A couple of weeks ago — after Rajon Rondo smacked Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler for calling out the Bulls’ young players for inconsistent effort and not caring about winning — it looked like Rondo’s days in Chicago were numbered. He had been pushed to the bench (and got a couple of DNP-CDs), his role was slipping, and now he had taken a shot at the teams two best players and unquestioned leaders.
But things change quickly in the NBA.
Coach Fred Hoiberg finally — and maybe more by happenstance than design — has found a role for Rondo leading the Bulls bench unit. It’s working. And with the Bulls still fighting for a playoff slot in the East (they are currently the seven seed, but only two games clear of nine-seed Milwaukee) if they find something that works they are going to stick with it. There were already reports the Bulls had no plans to buy out Rondo before the trade deadline, now Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report says not to expect them to trade him, either.
Despite Rondo’s benching and the public back and forth, no one should expect the Bulls to move him in an admission of roster-building guilt before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
Whether they wanted to or not, it was always going to be difficult to trade Rondo and his $14 million contract this season (although with just a $3 million buyout next season). In theory the Bulls would change their tune on Rondo for the right deal, but don’t expect Chicago to get an offer it would see as right. Other teams are not going to take on that salary for a point guard who can shoot, isn’t the defender he once was, and can be challenging in the locker room.
Will the Bulls buy him out after the deadline, as many around the league had suspected after Rondo ranted on Instagram? Not if Chicago is winning and he is playing a role in that. It is possible the Bulls live with this for the rest of the season if the big three veterans can just get along well enough.
None of this answers the big questions in Chicago, all of which lead back to the front office: What is the plan? If you’re going to build around Butler, you need to get more athletic and get better shooters because the guys you drafted to be that in the past few years are largely not panning out. If you’re going to blow it up, blow it up. Still, nothing will change with the front office personnel in Chicago, so the smart money is on more stop-gap measures.
Since Dec. 1, the Washington Wizards have the best record in the East at 22-9. Their starting five — John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat — outscore opponents by 11.7 points per 100 possessions, which is better than the starting lineups of the Spurs or Cavaliers. After a slow start, the team has come around to what Scott Brooks wants to do, and the Wizards are up to the four seed in the East and still climbing.
Is this team on par with Toronto and Boston in the second tier of the East?
Are John Wall and Bradley Beal getting along? How big an Achilles heel is the bench? Will the team keep Otto Porter next summer?
I talk about all of that and more with CSNMidAtlantic.com Wizards Insider J. Michael in this latest PBT Podcast.
As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.
February is here, and that means more cold weather, the NBA All-Star Game, talking about Black History and a couple of key presidents that helped this nation become what it is, Valentines Day, pitchers and catchers report, and… oh, I think there’s some football game this weekend.
But before we get deep into February, let’s look back at the best plays from the NBA in January, courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s some game winner shots including from T.J. McConnell, some Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks, Chris Paul doing Chris Paul things, and on down the line.
You’ve got 10 minutes to enjoy this. It beats working on a Wednesday.
The Miami Heat are not about to let Okaro White go.
Now on his second 10-day contract, the Heat are 8-0 since he joined the team and in the last four games the 6’8″ forward out of Florida State has averaged more than eight minutes a game in the fourth quarter. Eric Spoelstra is leaning on him, he looks like a player (averaging 4.6 points per game since joining the team).
But if he stays, someone else has to go as Josh Richardson nears a return from his ankle issues (the Heat have a league waiver to carry more than 15 players until Richardson returns). The guy that seems on the block is Derrick Williams, reports Barry Jackson at the Miami Herald.
An NBA official in touch with Miami’s front office said the Heat has explored trading Derrick Williams to create a roster spot for White, the 6-9 forward who has regularly been receiving late-game minutes since joining the Heat on Jan. 17.
If the Heat is unable to trade Williams, releasing him is among the other options under consideration.
Washington is among the teams believed to have interest if Williams is released, according to a Williams associate. It’s also possible that he could be claimed or acquired via trade by a team that hasn’t reached the league-required cap floor: Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Denver, Utah, Phoenix or Minnesota.
No team looking to trade for Williams is going to give up much because he is likely to be waived. Why even surrender a second round pick if you can grab him for nothing and just pay the league minimum after he clears waivers?
Williams has fallen out of the rotation in Miami (White is playing ahead of him). He has averaged six points and three rebounds a game in the 24 he has gotten into.
Russell Westbrook and James Harden are battling it out at the top of the MVP race this year. But the second tier of that race — spots three through five on your ballot — has to include Kawhi Leonard, who is having a career year.
Tuesday night Westbrook and Leonard went head-to-head and put on a show.
Westbrook finished the game with 27 points on 17 shots, but he did not get a triple double (he has never had a triple-double against the Spurs in 46 games). However, Westbrook was 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter with Leonard dogging him, while Leonard himself had a quick 12 points in the quarter (36 for the game) to help seal the Spurs win.