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Paul, Howard sagas show NBA's system hasn't changed

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Paul, Howard sagas show NBA's system hasn't changed

For all of the talk during the NBA's labor dispute of revamping the system, little that's transpired since the league and players reached a tentative settlement agreement last weekend indicates that much has changed. After the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were accused of holding their respective former employers hostage, the sagas of superstars Dwight Howard and Chris Paul before the upcoming season even begins threaten to play out the same way.

Paul, the All-Star point guard for the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, is a free agent after this season. So is Howard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and center for the Orlando Magic.

Yet both players, despite their own protests to the contrary, are reportedly pushing to be traded sooner than later. Paul's dream landing spot is reportedly the New York Knicks--already featuring his good friend Anthony, as well as fellow All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire--while Howard is supposedly seeking a move to Los Angeles, whether it's the Lakers or Clippers.

Meanwhile, the Nets reportedly offered a package headlined by young big man Brook Lopez to Orlando for Howard--although New Jersey general manager Billy King quickly issued a denial--and in exchange for Paul, Boston used All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo as bait, according to reports. Of course, top Celtics executive Danny Ainge shot down those rumors, although scuttlebutt has Rondo on the block, with the Indiana Pacers--the closest franchise to Rondo's hometown of Louisville--also being a suitor, while Paul is reportedly uninterested in signing a long-term extension with the Celtics, meaning he'd be a one-year rental as the team tries to capitalize on the end of the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen era.

Magic general manager Otis Smith is in a tough position, especially after his blockbuster deal last season that netted former All-Star Gilbert Arenas and resulted in a first-round playoff exit to the Hawks, a team they swept the previous year. The NBA is in a precarious spot themselves, as any transaction including Paul will be looked upon with great scrutiny as long as the league is technically running the organization, despite the presence of second-year general manager Dell Demps.

Another young general manager, Denver's Masai Ujiri, seemingly set the standard of how to deal with such situations last season. Although the aforementioned Anthony saga was indeed a distraction, the Nuggets ended up making a trade that gave them financial flexibility and a group of promising young players that ended up making the playoffs.

Although Anthony got his wish, things have worked out a bit differently for Williams, the All-Star point guard who played professionally in Turkey during the lockout. He went from a stable situation in Utah--although the sudden retirement of longtime Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan, possibly partly fueled by Williams, altered the landscape there--to a putrid Nets squad, and with his agent's recent comments that he won't sign a long-term extension with New Jersey (or Brooklyn) in the near future, it can be concluded that neither team reaped immediate dividends in the swap.

Acquiring Howard could certainly change Williams' opinion on the situation, but with the Clippers potentially mulling an offer--and having attractive youth and size at their disposal--to pair the center up with Blake Griffin and the Lakers waiting in the weeds with the ability to put the likes of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom on the table, nothing is guaranteed. Likewise for Paul's desires, since New York doesn't seem to possess the requisite assets to entice the Hornets and the Clippers also being a possibility to acquire him.

Regardless of how New Orleans and Orlando choose to deal with their respective situations, it's clear that, at least in the present, the lockout rhetoric of the owners asserting more control of the system hasn't happened yet and super-team scenarios will continue to arise. Bulls fans should feel grateful that Derrick Rose openly pines for the return of low-profile veterans like Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas, rather than be susceptible to the pleas of his superstar counterparts who prefer to join 'em, instead of beat 'em.

NBA insider reveals most popular item requested by players in Disney bubble

NBA insider reveals most popular item requested by players in Disney bubble

Many NBA players are big time gamers. 

Gordon Hayward is famously obsessed with “Starcraft.” Dwight Howard loves “Call of Duty” so much he appeared in a commercial for the franchise in 2011. Zach LaVine often streams “Call of Duty: Warzone” on his Twitch account. And, seriously, just look at Meyers Leonard’s bubble setup:

 

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Incidentally enough, it turns out the biggest request by players inside the Disney bubble so far is gaming-related. According to NBA writer Keith Smith, who was also 20 years an employee of Disney, the most popular request by players during their first week at the campus was gaming chairs. And it makes sense. No one wants to sit in a normal hotel room chair for four hours when gaming — that includes the top athletes in the world.

“I heard the big delivery in the last two days was gaming chairs, because they don’t want the hotel chairs,” Smith told Jason Goff on the latest episode of the Bulls Talk Podcast. “They’re asking for all sorts of stuff.”

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Also on the show, Smith discussed what life is like inside the bubble for players and team personnel — from extracurricular activities, to food, to security and more. Smith was the first national writer to speculate about Disney as an option for the league to restart its season in an article for Yahoo! Sports back in April, and has been all over the story since.

Smith also shared why he’s optimistic the league will be able to finish despite the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases recently in Florida.

Listen to the latest Bulls Talk Podcast here or via the embedded player above.

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What Bulls’ Coby White must do to maximize tantalizing potential moving forward

What Bulls’ Coby White must do to maximize tantalizing potential moving forward

Every weekday for the next three weeks, NBC Sports Chicago will be breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster, with each week featuring a different position groups. Next up is Coby White.

Past: Zach LaVine

2019-20 Stats

13.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG | 39.4% FG, 35.4% 3P, 79.1% FT | 23.5% USG

Contract Breakdown

Age: 20

June 2019: Signed 2-year, $10,879,800 rookie-scale contract (one year, plus two team option years remaining for total value of $18,824,395)

2020-21: $5,572,680 | 2021-22: $5,837,760 (team option) | 2022-23: $7,413,955 (team option) | 2023-24: RFA (QO: $9,942,114)

Strengths

Electricity runs through Coby White. It shows in his blinding end-to-end speed, and dances off his fingertips when jumpers are falling. Distilled simply, those are White’s two greatest NBA strengths: He can really run, and he can really shoot it.

His rookie season with the Bulls was a bit uneven (read: everything before the All-Star break) as he acclimated to sporadic playing time and an off-ball role he hadn’t been asked to play in high school and college. But the stretch run validated all those who stood by his scoring prowess. In 10 games post-All-Star-break, White’s minutes bumped to 33.7 per game, and production followed. He averaged 24.7 points and 4.3 assists over that span and shot the air out of the ball, canning 40.7% of 8.6 3s per game (44.8% on 2.9 pull-up 3s per). 

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That torrid shooting was an outlier, but White’s work off the catch was steady all season — he finished the year a 37% marksman on 3.7 3-point attempts per game in that context; he gets his jumper off quickly — and post-All-Star, the Bulls averaged 103.41 possessions with him on the floor and 97.84 with him off, roughly the equivalent difference between the sixth- and 29th-ranked paces in the league. In general, the offense cratered in minutes he sat over that span. All of which is to say, White’s strengths are conducive to the run-and-gun style the Bulls want to play, and he’s liable to catch fire at an instant. 

That White was able to vault the rookie wall he self-admittedly hit is a testament to his work ethic and maturity, which teammates and coaches past and present are quick to laud him for. Those intangibles should only amplify his on-court talents throughout his career. (Oh, he was also one of two Bulls to appear in all 65 of the team’s games this season — for this group, no small feat.)

Areas to Improve

White will enter Year 2 with a number of questions looming over him. Can he man true point guard duties for the Bulls moving forward? Do he and LaVine comprise a tenable starting backcourt defensively? Can White once and for all kick the microwave scorer rep and be a reliable option on a nightly basis, regardless of whether the jumper is falling? What’s his role if the Bulls draft a lead guard with their upcoming lottery pick?

Unfortunately, evaluation on all those fronts was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, which halted the NBA season with White fresh off his first career start, and LaVine sidelined with a quad injury. What we do know is that White’s dynamism and off-ball adaptability make him an exciting backcourt mate for LaVine on the offensive end if he finds consistency. Underwhelming season-long shooting numbers (39.4% FG) are a reminder that’s not a guarantee yet, but, man...

 

An average athlete with a 6-foot-5 wingspan, White will also have a hill to climb to be an above-average defender at either guard spot, and an above-average finisher around the cup. His speed and shooting ability grant him gravitational pull on the offensive end, but he’s still unproven as a facilitator, logging just a 13th percentile assist-to-usage ratio (0.67) in Year 1. To be an ideal partner for LaVine, his defending and playmaking will have to trend upwards.

White is unquestionably a bucket, and with how hard he works, it’s reasonable to expect continued progression on all those fronts — in his rookie season, his restricted area field goal percentage ticked up every month, he competed hard on the defensive end and passing lanes opened up as the game slowed down for him over time. A larger sample size will tell us more, but optimism is warranted.

Ceiling Projection

White’s speed is truly unnatural, and if his jumpshot steadies out, he has the tricks in his bag to be a 20-point scorer and game-breaking transition threat. That alone would make him a quality starter in the league for many years. While his defense will likely always be a question mark, bumping his assist average into the five-to-seven range would be the key to unlocking All-Star level potential.

But if we’re being real, it’s silly to slap a ceiling on a just-turned 20-year-old who improved so markedly in his first season. The sky’s the limit for Coby.

RELATED: Does Bulls’ Coby White have All-Star potential? One NBA insider thinks so

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