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Bulls remain committed to keeping Jim Boylen beyond this season

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls insist they remain committed to keeping coach Jim Boylen beyond this season and that he is delivering the way they anticipated despite their poor record.

Executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said the Bulls “absolutely” plan to retain him. He said Boylen is “doing the right things” and is “promoting the right message to our players.”

The front office also took the blame Thursday for signing Jabari Parker last summer in a failed experiment. He was traded along with Bobby Portis and a protected 2023 second-round draft pick to Washington for Otto Porter Jr. on Wednesday.

“We thought at the time it was worth the roll of the dice given where we were at,” Paxson said. “It didn’t work out for either party.”

The Bulls have lost 16 of 18 games and own one of the worst records in the NBA at 12-42.

There have been few signs of progress in a season where they hoped to show some. They were hit hard by injuries and have been stumbling all season.

That might put them in better position to win the lottery and draft Zion Williamson. But it wasn’t the way they drew things up.

“I think losing definitely feeds into doubt and the way people act or react to you and feel about you,” Zach LaVine said. “I think that’s partly on us as well. We’ve got to go out here and do our job regardless. I’m not a front-office guy, I’m not a coach, so I can’t tell you what they’re thinking, what the direction is. … I’m going to do everything I can to continue to try to get this franchise back to where we need to get it to.”

The Bulls were 5-19 when they fired former coach Fred Hoiberg on Dec. 3. They have gone 7-23 under Boylen.

Chicago got blown out by a franchise-record 56 points by Boston in Boylen’s third game. The starters got benched for about the final 20 minutes that night, and some players raised the possibility of boycotting practice the following morning. There was a players-only meeting instead, and the team met with coaches and management.

“That was a bad way to start, but when you’re in it every day, you see his passion, commitment and the care he has for his players and this organization,” Paxson said.

The Bulls could be paying three coaches if they decided to let Boylen go. But Paxson said money has “nothing” to do with the decision to keep him.

As for the trade, the Bulls see it as a correction-of-sorts for the failed Parker signing as well as a logical move given where there are in their rebuild.

Parker simply did not fit in Hoiberg’s pace-and-space offense and didn’t really mesh with the defensive-oriented Boylen. The Bulls viewed it as a low-risk move when they signed him to a $40 million, two-year deal because of his age (23) and the fact that the second year was not guaranteed.

“What we saw in Jabari was a guy who’s 23 years old and had talent,” general manager Gar Forman said.

They see a fit in the 25-year-old Porter, a career 40-percent 3-point shooter and a versatile defender at small forward.

Trading Portis made sense to them because he is set to become a restricted free agent and they’re locked into Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. at power forward and center. The two sides were unable to agree to a contract extension in the offseason. And as much as the Bulls liked Portis, they viewed Porter as a wiser investment even with two years left on a four-year, $106.5 million contract.

“Is he making a lot of money? Of course he is,” Paxson said. “And it does take away some of that cap space. But we also felt that we tried to re-sign Bobby this past offseason.”

One more move the Bulls could make is a buyout with Robin Lopez that would free the veteran center to sign with a contender. Paxson said there are no plans at the moment.

“My feeling right now – it can change – is Robin will be with us,” Paxson said. “Our players love him. He’s a great teammate. He’s a good guy. We don’t feel it’s an absolute given that we have to just buy a guy out to help another team.”

Joseph Tsai to buy rest of Nets, Barclays Arena for $3.4 billion

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NEW YORK — Joe Tsai has agreed to buy the remaining 51 percent of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center from Mikhail Prokhorov in deals that two people with knowledge of the details say are worth about $3.4 billion.

Terms were not disclosed Friday, but the people told The Associated Press that Tsai is paying about $2.35 billion for the Nets – a record for a U.S. pro sports franchise – and nearly $1 billion in a separate transaction for the arena. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the transactions have not yet been completed.

Tsai is the co-founder and executive vice president of the Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant. He already had purchased a 49 percent stake in the team from Prokhorov in 2018, with the option to become controlling owner in four years.

Instead, he pushed up that timeline for full ownership of a team on the rise after signing superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in July.

Prokhorov, a Russian billionaire, became the NBA’s first non-North American owner in 2010 and oversaw the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn two years later. He spent big in the first couple years after the move in a quest to chase a championship, but the team soon became one of the worst in the NBA before rallying to return to the playoffs last season.

“It has been an honor and a joy to open Barclays Center, bring the Nets to Brooklyn, and watch them grow strong roots in the community while cultivating global appeal,” Prokhorov said in a statement. “The team is in a better place today than ever before and I know that Joe will build on that success, while continuing to deliver the guest experience at Barclays Center that our fans, employees, and colleagues in the industry enjoy.”

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of September and is subject to approval by the NBA’s Board of Governors.

That would put Tsai, a native of Taiwan, in full control of the team by the time the Nets head to China to play two exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers in October. That comes at the start of a season of renewed excitement for the Nets, who just three seasons ago won an NBA-worst 20 games but are set to make a big move up the standings after landing two of the best players on the market when free agency opened.

“I’ve had the opportunity to witness up close the Brooklyn Nets rebuild that Mikhail started a few years ago. He hired a front office and coaching staff focused on player development, he supported the organization with all his resources, and he refused to tank,” Tsai said. “I will be the beneficiary of Mikhail’s vision, which put the Nets in a great position to compete, and for which I am incredibly grateful.”

Brett Yormark, the CEO of BSE Global, which manages the team and the arena, will oversee the transition before leaving for a new role.

Jazz coach Quin Snyder tells Donovan Mitchell to ‘be a sponge’ around Gregg Popovich

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While other players continue to pull out of the USA Basketball roster — De'Aaron Fox was the latest, and P.J. Tucker before him — Utah’s Donovan Mitchell has been outspoken in his commitment to the team.

“Me, I’m 22, some guys are older and got to rest their bodies and I understand that…” Mitchell said Friday night after Team USA’s exhibition game win over Spain. “For me, I’ve never been part of USA Basketball and I’m honored to be here, I’m honored to have this privilege to go out and compete.”

A lot of players have left — or just not put their names in the hat in the first place — saying they wanted to focus on preparing for the regular season, especially players in the Western Conference, which is deep with outstanding teams. The Utah Jazz, now with Mike Conley at the point, are one of those teams with high expectations.

Mitchell, however, has the full backing of his coach Quin Snyder to stay with Team USA and learn from Gregg Popovich, as Snyder told Marc Stein of the New York Times.

“Both Donovan and I have been excited for this opportunity, not just the chance to compete for his country but to play for Pop. I think he has an appreciation for the fact that he’s playing for the greatest coach that’s ever coached…

“Just try to throw yourself completely into it,” Snyder said he told Mitchell. “And try to communicate with Coach as much as you can. Be a sponge.”

Popovich has had an impact on the young players on the roster. For example, there’s more maturity to Kyle Kuzma‘s game, and Popovich recognized him on the court Friday night when Kuzma made a couple of smart plays against Spain.

Just having different coaching voices — not just Popovich but his assistants Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, and Villanova’s Jay Wright — can help a young player. The message may be consistent, but said in a different way, one that better gets through to the player. Styles matter.

Mitchell led Team USA in scoring against Spain with 13, but Snyder and Jazz fans are hoping for more. Not just gold at the World Cup in China starting Sept. 1, but that Mitchell comes back energized and with a broadened game after having been a sponge next to Popovich.

Marcus Smart reportedly cleared to play for Team USA

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Through two weeks of training camp, first in Las Vegas then in Los Angeles, through one intrasquad scrimmage and one exhibition game, Marcus Smart has sat in street clothes.

The Celtics guard has a calf injury that has sidelined him. On Thursday in Los Angeles he took part in the shooting parts of practice during training camp, but not the full-contact scrimmages against the select team. All he could really do was this.

Friday night he never got out of his warmups and did not play against Spain, but he did say on the broadcast he would be back.

Turns out, he was cleared to be back the next day according to Mark Stein of the New York Times.

This takes away a little of the sting of De'Aaron Fox deciding to withdraw from the team just before it left on Saturday for Australia.

It also means four Celtics are on the USA roster: Smart, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown. USA assistant coach Steve Kerr jokingly said to me last week he asked Brad Stevens for a thank you gift for running Celtics mini-camp.

Smart is one of the 13 players headed down under for a series of tune-up games before the World Cup (against Australia and Canada). If he’s fully healthy enough to go, Smart is a lock to make the roster because of his physical perimeter defense and ability to shoot the three (36 percent last season in the NBA, and the international line is a little closer in). He likely would come off the bench at the two behind Donovan Mitchell.

Bill Walton broadcast White Sox vs. Angels game and was nothing short of brilliant

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Bill Walton is brilliant.

The Hall of Fame hippie and big man was in the broadcast booth Friday night — not for basketball, but for the White Sox vs. Angels MLB game. Walton loves baseball even if his understanding of the sport is… unconventional.

I want Bill Walton to narrate my life.

The world missed him while he battled serious back issues, it’s so good to have him out and around and being himself again.