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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?

Watch all of LeBron James’ 46 points in Game 6

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There is going to be a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals Sunday because of LeBron James.

George Hill had a strong game (20 points), Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. had their moments, but it was all about LeBron — 46 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists in 46 brilliant minutes.

Rather than try to describe his game to you — including the dagger threes late — just watch.

And enjoy. There are still some people out there (mostly on Twitter, it seems) who just want to tear LeBron down for some reason. I pity them. Not just because they are wrong, although they are. Rather, it’s because they are depriving themselves of enjoying one of the greatest players ever to lace them up. LeBron can bully people in the paint, hit step back threes, is as gifted a passer as the game has seen, and just plays a smart, high-IQ game we have got to watch grow over the years. If you can’t enjoy that, you don’t love basketball.

LeBron James is a force nature, scores 46, wills Cavaliers to win forcing Game 7

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What more can be said about the brilliance of LeBron James?

We can point to his 46 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists Friday night in a win-or-go-fishing elimination game. We can point to how he lifted the team up when Kevin Love went down after a blow to the head (more on that later). We could talk about how this is his seventh 40+ point game of the playoffs, the last guy to do that since Michael Jordan in 1989 (when Jordan was 25 and had yet to win a title).

Or, we can just show you his back-to-back dagger threes in the fourth quarter over Jayson Tatum.

That is art on a basketball court.

LeBron got a little help Friday night at home, and with that the Cavaliers won Game 6 109-99, forcing a Game 7 back in Boston on Sunday night.

“It feels good just to play for another game, and like I’ve always said ‘Game 7’ is the best two words in sports,” LeBron said. “And for us to be on the road in a hostile environment where we have had no success up to this point, we should relish the opportunity and have fun with it.”

LeBron was nothing short of brilliant (remember 10-12 years ago people were trying to say he was afraid of the big moment, damn that sounds silly now). He is historically brilliant in Game 7s, but he can’t do it alone.

George Hill, the second best shot creator on the team, had 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Jeff Green had 14 off the bench, and Larry Nance Jr. had a timely 10 points and 7 rebounds.

Nance’s play was crucial because Kevin Love went down 5 minutes into the game after banging heads with Jayson Tatum while setting a screen.

Love’s was being checked for a concussion and his status for Game 7 is not known. (If he does have a concussion, it’s unlikely he clears the league protocol in time to play in two days.)

Despite LeBron and all of it, the Celtics had their chances in this one.

Boston got off to a fast start because Jaylen Brown had 15 first-quarter points and the Celtics shot 61 percent as a team, none of which seemed sustainable but it got them out to a 25-20 lead after one. Then the Cavaliers came on in the second with a 20-4 run behind LeBron, and once they had the lead the Cavaliers never let it go.

Boston will look back on not grabbing rebounds — Cleveland grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.6 percent of their missed shots, a very high percentage — and the fact the Celtics missed nine free throws and think things could have been different.

Boston is going home, where they are 10-0 these playoffs and for some reason inexplicable even to Brad Stevens, they play much better. The Celtics have a great defense, smart players, and a real chance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have LeBron James. That may be enough.

“We have one more game to be able to compete for a championship, what more can you ask for?” LeBron said.

Kevin Love being evaluated for concussion, out for second half

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It happened just five minutes into the game — Cleveland’s Kevin Love and Boston’s Jayson Tatum banged heads.

Love was in the midpost and part of his job was to set a screen for George Hill, who was racing out to the arc. In doing so, Love and Tatum banged heads and it wasn’t pretty.

Love spent a few minutes on the ground, went straight to the locker room, and has not returned to the game.

Tatum did not leave the game.

There still is no official word on if Love has a concussion. If he does, he will go into the league’s mandated concussion protocol — which means to be cleared he has to be symptom free through a series of physical tests — and it would be a challenge for him to be back for a Game 7, if there is one.

And their likely will be one. After struggling in the rest of the first quarter without Love, the Cavaliers have gotten solid performances out of Hill, Jeff Green, and of course, LeBron James has been brilliant. The Cavaliers have a comfortable 15-point lead late in the third quarter.

NBA Finals schedule drops, Game 1 Thursday, May 31

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We don’t know where the NBA Finals will be played, but we know when.

Next Thursday the eyes of the NBA world could be focused on Oakland or Houston, and the following Wednesday that may shift to Boston or Cleveland. All four of those teams still have a chance to make the NBA Finals.

What we know is the dates for the games. Here is the schedule:

Game 1, Thursday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 2, Sunday, June 3, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 3, Wednesday, June 6, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 4, Friday, June 8, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 5, Monday, June 11, at 9 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Game 6, Thursday, June 14, at 9 p.m. ET: Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors at Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers

Game 7, Sunday, June 17, at 8 p.m. ET: Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers at Houston Rockets/Golden State Warriors

Games 5, 6, and 7 are if necessary. All games will be broadcast on ABC.

There were no surprises here. The date of the start of the NBA Finals has been set since before the season started (it always is, to help broadcast partners and international media plan). The game pattern follows the same as last year, when the NBA changed it to make sure there was at least one day off in addition to travel days when the venue switches cities.