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Wild trade deadline changes NBA landscape

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Wild trade deadline changes NBA landscape

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011Posted: 5:50 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

Now that the NBAs Thursday afternoon trade deadline has passed, its easy to conclude that the leagues landscape has changed. Rather than run down every single deal, however, its easier to focus on the moves that affect the Bulls.

The Bulls themselves made no additions at the deadline; Tuesdays deal that sent second-year forward James Johnson to Toronto landed them a first-round pick, which they reportedly dangled to the likes of Houston, but were rebuffed in their efforts to acquire shooting guard Courtney Lee. Unwilling to part with young reserve big men Omer Asik and Taj Gibson, Chicago couldnt wrangle Anthony Parker or Memphis O.J. Mayo either.

While multiple reports had the Bulls also interested in Denvers J.R. Smith and Mayo; the two-initialed young shooting guards, though talented, dont necessarily fit Chicagos current group on or off the court. Alternate explanations had their respective prices too high or the Bulls ultimately too skeptical to make the moves. With the flurry of activity that occurred Thursday, championship-starved fans in the Windy City are sure to question why the Bulls didnt seek an upgrade at the twoWednesdays disappointing loss at Toronto could have ramped up the sense of urgencybut with the entire team finally healthy and the teams chemistry at an extraordinary level, there was no reason for the organization to tinker, especially with a window that isnt closing any time soon.

As for their Eastern Conference competitors, many opted not to stand pat. New Yorks long-awaited blockbuster deal Tuesdayinvolving three teams and 13 playersfor superstar Carmelo Anthony set the tone.

Along with Anthony, the Knicks acquired former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, backup point guard Anthony Carter, journeyman post player Shelden Williams and reserve forward Renaldo Balkman from Denver, sending floor general Raymond Felton, emerging forward Wilson Chandler, Italian sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari, developing Russian center Timofey Mozgov, a first-round pick, two second-rounders and 3 million to the Nuggets. Additionally, New York dealt young forward Anthony Randolph and injured Chicago native Eddy Curry to Minnesota in exchange for swingman Corey Brewer.

Exhaustedif not from the content of the deal, the months of speculation that preceded ityet? Regardless of what observers may opine, the Knicks absolutely had to make this deal, pairing Anthony, one of the elite scorers in the league, with another dominant force in fellow All-Star starter Amare Stoudemire.

The real linchpin of the mega-swap, however, may be Billups, who is no longer one of the leagues cream-of-the-crop point guards, but gives New York a big three, something every team in the league seemingly covets these days. At the same time, the Mike DAntoni-coached squad will continue to be defensively challenged and have serious size issues, but their pure scoring power will make them a postseason threat.

Then theres New Jersey, which dealt point guard Devin Harris, rookie power forward Derrick Favors and two first-round picks to Utah for All-Star point guard Deron Williams. The surprise move wont make the lowly Nets an immediate contender, but the future ramifications of adding Williams, one of the leagues top distributors, are intriguing.

Obviously New Jersey gave up a lot for Williams, who has been a lightning rod for controversy since longtime Jazz head coach resigned earlier this month, reportedly because of differences with Williams. But after the Nets failed in their public pursuit(s) of Anthony, they saved face with the acquisition of not only one of the games special talents, but an upper-echelon member of the 2012 free-agent class.

With the organizations impending move to Brooklyn in 2012, Russian owner Mikhail Prohkorov desperately needed a star to be the face of the franchise and apparently a rebuilding Jazz team was unopposed to making their superstar available prior to him having the opportunity to leave them high and dry in a couple of summers. Combined with the move to a new arena, the former Illinois stars playmaking ability will, at the very least, make the Nets an option for small-market stars looking to relocate to the large-scale metropolis of New York City, despite the fact that even Williams wont turn around the teams fortunes right away.

Not to be topped, Boston moved center Kendrick Perkins and sparkplug guard Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City, in exchange for versatile forward Jeff Green and range-shooting center Nenad Kristic. In a less significant deal, they also sent rookies Semih Erden and Luke Harangody to Cleveland for a second-round pick.

Perkins, who was offered a contract extension earlier this season by the Celtics in anticipation of his free-agent status this upcoming summer, had diligently rehabbed the ACL injury he suffered in last seasons NBA Finals, an injury that was thought to have cost Boston a championship. Regarded as one of the leagues top post defenders, the tough-guy Texan will be a hot commodity this summer and with the young Thunder in dire need of an interior presence to complement young All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City and savvy general manager Sam Presti jumped at the deal.

From Bostons standpoint, a potentially season-ending spinal injury to reserve swingman Marquis Daniels made Greenwho they initially drafted, then traded for Ray Allen in 2007a priority, especially with their aging core group. As part of their second unit with current sixth man Glen Big Baby Davis, Green will give the Celtics an added dimension of athleticism and with Kristic giving them another post player to mitigate the loss of Perkins (not to mention losing insurance policies in Erden and Harangody; the return of Delonte West from injury made Robinson expendable), it could be argued that the defending conference champs are even stronger.

However, heres the kicker: Troy Murphy, who was traded from New Jersey to Golden State for big men Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric, will reportedly seek a buyout. The ex-Warrior, who was at odds with the Nets, is telling folks he prefers the Celtics, which would give them yet another capable low-post threat, one who adds the added benefit of being able to stretch opposing defenses.

If that isnt enough, Atlanta didnt want to be left out of the trade madness and sent veterans Mike Bibby and Maurice Evans, rookie guard Jordan Crawford and a first-round pick to Atlanta for former Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and reserve big man Hilton Armstrong. Captain Kirk is expected to fill the Hawks longtime void at point guard, giving them hope that their investment in Joe Johnson last summer and Al Horford before this season will lead to advancing past the first round of the playoffs.

Still, even with all of the moves that were made in the last 72 hours or so, the two teams taking the floor at the United Center Thursday nightthe Bulls and the visiting Miami Heatdont have much reason to be nervous, since Boston was already the team they were chasing. Neither team had much flexibility to begin with, but they should be commended for resisting the temptation to mess with a good thing.

Miami put all of their eggs in the star-power basket in July and as far as the Bulls, just having a completely healthy roster scares the heck out of their competition. Sometimes no move at all is the best move to make.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

It's Bobby's World in Bulls' lottery-improving loss to 76ers

The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.

Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.

But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.

The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.

Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.

“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”

Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.

In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.

Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.

Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.

If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.

“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”

Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.

But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.

“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”

Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.

His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.

The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.

“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”

Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.

“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.

“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”

When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.

No hesitation.

“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”

Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.

“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”

And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.

“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”

His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Projecting the Bulls’ future

In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.

They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.