Bulls

Owners should push for franchise player concept

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Owners should push for franchise player concept

Monday, Feb. 7, 2011
4:52 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

When NBA players and owners get together for collective bargaining sessions this summer, one of the biggest concerns has to be the viability of smaller market teams. We already witnessed LeBron James and Chris Bosh bolting their franchises to form a superstar trio in Miami. And, dont look now, but the Knicks might be the next super-team with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and possibly even Dwight Howard talking about teaming up with Amare Stoudemire in New York.

So, how can the NBA avoid becoming a top-heavy league, with 5 or 6 powerhouse teams, a few middle class squads and 15-20 punching bags? The answer might lie in the franchise-player concept currently used by the N.F.L. Teams are able to keep one player out of free agency by guaranteeing to pay him the average salary of the top 5 players at that position. The idea could work well for NBA teams who focus so much of their game plans and marketing around one of two star players.

Imagine the Bulls without Derrick Rose, Oklahoma City without Kevin Durant, Orlando without Howard or the Clippers without emerging star Blake Griffin. One player truly can change the direction of a franchise, and the NBA needs to make sure they have enough competitive teams to keep the regular season interesting. By guaranteeing every franchise can keep its best player by paying a competitive salary, the league will have more continuity and fan identification in every market.

The other issue going forward is the idea of a hard salary cap, similar to what exists in the N.H.L. right now. We all saw what happens when a team brings in too many high salaried players. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup last year, then had to unload almost half of their roster to get in line with the leagues hard cap. If the NBA is able to sell the concept of a hard cap to the Players Association (which doesnt seem likely), a number of teams with bloated payrolls like the Lakers, Mavericks and Magic might be forced to sell off players for pennies on the dollar to meet league guidelines. Thats why the Bulls dont want to take on any long-term, high-priced contracts right now, given the fact they still need to sign their franchise player, Rose, to a long-term extension.

Looking at the Bulls payroll for next season, theyll have 3 players making over 10 million dollars in Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. When Rose signs his extension, that group will grow to 4. So, thats why the Bulls would have zero interest in bringing in a high-salaried veteran like Richard Hamilton or Stephen Jackson as an upgrade at the shooting guard position. Since both of those guys have 2 years remaining on their contracts, adding their salaries to a rapidly growing payroll might prevent the Bulls from signing Rose to an extension if the league goes to a hard cap, or a new system with fewer loopholes for a team to re-sign its own players.

Any way you look at it, were staring at a new economic reality in the NBA. When the dust finally settles after an expected lockout, some teams may find themselves needing to sell off some high-salaried players, and the franchises that have their payrolls in order will be ready to swoop in and reap the benefits.

Nuggets could be facing worst-case scenario

With just over two weeks until the NBAs trade deadline (February 24th), it appears Denvers inexperienced front office team of Josh Kroenke (the owners son) and General Manager Masai Ujiri may have over-played their hand in negotiations on a possible Carmelo Anthony deal. The Nuggets should have moved quickly to close a 3-team deal that would have brought Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and a couple of 1st round draft picks to the Mile High City.

Instead, the Nuggets got greedy and tried to force New Jersey to take on Al Harringtons bad contract in addition to everything else they were giving up in terms of players and draft picks. Understandably, the Nets refused, ultimately leading to the announcement from team owner Mikhail Prokhorov that his franchise was ending trade talks with the Nuggets.

Now, Denver is involved in 3-team discussions with the Knicks and Timberwolves that as of now would only bring restricted free agents Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer, plus just one first round draft pick to the Nuggets for Anthony. Clearly, the Nuggets management team messed up in not getting the earlier deal done with New Jersey. They know that Carmelo has always wanted to go to the Knicks, and now New York management doesnt even have to make a competitive offer since theyll be able to sign Anthony as a free agent if they just wait until the off-season.

Any way you look at it, the Knicks are going to wind up with Anthony, and Denvers front office will have a tough time convincing their fan base they did the best they could in trading an unhappy star. Going back to the super-team concept I mentioned earlier, the Knicks will have 23 of the job done with Anthony and Stoudemire, and depending on the new cap rules well see if theyll have the room to add a third star.

As for the Bulls, they continue to explore lower-priced options for an upgrade at shooting guard, including Courtney Lee, Anthony Parker, Shannon Brown, Rudy Fernandez and O.J. Mayo. Are you in favor or the Bulls making a trade, or should they stick with the current cast, and wait until the labor situation is settled before making any roster moves?

Please post your comments in the section below. Ill be talking to you from Salt Lake City Wednesday night. Our pre-game coverage on Comcast SportsNet Plus begins at 7:30 p.m.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Bobby Portis apologizes to teammates as Bulls continue to deal with all-around complicated situation

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AP

Bobby Portis apologizes to teammates as Bulls continue to deal with all-around complicated situation

The mending hasn’t yet begun for the Bulls, but perhaps a good sign in moving forward from the Bobby Portis punch that delivered a concussion and broken facial bones to Nikola Mirotic is that it isn’t being ignored.

Fred Hoiberg is being tight-lipped about where matters stand, but he did at least say Portis returned to practice and apologized to the team Friday afternoon. Hoiberg wouldn’t reveal the contents of Portis’ apology and Portis didn’t address the media, but it’s clear things aren’t business-as-usual at the Advocate Center.

“Bobby was back at practice. It was good to have him back in here,” Hoiberg said. “Obviously, everybody’s looking forward to having Niko back in here, as well, hopefully soon.”

When asked about Portis’ spirit, Hoiberg deflected and preferred to talk about what adjustments the team will have to make in the immediate future, especially with rookie Lauri Markkanen having to go against Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the home opener Saturday night.

“That’s the biggest thing we have to do as far as preparing until we get our guys back, is throwing different lineups out there and hopefully getting better with our execution,” Hoiberg said.

Justin Holiday admitted that things aren’t normal, saying the actual games to start the season won’t serve as a welcome distraction because this isn’t something that can just be treated trivially.

He wouldn’t venture into getting into his teammates’ head, saying “Bobby came into today like Bobby. We’re not quite sure what he’s thinking mentally. We can’t assume that.”

But one thing that can’t be assumed is a sweeping under or pretending.

“I mean I don’t necessarily think this is a situation for us to get past,” Holiday said. “I think it’s a situation that obviously (needs) to be brought to the forefront. It’s a situation that needs to be taken care of for those two to be able to come together and be brothers again. I don’t think we’re trying to get past it.”

Holiday has been a leader during this early time, so his words and definitive tone were noticeable.

“They say sometimes you need time to heal,” Holiday said. “Again, we have to think about both situations in this. One guy is trying to get back healthy. And again, I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish we could just fix this the right way, but that’s not the case.”

It’s complicated all around, with no real precedent.

For Hoiberg, his handling has two faces. Since Portis is able to practice but has to sit out seven more games on a team-mandated suspension, he has to walk the line of incorporating Portis in daily drills and activities but also has to prepare a team that wasn’t prepared for two power forwards being out for an extended period.

That was on display Thursday as Quincy Pondexter likely played that position for the first time in his career, and it’s highly unlikely Paul Zipser practiced there at all with the depth the Bulls had until now.

“We have to get our guys ready to play positions that they haven’t played,” Hoiberg said. “We’re getting them in here early. We’re getting a group in to work on our execution. Quincy not only hasn’t played in two and a half years but I don’t know if he has ever played the 4.

“You just have to do the best with what you have.”

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”