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NBA Sunday: Noah Recruiting Anthony to Bulls

Joakim Noah is reportedly recruiting free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls … Where do the Houston Rockets go from here?

Alex Kennedy

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Noah Recruiting Anthony Via Text Messages

Joakim Noah reportedly started recruiting free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls at this year’s All-Star weekend, when the Bulls center gave a pitch to the New York Knicks forward. It was during this conversation that Anthony supposedly asked Noah what it was like to play for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and seemed to express some level of interest in playing for Chicago.

Well, Noah has continued to recruit Anthony, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Joe Cowley writes that Noah and Anthony communicated via text messaging throughout the second half of the 2013-14 season, including talking one day after the Bulls were eliminated from the first round of the playoffs by the Washington Wizards.

“Sources said Noah has been in Anthony’s ear as often as possible, and he has told other Bulls to push hard for Anthony this summer,” Cowley writes, citing multiple sources including one of Noah’s Bulls teammates.

“I was kidding Jo that they were boys now,” one source told Cowley. “‘Well, get your boy to come to Chicago.’”

Noah is no stranger to the role of recruiter. During the 2010 offseason, Noah took free agent Carlos Boozer out to dinner during his visit to Chicago and helped lure the forward to Chicago. Don’t be surprised if similar plans are made after July 1 this summer, when Anthony will likely visit Chicago. Noah also called to LeBron James when he was a free agent 2010, but never got a phone call back. When Noah was at the University of Florida, the school’s football coach Urban Meyer would send Noah to meet with some recruits.

The Bulls can offer Anthony a four-year deal worth approximately $95.8 million, while the Knicks can offer him a five-year deal worth approximately $129 million.

IN RELATED: Chicago Bulls Salary Cap Information

During the season, Noah was asked about the reports that he was recruiting Anthony, but he chose not to comment on the “gossip.” This was a smart move by Noah, since this is somewhat of a grey area in the NBA. While the NBA tends to look the other way when players privately discuss teaming up in the future, this could potentially be considered tampering if Noah talked about the duo’s conversations and made his recruiting public.

In order to sign Anthony, the Bulls would likely have to get rid of Boozer, who is set to earn $16.8 million in the final year of his contract. Chicago will reportedly try to trade Boozer. If they aren’t able to do that, they’ll likely amnesty him. Bulls general manager Gar Forman admitted that the team will consider using the amnesty provision this summer.

“Obviously, we still have the amnesty as an option that we haven’t used that a lot of teams have,” Forman said. “That’s something, as we go into July, we’ll have to evaluate. If it’s something that makes sense as far as getting our team stronger, we may go that way. But we also may not go that way.”

Boozer and Noah are the only Bulls eligible to be amnestied, and Noah obviously isn’t going anywhere. The Bulls will try to trade Boozer before amnestying him, but that’s certainly an option for Chicago.

According to the Sun-Times article, Noah doesn’t want to see the Bulls part ways with Taj Gibson in order to land Anthony, as Gibson emerged as a significant contributor for Chicago this past season and will slide into the starting lineup to replace Boozer. Gibson is locked up for the next three seasons, on a very reasonable contract that will pay him just $8 million next season.

IN RELATED: Pivotal Crossroad for the Bulls

If the Bulls are able to land Anthony, it would give them a very impressive core of Noah, Gibson, Anthony and Derrick Rose, who is expected to be at full strength in time for the start of the 2014-15 season after missing most of this year with a torn meniscus. It remains to be seen how effective Rose will be after missing most of the last two seasons, but if he can return to form, the Bulls would have to be considered one of the league’s elite teams on paper. Throw in the fact that they have Thibodeau, who is one of the best coaches in the league, and they’d be a legitimate threat to the Miami HEAT and have a good shot at representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

The Bulls will have some competition for Anthony. The Knicks will obviously try to re-sign their All-Star, and their new team president Phil Jackson recently met with Anthony to discuss the team’s future. New York has an edge entering the summer, since they can offer significantly more money than other teams (although Jackson seems to want Anthony to take a pay cut). The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Anthony, who will exercise the early termination option in his contract to become an unrestricted free agent and secure a new long-term deal.

Last summer, we saw Dwight Howard land in Houston after communicating with James Harden and Chandler Parsons via text message in the months leading up to free agency. We’ll see if Noah’s recruiting can help the Bulls become the frontrunner to land Anthony this offseason.

Where Do the Rockets Go From Here?

When Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets last offseason, he did so because he believed it gave him his best chance at winning a championship. Howard joined James Harden to form an incredible duo, with a talented supporting cast that featured Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik among others. The team had title aspirations entering the season, and understandably so.

However, after Damian Lillard’s series-winning three-pointer with .9 seconds left in Game 6 to lift the Portland Trail Blazers to the second round, the Rockets will be watching the remainder of the postseason from home. Houston was a favorite entering the series, but only managed to win two playoff games this year – the same number of postseason victories they had last series, without Howard.

IN RELATED: Who Has Been the Biggest Star of the Playoffs?

“It hurts,” Howard said. “When you put everything you’ve got on the floor and somebody hits you with a dagger like that, it’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s a tough loss, but it’s something we’ve got to learn from.

“I’ve been to the Finals, I’ve been to the Eastern Conference Finals, I’ve been to the top and it’s not easy getting there. You’ve got to make everything count. I think that’s a big lesson for us all. No matter who we play, no matter what happens in the regular season, you can’t take any team for granted. … There are a lot of things we can learn from this series and hopefully come back next year and be a lot better.”

“It’s the worst feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Parsons said. “If we get a stop, this locker room is totally different and we’re going home to play Game 7 and move on. Instead it’s over and there are no words to describe the feeling.”

Now, the Rockets enter the offseason with some uncertainty surrounding the franchise. Kevin McHale is certainly on the hot seat going forward, but he won’t lose his job this summer, according to the Houston Chronicle. The Rockets will reportedly pick up the 2014-15 option on McHale’s contract, but there’s now a lot of pressure on the head coach moving forward. If this talented group can’t go on a deep postseason run next year, McHale is likely out as the team’s coach.

Some people around the league felt that McHale should’ve been fired now, that he wasn’t the championship-caliber coach that this team needed. However, Rockets owner Les Alexander is said to be a fan of McHale and it seems the team wants to have some continuity on the sideline entering the 2014-15 season.

But will the team also resist making roster changes this summer? That’s less likely. Houston has been mentioned as a potential destination for a number of free agents, most notably Carmelo Anthony. While the Rockets have $56,983,489 in guaranteed commitments for next season, they are reportedly “confident” that they can clear the necessary cap space to be active in free agency this summer. That would likely entail trading Asik and/or Lin, who will each have a $8,374,646 cap hit for next season but an actual salary of $15 million due to the poison pill contracts the Rockets signed them to as free agents in the summer of 2012.

IN RELATED: Houston Rockets Salary Cap Information

If the Rockets can’t upgrade their roster by signing a player, they will try to make a trade for a significant piece. The Rockets have reportedly tried to trade for stars such as Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo. If they pull of a blockbuster trade like that, other players and picks would have to be included as well, such as Parsons and Terrence Jones.

The Rockets will also need some internal improvement from their core. Harden is still just 24 years old, so he should continue to get better. If Harden could improve even a little bit on the defensive end, that would really help the Rockets. He didn’t play well in the postseason, which really hurt Houston. The Rockets have a number of other players who are 25 or younger including Parsons, Lin, Beverley, Jones and Troy Daniels, all of whom played a significant role in the series against Portland. Howard, who is 28, also vowed to return even better next season after the Game 6 loss.

“It hurts to be going home early,” Howard told Rockets.com. “It hurts to sit and watch somebody hold up a trophy and I won’t have a chance to get it this season. It should just push us for next season. I know it’s going make me continue to get in the gym, continue to get better and also push these young guys, letting them understand that we can’t take these moments for granted. Nothing is promised. The playoffs aren’t promised. Rings aren’t promised. You’ve got to go out there and earn it and it takes a lot of hard work.

“We’ve got a great nucleus of guys. Everybody has to come back better next season and see the mistakes we made this year as a team and try to learn from them, so next year we won’t have situations like this.”

This was a disappointing year for the Rockets, and now they enter a very important summer for the team. Another reason why Howard chose this team over other suitors was because they had a wider window to compete for a title. This is true and Houston should continue to contend, but changes may have to be made in order for the Rockets to live up to the lofty expectations set for this team.

 

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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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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NBA PM: Patrick Beverley Set the Tone for Clippers in Season Opener

Patrick Beverley set the tone for the L.A. Clippers with his aggressive defense in their season opener.

Jesse Blancarte

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“The LA Clippers are going to the Western Conference Finals. Guaranteed.”

That bold statement was made by Charles Barkley during TNT’s coverage of last night’s matchup between the Lakers and Clippers.

While Barkley may have had his hot take canon primed and in mid-season form, that should not overshadow the fact that the Los Angeles Clippers put together a strong showing in their first regular season game since the departure of Chris Paul.

Blake Griffin logged 29 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and knocked down three of his six three-point attempts. Griffin was aggressive and showed no hesitation on his jumper, which seemed to open up lanes for him to drive to the basket (where he is most effective). DeAndre Jordan was fantastic as well, contributing 14 points, 24 rebounds, one assist and one steal.

While the Clippers lost some significant contributors from last season, including J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute and Jamal Crawford, the team had some returning and new players show that they are capable of filling the void.

Milos Teodosic was just 2-9 from the field, but knocked down two three-pointers and looked comfortable and effective running the team’s offense. Danilo Gallinarni shot just 3-13 from the field but looked healthy and spry, displaying the kind of mobility that is necessary to play the small forward position. His ability to act as a secondary playmaker wasn’t on full display, but there were moments where it was apparent that he could be a big help in generating open looks for his teammates. Lou Williams also looked good in his Clippers debut, scoring in a variety of ways off the bench and contributing six assists as well. Wesley Johnson continues to look confident and aggressive, a continuation from his preseason performances, and is starting to knock down the open shots his teammates are creating for him (which has been a problem for him in the past).

While the Clippers looked solid in their opening act without Paul, it should be noted that the Lakers are a young team overall and their defense has been a major problem for the last few seasons. While the Lakers have added some promising young talent over the offseason, like most young teams, they are going to struggle to slow down veteran teams with potent offenses. It would be a mistake to think the Clippers can replicate this sort of offensive performance every night, especially against the better defensive teams in the league. However, perhaps the most promising part of the Clippers’ season debut was the fact that they seemed to feed off of and embrace the gritty demeanor and style of play that Patrick Beverley brings to the court each and every night.

Last night’s game was the NBA debut for rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who many predict will develop into a star player. Unfortunately for Ball, his opening night matchup came against Beverley, who earned a spot on the 2017 All-Defensive First Team. Beverley repeatedly guarded Ball past half court, pushed him around and did everything he could to throw him off of his game. He held Ball to three points, nine rebounds and four assists in 29 minutes of action.

Beverley, like every NBA player, has heard the hype and noise surrounding Ball and his future in the league (most of it from his outspoken father, LaVar).

“I just had to set the tone,” Beverley said. “I told him after the game that due to all the riffraff his dad brings, that he’s going to get a lot of people coming at him. I let him know that after the game. What a better way to start than spending 94 feet guarding him tonight — welcome the young guy to the NBA.”

Beverley is one of the more aggressive defenders in the NBA and is known for trying to get under the skin of his opponents, so Lonzo may not face this level of intensity in every game. But based on Beverley’s comments, it’s clear that he expects other players around the league to defend Lonzo aggressively as well.

Snoop Dogg, the rapper and passionate Lakers fan, summed up the issue for Ball arguably better than anyone else has so far.

“His father put him in the lion’s den with pork chop drawers on,” said Snoop.

For his part, Lonzo complimented Beverley on his aggressive defense.

“[Beverley] plays hard. He knows his job. He does it very well,” said Ball. “He gets under people’s skin and plays defense and does what he can to help his team win.”

Beverley set the tone for the Clippers, who looked crisp and confident throughout the game. Griffin’s three-point shot looks like it could finally be a reliable part of his offensive arsenal. Jordan was very active on the glass, pulling down 24 rebounds (possibly inspired in part by his commitment to donate $100 per rebound this season to help the effort to rebuild his hometown of Houston after the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey). The rest of the supporting cast played with the sort of cohesion and confidence that takes at least a few weeks into the season to develop. Again, the Clippers’ performance could have stemmed primarily from the Lakers’ shaky defense, but it was encouraging to see the team play with such force and confidence in the absence of Paul.

The Western Conference is extremely talented and deep, so it’s unlikely that the Clippers will make it to the Western Conference Finals as Barkley predicted. However, challenging for a spot in the playoffs and perhaps even doing some damage once there seems to be in the realm of possibility. This is especially the case considering how much of an impact Beverley had Thursday night, both defensively and in setting the tone for the rest of his new teammates.

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