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NBA PM: Bulls Make Sense for Carmelo Anthony

Joakim Noah is recruiting Carmelo Anthony, but the Knicks still have more to offer financially… Patrick Beverley talks about how great life is with Dwight Howard

Yannis Koutroupis

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Bulls Make Sense for Carmelo Anthony

With every day that passes, Carmelo Anthony’s pending venture into free agency becomes more and more complex and intriguing.

From a financial standpoint, it’s pretty cut and dry. Anthony stands to make the most by staying with the Knicks. They retain his bird rights and have the ability to offer him a max, five-year contract.

However, the Knicks are enduring one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history. At 22-40, they’re lottery bound without the rights to their first-round pick, which is headed to the Denver Nuggets – as a part of Anthony trade, ironically.

Recently, reports surfaced that Anthony wasn’t too keen on the Knicks’ big plan to hit free agency 2015 hard, when the likes of Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo could be obtainable. At 29 years of age and set to turn 30 in May, Anthony doesn’t have another season in his prime to spare for a non-contender. His top priority is going to be putting himself in a position to win for the duration of his contract. While he’s been clear that he would like for that to be in New York, it’s going to be very difficult for them to make significant upgrades before next season.

Playing with a similar surrounding cast is not going to be appealing at all to Anthony because even his most herculean efforts this season have not been enough to get them back in the playoff mix. Anthony is playing some of the best basketball of his career, yet only has 22 wins to show for it at this point, which has to be quite discouraging.

Meanwhile, Anthony probably can’t help but notice that the Chicago Bulls are surging despite being without their All-Star point guard and former Most Valuable Player winner in Derrick Rose. For the second straight season, they’re proving to be as resilient and tough a team as the league has to offer. They’re currently 34-27, good for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Joakim Noah is playing like the best center in the league and due to the Luol Deng trade earlier in the season, they could potentially be in a position to make a strong run at Anthony in free agency.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Twitter, the recruitment already started during All-Star Weekend, with Noah and Anthony having serious discussions on what it’s like to play for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau along with what their potential would be together.

Anthony reportedly voiced a mutual admiration for Noah and the Bulls, impressed by their effort and hunger. Additionally, Anthony revealed that his son’s favorite player is Rose, while Noah told him coming to the Bulls will help him win a ring and secure a winning legacy.

If asked, Rose would be willing to help in the recruitment of Anthony, something he was unwilling to do in season’s past, Broussard tweeted.

If the Bulls were able to offer the same contract the Knicks are able to this offseason, the Syracuse product would have a lot easier decision on his hands. However, they’re not in a position to do such. In order to just make Anthony a respectable offer in the neighborhood of $16 million, they’d have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and trim additional salary to get any higher than that. Not only will they be south of what the Knicks can offer in year one, they also can only offer four years to their five. Anthony would be walking away from over $20 million to join the Bulls, but it’s not an unset precedence. Just last offseason, Dwight Howard made the same sacrifice to join the Houston Rockets instead of staying with the Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Knicks, the Lakers’ recruiting pitch relied heavily on their history and popularity, but that wasn’t enough to turn down the opportunity to play with a better supporting cast, albeit in a smaller sized market, in Houston.

The situation with Anthony, the Knicks and the Bulls is eerily similar – and they aren’t going to be the only two teams after him either. The aforementioned Lakers are also expected to at least show interest in Anthony and you can never discount a dark horse team getting involved in the process late.

With the Knicks’ best chances to improve another potentially nightmarish season away and the losses continuing to pile up, the reasons to stay in New York are really only financial related. When it comes to competing, teams like the Bulls, even with Rose’s injury history, offer the better opportunity to win a championship.

All eyes are going to be on Anthony come July 1. There are going to be plenty of other big name free agents, like LeBron James and Luol Deng, but with so much uncertainty surrounding his future, Anthony’s free agency brings the most interest of them all.

Rockets Running Smoothly

Speaking of Dwight Howard and the Rockets, everything has been smooth sailing on their end here in 2014. They’ve been one of the league’s hottest teams in the New Year. They’re only four games back of first place in the West at 42-19.

Howard, who has talked to Anthony about his pending free agency and talked about his experiences, gives credence to the notion that the grass may be greener on the other side.

“We’ve got Dwight,” Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley responded to Basketball Insiders when asked what the key to this season has been. “We’re able to establish some post offense and some paint defense, with Dwight and [Omer Asik] on the same team that makes it much tougher for the opponent to score around the rim.

“We’ve been playing together and we’ve been sacrificing on defense, making a big emphasis on defense so we’ve been getting stops which leads to early offense. That’s the way we play.”

Thanks to the leadership that Howard has provided, Beverley and the Rockets aren’t making more of their strong start than what it is. Howard has been a part of great regular season teams that have come up short in the postseason and has his new teammates focused on what they haven’t accomplished, not what they have.

“It’s a long season still, 20+ games left,” Beverley said. “So we have a lot of work to do, we haven’t really reached our potential. We’re working everyday we’re focused on getting better everyday. That’s the key.”

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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