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Ask Aggrey: Will Gasol, Howard be dealt?

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Ask Aggrey: Will Gasol, Howard be dealt?

ORLANDO -- On my way back to the Windy City from the Sunshine State, where Tom Thibodeau had to suffer through a defense-less game, LeBron James came up short in the clutch, Luol Deng didnt play 40-plus minutes and all of the talkbesides Derrick Roses new adidas contract -- locally was focused on the fate of Magic center Dwight Howard, I wanted to take a quick break to answer your questions after a hectic weekend, albeit a breather from the weather back in Chicago. Hey, I was with you in spirit, if not in layered clothing. With no further adieu, heres another edition of Ask Aggrey.

Besides the Miami Heat, which team in the East scares you the most? -- Mark

Mark, the team that personally scares me the most is Charlotte because I dont know how that franchise can get any worse, but I believe its somehow possible. Ill assume, however, which team poses the most threat to the Bulls. Im tempted to say either Philadelphia or Indiana, but Im going to go with New York instead. Yes, Jeremy Lin isnt completely infallible, Carmelo Anthony has to blend in better and Amare Stoudemire needs to rediscover the form that made him an early MVP candidate last season, but their talent is undeniable. If Mike DAntoni -- for all of his perceived faults as a coach, the man was heralded as an offensive innovator just a few seasons ago in Phoenix -- can find a way to make it work, the Knicks are a team nobody, including the Bulls and rival Miami, want to face in a first-round series.

I noticed that when D-Rose misses games, he has his warmups on instead of a suit like most players. Do you know why? -- Kyle

Kyle, Derrick isnt too big on wearing suits outside of press conferences and with him being termed day-to-day during his absences, the Bulls arent required to list him as inactive. Thus, according to league policy, hes allowed to sit on the bench in Bulls gear, rather than wear a suit, as NBA rules dictate for inactive players.

Do you think the Lakers are going to trade Pau Gasol before the trade deadline? And how about Dwight Howards future? -- Tyler

Tyler, I believe the Lakers will trade him if they think they can legitimately improve in the future, address needs like the point-guard situation, remain a contender and possibly free up cap space, but Im afraid that with Jim Buss, the son of longtime owner Dr. Jerry Buss, now apparently calling the shots, their perception of a good deal might differ from yours or mine. The latest scuttlebutt has them pitching a swap of both Gasol and All-Star Andrew Bynum to the Magic for Howard, point guard Jameer Nelson and high-salaried veteran Hedo Turkoglu. Im not sure how much better that makes them -- or how happy Howard would be, as he reportedly didnt take well to the idea of supposedly waiting his turn to be the Lakers superstar until Kobe Bryant retires -- but Nelson would give them a former All-Star at point guard (albeit one whos having a miserable year, possibly due to the Howard trade talk and the notion the Magic needs an upgrade, like Deron Williams or as recent rumors have it, Steve Nash, at his position) and acquiring Howard would be palatable to the franchises fan base. That said, Gasols name has also been mentioned in connection with Minnesota, though thats probably more the Timberwolves wishful thinking, and conversely, the false rumor about Derrick wanting him in Chicago likely emanated from Gasols representatives, so theres certainly a lot in motion at the present time, though that doesnt directly answer your question. Id say its 50-50 right now, if I had to make a semi-educated guess.

Regarding Howard, I think he ends up staying in Orlando for the remainder of this season. The aforementioned Lakers deal could intrigue the Magic, but I believe their management is more focused on trying to add a piece, such as Nash, to get back to contending status themselves before the playoffs. At this point, theyre likely gambling that Howard isnt willing to walk away from the 30 million that hed lose if he left Orlando as a free agent. Maybe a sign-and-trade scenario presents itself in the offseason -- as Ive said before, Id keep my eye on Dallas, as money is no object to Mark Cuban and the Mavericks have enough assets, excluding Dirk Nowitzki, to possibly wrangle another team into making a three-way deal; dont be shocked if they try to get both Howard and Dallas native Deron Williams -- but for now, I think Howard understands the grass might not be greener elsewhere if a trade occurs this season.

If you could make one change to All-Star weekend what would it be? -- Casey

Casey, just one change? Other than making things a lot easier from the perspective of a member of the media -- logistics were a bit of an issue here in Orlando, as was the frantic nature of player availability sessions and actual seating in the arena, at least for me -- Id say putting more at stake for the dunk contest. Prior to last nights game, I would have said making the All-Star Game itself more competitive by way of financial incentive, but even with the lack of competitiveness in the first half, the fantastic finish made up for it. However, while I understand that the league wanted to showcase some fresh faces, the fact is, the dunk contest hasnt been relevant in years. Offering a million-dollar prize or a massive donation to the winners charity of choice might encourage the likes of LeBron, Russell Westbrook and others (I doubt Derrick would do it, even with a tantalizing incentive; its just not his thing) to participate before fans finally give up on the event.

Why wasn't JR Smith added with Rip Hamilton never playing? Ryan

Ryan, if theres one thing the Bulls value more than talent, its chemistry. Smith is clearly a talented offensive force and one of the best instant-offense scorers in the league, but his ball-stopping, isolation style of play simply wouldnt fit in Chicago. Hes earned a reputation as a selfish player and that fact that he considers defense optional wouldnt have endeared him to Bulls players and coaches. Additionally, the organization also prides itself on having high-character players and fairly or not, Smith has also been cast as a malcontent. For the Knicks and even the Clippers, who didnt get him, he might have been worth the risk, but the Bulls, already a true contender, didnt need to take that chance. As far as Rip, the team believes hell be back in action soon and ready to contribute at a high level in the second half of the season and especially the playoffs. Rip showed that he blended in extremely well in the limited action hes seen this season and offered the Bulls a different element than what they already had. Plus, with Ronnie Brewer playing well in his absence, though his play tailed off a bit after a while, they kept winning, so it wasnt like they were desperate.

Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen nearly 'Finnishes' in Skills Challenge against former Bull Spencer Dinwiddie

Los Angeles—Lauri Markkanen called himself “The Finnisher” when asked what the movie of his life would be called.

Apparently, that moniker didn’t apply to the All-Star Skills challenge as he took down the best big men but couldn’t close against a former Bull, Spencer Dinwiddie, in the final.

The contest highlights players’ ability to dribble around cones shaped like NBA logos, throwing a chest pass into a net while having to complete a layup and then 3-pointer before their opponent does.

Markkanen took down Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid before facing off with Dinwiddie. He held a pose after hitting a triple to beat the uber confident Embiid, in what will likely be used as a memorable gif following the weekend.

His confidence doesn’t come across as blatantly as Embiid’s, but that snapshot shows he’s no humble star in the making. He didn’t even practice for the contest, by his own admission.

“I heard some of the guys did,” Markkanen said. “I didn’t do much, just before the competition, I did a little warm-up.”

Missing on the first pass attempt into the circular net in the final, it gave Dinwiddie the advantage he wouldn’t relinquish, hitting on his second 3-point attempt before Markkanen could make it downcourt to contest.

“It’s a lot harder than I’ve seen,” Markkanen said. “I thought it was gonna be super easy but it was kind of tough. Maybe I need to hold my follow through (on the pass).”

“I saw he missed (the first shot) and I started going. I thought he would’ve missed it too. I think I would’ve gotten it on the third shot.”

Being one of the multi-dimensional big men in today’s game who can be adept on the perimeter as well as the interior, it almost seems like the contest was made for Markkanen. Although he doesn’t do much handling in Fred Hoiberg’s offense, it’s clearly a skill he will develop as time goes on.

The last two winners of the skills challenge were Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis, and Markkanen was well aware of the recent trend.

“The last two years the bigs have won,” Markkanen said. “I’m kind of pissed that I couldn’t keep the streak going after (those two). I think there’s a lot of guys who can do that now, it’s why they changed the format to bigs versus smalls.”

For Dinwiddie, who was discarded by the Bulls last season after a promising start in the preseason so they could pick up R.J. Hunter, he’s taken advantage of an opportunity with Brooklyn.

“I think for Chicago it was just another series of unfortunate events,” he said. “They were in win-now mode. I was an unproven guard on a non-guaranteed contract and they felt Michael Carter-Williams gave them a better shot to win.”