Jared Sullinger

Reports: Heat taking look at Jared Sullinger (if they waive Chris Bosh)

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Now that it is past March 1, the Miami Heat can create a roster spot by waiving Chris Bosh. The reason for waiting until after March 1 was that he would not be able to join another team’s playoff roster (although Bosh making a comeback this season has long been unlikely). It’s the first step in the Heat applying to have Bosh’s salary taken off their books (although Bosh still gets paid, it’s a guaranteed contract).

If the Heat head down this road as expected, it would open up a roster spot.

Jared Sullinger could fill that. The Heat have reached out — and according to some reports had him work out for them — already, but things are at an early stage. This is from Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.

The Miami Heat could be poised to move on to another reclamation project, with the team looking into the possibility of signing free-agent forward Jared Sullinger…

After the Celtics rescinded a qualifying offer last summer, Sullinger, 25, signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Toronto Raptors, only to be sidelined during training camp due to foot surgery. Unable to establish a foothold with the Raptors, he was traded to the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 23 for forward P.J. Tucker and the following day released by the Suns.

Because he was released before March 1, Sullinger is eligible for playoff rosters.

With the young Heat front line, it’s easy to see where Sullinger’s experience could fit in as a role player. The primary question for the Heat in a workout with Sullinger will be “what kind of shape is he in?” Sullinger has had notorious battles with his weight, and if he’s not in shape, the Heat may not have time for the reclamation project. But if he kept himself in shape, the Heat may well have interest.

Wade, Butler lead Bulls over Suns 128-121 in overtime

Associated Press
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CHICAGO (AP) — Dwyane Wade scored 23 points, Jimmy Butler added 22 and the Chicago Bulls rallied to beat the Phoenix Suns 128-121 in overtime Friday night.

Devin Booker scored 27 points for Phoenix, but missed a chance to win it in regulation after Wade fouled him on a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left. Booker hit the first two free throws to tie it, then missed the third.

Wade and Butler led the Bulls as they rallied from 11 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Western Conference’s last-place team. Both players scored 14 points after the third quarter to help the Bulls win their third straight.

Nikola Mirotic scored 20 points and hit four 3-pointers. Robin Lopez added 19 points. Denzel Valentine, who figures to get more playing time after Doug McDermott was traded to Oklahoma City along with Taj Gibson on Thursday, had 15 points. The rookie hit 5 of 8 3-pointers.

Eric Bledsoe added 17 points and 10 assists for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the sixth time in eight games.

The Bulls scored 20 points in overtime and were leading 116-110 after a seven-point spurt that Mirotic started with a 3.

Wade put back Butler’s airball and hit two free throws to make it 122-115. And he had the crowd roaring in the closing minute when he drove for a dunk on Alex Lin and gave the raise-the-roof gesture.

The Suns appeared to be in good shape leading 102-91 with 4:32 remaining in regulation after Booker nailed a 3 to finish a 14-2 run, but the Bulls came storming back.

A dunk by Wade and 3 by Mirotic with 1:53 left cut it to 104-103 and drew a huge roar from the crowd.

Butler hit a 3 to tie it at 106-all with 48 seconds remaining, and after a driving Bledsoe lost the ball out of bounds, he nailed a baseline jumper to give Chicago a two-point lead with 9.1 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Suns: The Suns waived F Mike Scott and C/F Jared Sullinger on Friday, a day after acquiring them in trades. … The Suns also signed G Ronnie Price for the rest of the season.

Bulls: Rajon Rondo will remain in the backup point guard role, coach Fred Hoiberg said. … G Cameron Payne (flu), acquired from Oklahoma City, was unavailable.

 

Report: Magic trade Serge Ibaka to Raptors for Terrence Ross, first-round pick

Dave Sandford/Getty Images
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The Raptors have started at power forward this season:

You know the old saying: When you have six starting power forwards, you have none.

So, Toronto is trading for Serge Ibaka, who’s on an expiring contract.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Ibaka will upgrade the Raptors, who might need a shakeup. They’ve lost 10 of 14 to fall to fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto will rely on him to shore up its biggest area of concern: defense. At his best, Ibaka will protect the rim next to Jonas Valanciunas. But Ibaka has slipped considerably on that end. Is that due to playing on a team going nowhere or aging? That’s the big question with this trade.

At least Ibaka should fit well offensively as a jump-shooter next to the interior-focused Valanciunas.

The Magic mitigate their damages after giving up Victor Oladipo, the No. 11 pick and Ersan Ilyasova in a lousy trade for Ibaka last summer. Orlando clears some of its big-man logjam, and Ross adds needed help on the wing. The 26-year-old Ross is in the midst of a career year, and though his level is far more stellar than spectacular, he’s owed owed a reasonable $30.2 million over the next two years. Recouping a first-round pick always helps.

The only thing worse than their trade for Ibaka might have been the Magic signing the declining big man to a big contract this summer. That’s less of a concern for the Raptors, who are trying to win now.

Both on the court right now and with the teams’ long-term visions, Ibaka makes far more sense in Toronto than Orlando.

 

Three things we learned Wednesday: MVP level Stephen Curry is back

Associated Press
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The Miami Heat made it nine wins in a row. Kyrie Irving was dropping dimes, with 14 assists (the most ever by a LeBron teammate). The Knicks won (against the Nets, but it still counts). Even Dell Curry was draining threes. It was such a busy night in the NBA that none o that even made our list of takeaways from Wednesday night around the league.

1) MVP-level Stephen Curry is back. Because the Warriors weren’t dangerous enough already. Stephen Curry is not going to win a third straight MVP award this year, it’s either going to be James Harden (I think he’s the frontrunner now by a small margin) or Russell Westbrook.

However, after a rough couple of months to start the season, MVP-level Stephen Curry is back. Just ask the Hornets, who watched him drop 11 threes and 39 points on them Wednesday (a Warriors 126-111 win).

Those 11 threes left Curry one short of the record for most in a game (12, by Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall) but Steve Kerr didn’t play Curry in the fourth to chase the record (Curry played just 30 minutes). That’s not a game the Warriors are playing this season, chasing records.

Things changed for Curry after the Christmas Day loss to the Cavaliers. He knew he needed to be more aggressive (and not defer as much to Kevin Durant), and Steve Kerr knew he needed to put Curry in better situations to take advantage of his skill set. Curry was given a chance to run more pick-and-rolls (as he requested), and now it was Durant setting the pick more often. Curry’s shots went up by three per game, and while not all of those were “good” shots part of what makes Curry tick is taking some shots that nobody else should take — he hits a few, and it gets him going.

As noted by ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss, with the ball in his hands Curry’s three-point percentage jumped from 39.7 percent before Christmas to 46.2 percent after it. The numbers bear out he’s playing like his MVP self again. His swagger is back. The Warriors are his team again.

Curry looks like the best player in the league again (LeBron James doesn’t dial it up like this for the regular season anymore).

And woe is the rest of the league when Curry plays like this.

2) Or maybe Isaiah Thomas is the best player in the game — he drops 42 on Raptors to get Celtics win. This was a big game: It was for the lead in the Atlantic Division (if anyone actually cares about NBA divisions anymore), more importantly, it was for second place in the Eastern Conference. Guys stepped up for this game — Kyle Lowry was stunningly good on his way to 32 points. It was the Jared Sullinger revenge game, and he had 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Those two helped Toronto to an 11-point halftime lead, and the Raptors seemed to control the game.

Then Isaiah Thomas happened.

Maybe the hottest player in the game, he had 19 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter, and he led the Celtics to win the fourth 32-19 and the game 109-104.

Like Curry above, Thomas isn’t going to win the MVP award, but he’s going to get some votes down ballot (third, fourth, fifth) and deservedly so. He has the Celtics offense humming and the Celtics in second place in the East. Toronto fans would like to point out they did not have DeMar DeRozan for this game, and that’s duly noted. But this win matters because second place in the East matters — it means home court in the second round. Also, a hot Wizards team is just one game back of the Raptors now, just two-and-a-half back of the Celtics, the Wiz are in this conversation (at 22-9 they have the best record in the East since Dec. 1). What that really means is teams want to avoid being the four seed — nobody wants Cleveland in the second round. Which is why wins like this one by Boston matter. A lot.

3) Maybe the Bulls thrive in tensions and chaos, they pick up a quality win over Thunder on the road. Rumor still swirls around Chicago like paparazzi around Beyoncé. The team’s young players love Rajon Rondo more than the “leaders” of the squad. The Bulls don’t plan to trade Rondo, apparently, but the team the focus of trade rumors.  Rival executives believe Jimmy Butler will be available again via trade, in part because of tension with the front office dating back to Butler betting on himself and not taking the rookie deal extension management offered (and management threatened to play Tony Snell in front of him at the time, which didn’t go over well with Thibodeau). And all that is since the Butler/Wade bashing of the team’s young players and Rondo coming to their defense.

With all that noise and chaos around them, the Bulls have picked up two quality wins in a row. First, it was a hot Sixers team, then Wednesday the Bulls opened a six-game road trip with a victory over Westbrook and the Thunder. Butler had 28 points on 17 shots, Wade had 18 points and seven assists, and Cristiano Felicio Doug McDermott each had 11 points off the bench. Rondo had another strong game leading the second unit. The Bulls looked comfortable in the win.

The question isn’t “are the Bulls on track or in turmoil?” Rather, it’s “do the Bulls thrive in turmoil?” We’ll find out over the next couple weeks, because the turmoil isn’t going away during this six-game road trip, which is followed immediately by Boston and Toronto at home.

As an aside, the highlight of the Bulls/Thunder game unsurprisingly went to Westbrook, with his rejection of Butler.

Isaiah Thomas has another big 4th quarter, Celtics beat Raptors

Associated Press
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BOSTON (AP) — Isaiah Thomas scored 19 of his 44 points in the final quarter to lift the Boston Celtics over the Toronto Raptors 109-104 on Wednesday night in a showdown for first place in the Atlantic Division.

It was the fifth straight win for Boston, which moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Raptors in the division and holds the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.

Jae Crowder scored 14 points for the Celtics and Al Horford had 11. Thomas had 18 of Boston’s final 23 points.

Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 32 points, former Celtic Jared Sullinger had 13 and Norman Powell added 12. The Raptors have lost seven of nine.

In a final quarter that rivaled playoff intensity, Celtics forward Jaylen Brown was fouled on a breakaway attempt and walked over and had words with Lowry – before a few others player joined in and had to be separated by the officials. Boston’s Terry Rozier and the Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll were each given a technical foul.

With the Celtics trailing by eight, Thomas scored nine straight points to give them their first lead of the game – 95-94 on a driving basket with 4:39 to play.

The lead changed hands six times over the next 3 1/2 minutes – with Thomas’ 3-pointer from the left wing giving Boston a 103-101 edge with 48.1 seconds left.

Toronto led by 11 at the halftime and scored 13 of the first 19 points in the third, pulling to a 75-57 edge on Lowry’s 3-pointer from the right corner.

TIP-INS

Raptors: G DeMar DeRozan was out for the fifth time in six games with a right ankle injury.

Celtics: G Avery Bradley missed his eighth straight game with a right Achilles tendon injury. Coach Brad Stevens said he’s practiced the last two days, but the team wants “to make sure that when we get him back, he’s back on the court and limit the chance that it’ll happen again.” … F Kelly Olynyk was out with a strained left shoulder.

IMPRESSED

Stevens talked about the play of Lowry before the game, admiring both the overall guard play in the league and that of Toronto’s star.

“There are so many guards right now that can make exceptional plays off the dribble,” he said. “Maybe more so and a higher efficiency than I’ve seen before, and Lowry’s one of the best of them.”

NICE ENDING

Thomas hit a 36-foot 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to cap off his 16-point first quarter.