No. 3 plus two of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder, then they would only need to make a few smaller moves to still have the money to still chase Gordon Hayward in free agency with a max offer, stockpiling their team. If they trade all three players they would have space, but the Bulls likely want picks in this deal. Plural.

Butler wants to go to the Cavaliers, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. David Griffin reportedly left the Cavaliers proposals they could pitch for Butler (and Paul George), but could owner Dan Gilbert and defacto GM Koby Altman really pull that off? I’m not convinced, mostly because the Cavaliers don’t have a pick to trade until 2021, so it would take a third team and delicate negotiations.

The Nuggets have a lot of good assets, and you slide Butler next to Jamal Murray, getting passes from Nikola Jokic, and you have something there. The Suns have assets as well.

The only question is if the Bulls are really serious this time.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”