25 questions heading into the second half of the NBA season

1. Should the Pelicans trade Anthony this season or this summer?

The Pelicans are in 12th place in the Western Conference, and it’s time they start thinking about trading Anthony Davis. If they deal him this season, the Lakers might be willing to part with three of their four young assets (Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart). The 76ers might be willing to dangle Ben Simmons, too. Heck, the Warriors could even offer Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

If New Orleans waits until the summer, the Celtics will be eligible to acquire Davis (a provision in the CBA is preventing them from doing so this season without including Kyrie Irving) and could offer a package including Jaylen Brown and their war chest of valuable future draft picks. The Knicks could offer their unprotected 2019 first-round draft pick and Kevin Knox. The only downside to waiting for the summer is that if Davis demands a deal to a specific team, the Pelicans lose all their leverage. Lots to consider in the Big Easy, and none of it is all that promising.

2. What does the Lakers starting lineup look like this spring?

The best-case scenario includes LeBron James and Anthony Davis. A lineup with those two could win the title. The next best scenario probably involves James, Bradley Beal and whichever two youngsters remain. This lineup could hang with any team in the league but is probably an underdog in the Conference Finals and Finals. The worst-case scenario would be if they make no major moves at the deadline because their current lineup likely has a Conference Finals ceiling and it’d be malpractice to waste a year of LeBron’s prime, like when the team has a number of trade chips.

3. Which teams mortgage their futures at the deadline?

Out West, the Pelicans are sure to be in the middle of everything, as they hold the crown jewel in Anthony Davis. Yet there’s a chance the Pelicans hold onto Davis and make a big trade of their own — we know they were in the mix for Jimmy Butler earlier this year. Everyone knows that the Rockets and Lakers will be looking for deals too. The Kings are desperate to make the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, so keep an eye on them as well.

Out East, any of the top five teams could justify pushing their chips in and try to capitalize on the Warriors’ perceived vulnerability. Also, keep an eye out for Pat Riley and the Miami Heat — they’ve straightened things out as of late and have been trying to land a blue-chipper ever since LeBron James left.

4. Does Michael Jordan deal Kemba Walker?

The conundrum of Kemba Walker: He means everything to the Hornets and wants to remain the face of the franchise, yet they can’t compete with him on their roster. He’s not quite elite enough to carry Charlotte deep into the playoffs, yet he’s too good to not carry the team to a .500 record. With no cap room (maybe you shouldn’t have maxed out Nic Batum, MJ!) and hardly any trade assets (maybe you shouldn’t have turned down four first-round picks to draft Frank Kaminsky, MJ!), Michael Jordan needs to seriously consider trading Walker for some future draft picks and/or cap relief if the Hornets ever want to quit toiling in mediocrity.

5. What do the Blazers do at the trade deadline?

The Blazers are having another solid season. They’re 25-17 and have an average offense and defense. They won’t miss the playoffs, but they probably won’t make it out of the first round if they don’t make a move at the trade deadline. Is this the year they break up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum backcourt? How does the passing of owner Paul Allen impact the team’s previously unwavering loyalty to its dynamic backcourt? Would the Wizards ever consider a Bradley Beal for McCollum plus an unprotected 2020 first-rounder swap?

6. Which teams should blow it up at the deadline?

A couple of teams that are teetering on the brink of falling out of playoff contention should seriously consider blowing up their rosters by trading away assets for future draft picks and high-upside prospects. The most obvious team is the Washington Wizards. At 17-25, no John Wall for the rest of the year and no cap space, the team should absolutely be looking to trade Otto Porter and his massive contract, Markieff Morris and his abrasive attitude and even Bradley Beal if a team like the Lakers offers multiple prospects and draft picks.

Just above Washington in the standings, the Magic, Pistons and Hornets are all fighting for the eight seed. If any of them falter, they’d be obvious “tank” candidates. In the West, everything is still congested in the standings, but the Grizzlies and Pelicans will want to listen to offers for their respective stars if they’re on the outside looking in a month from now.

7. Do the Bucks have enough to compete for a title?

When LeBron James was 24 years old, he won his first MVP and led the Cavs to a league-best 66 wins. He was so transcendent that the team didn’t think it needed to improve a roster with Mo Williams as its second-best player at the trade deadline. Everyone knows how that worked out for Cleveland — the Orlando Magic caught fire in the Conference Finals and upset the Cavs.

Milwaukee Bucks fans should be scared to death of history repeating itself with Giannis Antetokounmpo this season. Giannis is also 24 years old and an MVP front-runner, and he’s leading a surprisingly good Bucks team to the top of the conference as the deadline nears. While the Bucks have better secondary options than the 2009 Cavs had, their current roster is probably another scorer and versatile forward away from being threats to win it all.

8. Are the Raptors finally a legitimate title contender?

These dinosaurs are legit. Unlike past years, they have a roster built for the playoffs. Kawhi Leonard is back to being the Kawhi Leonard of old (albeit, a little better on offense and a little worse on defense). Danny Green is having his best season in years. Same goes for Serge Ibaka, whose switch to small-ball center appears to have triggered a Benjamin Button-like reverse aging in his body. Kyle Lowry is second in the league in assists, too.

And who could forget Pascal Siakam — wow, where the hell did this guy come from? In his third season, he’s made the jump from solid defensive presence off the bench to potential All-Star and two-way terror on the court. He’s always sprinting, making offensive players uncomfortable on defense and pushing the envelope on offense — just making winning plays all over the court. He’s like Toronto’s own mutated version of Draymond Green. If you haven’t seen him play yet, you’re missing out on the best spin move in the NBA.

9. Are the Houston Rockets still contenders?

James Harden probably answered this one at Golden State last week where he put on one of the most impressive performances of his career. His three-pointer between the outstretched hands of Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was the climax point of an on-going, 15-game stretch in which he’s averaging over 40 points per game. We know Harden will keep stuffing the stat sheet, but we also know that he’s prone to wear down in the playoffs if another teammate isn’t there to lighten his load. Can Chris Paul get back on track once he returns from his hamstring injury? Does Houston trade for another shot creator at the deadline?

10. Are the Nuggets a legitimate title contender?

Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets’ meteoric rise to the top of the Western Conference has been one of the biggest surprises of this NBA season. Jokic is proving to be a one-man elite offense, as the Nuggets have been able to withstand significant injuries to a number of their key players, including Paul Millsap, Gary Harris and Will Barton. Even if they sputter at some point during the second half of the season, they should finish with a top-four record in the West. The question then becomes what is their ceiling this season with a roster comprised mostly of players with little to no prior playoff experience? A safe bet is that they’ll win their first-round series and then lose a close battle in the second round to a more experienced team like the Warriors, Rockets, Thunder or Lakers. Regardless, the future is bright in Denver.

11. Have the Thunder quietly built a defensive machine to upset the Warriors?

With Paul George playing at a first team All-NBA level this season and Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Jerami Grant playing excellent two-way basketball, the Thunder might be the team best equipped to take down the Warriors. Notice I didn’t mention Russell Westbrook? That’s because the Thunder are often winning games in spite of Westbrook. While he is taking two fewer shots per game and has recommitted himself to defense (leading the league in steals), his shooting splits and shot selection are abysmal. He’s a key reason why OKC has the worst field-goal percentage in the NBA. It’s so frustrating because this team could absolutely steal some games from the Warriors in a series (they’re 3-2 vs. Golden State since acquiring Paul George) with its defense and overwhelming athleticism. However, Westbrook has to be a much more efficient player for the Thunder to take down Goliath.

12. Can the 76ers avoid a chemistry catastrophe?

There are layers to this one. For starters, the relationship between franchise cornerstones, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, is somewhere between “working partnership” and “icy.” It’s probably closer to the latter right now after their recent rebounding collision and Embiid’s subsequent freak-out. If that weren’t enough to worry about, Jimmy Butler is apparently already comfortable dressing down head coach Brett Brown in front of teammates about his role in the offense. Some teams can excel amid chaos like this; others fall victim to it. Will the Eastern Conference’s most talented team straighten things out for a long playoff run? Or will it implode from within?

13. Do the Pacers have enough offensive firepower to win the East?

It may come as a surprise to the casual fan, but the Indiana Pacers are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference this season. They’re currently in third place and have the NBA’s third-highest rated defense despite missing their star, Victor Oladipo, for 11 games this season. Their defense and plethora of excellent role players will keep them in every game come playoff time, but can Oladipo carry their offense enough for them to make a deep run? Look for the Pacers to add some more scoring pop at this year’s trade deadline.

14. What is the Clippers’ ceiling?

How many players do you think a casual NBA fan could name on the Clippers? Three? Four? Despite having no star power, the Clippers are 24-16 and in fourth place in the loaded Western Conference. This is no longer a cute story about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts — this team is legitimately good. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are all good players and have destroyed unsuspecting opponents this season.

How good are they? Can they win a playoff series? It’ll depend on the matchup and whether they pick up a better two-guard (Avery Bradley stinks now) and rim protector (Gortat isn’t cutting it). They could probably take down any team without an MVP-caliber player in a seven-game series, so if they play the Spurs, Blazers or Jazz in the first round, they’ll have more than a puncher’s chance to advance.

15. Will Jaylen Brown or Gordon Hayward get back on track?

If someone told you that Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward were averaging only a combined 23.6 points per game, you’d probably assume that the Celtics were having the season from hell. Fortunately for Boston, the “Marcuses” (Morris and Smart) have stepped up their respective games and covered for Brown’s and Hayward’s struggles. The team is comfortably in fifth place in the top-heavy Eastern Conference and will always have a chance in any playoff series with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and the Marcuses playing well. However, if the Celtics want to compete for a title, they’ll need at least one of Brown or Hayward to start playing better. Both have shown some signs of life recently, but an occasional good game won’t suffice come May and June.

16. Do the Jazz have another magical second half in store?

Quin Snyder has been a second-half miracle worker in his tenure as head coach of the Utah Jazz. Last season, after a 17-24 start to the season, the Jazz ripped off a 31-10 record the next 41 games and rode that momentum to a first-round upset over the Thunder. At 20-21 through 41 games this season, Snyder will need to once again work his second-half magic to get Donovan Mitchell and Co. back on track.

17. How does DeMarcus Cousins fit in with the Warriors?

As they attempt to three-peat and win their fourth title in five seasons, the Warriors are struggling with mental and physical fatigue. Even when they’re at full strength, they seem as vulnerable as they’ve seemed since Kevin Durant joined the team. That could all change when DeMarcus Cousins makes his debut. Will the Warriors be rejuvenated by their “new toy” and find new ways to throttle teams? Or will Cousins’ overwhelming but unnecessary offensive talent hurt the team’s on-court chemistry? Boogie’s commitment to defense could ultimately dictate this one.

18. Can Steph Curry really go 50-45-90 again?

Remember when Steph Curry won the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2015-16 and forced us to recalibrate how basketball was going to be played moving forward? That season he averaged 30.1 points per game and joined Steve Nash as the only players to ever join the 50-45-90 Club (FG percentage-3FG percentage-FT percentage). Well, he’s doing it again this season. Right now he’s averaging 28.9 points per game on 48-44-91 shooting splits. (And he’s been in a slump lately too.) Thanks to the equally ridiculous seasons guys like James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are having, hardly anyone seems to be noticing how insanely well Curry is shooting this year.

19. Can we hand Luka Doncic the Rookie of the Year, already?

Barring injury, the answer is yes. Doncic has been a revelation in Dallas and is must-see television every time he steps on the court. He might even get voted in as an All-Star Game starter. And while he shouldn’t be an All-Star starter, nobody should have any issues with him making the team because he’s averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game and absolutely has a case as being one of the 12 best players in the Western Conference this season.

20. Should the Knicks even bother bringing Kristaps Porzingis back this season?

If you recall, Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL just before the All-Star break last season. With a crappy roster in place and their sights set on Kevin Durant, the Knicks have been in no rush to get their young star on the court before he’s completely healthy. They are going to evaluate Porzingis in mid-February, but there’s a chance he doesn’t play at all this season.

Should he play? On one hand, it’d be nice to get him back on the court for about 10-15 games to help him get his rhythm and confidence back heading into the offseason — this is what the Pacers did with Paul George following his broken leg. On the other hand, with a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they might not want Porzingis winning games for them and screwing up their lottery odds.

Full 25

By Pat Heery

NBA Power Rankings: Week 6

The Clippers climb into the top-10, and the Bucks bounce all the way up to the top spot in this week’s updated NBA Power Rankings.

1. Milwaukee Bucks
Record: 11-4
The Bucks are balling. They boast the league’s most effective and efficient offense. Milwaukee leads the NBA in Offensive Rating, averaging 115.3 points per 100 possessions. They also are near the top in Defensive Rating, allowing 104.4 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks are the only team in the league to rank in the top-five in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. Unsurprisingly, Milwaukee leads the NBA in Net Rating by a wide margin, outscoring their opponents by 10.7 points per contest.

2. Toronto Raptors
Record: 13-4
Despite losing three of their four games last week, the Raptors have already notched 13 wins this season. No other team in the Eastern Conference has more than 11. Kyle Lowry exited Saturday’s blowout victory over the Bulls in the third quarter and did not return to the contest. However, coach Nick Nurse downplayed the severity of the injury when speaking with reporters after the game.

3. Golden State Warriors
Record: 12-6
The Warriors have lost five of their last seven games, which is the team’s worst seven-game stretch under Steve Kerr, and are now 12-6 on the season. In 2016-17, Golden State didn’t lose their sixth game until January 6th. In 2015-16, the year before Kevin Durant arrived, when they won an NBA-record 73 games, they didn’t lose their sixth game of the season until March 6th! Nonetheless, Steve Kerr said that the team would be “very cautious” bringing Stephen Curry back from his groin injury. Draymond Green is also ailing. He missed this past weekend’s game due to a nagging toe injury.

4. Portland Trail Blazers
Record: 11-5
The Blazers .688 winning percentage is tops in the Western Conference. Portland is the middle of an arduous six-game road trip; after playing the Knicks on Tuesday, the travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks Wednesday night and then face the Warriors in Golden State on Friday.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder
Record: 10-5
Prior Saturday night, Russell Westbrook had missed each of the Thunder’s previous five games due to an ankle sprain. However, Westbrook was able to take part in practice on Friday, including part of the contact portions, and went through shootaround on Saturday. Then, Westbrook’s wife gave birth to twins over the weekend, and Russ left to be with his family. Coach Billy Donovan said that they didn’t know if Westbrook would’ve been physically able to play on Saturday if he was there and they never got to the point where they tried to test him to find out. Russ is listed as out for Monday’s game vs. Sacramento. Nonetheless, the streaking Thunder has won 10 of their last 11 games. That 10-1 record is the best in the league over that stretch.

6. Philadelphia 76ers
Record: 11-7
Jimmy Butler has only been a Sixer for a week, but he’s already made quite an impression. Butler was incredibly clutch late in overtime on Saturday to carry Philly past the Hornets in Charlotte. With less than 15 seconds remaining in the game, Butler blocked Kemba Walker’s final field goal attempt and saved it inbounds to a teammate. Then, Jimmy Buckets came down the other end of the floor and drilled a game-winning dagger 3-pointer with less than a second left on the clock. Welcome to Philadelphia.

7. Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 10-5
The Clippers are rolling right now. They have won six of their last seven, with three of their most recent victories coming against the Bucks, Warriors and Spurs. Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari and Lou Williams are all averaging over 19 points per game. The only other teams in the league with a trio over players averaging over 19 ppg are the Warriors and Pelicans.

8. Boston Celtics
Record: 9-7
The Celtics notched an important victory on Friday, when they knocked off the Raptors in overtime, behind 43 points courtesy of Kyrie Irving. However, they scored just 86 points in a home loss to the Jazz on Saturday. Boston’s offensive struggles this season have been puzzling. They are currently averaging fewer than 104 points per 100 possessions and rank 27th in the league in Offensive Efficiency, ahead of only the lowly Suns, Bulls and Hawks.

9. Indiana Pacers
Record: 10-6
Victor Oladipo (right knee) was a game-time decision on Saturday night but did end up starting. However, just four minutes into the game, he tumbled into the front row after a foul and reaggravated his right knee injury. He has been ruled out of Monday’s game vs. the Jazz, but, fortunately, it doesn’t sound like it will be a long term issue. “A little sore, but I’m good,” Oladipo told reporters Monday morning.

10. Houston Rockets
Record: 8-7
The Rockets are back over .500 after stringing together a four-game winning streak, which included victories over the Pacers, Nuggets and the Warriors in Golden State. During this four-game surge, James Harden is averaging 30.8 points, 7.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 triples and 2.3 steals.

Full List

By: Tommy Beer

Wizards reportedly willing to trade John Wall, Bradley Beal

The Washington Wizards are off to a terrible start this season, and the team’s front office may not be willing to be patient to see if things will turn around.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Wizards are giving teams the impression that they are open to trading any player on their roster, including John Wall and Bradley Beal. Washington would reportedly prefer to build around its All-Star backcourt, but the belief is that the current roster may no longer be able to coexist.

Wojnarowski adds that the Wizards had previously chosen not to include Wall and Beal in trade discussions involving star players like Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler, but the team’s 5-11 start has the front office reconsidering. Another possibility would be to shop Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre in an attempt to bring in a third star, but the Wizards have not seen much interest in those players on the trade market.

Beal is three years younger than Wall, who will be owed $42 million per year for four years starting next season. Wall also has a 15 percent trade kicker in his deal, so he may be tougher to trade than Beal.

A fresh start could make sense for Wall if things keep trending in the direction they have been heading, as he recently had to defend himself against criticism that he parties too much. However, it seems like the return for Beal could be more significant if the Wizards are looking to rebuild.

The Wizards fell at home to the Portland Trail Blazers 119-109 on Sunday, and head coach Scott Brooks unloaded on the team for a lack of effort.

By Steve DelVecchio

Original Article

Jimmy Buckets is Now A T-Wolve

Written by Chris Barnewall at CBS Sports.com

The Timberwolves have acquired Jimmy Butler from the Bulls in a draft-night trade. Butler was the subject of trade rumors since the season ended and will be reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota. The Bulls received the rights to No. 7 pick, forward Lauri Markkanen, and along with guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. The Wolves received the rights to No. 16 pick, center Justin Patton, along with Butler.

Butler had said he didn’t want to be traded, but the Bulls have been wanting to move him for quite some time. Due to this trade, Butler will no longer qualify for the super max contract, but he does get to play on one of the brightest young teams in the NBA. He’ll immediately be the best player in Minnesota while having a chance to grow with their young core.

Going to Chicago will be rising shooting guard LaVine. LaVine was playing incredible basketball last season before going down with a knee injury. He’s a dead-eye 3-point shooter and can jump out of the gym. If he’s healthy, the Bulls have acquired one of the stronger guards in the NBA.

Minnesota made out great in this trade. To get Butler and still manage to stay in the draft via the No. 16 pick — which turned out to be Justin Patton — is incredible use of their assets. They had to let go of LaVine, but they’ve become a much better team by adding Butler. Minnesota is going to win more games next year and Butler will be why.

Cavs Players Told Jimmy Buckets Not To Come To Cleveland

Written by Chris Barnwell at CBS Sports.com

There were reports that Jimmy Butler was trying to force a trade away from the Bulls earlier this week and one of the teams interested in his services were the Cavaliers. However, on Tuesday, a second report surfaced that Butler didn’t want to be traded and had told the Cavaliers that he couldn’t commit to them long term.

At first it seemed like reports were just conflicting, which is usually common around this time of the year with the draft and the free agency period looming. That said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday, Butler has been receiving word from Cavs players to avoid the reportedly a “volatile” situation in Cleveland, which could be why he was reluctant to give the Cavs a long term commitment. Here’s more from the Sun-Times:

No stranger to organizational dysfunction, Jimmy Butler was warned Tuesday night to stay away from the Cavaliers.

According to a Cleveland source close to the situation, several of the Cavaliers who had been prodding Butler to push for a trade from the Bulls the last five days were now warning him to stay away from a suddenly volatile situation.

The situation in Cleveland has gotten dire since their NBA Finals appearance. With David Griffin not being kept past his contract, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and LeBron James all being surrounded by rumors, and now this news about Butler, it’s painting a bad image for the Cavs organization. Dysfunction is all anybody can see and no one is sure what the future of the Cavs looks like at the moment.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Paul Pierce Tells Celtics To Trade #1 Pick

Written by AJ Neuharth-Keusch at USAToday.com

The Boston Celtics are at a bit of a crossroads.

Not only are they in the Eastern Conference finals as the No. 1 seed, but they also just landed the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft thanks to a 2013 trade with the Brooklyn Nets that’s still paying dividends. The only problem? It appears, especially after Wednesday night’s Game 1 rout, that they don’t have nearly enough to get past LeBron James and the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Not this year, and judging by James’ continued dominance, probably not next year, either.

This dilemma, albeit a good one to have, begs the question: Should the Celtics hold on to the pick (likely Washington’s Markelle Fultz) and continue to build for the future, or should they take a more win-now approach and move the pick for an All-Star wing such as the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George or the Chicago Bulls’ Jimmy Butler?

If it were up to Paul Pierce — the Celtics legend who just completed a 19-year Hall of Fame career — Boston would go with the latter.

“You trade this pick, because he cannot help the Celtics get over the top,” Pierce said while making an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump on Wednesday. “The window is now. … You’re a 50-win team, you’re the No. 1 seed. You have to build on this momentum. If you can acquire a Paul George, a Jimmy Butler or a Gordon (Hayward) from Utah, you have to do it.”

George and Butler — whose names have been tossed around on the Celtics trade front for some time — are under contract with their respective teams. Butler has two years left until he can become a free agent, while George, who has expressed interest in joining his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, can opt out his contract after the 2017-18 season.

Hayward — who played college ball under Celtics coach Brad Stevens at Butler — can opt out of his contract and test the unrestricted free agency waters this summer.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Rondo Bashes Wade and Butler, As The Bull’s Mess Gets Messier

Written by James Herbert at CBSSports.com

Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo did not appreciate Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler lashing out at their younger teammates through the media Wednesday. In an Instagram post Wednesday evening, Rondo lamented that the Bulls’ leaders didn’t handle their frustration the way Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce would have with theBoston Celtics.

“My vets would never go to the media,” Rondo wrote. “They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game.

“My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.”

My vets would never go to the media. They would come to the team. My vets didn’t pick and choose when they wanted to bring it. They brought it every time they stepped in the gym whether it was practice or a game. They didn’t take days off. My vets didn’t care about their numbers. My vets played for the team. When we lost, they wouldn’t blame us. They took responsibility and got in the gym. They showed the young guys what it meant to work. Even in Boston when we had the best record in the league, if we lost a game, you could hear a pin drop on the bus. They showed us the seriousness of the game. My vets didn’t have an influence on the coaching staff. They couldn’t change the plan because it didn’t work for them. I played under one of the greatest coaches, and he held everyone accountable. It takes 1-15 to win. When you isolate everyone, you can’t win consistently. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a bad teammate. My goal is to pass what I learned along. The young guys work. They show up. They don’t deserve blame. If anything is questionable, it’s the leadership.

A photo posted by Rajon Rondo (@rajonrondo) on

To continue reading this article, click here.

Jimmy Butler Scores 50 In Win Over Charlotte


Written by Nick Friedell at ESPN.com

Jimmy Butler says he had no idea that he was on the verge of scoring 50 points on Monday night.

“I was just playing basketball,” Butler said after he scored a season-high 52 points in the Chicago Bulls’ 118-111 win over the Charlotte Hornets. “I didn’t even know how many points I had until the tech. Michael Carter-Williams was like, ‘Yo, get 50.'”

Butler’s performance was the latest highlight in a career year for the All-Star swingman. Playing without Dwyane Wade (left knee soreness), Butler had to take on more responsibility than usual in a game the struggling Bulls needed badly heading into back-to-back games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and theToronto Raptors.

As has been the case throughout the season, Butler rose to the challenge.

“I just had a groove,” he said.

As much as Butler tried to brush off some of the plaudits coming his way after the game, the reality is that this was one of the most dominant games of his career. Aside from the 52 points, he was 21-for-22 from the free throw line, which tied his career high for made free throws in a game. He had 12 rebounds, which gave him his fifth double-double of the season. He became the first Bull to score 50 points in the United Center since Michael Jordan did so in April 1997. He also chipped in six assists and said he was trying to get open looks for the rest of his teammates early in the game.

“Very impressive,” Bulls small forward Doug McDermott said. “We’ve seen it before from Jimmy. But tonight the ball was moving, and I think it opened up things for him. He was taking easier shots rather than tough shots, like kind of what he’s had lately.”

To continue reading this article, click here.

Bulls Start Season 3-0 For First Time Since 1996-97


Written by K.C. Johnson at Chicago Tribune.com

When the Bulls morning shootaround concluded at a small college, several players took to throwing around a football that Jimmy Butler brought.

Several hours later at the Barclays Center, Rajon Rondo quarterbacked one of those fast breaks coaches dream about: Rondo passed ahead to Dwyane Wade, who sent an alley-oop to Butler for a dunk, all without the ball touching the floor.

Three games into a surprisingly dominant offensive start, the completions continue for the Bulls, no matter the sport.

After their 118-88 dissection of the rebuilding Nets, the Bulls are 3-0 to start a season for the first time since 1996-97.

“A lot of togetherness,” Butler said. “The game’s easy when you’re out there having fun. Everybody’s smiling. Everybody wants the next guy to get a bucket. That’s what you’re seeing.”

Once again, pace, passing and sizzling outside shooting defined the victory. The Bulls shot 50.6 percent, including 40.7 percent from 3-point range. They placed seven players in double figures, led by Butler’s 22 points, and assisted on 26 of 45 field goals.

With 38 points, they posted their highest-scoring first quarter since January 2012 and recorded 60-point first halves in back-to-back games for the first time since February 2012. They also led by at least 29 points for the second straight game, at one point topping the Nets by 33.

Three games or not, this is serious stuff.

“It’s a fun way to play when you’re sharing the ball like we are,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.

The Bulls are shooting 42.5 percent from 3-point range, quieting, at least for now, the concerns about outside shooting and floor spacing. One game after not playing the starters in the fourth quarter, only Wade logged garbage time.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Rondo To Join Butler and Bulls


Written by Eric Freeman at YahooSports.com

Did you know that Rajon Rondo led the NBA in assists this season? Don’t be ashamed if you didn’t. Toiling for an unimpressive, uninspiring Sacramento Kings that was only intermittently interesting as a trainwreck, Rondo put up 11.7 assists per game while running an offense that finished 14th in offensive efficiency. It was an impressive bounce-back campaign for the 30-year-old after a disastrous half-season with the Dallas Mavericks, but there’s a reason Rondo’s 2015-16 will be remembered far more for his suspension for a homophobic slur directed at referee Bill Kennedy than for his play on the court.

Rondo therefore entered free agency this offseason as an interesting commodity, a player capable of putting up very good numbers of no clear benefit to his team. He left the market Sunday with a deal befitting such a player.

As reported by Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated via a message from Rondo himself, the four-time All-Star will join the Chicago Bulls on a two-year, $28 million contract. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst added that the second year is partially guaranteed, and USA Today’s Sam Amick said the second year has a vague “mutual buyout.” Either way, the general parameters of the contract seem set.

The Bulls should feel pretty happy with those terms for a starting point guard, especially with so few available on the market this summer and 36-year-old sixth man Jamal Crawford getting three years and $42 million from the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. Rondo has been defined by his deficiencies over his past few seasons, but his strengths are real. It’s unlikely that he will average close to 12 assists again with star Jimmy Butler as a backcourt partner, but a player who sets teammates up for buckets so often is far from useless. For that matter, Rondo improved his outside shooting last season to convert a career-best 36.5 percent of his three-pointers on 2.4 attempts per game. Those numbers could be skewed by playing with an interior presence as attention-grabbing as DeMarcus Cousins, but they show that Rondo can make adjustments to contribute in an era that seemed to have left him behind.

To continue reading this article, click here.