Why It’s ‘Buyer Beware’ When Dealing with the San Antonio Spurs

Warning to any NBA team thinking about pursuing a sign-and-trade deal with the San Antonio Spurs for restricted free agent Aron Baynes: Walk away.

Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears tweeted earlier this month (h/t Air Alamo): “The Spurs are open to sign and trade offers for restricted FA C Aron Baynes, who played well for Australia at the World Cup, a source said.”

That tweet has since been deleted, but the interest and uncertainty surrounding Baynes persists.

Again, potential Baynes suitors: Just don’t do it. You’ll regret it later. It’s not worth it.

Abort.

That’s not a hit on Baynes, the Australian center who played a minimal role for the Spurs last season (but averaged 11.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.com). Nor is it a knock against the rest of the NBA’s scouts, who saw the same production and bruising play from Baynes the rest of us did during FIBA play.

His appeal isn’t hard to understand.

He’s 27, he’s got a ring and he’s got two years of Gregg Popovich’s priceless tutelage on his resume. What’s not to like?

Well, for starters, how about dealing with a Spurs outfit that, somehow, always wins the transaction game.

Sure, drafting Tim Duncan got the ball rolling, and Popovich’s leadership has been invaluable in San Antonio’s nearly 20-year run. But the Spurs have sustained their success by dominating in the draft, making smart signings and getting the most out of virtually every swap they’ve engaged in.

Basically, San Antonio evaluates talent better than anyone—to the point that any team thinking about a deal with the Spurs should probably assume it’s about to get hosed.

The list of smooth Spurs moves is far too long to catalog in its entirety, but a quick glance back over some of the most recent, notable transactions paints a clear picture: It’s best to avoid doing business with San Antonio.

Last February, the Spurs sent Nando De Colo to the Toronto Raptors for Austin Daye. De Colo played 21 pretty good games for Toronto, enjoying an increase in his assist percentage that came along with greater ball-handling responsibility. His shooting numbers took a bit of a dive outside of San Antonio’s hyper-efficient system, though.

De Colo will play for CSKA Moscow next year, a fair indication of how valuable the Raptors believed him to be going forward.

Daye, though, looks like he may become yet another scrapheap-to-success story for the Spurs. The No. 15 overall pick in 2009, Daye flashed a tantalizing combo of shooting and ball-handling skills during summer league. At 6’11″, Daye can do just about anything on a basketball court; he’s smooth, polished and a darn good long-range shooter.

His game log from Vegas indicates he’ll be, at worst, a very good backup for Kawhi Leonard at small forward this season.

If you’re not willing to trust the long history of San Antonio rehabilitating talented players who’ve run out of chances elsewhere, or if you view all summer league numbers skeptically, that’s fine. There are other examples of San Antonio winning deals.

Take Gary Neal, a guy who scored 24 points in 25 minutes to boost the Spurs in Game 3 of the 2013 NBA Finals, as another test case.

Neal shot 39.7 percent from beyond the arc in three years with the Spurs and was a huge weapon off the bench. He seemed like the kind of high-efficiency gunner any team would want.

In a telling move, though, the Spurs decided they no longer wanted him in 2013. They withdrew their qualifying offer, making him an unrestricted free agent and essentially replacing him with Marco Belinelli, who went on to have, easily, the best season of his career.

If you view that transaction as a Neal-for-Belinelli trade, the Spurs got the best of the bargain. But if you also take into account how Neal declined after signing with the Milwaukee Bucks (and then after being traded to the Charlotte Bobcats), the Spurs’ foresight gets another gold star.

Neal (and the Bucks, apparently) thought a bigger role would mean great things. “It was a situation I was looking forward to, coming in here and being a guy they could rely on. It was a bigger role, a (higher) level of importance. As a competitor, you look for those situations and this is the first time in the NBA I’ve had a situation like this,” Neal told reporters upon signing with the Bucks.

The Spurs knew better.

It took a while, but we eventually learned the Spurs knew better in one of their highest-profile swaps in recent memory. At the time, and for quite a while afterward, most viewed the draft-day deal that sent George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for the rights to Kawhi Leonard in 2011 as a wash.

It feels especially unfair to talk about that deal now, as Leonard is fresh off a Finals MVP award and Hill’s game fell off a cliff along with the rest of the Pacers last season. But that’s what makes this particular trade so fascinating: The Spurs ultimately dominated an exchange that seemed so reasonable when it went down.

If they don’t get you now, they’ll get you later.

Even as Leonard improved in 2011-12 and 2012-13, Hill was a key starter for the league’s best defense. And he made two trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. In the end, though, Leonard has proved to be the vastly superior talent.

And that’s exactly what makes dealing with the Spurs doubly unfair.

Even if another team makes a seemingly equitable deal, San Antonio’s peerless culture and system of player development tips the scales in its favor eventually. Maybe Leonard would have developed like this elsewhere, but there’s no way to know…and it seems pretty unlikely.

Do the Spurs isolate talent more effectively than other teams? Or is their system’s capacity to nurture any talent so strong that they don’t really have to?

Yes and yes.

It’s a combination of both those things. After all, it takes a keen scouting eye (and some guts) to snatch up forgotten castoffs like Boris Diaw and Patty Mills in 2012, or Danny Green in 2011. And if you dig even deeper, you have to also include drafting Manu Ginobili (No. 57 in 1999) and Tony Parker (No. 28 in 2001). But none of those players, talented as they were when acquired, would have developed the same way outside of San Antonio.

True, some have gotten away. Goran Dragic and Luis Scola come to mind, both of whom the Spurs selected late in the second round and allowed to end up elsewhere. But by and large, San Antonio picks great players, either as signees or trade targets, and makes them even better.

Circling back, if there’s good news for the rest of the NBA in all this, it’s this latest development:

If Baynes winds up in China, at least the Spurs won’t get anything back via trade that pushes them out even further ahead of other contenders. They would, though, have an open roster spot—one they’d no doubt fill with yet another terrific talent.

Come on, Yao. You spent almost a decade in the NBA; you should know better than to deal with the Spurs.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Chauncey Billups retires after 17 NBA seasons: ‘It’s just time’

The 2004 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, Chauncey Billups, is retiring after 17 NBA seasons. Billups became an unrestricted free agent when the Detroit Pistons declined the second year of a contract option that would have paid him $2.5 million next season. The five-time All-Star has missed 185 games over the past three seasons and decided it was time to retire just before his 38th birthday. “It’s just time. I know when it’s time,” Billups told Yahoo Sports. “My mind and my desire is still strong. I just can’t ignore the fact that I haven’t been healthy for three years. I can try again and get to a point where I think I can go, but I just can’t sustain. Me not being able to play the way that I can play, that’s when you kind of know it’s that time. “It’s just time. I’m happy, excited. The game was very, very good to me. I felt like I was equally as good to the game the way I played it and the way I respected it and the way I carried myself through the process.” Billups was the thi

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

For Most NBA Players Golf Is Just a Hobby, but for J.R. Smith It’s a Way of Life

From the tattoos to the late-night parties to the repeated NBA fines, J.R. Smith has cultivated an image as polarizing as it is sometimes perplexing. Which is why the last place you might expect to find him is in the tradition-bound environment of the golf course, strolling among the swaying trees and serene brooks.   

But not only does the New York Knicks shooting guard routinely hit the links, he’s borderline obsessed. And the sport has been a positive outlet in his life, expanding his business networking and professional golf opportunities to reveal insights about who he is away from the court.

At one point in the spring after last season, Smith had played golf for 21 straight days. Through August, he was literally following the PGA Tour as a spectator, attending several tournaments in different states. The Players Championship even allowed him to take over its Twitter feed during the final round.

The 28-year old could be a participant one day. Five years since falling in love with the sport—and with only two lessons since—Smith averages 310 yards off the tee and has an accomplished 13-handicap, establishing himself as one of the best golfers in the NBA. He boasts that the great Michael Jordan, a fellow golf aficionado, won’t even play him.

Curious to witness Smith’s passion on the links first-hand, Bleacher Report had the opportunity to ride the course with him last month during his eighth annual Youth Foundation Classic at the Eagle Ridge Golf Club in Lakewood Township, N.J. At the event, which provides support and scholarships for kids through sports and education, B/R and Smith chatted about his unique summer adventure, the golf connection with NBA players, how hitting the links has opened new doors for him in his life and much more.

 

Bleacher Report: You’ve basically been simulating the life of a pro golfer this summer. What’s that been like?

J.R. Smith: I was following the [PGA] Tour at one point starting in May, supporting Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Keegan Bradley, all good friends of mine. I went to the Wells Fargo Championship [in May in Charlotte, N.C.], The Players Championship [in May in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.], the Quicken Loans National [in June in Bethesda, Md.] and The Barclays last week [in Paramus, N.J.].

I would watch [each tournament] from Thursday to Sunday and then play the course on Monday. I would say I’ve probably played 50 courses this summer. Around six a week.

 

B/R: How did you meet Rory, Lee and Keegan?

JRS: Rory and Lee through one of the trainers that works with the Knicks. Then I met Keegan in Boston when we were playing the Celtics. He would come to the games. And then he got the Jordan [Brand] deal [in March], so we started talking about sneakers and stuff like that. I mostly wear Jordans.

 

B/R: So what sparked your golf interest five years ago?

JRS: I was at Rashard Lewis’ [basketball] tournament in Houston. He runs a Pro-Am out there every year and I would always play on his team. While I was there, he told me to come out to [Hall of Famer] Moses Malone’s golf tournament. I was riding around on the cart, but I wasn’t playing. Then Moses is like, “Get your ass out of the cart and play.” So I go out there and hit the ball like 300 yards dead center. Just like that; the first hit. I even used the same form I have right now.

 

B/R: How did you do that?

JRS: If I see it [in sports], I can mimic it. I would watch Tiger [Woods] all the time.

 

B/R: That day in Houston, you instantly became addicted to golf?

JRS: Yeah. After that first shot, [Malone] was like, “I bet you can’t do it again.” I’m like, “Whatever.” But I get up there and I couldn’t hit it again. I was frustrated. I was like, “Why the hell can’t I do this?” He’s like, “That’s just the way the game is.” The very next day I went to go buy clubs.

 

B/R: Have you always been like that, where the moment you can’t do something, you don’t stop until you get it right?

JRS: Yeah. I hate not being able to do something, especially athletically. I feel I’ve got all the athletic ability to do anything I want, so for me to not be able to do something athletically, that pisses me off the most.

 

B/R: Did that happen in any other sport?

JRS: In middle school, I was like that in baseball. I couldn’t hit a curveball for the longest. I grew up playing baseball, and I would strike out on curves. So I just practiced, practiced, practiced, and eventually every time they threw me a curveball, I would hit a home run.

 

B/R: In golf, do you know immediately when you hit a good shot?

JRS: You know right away—right before you connect, you feel it. It sounds like it’s flush when you hit it. When I hit it on a certain spot, I know what it sounds like, I know what it’s going to do. When I mishit the ball, I know it’s between tempo, the swing path, feet alignment and hands. There’s just so much that goes into it; it’s crazy.

 

B/R: When you took those two lessons, what were you trying to fix?

JRS: Using my driver, because my driver is the key to my game. I can hit irons, and chip and putt—that’s just all feel—but I couldn’t hit the driver for a while. I put it back in my bag because I was too aggressive. [The instructor told me], “Slow down. You’re swinging too hard trying to kill the ball.” The lessons helped.

 

B/R: What is the easiest and hardest part of the game for you?

JRS: The easiest is probably putting. The hardest part about the game is to try to master your next shot, and probably getting over the next hole if you’re playing good. It’s also being able to recover from [a bad shot] and then continuing a good run. I get so frustrated sometimes. I can be like, “Where the hell did that shot come from?” The worst is not being able to correct it, and then you start pressing.

 

B/R: What are you working on these days to improve?

JRS: Just being more consistent with my shots, like if I want to hit it to a certain area all the time. That’s the hardest part for me. There are just so many mechanics. Like in basketball, because I’ve been doing it for a long time, I already know what I did wrong when I shoot. It’s my form or my knees weren’t bent when I caught the ball—stuff like that. But here, you think you know what you did and then you try to correct it, but then there’s something else you did wrong.

 

B/R: What courses do you typically play, and which is the toughest?

JRS: TPC at Sawgrass, [where The Players Championship was played], is the hardest course ever. There are so many bunkers and it’s really long. I mostly play a lot of local courses [in New York and New Jersey], like the Hudson National, Liberty National and Trump National.

 

B/R: Do you have a usual foursome?

JRS: When I go to L.A., I’ll play with CP [Chris Paul], his brother, [C.J.], and his dad, [Charles]. We play all the time. In Charlotte, I’ll play with Steph [Stephen Curry]. When I’m around [New York], I’ll play with John [Starks] and Herb [Williams]. And then, of course, I play with my brother, [Chris]. He started [golfing] when he was 11 years old. He’s got golf trophies and everything. He doesn’t play as much as me, but when he does, he’s good.

 

B/R: What are CP and Steph’s golf games like?

JRS: CP is all right. He needs to work on it because he doesn’t play as much as I do. But Steph is unbelievable. Steph and Ray Allen. I haven’t played with Ray yet.

 

B/R: Is there trash talking between you guys?

JRS: Not so much with Steph, but CP, hell yeah. CP is like, when I hit a bad shot, “Way to be yourself, shooting bad shots.” If he hits a bad shot, I don’t really say too much because he doesn’t play as much.

 

B/R: Give me your top five for best golfers in the NBA.

JRS: Steph No. 1, then Ray, me, CP and then maybe Big Baby [Glen Davis]. I heard he’s good, but I haven’t seen him play.

 

B/R: What’s your dream foursome?

JRS: Me, Tiger, Rory and [Michael] Jordan, and there would be super trash talking. I don’t really talk much, though. I’m the same way on the court.

 

B/R: What’s your connection like to MJ?

JRS: I’ve talked to him a few times. I’m always so star struck that I forget to ask him questions. The last thing we talked about was golf. I tell him, “I’ll whoop your ass.” He doesn’t want to play me, though. He plays a lot, like with Keegan Bradley.

 

B/R: Why do you think so many pro athletes gravitate to golf as their second sport?

JRS: It’s something you can play forever. It’s something you can always do, and it can always take your mind off of [your main sport].

 

B/R: Does that apply to you?

JRS: Yeah. If I have a bad game in basketball, I’ll go hit balls the next day just to get my mind off of it. You hold yourself to higher standards on the basketball court, but when you come out [on the course], nobody really expects you to be Rory or somebody like that. You hit good shots, you hit bad shots. Your expectations are lower.

Also, [golf] helps me with my [basketball] shot because I feel like if I want to hit the ball 150 yards super high with trajectory and try to make it go left or right, in basketball it’s pretty much the same. It’s like shooting high or flat, or shooting a fadeaway or drifting to the left or right.

 

B/R: Through the closer-knit fraternity in the NBA, fueled by AAU and more events bringing players together, has golf become a greater bond among the guys?

JRS: All the time now, like no one talks basketball. We talk golf. Before, guys would work out on their own. But now, everybody is so joined and we play golf with each other. At the Terminal 23 gym [in New York City], everybody has been coming through to play—even KD [Kevin Durant] and Melo [Carmelo Anthony].

Everybody wants to get better, everybody wants the next person to get better, so I think there’s more unity. Through AAU ball, we all grew up playing against each other, so you develop those relationships—and they carry over to the golf course.

 

B/R: Does Melo have the same shooting touch on the course?

JRS: Melo has played, but he hates it. We recently played in Puerto Rico, along with Tim Hardaway Jr., during his charity weekend. Melo just can’t pick it up so easily. He’s not as bad as [Charles] Barkley, but he’s not that good either.

 

B/R: How often do you hear something like, “With all your tattoos and bad-boy image, I would’ve never expected you to play a pristine and traditional game like golf.”

JRS: People tell me that all the time, “The tattoos, the background, there’s no way you play golf.” Fans, everybody. Even when I get on the course, the [club] pro is like, “Damn, you play golf?” And then they see my swing and they’re like, “Oh, s–t.”

 

B/R: Do those surprise reactions ever lead to new opportunities for you?

JRS: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of times when I play Liberty National or something like that, there’s a bunch of hedge fund guys and business guys there. For them to see me out there, they see my passion for the game and they really enjoy that. My group of friends has expanded through golf. Golf gives people a different perspective about me.

 

B/R: What do you think is the biggest misperception about you?

JRS: People think I’m just some wild child, that I’m just somebody that bugs out all the time and doesn’t care. That’s the main thing that p—-s me off the most. People who actually take the time to come [to my golf tournament] and get to know me, they know what I’m about. But some people don’t really care to come.

 

B/R: Do you think that stems from your occasional antics, like when you got fined last season for untying your opponents’ shoelaces?

JRS: I do care about the fines because it’s loss of money, but other than that, I like to have fun. I would do [the shoelace thing] again if there wasn’t a fine. But now that I’m in my 10th year in the NBA, I take the game more seriously than I did my first five, six years.

 

B/R: I have to ask the age-old question: Do you want to start or come off the bench next season?

JRS: At this point, it is what it is. Whether I come off the bench or start, I’m going to get my minutes. I can’t wait until training camp—to get to know all the coaches and Phil [Jackson], and their point of view and what’s their plan. That’s the thing I’m most excited about.

 

B/R: What about playing on the Tour one day?

JRS: I would do it in a heartbeat.

 

Jared Zwerling covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

For JR Smith, It’s Now or Never to Succeed with New York Knicks

It’s tough to say without smiling crookedly, but this Phil Jackson triangle offense might actually help lift J.R. Smith‘s game.

It better for Smith’s sake. I’m not sure how long he’ll last under Jackson after the All-Star break if the New York Knicks have broken down, again, and Smith’s shot chart looks like a worn-out dartboard. 

The window of opportunity is closing for Smith in New York—the opportunity to prove he’s more than just a streak scorer or unpredictable microwave.

Cue the triangle, the last real hope for curing his erratic offensive attack.

On paper, it’s a system that should play right to Smith’s strengths and hopefully minimize his weaknesses as a shot-selector. 

The triangle emphasizes ball movement and off-ball player movement—two motions that don’t occur when Smith or Carmelo Anthony are sizing up their men before falling back into long, two-point hero shots.

Instead of heavy one-on-one action, something Mike Woodson’s offense often called for, the triangle should result in a lot more catch-and-score chances.

And only seven players in the entire NBA averaged more points per game shooting off the catch than Smith did (6.8) last season, according to NBA.com. He hit a rock-solid 45.6 percent of his spot-up jumpers and 46.5 percent of his spot-up threes, which ranked No. 4 in the league behind Kyle Korver, LeBron James and Stephen Curry

On the other hand, Smith hit just 33 percent of his pull-up jumpers, a shot he’s gone to frequently despite his poor conversion rate. 

If the triangle works according to plan, we’ll hopefully be seeing less play off the dribble and a lot more shooting in rhythm. 

Maybe the intensified competition at the 2-guard position in New York will also provide some additional motivation. Tim Hardaway Jr. isn’t a rookie anymore, while Iman Shumpert will be targeting a bounce-back season.

All three should be competing for minutes, or even a starting position, something Smith has expressed desire in winning, under new coach Derek Fisher. 

Outside of his experience, Smith’s underrated passing might actually give him an edge in the triangle. His lack of willingness to give the ball up is another story, but in terms of hitting the open man, he’s the superior passer on the depth chart. 

Smith averaged a career-high three assists last season, while Shumpert dished out only 1.7 a game and Hardaway struggled as a creator and ball-mover. 

Everything seems lined up for Smith, between the new coaches and system, an incident-free offseason and a heavy workload that’s up for grabs. 

But he’s running out of chances to shine in a featured role. Where else could he pose as a No. 2 option for a marquee franchise?

He probably won’t get another opportunity as good as this one, assuming he values the spotlight.

Ironically, the Knicks need Smith just as much as he needs them. They were 18-12 last season when Smith shot over 45 percent. When he didn’t, they were 16-28. 

The Knicks won 54 games in 2012-13 behind Smith’s 18.1 points per game—a career best. That was before he shot 28.9 percent in a second-round series playoff loss to the underdog Indiana Pacers

He’s been the team’s X-factor, which for the Knicks is far from ideal considering his inconsistent approach. But they’ve been desperate. With the Knicks paying Amar’e Stoudemire $20 million a year, they don’t exactly have the flexibility to go out and make seamless roster upgrades. 

However, Stoudemire’s contact, as well as Andrea Bargnani’s, comes off the book next summer, when the team is expected to hit the reset button. And it would be hard to imagine management including Smith in its long-term plans if he implodes under Jackson next season, though it would likely require a trade to move him, given Smith’s 2015-16 player option.

For what it’s worth, he’s been saying the right things this offseason. 

“Be a leader,” Smith said in an interview with ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley at his foundation’s annual golf fundraiser. “We’ve got so many younger guys around. A lot of the older guys left within the last two years. So be more of a leader and help out.”  

Begley thinks Smith has the experience to take on a leadership role in Year 11. 

Entering his final NBA season under 30 years old, this could end up being the most important one of Smith’s career—one that could make or break his team’s season and ultimately his individual value across the league. 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Lakers’ Byron Scott: ‘It’s going to be a tough road’

The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of an incredibly disappointing season last year due to injuries, and they are expected to have yet another difficult season this season. Kobe Bryant will be back, which is always a plus, but the roster as a whole is simply not talented enough to compete in the Western Conference. New head coach Byron Scott talked to the media about the difficulty of the upcoming season. “I expect us to compete every night,” said Byron Scott on radio Thursday to “The Dan Patrick Show, via the LA Times. “The Lakers are “going to play a tough, physical brand of basketball and we’re going to play defense. ” “It’s going to be a tough road for us,” he added. “We have a lot of work to do. I don’t know how good we’re going to be.  I’ve got a lot of guys that I don’t really know.  I’ve got to get to know these guys and see what makes them tick — but I’ve got one guy that I do know what makes him tick and that’s a great piece to have.” There’s no denying

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

It’s Carmelo Anthony or Nothing for Chicago Bulls’ Offseason

When the 2014 NBA offseason is finally put to bed, the Chicago Bulls will remember it as the summer they collared Carmelo Anthony—or the one during which they didn’t.

That’s it.

There is no other superstar free agent preparing to ride into Chicago on a swanky steed, decked out in shining armor, his razor-sharp sword pointing in the direction of the San Antonio Spurs.

This is it for the Bulls. There is no one else.

Not even if Anthony decides to sign elsewhere.

 

The Apple of Chicago’s Eye

All of the Bulls’ (covert) energy has been spent trying to woo Anthony.

Joakim Noah began recruiting Anthony over the All-Star break, and according to the New York Daily NewsMitch Lawrence, he hasn’t stopped since. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is pining after the New York Knicks superstar too. He’s even spoken to Anthony’s former Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, per The New York Post‘s Marc Berman

I’ve talked to Tom about Melo, his name has come up. I think Tom is very excited about the possibility of getting Carmelo. He likes him. He likes how he plays. He feels he’s coachable. I think Tom Thibodeau is one of the better coaches in the NBA. Carmelo would be happy playing for him. It would be a good fit — the coach-player relationship.

Not even Derrick Rose has been able to resist Anthony’s prospective charm, despite what he’s saying publicly. He told Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears that he won’t be recruiting the seven-time All-Star because it’s “not my job.”

“My thing is if they want to come, they can come,” he adds.

Cute. 

Anyone who truly believes that Rose won’t be recruiting Anthony in some capacity better cut down on the peanut butter and contemporary psychedelics sandwiches. He will be involved, even if it’s through back channels, publicly indirect plaudits and flattering text messages coming from a burner phone. 

Rose knows what Anthony can do for his team. He does everything the Bulls don’t: score consistently. Sources told ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard (subscription required) that Rose wants the Bulls to add Anthony. There’s exactly a zero percent chance his stance has changed just because he’s talking about Chicago selling itself.

Most of you realize this, hopefully. And hopefully even more of you realize how blatant the Bulls are being with their devout interest in Anthony.

Once LeBron James opted out of his contract with the Miami Heat, teams went into a cap-dumping frenzy. The Houston Rockets unloaded Omer Asik following a report from Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck that stated they were planning an “all-out push” for LeBron. The Atlanta Hawks shed Lou Williams’ salary.

Even the Phoenix Suns have come creeping out of the woodwork, trying to secure face time with the King, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.

Craziness. James-cajoling craziness.

Some teams—like the Rockets—will portray jockeying and finagling and contrived tinkering as nothing more than ultimate flexibility, as an attempt to chase anyone and everyone worth chasing. But this is all about James first and foremost. Though he’s unlikely to leave the Heat, everything we see and hear is the result of his free agency.

Unless you travel to Chicago. Then it’s all about Anthony.

While every other team with cap space or the means to create cap space zeroes in on James, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune explains that the Bulls are pressing on with their own all-out push for Anthony.

None of which is to say the Bulls wouldn’t welcome James with open arms and a red headband. If he indicates he wants to play in Chicago, they’ll be all over it. They have the flexibility to pursue Anthony, so they can reverse course if necessary.

But they know stealing James from Miami is a long shot. Anthony is a more realistic target. Focusing on him is the smart play, a form of savoir-faire in itself. That’s why the Bulls won’t have to wait in line to meet with him, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

Carmelo Anthony is planning to meet with the Chicago Bulls in Chicago on the opening day of free agency after the NBA’s offseason market officially opens Tuesday at 12:01 a.m., according to sources familiar with Anthony’s plans.

Sources told ESPN.com that Anthony is in the process of arranging a trip to Chicago to meet with the Bulls, then intends to travel to Texas for Wednesday meetings with both the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks.

Earning Anthony’s first meeting isn’t a crystallized foretoken of his eventual arrival, but it’s certainly not inconsequential. The Bulls have made Anthony their top priority. He, if only for a brief moment, has returned the favor.

 

The Other Guys

Other free agents and potential trade targets are out there, just so we’re clear. The Bulls have even been linked to some of them. 

Restricted free agent Chandler Parsons is a person of interest, according to Spears. The ever-available Kevin Love has caught their eye as well. 

Yet there’s something plainly obligatory about their other offseason ventures. Consider, for a moment, what ESPN.com’s Chad Ford (subscription required) said they were reportedly offering the Minnesota Timberwolves for Love ahead of the draft:

The Wolves continue talking trade now with a number of teams. The Warriors, Celtics, Nuggets and Bulls are getting the most play right now. The Warriors’ deal was “near the finish line” according to one source before it stalled because of the other players involved in the deal. The Bulls, who are offering Taj Gibson, Tony Snell plus Nos. 16 and 19, are the latest suitors.

Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and two first-rounders is a solid offer—you know, if Love had the Timberwolves’ collective tongue in a vice and chained president and head coach Flip Saunders’ hands to an airborne helicopter’s coaxial rotors. 

This “offer” didn’t enable the Bulls to take back any of Minnesota’s less favorable contracts, and it didn’t include premier assets like Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic. Why? Because the Bulls want Anthony. And they want Anthony because they’re cautious.

When’s the last time you saw Bulls general manager Gar Forman or owner Jerry Reinsdorf back a risk-addled gambit? Exactly.

Acquiring players like Parsons or Love would be out of character. Parsons is due a big-money contract, but he hasn’t shown he can be the No. 1 or, in this case, No. 2 option on a championship-caliber team.

Love, meanwhile, is going to reach free agency no matter where he plays next season. Any team that trades for him could be paying for a glorified rental. It benefits him financially to explore the open market in 2015, and at that point, anything goes.

Hedging valuable assets on unproven novelties and potential flight risks isn’t the Bulls’ style. They take safe routes. This is a team that would trade the remaining $60-plus million on Rose’s contract if it could, as Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times implies.

Locking Anthony down for the next four years is the safe play.

It’s the Bulls’ play.

 

Chicago’s One and Only

Signing Anthony is not without its risks.

Loyal rumor-mill lackeys know how yours truly feels about Anthony for the Bulls: It is, at best, a questionable, uncertainty-riddled move for both parties. 

But the interest is understandable.

The Bulls need another superstar to take pressure off of Rose. More importantly, they need another superstar to carry them if the injury bug crawls under his skin again. 

Anthony can be that superstar. He has his faults and impurities, but last season was the first time his team ever missed the playoffs. He led 10 consecutive squads to the postseason as the offensive focal point. Even if Rose goes down again, the Bulls—who won 48 games despite Rose’s latest injury and Luol Deng‘s departure in 2013-14—are still a playoff team. They would even be a contender in the emaciated Eastern Conference.

And like Blog A Bull’s Jay Patt details, now is as good a time as any for the Bulls to take a risk:

But while I might not necessarily do “whatever it takes” to acquire Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls must do their due diligence and at least put forth an honest effort. The org. has been talking about the #2014Plan for years, and the time is now to make a bold move. Anthony certainly has his warts, and one can argue whether it would be better to acquire him or Kevin Love, but that’s a story for another time, and even if Love was more preferable it shouldn’t preclude them from going after Anthony.

Understand that the Bulls will only step so far outside their normal skin. Anthony is a risk they’re willing to take. There is nothing to suggest they’ll look anywhere else.

If Anthony doesn’t join the Bulls, expect a series of modest, marginally needle-pushing moves to follow. And don’t count on them amnestying Carlos Boozer. They won’t pay him $16.8 million to go away if it doesn’t mean landing a superstar.

Such is the Bulls way. They are uncharacteristically putting themselves on the line for one player, for one relatively safe investment, who stands to yield predictable gains. If their Anthony pursuit doesn’t pan out, the Bulls aren’t screwed.

They as a team aren’t finished. 

Their foray into the combative, superstar-scouring, hand-tipping unknown is. 

 

*Salary information via ShamSports.


Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Iowa State eliminates North Carolina before it’s too late

Cyclones guard DeAndre Kane’s winning drive precedes a strange ending for the Tar Heels.

View full post on USATODAY.com Feed

What a long, strange trip it’s been for Mercer coach Bob Hoffman

“Weird?” Hoffman says, laughing. “Strange? I’ve been everywhere.”

View full post on USATODAY.com Feed

It’s Lakers team photo day, and Kobe Bryant couldnt’ be happier* (photo)

*not really It was time for the 2013-14 official team photograph day for the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday at team headquarters in El Segundo, Calif., and while participating in such a thing is an annoying thing to have to do in general — who likes group photos, right? — Kobe Bryant could not look […] The post It’s Lakers team photo day, and Kobe Bryant couldnt’ be happier* (photo) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Detroit Pistons: It’s almost over

The Detroit Pistons are in action Saturday night as they take on the Indiana Pacers at The Palace.
With just 17 games remaining on the schedule, Detroit’s playoff chances are minimal at best. Detroit heads into Saturday night’s matchup with a 25-40 record, good for eleventh-best in the Eastern Conference. Here’s how the race for eighth shapes up:
8. Atlanta Hawks 28-35
9. New York Knicks 27-40
10. Cleveland Cavaliers 26-40
11. Detroit Pistons 25-40
Detroit has posted a 2-5 record in the month of March and are a dismal 4-11 since John Loyer took over the head coaching position. The only month in which the Pistons have had a record of .500 or better was in October; a month in which they posted a 1-0 record.
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for Detroit, here is the Pistons’ upcoming schedule:
3/15 v. Indiana
3/19 @ Denver Nuggets
3/21 @ Phoenix Suns
3/22 @ Los Angeles Clippers
3/24 @ Utah Jazz
Detroit returns home following their matchup with the Utah Jazz, but their playoff chanc…

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Next Page »