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Tag:Bulls
Posted on: December 23, 2009 2:35 pm
 

No decision on Del Negro ... yet

It was business as usual at the Bulls' practice facility in Deerfield, Ill., Wednesday -- as usual as business can be when you're about to fire your coach.

Despite informing reporters that the team would not practice again until Thursday during a three-day break before the next game, some players were on the practice floor Wednesday afternoon, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. And guess who was running the practice? Vinny Del Negro.

At the time those basketballs were bouncing, no decision on Del Negro's fate had been made. But don't read too much into that; the writing is on the wall for an imminent end to Del Negro's tenure as the latest Bulls coach who flamed out around Christmastime.

"It's not a matter of if they fire Vinny," a second person familiar with the Bulls' thinking said, "but when they do it."

After the much maligned Christmas Eve firings of Tim Floyd and Scott Skiles, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf perhaps has become sensitive to playing Scrooge. That, coupled with the typical paralyzing indecision within certain factions of the organization, has conspired to leave Del Negro twisting in the wind off Lake Michigan. If Reinsdorf resists the urge to fire Del Negro during this three-day Christmas break, the next sensible window for installing an interim coach would be a two-day break between road games (Jan. 6-7) or a two-day break between a home game against Detroit and a road game at Boston (Jan. 12-13).

The way the Bulls are playing -- or not playing -- for Del Negro, that's a long time to go on like this.

That's what happens in the NBA when you try to do your coaching hire on the cheap. Del Negro is in the final year of a two-year deal that pays him less than $2 million annually. He was the consolation prize after Reinsdorf's well orchestrated interview with Mike D'Antoni when he had no intention of paying the former Suns coach the above-market rate he was about to get from the Knicks. So it goes.

In addition to having to pay off Del Negro once they fire him, the Bulls are still paying Skiles about $750,000 this season -- the result of a needless settlement with the current Bucks coach.

Multiple sources have corroborated that Del Negro's likely successor would be assistant coach Pete Myers, the ultimate company guy. In addition to replacing Michael Jordan at shooting guard after Jordan's first retirement, Myers was named interim coach in 2003 after the Bulls fired Bill Cartwright three days before Thanksgiving. Gobble gobble.

Del Negro made it past Thanksgiving, and he might even make it past Christmas. But not by much.



 

Posted on: December 22, 2009 10:21 am
 

Spotlight on the Kings

Not long ago, ARCO Arena was one of the most unique and hostile environments in the NBA. The Kings are a long way from recreating those glory days, but it’s time to notice their surprisingly good start.

Sacramento improved to 13-14 Monday night with a truly amazing comeback from a 35-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Bulls 102-98. Caveat No. 1: This outcome said more about how dysfunctional the Bulls than how good the Kings are. Caveat No. 2: It’s ridiculously early to start talking about a playoff race, but the Kings are only 2 1-2 games out of the eighth spot with 55 games to go. Just saying.

What are the keys to the Kings’ early success? Where do they go from here? Let’s break down the team from Sac-Town:

Tyreke Evans: Brandon Jennings got much of the early buzz in the rookie of the year race, but Evans is fashioning a death grip on the award lately. Even if Blake Griffin comes back after the New Year, puts up consistent numbers, and single-handedly saves the Clippers, he will be hard-pressed to overtake Evans. This kid’s the real deal.

• Paul Westphal: Some thought the former Suns coach was coming back simply to go through the motions and cash a paycheck. Think again. Westphal, who hadn’t drawn up an NBA play since 2001, was the perfect coach for this team. He’s always excelled at coaching young players, and more importantly, he enjoys it. That kind of coaching is infectious.

Jason Thompson: After showing flashes as a rookie, Thompson is taking full advantage of an expanded role, more minutes, and increased confidence. His averages have increased in every major offensive category, starting with scoring (from 11.1 ppg to 15.4). What’s interesting is that the Kings’ brass aren’t necessarily surprised by Thompson’s progress. Sources say he’s improved about as much as the team expected.

Omri Casspi: While Evans, Jennings, DeJuan Blair, James Harden, Ty Lawson, and others have stood out in a surprisingly strong rookie class, no team has two rookies performing as well as Evans and Casspi. The first Israeli-born player in NBA history has exceeded the team’s expectations, emerging as a reliable starter with three 20-point games in the Kings’ last seven – two of them on the road.

Beno Udrih: As with Luke Ridnour in Milwaukee, most people assumed Udrih would fade into the background with a talented lottery pick starting from Day 1 in the backcourt. But just as Ridnour has with Jennings, Udrih has settled into a key support role for Evans. Not only can Udrih’s ball-moving abilities allow Evans concentrate on penetrating and scoring, he’s also shooting 53 percent from the field and 45 percent from point range, both career highs.

Kevin Martin: All of this is happening with the Kings’ best player out since early November with a wrist injury. Martin has begun shooting before games and is inching closer to his projected January return.

Disclaimer: The Kings understand that unexpected success can easily revert to expected mediocrity. GM Geoff Petrie and assistant GM Jason Levien also understand that Sacramento has enjoyed the third-easiest scheduled in the league thus far, with an opponent winning percentage of .452. Only the Nuggets and Celtics have had it easier. But the Kings’ rapid progress with this young group has changed the game for the front office as the trade deadline looms in February.

Having believed that this was probably going to be a non-playoff/development year, the team had every intention of letting Kenny Thomas’ $8.6 million expiring contract come off the books next summer and then explore at most a mid-level free agent. But if the Kings keep winning once Martin returns, Petrie is expected to be more open to dealing Thomas as part of a package that would bring back a solid front-line player with an eye toward transforming this lightning-in-a bottle start into a playoff berth.

Stranger things have happened. And at a time when the NBA is dominated by the haves at the expense of the have-nots, it’s good for the game when a plucky team from the hinterlands authors a surprising success story.
Posted on: December 22, 2009 12:26 am
 

Sorry, Vinny: You don't survive this

Just when things began looking exceedingly grim for Vinny Del Negro last week, all indications from the Bulls' front office were that the team was in no hurry to fire him.

Minutes before the Bulls and Kings tipped off Monday night, I spoke with a trusted front office executive familiar with the Bulls' plan, and he said it was status quo. Rather than push the panic button too early and send the surrender message to the players, GM Gar Forman and advisor John Paxson were telling confidants that they preferred to give Del Negro until mid-January to prove this season was going somewhere.

This season went somewhere Monday night, all right. Somewhere really, really bad -- a point of no return for Del Negro.

The Bulls blew a 35-point lead and lost to Sacramento 102-98. They were outscored 54-17 in the final 16 minutes of the game. Not only that, Del Negro's rotation was only seven deep on the first night of a back-to-back. The Bulls, losers of 14 out of the last 20 games -- losers in every sense of the word -- will be in New York on Tuesday night to play the Knicks, who have won six of nine.

It's not advisable to change coaches in the air on the way to the second night of a back-to-back, with no practice time in between. In this case, it's hard to argue the alternative is any better.

With one catastrophic meltdown, Del Negro's window went from mid-January to Christmas Day. (Historical note, as pointed out by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Bulls fired Scott Skiles and Tim Floyd on Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, ho!)

The rationale behind giving Del Negro more time has been the message it would send to the players. The only logical choice on the bench is veteran coach Bernie Bickerstaff. If the Bulls turned to Bickerstaff before Christmas, the players would see that as a surrender flag.

But the players did a pretty good job of running that symbolic fabric up the flag pole Monday night.

I've seen a lot of coaches in a lot of sports tip-toeing around before getting fired. When I was in Chicago last week, I noticed how Del Negro was using injuries as an excuse and lamely praising his players' effort -- as if they'd respect the fake kudos. On Monday night, Del Negro took the next step in the "Coach About to be Fired Handbook:" He went after the players. 
 
"This one stings, but players win games," Del Negro said. "You have to execute. We kind of got a little bit complacent there. But what are you going to do? Put your head down and feel sorry for yourself?"

No. You fire somebody. For example, the coach.

But given the organization's qualms about going with Bickerstaff -- which would signal that the season's over -- it's time to think outside the box. It's worth wondering whether there's another option at Forman's disposal. That would be the former GM and current executive vice president, Paxson.

"John's got a great eye for the game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said last week when his team touched down in Chicago to collect another victory. "And he works really hard. He's a hard-work guy."

Firing the chef and appointing the guy who bought the groceries is the new fad in the NBA. The Hornets did it, sending GM Jeff Bower into the trenches to replace Byron Scott. The Nets did it, handing the keys to Kiki Vandeweghe -- and, ironically, former Bulls assistant Del Harris -- after throwing Lawrence Frank overboard.

Why not the Bulls? Why not Paxson, who relinquished the day-to-day GM duties to Forman last summer?

"I doubt it very much," said a person familiar with the Bulls' situation, citing how Paxson's relationships with certain players are frayed. But at least he has relationships with certain players. How can Del Negro command respect in the huddle -- and vice versa, frankly -- after what happened to this team Monday night?

Another option that has been mentioned is Frank, who was fired by the Nets and, as such, would come cheap since he's collecting $4 million of Bruce Ratner's money for the rest of this season. But this is probably not the best situation for either one. Frank will be looking for a clean slate after starting the season 0-16. The Bulls will have a hard time getting a spark out of hiring a coach who hasn't won a single game all season.

None of this is ideal. None of it was part of the plan. The Bulls will be major players in free agency next summer, and there's no appetite for paying Del Negro to go away and committing to a new coach before the direction and makeup of the team are known.

But sometimes, these things work themselves out. On Monday, the Bulls stopped playing.

Posted on: December 16, 2009 12:44 pm
 

T-Mac returns, but for who? For what?

CHICAGO -- Tracy McGrady returned to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, and the fans cheered. T-Mac hit a 3-pointer, his only points during an eight-minute stint, and all was right in Rocket Land again. Right?

No, not so much.

McGrady's comeback is only part of a larger plan to increase his minutes and prove his worth to a team willing to take a chance on his once-breathtaking ability to score and benefit from his $23 million expiring contract at the same time. The Rockets were 14-10 this season without Yao Ming and McGrady, and now the only question is how long they'll have to keep up the charade until McGrady is in good enough condition to help another team.

"The plan is to increase his minutes because they’re gonna trade him," said a person familiar with the Rockets' plans. "I know they are. It doesn’t do them any good to have him playing eight minutes a game on that contract. They’ll find somebody, and there are plenty of teams that are interested, in spite of the contract."

In fact, there will be plenty of teams interested because of that contract. McGrady's $23 million salary comes with two built-in perks: It comes off the books on July 1, 2010, making it a vehicle for clearing cap space for the highly anticipated free-agent signing period, and it's 80 percent insurance-protected. The insurance provision already has kicked in, since McGrady missed 41 consecutive games during his recovery from microfracture knee surgery. The Rockets, or McGrady's new team, would receive 80 percent of his per-game salary for any games he misses the rest of this season.

Any number of teams desperate for short-term scoring punch while they prepare for a 2010 spending spree would be obvious fits; the Bulls and Knicks are at the top of my list. The Heat reportedly also are intrigued by McGrady, and team president Pat Riley is said to be closely monitoring T-Mac's progress.

On Wednesday, I brought all of this information to someone who is personally invested in McGrady's success -- Tim Grover, the renowned trainer at Attack Athletics on the West Side of Chicago. Grover famously trained Michael Jordan and has recently worked with such stars as Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, and McGrady. Grover wouldn't speculate on the Rockets' motives with regard to T-Mac, but said McGrady's debut Tuesday night was "long overdue."

"I wasn’t down in Houston, and I don’t know what the situation was or why they felt they needed to hold him out this long," Grover said. "Obviously, they had their reasons. They must have found something they wanted to be cautious with. The end result is we're happy to have him back on the floor."

Grover didn't merely help McGrady recover from microfracture surgery, which despite its name is a major procedure requiring months and months of rehab. He reinvented McGrady's body, which had no core strength when he got to Grover's gym.

"We took care of every single issue that he ever had -- the knee, the back, everything that’s ever bothered him in the past," Grover said. "We realigned his body and balanced everything out and made it much stronger and got a lot of his explosiveness back. Now getting back mentally 100 percent is the challenge. And the only way to do that is go out there and compete against NBA players."

At least McGrady is doing that now. Though in a perfect world, he won't be doing it in a Rockets jersey for much longer.
Posted on: December 2, 2009 4:06 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2009 4:53 pm
 

Ron Artest: Pass the Hennessy

The NBA now fines players for Tweeting during games, including halftime. Damn, imagine what David Stern would've done to Ron Artest if he'd known the future Malice at the Palace star was sipping Hennessy at halftime while with the Chicago Bulls?

These and other shocking revelations from Artest are coming out in the Dec. 7 edition of the Sporting News, excerpts of which were published on the Sporting News web site Wednesday.

Among the headlines in the Sporting News interview with the controversial Lakers star:

* "I used to drink Hennessy … at halftime," Artest said. "I (kept it) in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it."

* "When I was a 19-year-old father, whew. I was a single pimp! I was wild," Artest said of his days as a college star at St. John's. "A lot of marijuana and alcohol—even before (that age). … I (still) party and I have fun, but not like I used to. I used to drink every night and party every night."

* "It wasn't my fault," he said of the 2004 brawl in Auburn Hills for which he was suspended 73 games and forfeited $7 million. "… I don't see anything I could have done different. The only thing I could have done was have God pause time so I could have said, 'Oh, look, you're about to run in some stands, so stop.'"

* "(Referee) Joey Crawford basically said, 'Who cares about the Houston Rockets? Kobe Bryant's on the floor,'" he said of the Rockets' loss to the Lakers in the '09 Western Conference semifinals.  

* "It's weird because people don't think about the whole basketball game," he said of fitting in as a member of Bryant's supporting cast. "There's offense: Kobe averages 30 and is a great offensive player. Then you have defense. So on defense, now I have my supporting cast. … I'm one of the best defenders to ever play basketball, so I'm still the first option on defense."

Artest also said he's "on guard" whenever he sees Ben Wallace, whose altercation with Artest touched off the melee at the Palace. "I'm always in the mood to fight him," Artest said. "… I'll get suspended 10 games, 15 games (because) I'll just fight him right there. It won't go into the stands."

The NBA is aware of the comments, though it's unclear whether any disciplinary action is forthcoming. Clearly, the comments that will generate the most scrutiny are those about drinking during games and the refs wanting the Lakers to beat the Rockets. Already, some of Artest's former teammates and other members of the organization who were there with him are downplaying the comments , chalking them up to, "Ron being Ron," according to the Chicago Tribune.

Either way, gotta love him.




Category: NBA
Posted on: July 2, 2009 10:13 pm
 

Gordon revisited: Sign-and-trade for Iverson?

Ben Gordon to the Pistons is a done deal. The method by which he will get there is still under discussion.

CBSSports.com has learned that the Bulls and Pistons may yet revisit Detroit's agreement with Ben Gordon and instead investigate a sign-and-trade that would send Allen Iverson to Chicago.

Discussions have not yet reached the highest levels of both organizations, but the revised look at how Gordon goes from Chicago to Detroit would benefit Gordon and the Bulls. Gordon would get an extra year, and thus more money, by signing with the Bulls and getting traded. The Bulls, who currently are getting nothing for losing him, would get Iverson -- a fading future Hall of Famer who would get to finish his career in a major market as long as he's willing to accept a secondary role.

It's a farfetched scenario, and not everyone involved would be on board -- particularly the Pistons. The major sticking point would be how to sweeten the deal for Detroit, which would only consider such an option if it would provide significant cap savings. The Pistons took themselves out of the 2010 free-agent sweepstakes by agreeing to terms with Gordon and Charlie Villanueva on the first day of the free-agent negotiating period. Those agreements are not binding until July 8, when the league-mandated moratorium is lifted and the league and players association agree on the salary cap and luxury tax for the 2009-10 season.

A person familiar with the situation said the Pistons would flat-out refuse to entertain a sign-and-trade for Gordon unless it provided significant savings. The Bulls, too, may not be eager to do business with Gordon, whose agent did not give the team a chance to match Detroit's offer.

The Bulls also would want to know that Iverson, 34, would be totally committed despite not making the $20 million he's accustomed to and without playing the primary role he enjoyed for his entire career until he was traded to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups last season. Iverson did not adapt well to diminished minutes with the Pistons, and late in the season vowed to retire before he would come off another team's bench.

But Iverson apparently is invigorated by the prospect of getting past the Detroit experience. He wrote on his Twitter account Thursday, "For those of you who thought that I was done, think again! ... My only preference will be to play for a coach that knows what I bring to the table and that I am going to bring it every night."

It has been widely speculated that Iverson would land in Charlotte with his former coach, Larry Brown, with whom he had a rocky relationship in Philadelphia. But the two men respect each other, and Brown recently gushed about his time coaching Iverson. Beyond teams with cap space (Memphis, Oklahoma City, Sacramento) who wouldn't be interested in signing a veteran like Iverson, the options for A.I. are limited to sign-and-trades and, more likely, a deal for the mid-level exception or less.

While the sign-and-trade scenario with Detroit is farfetched, Iverson is exploring all options to find one more landing spot in an often tumultuous but Hall of Fame career.

Posted on: June 24, 2009 6:12 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2009 6:22 pm
 

Trade Buzz 2.0

Here’s your second cup of pre-draft trade buzz of the day. In case you missed it, the first cup is here. One more cup, and you will have consumed as many cups of trade buzz as I’ve consumed coffee today:

• The Trail Blazers, known to be seeking an upgrade at point guard, have expressed interest in the Bulls’ Kirk Hinrich. But a possible Portland-Chicago trade involving Hinrich has yet to enter the realm of serious discussion, according to a person familiar with the situation. While there has been speculation for months that the Bulls would be open to moving Tyrus Thomas, who has been linked to Hinrich in a possible Portland trade, Thomas has been told there’s “nothing at all” on the table involving him at this point, the person said.

• The Suns are hoping to pry Oklahoma City’s 25th overall pick, using a 2010 unprotected first-rounder as bait.

• The Knicks, convinced they cannot land Davidson guard Stephen Curry with the eighth pick, continue to actively explore ways to move up. New York also has engaged in talks with Minnesota about acquiring the 28th pick and Memphis about No. 27.

• We’ve already told you about the Atlanta-Golden State trade that would send Jamal Crawford to Atlanta – a trade I don’t really understand. Crawford is owed more than $19 million over the next two seasons and isn’t a natural point guard (and thus can’t be viewed as a reasonable replacement for unrestricted free agent Mike Bibby). Do the Hawks hate the $7.4 million owed to Speedy Claxton and Acie Law so much that they’re willing to try to force-fit Crawford into an offense already dominated by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith? There must be something more to this.

• Loyal BergerSphere readers also are aware that the Blazers and Mavericks have swapped the 24th and 22nd picks, respectively, with Portland giving up one of its four second-round picks -- 56th overall -- for the right to move up two spots.

Back with more -- and back to the coffee pot -- as needed.
Posted on: June 11, 2009 7:03 pm
Edited on: June 11, 2009 7:22 pm
 

Rose apologizes for gang controversy

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Technology is good, and technology is bad. This lesson Derrick Rose has learned the hard way.

Rose, the reigning NBA rookie of the year, issued a statement Thursday apologizing for using "extremely poor judgment" in allowing himself to be depicted flashing what appeared to be gang signs in a photo making its away around the Internet.

The photo was taken at a party during Rose's freshman year at the University of Memphis. According to the Chicago Tribune, the symbols Rose is flashing with his hands are those of the notorious Gangster Disciples Nation, the predominant gang in Rose's native Englewood neighborhood.

"Recently, a photo has been circulating on the Internet which appears to depict me flashing a gang sign," Rose said in the statement. "This photo of me was taken at a party I attended in Memphis while I was in school there, and was meant as a joke ... a bad one, I now admit. I want to emphatically state, now and forever, that Derrick Rose is anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence. I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with any gang and I can't speak loudly enough against gang violence, and the things that gangs represent.

"In posing for this picture, I am guilty of being young, naive and of using extremely poor judgment. I sincerely apologize to all my fans for my mistake."

It's been a busy summer for Rose, who also has been implicated in an NCAA scandal at Memphis allegedly centered around the legitimacy of his SAT score and improper travel funds that, according to Yahoo! Sports, were funneled to Rose's brother. Rose's attorney has denied any wrongdoing on Rose's part and has said that the player is cooperating with the NCAA probe.
 
As always, thoughts, comments, and personal attacks are welcome. 
Category: NBA
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com