Other Sports

The Clippers did not lose in December

867851.jpg

The Clippers did not lose in December

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- After their 17th consecutive victory gave them a perfect month, the Los Angeles Clippers finally paused to admire their achievement."We got something extremely magical going on," said Caron Butler after the Clippers beat the Utah Jazz 107-96 on Sunday night to become the third team in NBA history to record a perfect month."When we win we usually jump up and down once or twice," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Tonight we let them jump and down three or four times, so everyone had their fill."The Clippers went 16-0 in December to join the 1995-96 San Antonio Spurs, which included Del Negro, and 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers as the only teams to go undefeated in a month. Their franchise-record winning streak is the longest since Boston won 19 in a row four years ago."I am amazed because I haven't done it since I've been in the league," said seven-year veteran Chris Paul, whose 19 points and nine assists helped his team maintain the league's best record at 25-6.Butler led the Clippers with 29 points despite not playing in the fourth quarter and made all six of his 3-pointers, including five in the opening period. Jamal Crawford scored 11 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin piled up five fouls and was held to seven points after getting double-teamed."That shows our depth," Paul said. "Our bench stepped up amazing. On any given night it can be another guy."The streak isn't talked about among the players and coaches. But it's a popular topic among everyone else."That's an incredible record to have," Utah's Derrick Favors said. "They've got 17 straight wins and they're playing hard. I know there's a lot of pressure on them to try to keep it up, and they're going to keep coming out and keep playing the same way."Actually, it's just the opposite, according to Griffin, who said the last month "is the most fun I've ever had playing basketball.""You don't really think about it that much. We're having a blast," he said about the streak. "It's not like it's one of these things where it's so much pressure."Al Jefferson scored 30 points -- one off his season high -- to lead Utah, which fell victim for the third time during the Clippers' streak. The Jazz lost 116-114 on Friday when the Clippers rallied from 19 points down, and they were beaten 105-104 on Dec. 3, both times at home."It's frustrating," said Gordon Hayward, who had 16 points. "Knowing that they're a good team and knowing that we're always right there with them, knowing that we need to keep on playing good for 48 minutes."The Jazz lost their third in a row and seventh in the last nine games."We can't make any mistakes against them, especially on their home floor because they make you pay for it," Jefferson said.Crawford keyed a 10-5 run to open the fourth, highlighted by a 3-pointer and a fast break pull-up jumper that helped the Clippers extend their lead to 89-81. Paul and Griffin didn't join the second unit until 5:55 remained and Utah had closed within four on a basket by Favors.That was as close as the Jazz got. The Clippers made 9 of 10 free throws down the stretch and their defense held Utah to one field goal in the final 3:38."It was a grind-it-out game, nothing pretty about it," Crawford said. "We got us a nice thing going and we got to keep it going."Los Angeles stretched its lead to 71-59 in the third quarter, when Butler scored 10 of their first 17 points.From there, the Jazz closed on a 17-8 run to pull to 79-76 going into the fourth. Utah briefly took its first lead since early in the game when Jefferson scored over Lamar Odom, but the Jazz committed two costly turnovers in the final 49 seconds.Paul got fouled and made both free throws, and then Matt Barnes stole the ball from Jamaal Tinsley and fed Paul on the break. He missed but Crawford was there to tip it in and restore the Clippers' lead."We haven't been playing our best basketball the last few games," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're playing hard, but we've got to be a little smarter and not make the kind of mistakes we made down the stretch."The Clippers shot 62 percent en route to a 54-45 halftime lead, with Butler scoring 17 points in the first quarter. Utah led briefly to start the game when Jefferson scored eight of their first 13 points.NOTES:Los Angeles improved to 11-3 at home. ... The Jazz fell to 6-13 on the road. ... Clippers F Ronny Turiaf says his right elbow is "messed up." He said he hurt it a couple games ago when he felt discomfort while boxing out. ... Odom's ankle is bothering him. ... The Clippers haven't lost since Nov. 26 at home against New Orleans.

ICYMI: Craig Kimbrel's next steps; White Sox reportedly promoting Zack Collins; Six thoughts on Olli Maatta

kimbrel_2.jpg
USA TODAY

ICYMI: Craig Kimbrel's next steps; White Sox reportedly promoting Zack Collins; Six thoughts on Olli Maatta

The Cubs mapped out the next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel, the White Sox are reportedly promoting Zack Collins from Triple-A and how does the Anthony Davis trade affect the Bulls? Here's what you may have missed from the weekend in Chicago sports:

Cubs

Craig Kimbrel will officially join Triple-A Iowa this week, the latest development in his buildup towards joining the Cubs' 25-man roster.

A small change in interactions with his teammates has paid huge dividends for Kyle Hendricks. However, Hendricks landed on the 10-day injured list Saturday due to shoulder inflammation.

The Cubs wrapped up another tough road trip, finishing 2-5 against the Rockies and Dodgers this week. They did pick up a huge victory on Saturday behind Yu Darvish, however.

Brandon Kintzler joined Kelly Crull on the latest Cubs Talk Podcast to discuss his ongoing prank war with Steve Cishek, his growing role as a leader and mentor inside the clubhouse and more.

White Sox

According to a report, the White Sox are promoting top catching prospect Zack Collins from Triple-A Charlotte, adding another piece to their rebuilding puzzle.

The Eloy Jimenez Show is headed to the North Side this week, as the first act of the Crosstown Classic commences at Wrigley Field. In Jimenez and Lucas Giolito, the faces of the White Sox franchise might just be emerging. Jimenez even got a rave review from Yankees All-Star Gleyber Torres.

Although the White Sox are on the rise, learning to win also means the team has to learn how to lose.

Yoan Moncada's ongoing back issues continued this weekend.

Blackhawks

The Blackhawks acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Penguins for forward Dominik Kahun. Here are six thoughts on the deal and what's next for the Blackhawks.

NBC Sports Chicago's Blackhawks beat writer Charlie Roumeliotis answers fan questions in the latest Blackhawks mailbag.

Roumeliotis discusses how Matthew Boldy and Kaapo Kakko would fit with the Blackhawks in his latest NHL Draft profiles.

Other

The Bulls weren't part of the Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers, but the deal could have an effect on the NBA Draft. And while the Bulls don't currently have salary cap space to sign a max player, here's how they can make room for one.

The Bears are on summer break for the next five weeks. Here's what they'll be up to.

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

dangelorussell.jpg
USA TODAY

How the Bulls can land a max-salary free agent

The Bulls will enter free agency with approximately $20 million in cap space. That’s far short of the amount needed to sign a max-salary player, but there is a path for the team to land a star — if one chooses to play in Chicago. With rumors out of Brooklyn that D’Angelo Russell would be on his way out if the Nets sign Kyrie Irving, coupled with the uncertain futures of both Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, Bulls fans are wondering “what if.” I’ll let much wiser people debate if the Bulls should extend an offer to any of these players; I’ll outline how it could happen.

In terms of this discussion, it’s very important to note that not all free agents are eligible for the same max salary. The league has three tiers of max free agents, broken up by years of service. Players with 0-6 years of service are in one tier, 7-9 years in another, and 10+ years of service in the last.

Players in the more experienced tiers can get a much larger contract over players coming off their rookie contracts. The wonderful Larry Coon explains this in detail in his CBA FAQ. The exact 2019-20 salary cap will be announced at the end of the month. It’s currently projected at $109 million, and for this scenario, we use that number. Essentially, tier 1 players can get 25 percent of the cap, tier 2 30 percent and players with 10+ years of experience can get 35 percent of a team’s cap.

Russell would fall into the 0-6 years tier, earning him a first year salary (the one that matters in terms of cap space) of approximately $27.2 million. Klay Thompson has eight seasons of experience and is eligible for a first-year salary of about $32.7 million. His teammate Kevin Durant can sign a max deal starting at $38 million.

Step 1- Get medical waiver on Omer Asik’s $3 million cap hit.

The Bulls will find out by June 30 if the league approves their waiver request on Asik. The former Bulls big has a $3 million cap hit of guaranteed money on the books for the 2019-20 season. The team waived Asik back in October and it looks like his NBA career may be over after dealing with arthritis and Crohn’s Disease. The NBA is likely to approve the Bulls request, and they’ll get that money back in cap space for free agency.

Step 2- Waive and stretch Cristiano Felicio

The league allows teams to waive players and stretch their contracts over several years to lessen the immediate cap hit a team takes. Felicio is owed approximately $15.7 million over the next two seasons. The stretch provision means teams can spread out the cap hit of a waived player twice the years remaining on the deal, plus one. This translates to a cap hit of approximately $3.1 million over the next fives years instead of the amount he’s owed. This means the Bulls would gain an additional $5 million in cap space this summer.

Accomplishing steps 1 and 2 will clear enough cap space for the Bulls to sign a 0-6 year free agent, so if Russell wants to play for the Bulls and the front office feels he’d be a good fit, it would only take these two steps to sign him. It gets more complicated for the more experienced free agents.

Step 3- Trade Kris Dunn for a 2nd round pick.

Dunn is owed $5.3 million for the 2019-20 season. Trading him for a second round pick would net the Bulls a cap saving of $4.4 million. The reason the Bulls don’t get to keep the full amount is that teams have to account for a roster spot against the cap when they go below 12 players. Trading Dunn would get them into the 7-9 years tier and allow them to sign Klay Thompson (or any of the other free agents at that tier).

Step 4A- Trade out of the first round of the 2019 draft

Here is where it gets a lot more difficult for the Bulls if they want to sign a 10+ year free agent. They have to clear about $5 million more in cap space. Let’s safely assume they aren’t going to trade Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter for pennies on the dollar just to clear cap space. Otto Porter’s contract makes him a very unlikely trade candidate as well. Trading the No. 7 pick for a future first nets them another $4.4 million, close enough to get to that max slot with other small moves.

The major flaw with this is the draft is June 20 and free agency starts 10 days later. You’re not going to get a commitment from any superstar worth this amount until June 30, so essentially this option is off the table.

Step 4B- Trade Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison for second round picks

This option is a lot more likely if the Bulls can sign a superstar in the 10+ years tier. Hutchison showed promise in his rookie season, and despite missing all of last season, Valentine should be able to get you something (especially if packaged with Hutchison). I doubt the team wants to punt on Hutchison after one season, but they'd have to, if this was the only thing in the way of signing a franchise changing star.

If you want to dream for the Bulls, our friends at NBC Sports Boston put together a list of the top free agents available. The likelihood is that the Bulls will use their cap space to sign a few veteran free agents to give them some much needed depth, but should they dream big, there is a path to be in play for a star.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.