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Bulls owner on if Paxson, Forman will be back: ‘Absolutely. We believe they’ve done a great job.’

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Was this really even in doubt?

There certainly have been times in the past when questioning the moves of Bulls’ president John Paxson and GM Gar Forman was a favorite pastime around the league, as was questioning the wisdom of keeping them around. The Bulls ownership, now led by Michael Reinsdorf, stuck with them anyway.

If the Bulls didn’t fire GarPAx then, it certainly isn’t going to happen now.

The pair has done a solid job recently and the Bulls are starting to round into something. What exactly remains to be seen, but Lauri Markkanen has played like a future All-Star since returning from injury, Zach LaVine has earned his big contract as a scorer (for this year, at least) and become an improved playmaker, Otto Porter is a good fit, Wendell Carter Jr. looks like a keeper, and in their last 10 games the Bulls are 6-4 with a +1.7 net rating. The Bulls are taking steps forward.

So when K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune asked Reinsdorf if Paxson and Forman were coming back, you knew what the answer would be.

Absolutely. We believe they’ve done a great job. I know that in this market, with some of our fans and some in the media, they look at it differently. That perplexes me…

Right now, we’re going through our second rebuild. That also mystifies me. I listen to some people who reach out to me asking how many rebuilds can we do. This is our second rebuild. And given where we are today, I think for Year 2 of our rebuild to have two potential All-Stars in Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine and a great draft pick in Wendell Carter Jr., we’re in good shape. Wendell injured himself, but I think we have a good enough sample size to know he’s going to be a solid NBA player. I think he’ll bring a lot to the defensive end and he’s very skilled. And then the trade for Otto Porter Jr., I know it’s only eight games, but the numbers speak for themselves. The offensive output has increased dramatically.

When asked about coach Jim Boylen, Reinsdorf sounded like the coach would return, too. Which was always the preferred plan in Chicago.

The Bulls are going to end up with another high draft pick — if the season ended today, Chicago would have a 12.5 percent shot at the No. 1 pick could land anywhere from 1-8, there’s a lot more fluctuation now. There’s a 25.7 percent chance they get the No. 6 pick (the highest odds of any one landing spot), which even in what is considered a down draft should land them a future rotation player such as Romeo Langford of Indiana or Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech.

The Bulls are in a good spot, this time GarPax should be given a chance.

Karl-Anthony Towns shoots down trade rumors, and was that a dig at Jimmy Butler?

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Karl-Anthony Towns was back on the court for the first time in a month Friday night, dropping 27 on the Pacers and looking every bit one of the best big men in the game (even as he shook off a little rust).

Towns’ name was in the news while he was out, with reports about how the Knicks dream was to trade for him and Warriors were monitoring his situation. There has been zero Towns trade talk around the league — he is in the first year of a five-year contract extension and wants to give the new Timberwolves’ new management a chance to build around him — but that hasn’t squashed the speculation.

So Towns tried to do that after Friday night’s game — and takes a little dig at Jimmy Butler in the process. Via Chris Hine of the Star Tribune.

“I think you’ve been around me long enough to know I don’t go for all the s***,” Towns said. “I just do my job, go home and I know what the real story is. There’s a reason those stories are made because people need to sell papers, sell links and clicks, whatever the case may be. I’m here to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Very fortunate I have a head coach like [Ryan Saunders], a President and friend like [Gersson Rosas]. I’m not worried about all that nonsense.

“Whatever we have to deal with in house, we’ll deal with in house, but this ain’t the circus like it used to be. This is something that’s going to be done as a family. If we have a problem or anything, we’ll deal with it internally. We won’t have any external forces here adding anything.”

The circus/family comments are clearly a little dig at Jimmy Butler.

The circus was at the start of the 2018-19 season, when Butler wanted out of Minnesota and went full diva to create a massive distraction and force then coach/GM Tom Thibodeau’s hand. Butler was traded to the Sixers, and then last summer left Philadelphia for Miami (where he has played at an All-NBA level). Butler may not have loved how he perceived Towns (and, more so, Andrew Wiggins) commitment to the game, but Towns was no fan of how Butler handled his business. Towns doesn’t like things dealt with that publicly.

Towns was playing at an All-NBA level himself this season before his injury, including shooting 41.5 percent on 8.5 threes a game — KAT has been an offensive force. Rosas, however, has a lot of work to do to build a quality team around Towns. Towns committed to Minnesota with this new contract and, while he may be frustrated with the losing this season, he’s not going Anthony Davis.

A couple of years from now… who knows? That’s a couple of lifetimes away in the NBA. Until then, teams will monitor Towns’ situation and mood, he will shoot down trade rumors, and the cycle will go on.

Somehow, Ja Morant highlights keep getting better (video)

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Ja Morant is special.

He has already produced a few amazing plays during his rookie year. He has even taken over full games with his flashy play.

But the performance he put on during the Grizzlies’ win over the Cavaliers last night was something else.

Thrice, Morant elevated for show-stopping dunks. He scored only once. But each time, something incredible happened.

First, Morant way up to catch a lob from Jae Crowder, adjusted mid-air and found Jaren Jackson Jr. for a dunk:

Then, less than a minute later, Morant finished a lob from Crowder with a beautiful one-handed slam:

Finally, Morant leaped to posterize Larry Nance Jr., realized that wouldn’t work then threw a spinning behind-the-back pass to Jackson. Though Alfonzo McKinnie blocked Jackson, Morant’s move was dazzling:

If Morant is going to keep putting on shows like this during games, maybe we can forgive him for skipping the dunk contest.

Trae Young gets ankles absolutely destroyed by Dejounte Murray (video)

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The Hawks got Trae Young his desired help, trading for Jeff Teague.

Maybe Young will do his part and step up on defense.

That didn’t happen on this possession against Spurs guard Dejounte Murry.

At least Young continued his breakout season on the other end, scoring 31 points and dishing nine assists in Atlanta’s rare victory in San Antonio.

Tristan Thompson slaps Jae Crowder’s rear end, gets ejected (video)

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What is it about Cleveland athletes slapping butts and getting in trouble?

Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. faces a simple battery charge for slapping a police officer’s backside in LSU’s locker room after the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Last night, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson got ejected for slapping Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder‘s behind.

Thompson and Crowder got double technical fouls earlier in the game. So, Thompson got ejected with a tech for this incident between free throws.

Though the two are former Cleveland teammates, Crowder didn’t look amused. Crowder doesn’t play.

The Cavs rallied without Thompson, but Memphis won, 113-109.