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


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.

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg, Dwyane Wade soak themselves in Cubs fever

Bulls: Fred Hoiberg, Dwyane Wade soak themselves in Cubs fever

The party that started Saturday night on the north side of town had vibes that stretched all the way west of downtown, as the Chicago Bulls players and coaches soaked themselves in Cubs fever.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has been a lifelong Cubs fan due to growing up in Iowa and of course, Dwyane Wade came back home at the right time to witness the Cubs winning the pennant for the first time since 1945.

“It’s been fun, it’s been fun to watch. I’ve talked about how together that team is, how much of confidence, how much of a swagger they play with,” Hoiberg said. “It’s just a fun team that looks like it has unbelievable chemistry.”

Playfully, Hoiberg admitted he went streaking in Wrigleyville after the Cubs finished off the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field—although if he actually had been streaking, Hoiberg probably would’ve blended in with the deliriousness that took place well into Saturday night.

Seriously, though, Hoiberg admires the unity and joy the Cubs have played with all season—embracing the expectations without letting themselves get engulfed in them.

“It’s a team that I think you can learn from with what they’re doing and the backing that they have from the city,” Hoiberg said. “Cubs fans, from the time they’re born like myself, they’re just, it’s been awesome to watch and see the celebration after the game.”

Wade agrees, and having been part of three championship teams, knows chemistry when he sees it.

“That team has figured out a way, even during this series when it looked like their back was against the wall they came out swinging. They stuck together,” Wade said. “You have to support each other. No matter who’s on the basketball court for us, who’s on the bench, it’s all about supporting each other and really caring about the other guy. When you start caring about the other person, you don’t want to let that other person down on the court. You become a better team because of that.”

With the World Series starting Tuesday in Cleveland, Wade and good friend LeBron James will likely make a friendly wager, with the two exchanging playful tweets after the Cubs’ clincher.

“It’s been a long, long, long time, and just obviously I felt the buzz when I got back to the city, and everyone thinking that this was the Cubs’ year,” Wade said. “And they’ve been obviously playing amazing, so it’s great. It’s great to be in Chicago at this time with the Cubs being as successful as they are so far, and so it’s good to be here and it’s good to be a sports fan at this time in Chicago, so it’s good.”

Cleveland has gone from a national sports joke to one with an embarrassment of riches in the past six months, while the Cubs are trying to end the longest championship drought in the four major sports.

“Just pride in your city. Cleveland has obviously had droughts in sports and then he went back there to change that drought from the standpoint of basketball, and they accomplished that,” Wade said. “And now Cleveland is trying to do the same, and they got to a World Series, which has been a drought for them.”

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Luckily for the Bulls—or any Chicago sports fan for that matter—Thursday’s season opener doesn’t conflict with a game, but fans won’t be so lucky next Saturday night. The Bulls will play the Indiana Pacers while the Cubs will host Cleveland for Game 4. Wade doesn’t think he’ll have trouble getting into Wrigley Field, but after Scottie Pippen’s unfortunate rendition of “Take me out to the ballgame” Saturday night, Wade wants an opportunity for a reprieve.

“I know Scottie butchered the 7th-inning stretch. I think me and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo could do a good job together if they ask us to do it,” Wade said. “It’s just cool to be a part of it.”

Hoiberg summed it up succinctly, likely echoing the beliefs of many long-suffering Cubs fans.

“Four more to go,” Hoiberg said. “I like their chances just because of how confident they’re playing.”

Doug McDermott, Kyle Korver return to Creighton for NBA preseason game

Doug McDermott, Kyle Korver return to Creighton for NBA preseason game

Competing in Nebraska may have been foreign for most Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks players, but Doug McDermott and Kyle Korver were right at home. 

The veterans, who both starred at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., returned to their college stomping grounds for NBA preseason action Thursday night. Korver's Hawks got the best of McDermott's Bulls, 97-81, on Creighton's home floor.

Both had illustrious careers for the Blue Jays basketball squad. McDermott, who graduated in 2014, won the Wooden Award his senior season and is the all-time leading scorer. Korver, as you may have guessed, holds the school record for most three-pointers made. Fans at Thursday's game got a flashback from these glory days, as both logged significant minutes and put up offensive numbers. 

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McDermott didn't have his best shooting night, but knocked down two triples and finished with 16 points. Korver also scored 16, splashing in four from beyond the arc. 

Afterwards, McDermott thanked the Omaha faithful via Twitter.

With the loss, the Bulls' preseason ends with a record of 3-4. They open regular season play on Oct. 27 against the Boston Celtics.