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Bulls’ GM Gar Forman says no buyout talks with Dwyane Wade yet, no regrets about starting rebuild

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LAS VEGAS — Lauri Markkanen. Denzel Valentine. Kris Dunn. Paul Zipster.

That core of the roster the Chicago Bulls have brought to Las Vegas for Summer League is one GM Gar Forman hopes will be at the core of a team playing and winning in the United Center in a few years. The Bulls finally stopped years of half-measures and went all in — they traded Jimmy Butler and set out to rebuild with Forman is at the helm. Even if the fans in Chicago don’t trust him and John Paxson in that role.

 

“We needed to take a step back in order to start this rebuild, and the key now will be player development,” Forman said Monday after the Bulls Summer League loss. “This group continuing to develop, continuing to work hard, and the fans seeing progress with this group over the next year or two.”

One guy not part of that future: Dwyane Wade. Forman said there have been no buyout talks with Wade or his agent. So far.

The 35-year-old former All-Star is owed $23.8 million this season, and that’s a lot for the Bulls to eat. Coach Fred Hoiberg said recently he expects Wade to start the season with the Bulls, but nobody around the league expects him to finish it there. The only question on the buyout is when and for how much.

Forman wanted to focus on the future, the rebuilding process going forward. He said that Zach LaVine, the athletic wing coming off an ACL injury who was traded to Chicago as part of the Butler deal, is working hard, but the team isn’t going to rush him back — he kept using the word cautious over and over.

“We see this as a big window move, as far as bringing in Zach at 22 years old,” Forman said. “He’s been fantastic, he’s been in our gym working out with our athletic performance staff, he came out here (to Las Vegas) to spend some times with our young kids, and work with our staff.”

There are a lot of teams in the East going into a rebuilding space right now, making it that much harder to get the high draft picks and pull off the moves needed to successfully rebuild. Fans and some media members love to suggest rebuilds, and it looks great when you get the No. 1 picks the Timberwolves did, or can develop players like the Warriors, but there are a lot of Orlando or Sacramento “rebuilds” out there as cautionary tales.

Can Forman and the Bulls pull this off? We all know the answer you get if you ask most Bulls fans.

It’s going to take time. LaVine relied on his athleticism and is coming off an injury that may rob him of a little of that. Markkanen has shown in Vegas that he may have the pieces in his game, but it’s going to take some time to see if he can pull it together. Is Valentine ready for the larger role coming his way? There are a lot of questions.

“I think we’ve got great, great things, and we have very passionate fans, that’s one of the plusses of being in Chicago, is that they’re very passionate about the Bulls,” Forman said. “We understand it’s always hard when you’ve had a level of success and you’ve got to take a step back and go into a new direction, as far as a rebuild is concerned. We know that it’s going to be a process, we know that there are going to be ups and downs in that process, but we think the trade gave us a step in the right direction as far as heading that way. 

“We got three young players that we really like, and we continue to be a team with flexibility. The big thing for us now is to integrate these young guys in, to continue to develop the young guys that we have from the previous year, continue to keep our flexibility where we can add assets.”

That all sounds good. But does Gar/Pax have the eye for talent, and do the Bulls have the player development chops, to pull it off?

Clippers reportedly plan on playing Kawhi Leonard more than Raptors did last season

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Kawhi Leonard was the poster child for load management last season.

The Raptors essentially let him set his own schedule in a return from the quadricep tendon issue that cost him the previous season (and, ultimately, helped ruin his relationship with the Spurs). Leonard played in just 60 regular season game — and it worked. He was a force in the playoffs, leading Toronto to its first-ever title and winning Finals MVP again.

So the Clippers are going to follow that same script, right? Nope. Expect to see more Leonard, according to Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times.

There are likely a couple of reasons for this. One is that Leonard may be feeling a little healthier and that he can take on more now. With a deep Clippers roster (especially once Paul George returns from his shoulder surgeries) it’s also possible the Clippers can limit Leonard’s in-game minutes, he averaged 34 a game when he played, which was top 20 in the league.

The bigger factor is the West is so deep with good teams the Clippers simply can’t have him sit as much and still get a good seed. Toronto could let Leonard rest and still won 58 games and had the two seed. That’s not how the West — with the Lakers, Rockets, Jazz, Nuggets, Trail Blazers, and Warriors — is going to go. The Clippers are going to need Leonard to win games most nights, and they certainly want to get a top-four seed and be home to start the postseason.

Leonard may play more early in the season and get more rest on the back half, once George returns to form and takes over some of the load on the wing. But he’s going to play.

The Clippers simply need him.

Did Hornets GM tell Kobe Bryant on draft night, ‘We couldn’t have used you anyway,’ as Bryant claims?

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Kobe Bryant spent 16 days as a Charlotte Hornet.

Long enough to develop resentment for the Hornets.

Charlotte drafted Bryant No. 13 in 1996 to trade him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. Divac threatened to retire, but eventually relented on joining the Hornets. After the moratorium, Bryant went to Los Angeles, where he had a Hall of Fame career.

He hasn’t let go of draft night, though.

Bryant on the Knuckleheads podcast:

You get drafted, you get on the phone with the GM of the team that drafted you and all this stuff. So, I get on the phone with the Charlotte GM. He just tells me, “Hey, you know what’s going on.” Like, “Yeah. Yeah, yeah.” And you’ve got media in front of you and all that. And he goes, “Well, it’s a good thing we’re trading you, because we couldn’t have used you anyway.” You motherf. OK. OK. Alright. So, that’s what happened on draft night. So, I was already triggered. I was triggered. I was ready to go to the gym. Like f— the media. I don’t want to do any more interviews. I’m trying to – what are you telling me that for? I’m 17. What are you telling? OK. Alright.

The Hornets’ general manager was Bob Bass. He died last year, so he can’t tell his side of this story.

However, in previous tellings, Bryant said Charlotte coach Dave Cowens delivered that message. Cowens denied it.

Did Bryant forget whether he talked to the general manager or coach? Forget which position Cowens held? That’d be perfectly understandable decades later.

Or maybe both Bass and Cowens were on the call. Perhaps, Bryant initially thought Cowens said it and more recently learned it was Bass. That could explain Cowens’ denial.

But…

Stephen A. Smith of The Inquirer at the time:

On Wednesday, the Hornets took Bryant with the 13th pick of the NBA draft. Within minutes, there was talk of Bryant’s going to L.A. Dave Cowens, the Hornets’ new coach, was among those who raised the possibility, dismissing Bryant as “a kid” who would have a hard time playing for Charlotte.

That was a reasonable expectation. Bryant was just a teenager. Charlotte had veteran wings like Glen Rice and Dell Curry.

But Bryant was that special. He quickly became a contributor with the Lakers then developed into an all-time great.

In part because he fanned his competitive fire with perceived slights like this one.

Bryant is right: Who would say that to a 17-year-old? It just sounds cruel. Of course, Bryant would want to avenge being treated that way.

Here’s my guess: Someone from Charlotte – either Cowens or Bass – tried to comfort Bryant in a chaotic situation by saying the trade would work out for the best because the Hornets wouldn’t have played him much. It was supposed to be nice. Bryant took it as an insult.

But that’s just a guess. It was a private conversation many years ago. We’ll probably never know exactly what was said, let alone what was intended.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

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The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

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Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.