Report: Black executives bothered by Bulls’ search

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Eight candidates have been connected to the Bulls’ search for a lead executive:

Webster is of Japanese descent. The other seven are white.

Ferry, Colangelo and Wilcox particularly raise eyebrows. While running the Hawks, Ferry used “African” pejoratively to describe Luol Deng. Colangelo lost his job running the 76ers amid a burner-Twitter scandal. Wilcox made an inappropriate racial joke while working in Atlanta.

Chicago’s search has included no black known candidates.

Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

The reaction from a handful of NBA’s black executives, who spoke to The Undefeated on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely on the topic, was disappointment and frustration.

“I find it strange in this environment that there has not been one black candidate that the Bulls have spoken to so far,” one NBA general manager said. “If they did now after being called out, it would seem token in nature.”

Said another NBA assistant general manager: “That is a slap in the face. Their worst is still being considered over our best. The league is going to have to do something. It does get frustrating.”

It’s difficult to assess racial bias on a case-by-case basis. The Bulls should interview the best candidates. Perhaps, they honestly believe they’ve done that. Diversity is bigger than checking boxes of race.

But, in aggregate, far too few black people run NBA front offices. It is simply unbelievable this breakdown is the outcome a fair system.

Ferry and Colangelo represent the worst of how favorable treatment works. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly vouched for Ferry, whose father (Bob Ferry) played in the NBA then spent nearly two decades as a general manger. Colangelo’s father (Jerry Colangelo) is also well-connected at the highest levels of the league. Considering how they flamed out in their previous jobs, Danny Ferry and Bryan Colangelo at least appear to be benefiting from nepotism.

This issue isn’t unique to Chicago or even the NBA. It crosses into all sectors. Nepotism tends to favor those who’ve held power dating back previous generations – i.e., white people.

Black candidates also face stereotypes about intelligence and leadership.

That’s why it’s important for anyone running a job search to confront their own biases. The Bulls might have thought Karnisovas, Simon, Webster, Buchanan, Zanik, Ferry, Colangelo and Wilcox are the best candidates. But did COO Michael Reinsdorf or anyone else involved stop for introspection: Why did no black candidates emerge? Is it because these eight were truly the best options? Or because of underlying bias?

Ferry, Colangelo and the lack of black candidates particularly make it difficult to accept the former.

One of the quoted general managers is correct about the appearance of tokenism. Karnisovas has reportedly already emerged as the leading candidate. Just interviewing a black candidate now would be perceived as inauthentic. The Bulls would have to reconsider how they’ve conducted this search then relaunch it. If a fair process still landed on Karnisovas, reasonable observers wouldn’t object.

Heck, I can’t rule out that this was a fair process that that landed on Karnisovas, Simon, Webster, Buchanan, Zanik, Ferry, Colangelo and Wilcox as candidates. It’s just hard to believe that.

Whether or not it was a fair process in Chicago, this discussion can be productive. Hopefully, it leads to future hirers thoughtfully considering how to eliminate racial bias from their process.

Block or charge: Alperen Sengun dunks on Zach Collins

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To borrow the catchphrase of the great Rex Chapman:

Block or charge?

The Rockets’ Alperen Sengun caught a body and threw one down on the Spurs’ Zach Collins but was called for the offensive foul.

NBA Twitter went nuts.

Rockets coach Stephen Silas challenged the call, but it was upheld (from my perspective, the replay officials are always looking to back the in-game officials if they at all can).

By the time Collins slid over and jumped, Sengun was already in the air — if anything that was a block. What the officials called was Sengun using his off-arm to create space.

I hate the call — that’s a dunk and an and-one. Not because it’s a great dunk — although it is that, too — but because Collins literally jumped into the path of an already airborne Sengun, Collins created all the contact. It’s on him. Under the spirit of the rules, Sengun’s off-arm is moot at that point — Collins illegally jumped in Sengun’s way and caused the collision.

Terrible call by the officials.

It was a good night for the Spurs, overall. San Antonio played its best defense in a while and Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs 11-game losing streak.

Three things to know: Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

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Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Watch Jamal Murray drain game-winning 3 to beat Blazers

This game felt like a 2019 playoff time capsule, with Damian Lillard and Jamal Murray trading blows in a dramatic game.

Lillard landed more of them, he finished with 40 points — and his final three were vintage Dame Time.

But Murray had the final word.

The final minutes of this game were insane.

It was a needed win for a Denver team that some nights look like they can compete with the best in the league, then turn around 48 hours later and mail in a loss to a tanking team. Nikola Jokic scored 33 against Portland (with 10 boards and nine assists) — he is again putting up numbers that will have him in the MVP conversation (even if it’s a longshot he wins it). However, the Nuggets’ bottom-five defense makes them inconsistent night to night.

Portland revamped their roster to get younger and more athletic around Lillard this past offseason, but one of the results of that is the inconsistency of youth. The Blazers don’t bring the same level of execution every night. If they don’t learn that lesson, they may be different in makeup but the results will be the same as many Portland teams of the last decade — an early playoff exit.

2) Brittney Griner is home on U.S.soil

After spending 10 months in Russian jails — including being convicted and sent to a penal colony — on trumped-up drug charges that made her a political pawn in a massive geo-political battle, Brittney Griner is finally home on U.S. soil, her plane landed in Texas overnight.

The Biden administration worked out a prisoner exchange with Russia that brings Griner home to be with her wife, family and friends — that is something to be celebrated.

Of course, there was some pushback online/in the media from people who care only about trying to score political points for their selfish ends. Fortunately, we had the family of Paul Whelan — a Michigan corporate security executive who has been behind bars in Russia since December 2018 on trumped-up espionage charges — who praised the president for bringing Griner home and making “the deal that was possible, rather than waiting for one that wasn’t going to happen.”

An American citizen is home. She happens to be a WNBA star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but those things are not what matters most, and are secondary to her family who are just happy to hug her and tell her they love her again. We all hope that day comes soon for American political prisoners held around the globe (including Whelan), but we should celebrate the big victory of Griner being back on U.S. soil.

3) Spurs snap 11-game losing streak behind 32 from Johnson

Keldon Johnson — one of the few bright spots in a dark Spurs season — hit his first nine shots on his way to a 32-point night that sparked a 118-109 San Antonio win over Houston, snapping the Spurs’ 11-game losing streak.

“This has been the first game in a while where we were clicking defensively,” Johnson told the Associated Press after the game. “You can tell when we get stops, get out and run and be able to get out front. If we can keep that mindset of defense first, get stops and we let the offense take care of itself, we’ll be in great shape.”

All of that is interesting, but the real debate of the night: Was this an offensive foul by Alperen Sengun, or a block by Zach Collins?

Sengun was in the air when Collins came over, but he also used his off hand to create space for the dunk. This is a bang-bang call and the challenge of the block/charge call — I think that’s a block by Collins, but that’s not how the referee or many others have seen it. How would you have called it?

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.