NBA free agency moves impact Bulls

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NBA free agency moves impact Bulls

The league's oldest player, Kurt Thomas, won't return for a second season in the Windy City, as the 39-year-old reportedly signed a two-year contract with the size-deficient Trail Blazers.

Although the Bulls' top priority remains acquiring a shooting guard, another concern now becomes finding a veteran big man to provide insurance behind starters Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, and reserves Taj Gibson and Omer Asik.

The quartet is among the NBA's top frontcourts, but with the injury histories of all four players, more depth is needed; no disrespect to training-camp invite Brian Scalabrine, who will likely make the team, but again play sparingly this season.

Meanwhile, another of the organization's perimeter targets, former Bulls draft pick Jamal Crawford, is reportedly in advanced discussions with the Knicks, another of his former employers, to return to the Big Apple if a sign-and-trade agreement with the Hawks is reached.

Around the league, other moves that could impact the Bulls are being made. Central Division rival Indiana signed free-agent power forward David West to a two-year contract, giving the youthful Pacers some veteran leadership and a low-post scoring presence, albeit one coming off a devastating knee injury.

Of course, one of the biggest stories continues to be the on-again, off-again three-team blockbuster deal involving Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul. According to multiple reports, the Lakers pulled out of the slightly-revamped deal--first struck down by the NBA--to acquire Paul, then shipped forward Lamar Odom to the defending-champion Mavericks, a suitor for Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard, for a trade exception and draft considerations, a move that affected both Houston and New Orleans, who continue to find a league-approved swap for their superstar.

Derrick Rose, himself on the verge of signing a long-term contract extension with his hometown Bulls and with no plans to leave his native Chicago, recently opined on the situation.

"I thought that players were able to go wherever they wanted to go, but I guess it's different or they the NBA stopped it," said the league MVP, who was outspoken in his offseason comments about the prolonged lockout and how it affected players. "But I'm not in that organization New Orleans, I don't know that player Paul like that, so I don't have a say-so of what goes on over there."

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Robin Lopez on when he knew he'd be suspended: 'When I threw a punch'

Most NBA players have to let their adrenaline come down before the reality of what's coming next begins to hit them, but Robin Lopez had his moment of clarity at the oddest time during his altercation with Toronto's Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night.

When asked when he knew he would be serving at least a one-game suspension for his missed punch in the fourth quarter of their loss to the Raptors, Lopez said, "When I threw a punch."

The process from the NBA to Lopez was pretty straightforward, and Lopez called the one-game suspension "fair."

Ditching the caveman look for a clean shaven appearance at Friday morning's shootaround, Lopez seemed at ease with what happened and wasn't going to contest the one-game decision, especially since the NBA could've gone with two or three games as no precedent has been set for fighting this season.

"I mean, that's what the league gave. I'm going to stick with it," Lopez said, adding, "I didn't change my story."

The multiple camera angles would've made it impossible to believe a different recollection of the events had Lopez attempted to finagle himself out of the one-game suspension that stopped his 71-game starting streak with the Bulls this season.

[BULLS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

His matter-of-fact statement after an emotionally charged incident didn't hurt the Bulls. They beat the Pistons by 20 as Lopez was serving a banishment that ended his streak of 187 consecutive games played. But he was happy Joffrey Lauvergne got a chance to prove his worth.

Lauvergne had 17 points and seven rebounds Wednesday night, and he'll be behind Lopez against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night as Cristiano Felicio is recovering from a hard fall late in the Raptors game.

"He's very versatile. He's a playmaker, he can score from a lot of different spots on the floor. He's a really smart basketball player," Lopez said of Lauvergne. "I always want to be out there with the guys. But they took care of business and did their thing. So I was pleased to see them pick up the win."

Picking up two in a row shouldn't be a monumental task against the 76ers, though they are 3-3 in their last six games and the Bulls haven't won two in a row in nearly a month as their grip on a playoff spot has loosened.

For the moment, the Bulls sit ninth in the East, a full game behind the surging Miami Heat, with a 34-38 record. Teams with nothing to lose can be playoff spoilers, and the Bulls have lost more than their share of games to lesser teams this season.

"Those teams do play loose," Lopez said. "They kind of just go out there to play basketball, and that can be a bit dangerous. But we've got something to play for, so we've got to be more motivated. The Sixers especially, they play really well, they have a lot of energy. So we've got to go out there, we've got to play motivated."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls make the postseason?

Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000), Brian Hedger (nhl.com) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel.  The Bulls beat the Pistons in a game with huge playoff implication.  So could they actually make the postseason?

The Blackhawks are closing in one division title but what’s their biggest weakness?

Plus Theo Epstein’s a really great leader, Kyle Hendricks is going to have to wait a while to pitch plus DeShone Kizer loves the band “Chicago” but will he play here?