The Bulls were quiet at yesterday’s trade deadline, having already made their big splash last month in dealing Luol Deng to Cleveland. But other teams in the Eastern Conference – specifically the Central Division – made additions.
[RELATED: Bulls stand pat at NBA trade deadline]
The biggest splash of the afternoon came when the Indiana Pacers dealt Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. The Cavaliers, who were dangling Deng, wound up trading for center Spencer Hawes while sending Earl Clark, Henry Sims and two 2014 second-round draft picks to the 76ers.
The moves help strengthen Indiana’s bench – Turner won’t average the 17.4 points and 6.0 assists he had in Philadelphia, but will provide lockdown defense on the second unit – and give Cleveland more depth in the frontcourt while giving itself a security blanket for the oft-injured Anderson Varejao – Hawes averaged a career-best 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in Philadelphia.
“Indiana’s been very aggressive, they’ve positioned themselves well, they’ve got quality depth,” Tom Thibodeau said at Friday afternoon’s shootaround at the United Center. “Hawes and Turner played very well in Philadelphia, not just this year. They lifted that team up where that was a very good team, so I think Hawes will help Cleveland. I like Lavoy Allen a lot. That was a very good pickup as well. You never know how things unfold.”
Thibodeau wouldn’t go as far to say Indiana’s move makes them the favorite in the East. With the Miami Heat’s win last night over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the defending champions are now just 1.5 games back of the Pacers for the East’s top seed.
“I don’t know. You guys get into all that stuff,” Thibodeau said of ranking the East’s best teams. “All I know is Miami is the defending champion. Everyone’s chasing them until that changes. Indiana’s had a great season and they’re certainly right there, but you have to play the games.”
Rumors popped up throughout the last few weeks that Kirk Hinrich and Mike Dunleavy were on the trade block, but ultimately Gar Forman and John Paxson opted not to make a move before the deadline.
Thibodeau and center Joakim Noah both agreed standing pat wasn’t a problem, despite the moves other teams in the East made.
“Some teams added, but I’m good with the guys we have,” Thibodeau said. “We’re continuing to get better and that’s all we want to focus in on. Whoever’s here, know what your job is, get in there and get the job done. We’re going to need everybody. You have to play as a team, but I think we’ve had a lot of guys who have gotten better as the season’s gone along.”
Noah admitted Indiana and Cleveland got better with their respective deals, saying Turner and Hawes were “both good players,” but said the Bulls are focused on moving past the rumors and deals and playing their brand of basketball as they prepare for the Nuggets tonight.
“I think we’re playing good basketball right now. We’re focused,” Noah said. “Just focused on the task at hand. Tonight it's Denver, they had a good win yesterday (in Milwaukee) and we’re just trying to stay focused, and I think we’re doing that.”
The Nuggets snapped a five-game losing streak last night with a win in Milwaukee, and are dealing with injuries to starting point guard Ty Lawson (ribs) while also playing the entire season without projected starting small forward Danilo Gallinari (ACL) and center JaVale McGee (leg).
Despite the injuries, they’re still 11th in scoring (103.1 points per game) and fastbreak points per game (11.4), making them an opponent the Bulls won’t be taking lightly.
“It’s a team that you’re concerned with because of the dribble penetration, second shot, the transition, so you have to be tied together," Thibodeau said. "One mistake can cost you a bucket.”
Added Noah: “They’re a very good pocket-pass team, and they can score in bunches. I think if we play our basketball and come with the same edge, I think we’ll be alright.”