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.

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

After loss to Mavs, Wade says Bulls 'keep putting (their) hand on the hot stove every day'

Dwyane Wade sounded every bit like a frustrated 35-year old father when talking about the repeated ills and so-called growing pains of his Bulls, as they surrendered yet another game against a sub-.500 team.

Sometimes it's the New York Knicks whom the Bulls are offering temporary refuge. Or maybe the Minnesota Timberwolves as they are all-too-generous to roll out the welcome mat for returning figures to Chicago.

Tuesday it was the Dallas Mavericks, the second-worst team in the Western Conference, who stormed into the United Center and escaped with a 99-98 win, courtesy of Wesley Matthews' triple with 11.7 seconds left followed by him locking down Jimmy Butler on the ensuing possession.

Wade was forced to take a contested 21-footer that went awry, but the Bulls' ills went far beyond the last two possessions, when the Mavericks exploited their strategy yet again.

"Either you learn the lesson or figure out," Wade said. "Keep putting your hand on the hot stove every day.

"We just gotta figure out not to put our hands on that stove. And understand when we come in the kitchen, that stove is hot, don't touch it. As I continue to say, this is a very young team and they have to play in these games and have to go through these moments. The one thing you want, whether it's this year or next year, is to not make the same mistakes."

The Bulls are apparently insistent on touching the stove and keep burning themselves, the most recent time with the confusion or the bad strategy in defending the Mavericks' final offensive possession.

Deron Williams found himself with Nikola Mirotic defending him off a switch from Jimmy Butler. Not the quickest afoot, Mirotic gave Williams an easy path to the basket and Wade was the backside help, not wanting to leave Matthews on the wing for a triple.

But with the bench commanding Wade to help, Williams easily found Matthews for an open 3 as Wade had no help for his man. With the Bulls up two, one could see how Wade didn't want to leave Matthews.

"I'll have to go back and watch, but it looks like Deron got downcourt, Wade went over to help and we didn’t rotate accordingly," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We obviously need to do a better job of staying in front of the other end."

Mirotic was supposed to be brought back slowly in his return from strep throat, but he played the entire fourth quarter and 22 minutes overall, having lost eight pounds with his illness that had him miss four games.

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Their issues were game-long and have been seasonlong as the Mavericks were supposed to absorb a shellacking from a Bulls team that felt a 25-point beatdown in Texas last month.

Instead, they would've been happy with settling for an escape when Butler rose up over his college teammate Matthews for a 20-foot wing jumper with 22.8 seconds left.

Butler nearly added a triple-double and clutch moment to his growing resume with 24 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds but was dogged by Matthews all night, the defender who wouldn't give him airspace, went chest-to-chest and even earned a technical foul when he felt Butler exaggerated some contact in the third quarter.

"He took away my space, wouldn't let me get to my spot," Butler said of Matthews. "Good for him. I should've did something different."

Wade missed 13 of his 21 shots, scoring 17 with five rebounds on his 35th birthday

With scoring at a premium, Robin Lopez had a season-high 21 points being guarded by Dirk Nowitzki — and they were necessary considering the Bulls were without Taj Gibson (ankle injury) and Doug McDermott couldn't repeat his 30-point showing from Sunday in Memphis.

Rick Carlisle has long been regarded as one of the top strategic coaches, and though he doesn't have the usual personnel from the Mavericks' salad days, he had enough tricks up his sleeve to throw the Bulls off.

Six Mavericks scored in double figures, led by Harrison Barnes' 20 points and Seth Curry's 18, as Barnes, Matthews and Curry combined for eight triples — spreading the Bulls out and picking them apart defensively.

The Mavericks started Nowitzki at center, going to an almost all-small lineup. And though Lopez scored 14 points in the first half, trying to feed him seemed to take the Bulls out of it in the second half.

The energy was tardy to the party, as they shot just 41 percent in the first half but woke up a little in the third quarter — continuing their all-too familiar trend of half-hearted efforts against lesser teams.

And it looks like the ever-optimistic Wade is dishing out some realism, probably something that comes with the perspective of turning 35.

"You can't keep getting stressed out or frustrated. We've been going through this all year. We'll get back in in the morning.

"Once you realize who you are, you're better off. I sleep better at night. Once we want to be a better team and start winning games, we will. I'm not mad, I'm not frustrated, I'm not stressed. Just taking the hits."

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Bulls' Rajon Rondo oddly runs behind back of former coach Rick Carlisle

Is Rajon Rondo avoiding his former coach?

During Tuesday night's Bulls-Mavericks game, Rondo awkwardly ran behind Mavs coach Rick Carlisle as the third quarter was winding down.

Take a look at the play in the video above.

Rondo, who played with the Mavericks in the 2014-15 season, had a weird relationship with Carlisle. Most notably, he and Carlisle had a heated exchange during a game on Feb. 24, 2015 against the Toronto Raptors. It eventually led to Carlisle saying that Rondo was a bad fit for the Mavericks and that the team should have never traded for him.

On Tuesday, Rondo apparently shook Carlisle's hand before he checked in the game for the first time in the first quarter. 

All is well, it seems, but that was still weird.