Bulls

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

603160.png

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.

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

nba_power_rankings.jpg
USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.