Chicago Bulls

Harden trade draws reaction from Bulls, entire NBA

927259.png

Harden trade draws reaction from Bulls, entire NBA

Tuesday is opening night of the NBA's regular season, but there's already been a trade that's shocked the basketball landscape. Late Saturday evening, the Oklahoma City Thunder dealt reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden to the Houston Rockets, along with reserves Cole Aldrich, Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward for a package that included veteran scorer Kevin Martin, rookie Jeremy Lamb, two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick.

Immediately, the trade was buzzing throughout the league, with everyone from fans and the media to league executives -- one told CSNChicago.com via text message, "OKC made out" -- chiming in. It was no secret that Harden sought a max-level contract from the Thunder and while it was reported that he turned down offers from the franchise leading up to the trade, almost nobody expected him to be swapped, at least not before the February trade deadline.

Harden and the All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, gold medalists in London all, were viewed as a triumvirate for the future, a close-knit group that would somehow remain together, despite Oklahoma City committing an eight-figure contract extension to fellow youngster Serge Ibaka, the league's top shot-blocker last season, over the summer. If anything, maybe Harden would depart next summer as a restricted free agent, but most observers, if not all, believed general manager Sam Presti would keep the squad's core intact for another attempted run at the NBA Finals and, potentially, a title.

Instead, the bold decision-maker -- who can forget his surprise move of dealing forward Jeff Green, another close friend of the young bunch, as well as a childhood buddy of Durant's, to the Celtics for center Kendrick Perkins, who himself was rumored to be an amnesty candidate next summer in order to afford Harden -- made a prudent and savvy choice. While Harden's peers were shocked by the trade, they understand better than perhaps anybody the nature of the business.

"I was happy for him. It's rough. It's the business part of the NBA. I know he didn't really want to leave that team, but he's got a new home in Houston. That's the business side of basketball," Taj Gibson, who's in the same boat as Harden as a fourth-year player seeking an extension prior to Wednesday's deadline, said.

Gibson, whose representative, Chicago-based agent Mark Bartelstein, is reportedly 8 million apart from the Bulls' front office over the course of a four-year deal according to the Chicago Tribune, has known Harden, a college rival since the pair's AAU days in California. Like Harden, who wasn't eager to talk about his ongoing negotiations when in town for the Bulls' preseason game against the Thunder last week, Gibson prefers to focus on basketball and not contract talks.

"I hope so. I'm just getting tired of getting asked questions about it, people worrying about it. I just want to get back to playing basketball and focus on the season, and helping this team win games," he said. "I'm just focused on the Sacramento Kings, looking forward to getting things rolling the right way and just focused on a good season."

Bulls backup center Nazr Mohammed, a former Thunder player, was a bit more conflicted about the deal, given his ties to Oklahoma City, but in the end, was supportive of Harden.

"James is a friend of mine, so it's sad not to see him in Oklahoma City, but this is a business. People want to think about loyalty, and franchises having loyalty to players and players having loyalty to franchises. It doesn't exist. It's a business," he explained. "The business has to do what best for them and the player has to do what's best for them. You hope that both of them are on the same page and you come together for what's best for both, but it is what it is.

"I'm sad to see him not with those guys because I love those guys. I wanted to see those guys together for a long time, but I'm with James, too, as far as him trying to do what's best for him and his family, and I never question what a guy is trying to do for him and his family," he continued. "The last thing is we all hear about might have been offered and what might have been turned down; we don't know. No one really knows but James and Sam, the people in that room because we're not there. We can speculate all we want, but we don't know -- until Sam says, 'We offered him this,' and James says, 'I wanted this' -- it's all speculation.

"Playing for the Thunder was a lot of fun. When you get a group of 22 and 23-year-olds who understand the league and play hard, and sacrifice on the court, like brothers off the court, hang out with each other, it's a great experience and I know James is going to miss it. I know they're going to miss James, but it's part of the business. It's not the last time we're going to see it."

Mohammed also dismissed the notion of all NBA players seeking to play in major markets.

"You guys give us a little bit too much credit. The superstars, they're probably thinking more so about markets and 'Where can I kind of get my name out there?' But most of us other guys, we just want to go out there, make as much as we can for our family and get a chance to play. Sometimes, most of us guys think about playing more than the money sometimes, so no one's thinking about big markets and small markets. I've had success in both. San Antonio is unbelievable; it's a small market. I played in New York. It's a big market, and I enjoyed it and played well there, so we just want to go with the right situation and make as much as we can, and be happy."

Regardless, Harden is now in Houston -- not New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but clearly a much bigger metropolitan area than Oklahoma City -- and instead of playing for a contender, he now joins an equally-young rebuilding effort that also includes former Bulls center Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, last season's phenom.

Harden last carried a team's offensive burden as a college star at Arizona State, but by some accounts, he was uncomfortable with the idea of doing that in the NBA -- some believe his success has more to do with facing off with overmatched second units and then benefiting from the defensive attention Durant and Westbrook receive -- and now, likely soon to be armed with a max contract from the Rockets, who have been pursuing a superstar since Yao Ming's retirement, he'll be every opponent's primary focus in a fan-favorite backcourt.

For Oklahoma City, as beloved as Harden was within the organization, the notion that they might be better off in the future exists, immediate chemistry aside. Martin is a proven scorer, who was clearly frustrated with Houston's rebuilding efforts, and if he can buy into Harden's old sixth-man role -- former Bull Thabo Sefolosha will likely remain the Thunder's starting shooting guard -- it could pay major dividends for both the organization and player.

Of course, Martin is on an expiring deal, so that doesn't hurt Oklahoma City financially; if things work out this season, don't be surprised to see Oklahoma City attempt to retain him, albeit for less than he's currently making. Lamb, on the other hand, jibes with the organization's ongoing youth movement and while he isn't Harden -- actually, Lamb is far more athletic and maybe a better pure shooter -- the former University of Connecticut star has tremendous upside, not to mention a rookie contract.

Lamb and the three draft picks -- Houston's, which will probably be a lottery pick; Toronto's via the Rockets, which is top-three protected and should have Thunder fans rooting for the Raptors to miss the playoffs, but not be completely awful; Charlotte's second-round selection, the equivalent of a late first-round pick, as the Bobcats will again likely be among the NBA's worst teams -- are major assets for the future for an already young team that happens to be a title contender, both before the trade and after it. Lamb supposedly suffers from the same issue as fellow Thunder rookie Perry Jones III--extremely talented players who are thought to lack great motors -- but that's an issue that should be cured by playing alongside workaholics like Durant and Westbrook.

In fact, Jones' training-camp progress, according to a source, is a small reason the Thunder was willing to trade Harden and with Presti's track record, that shouldn't be discounted. In the new NBA, in the aftermath of the collective-bargaining agreement that ended the lockout, teams have to be creative in order to build long-term winners, whether in major markets or smaller ones, and so far, Oklahoma City, an organization that takes calculated, if unpopular risks, appears to be the model franchise.

NBA 2K18 releases the all-time Bulls roster...sort of

bullsship.png
AP

NBA 2K18 releases the all-time Bulls roster...sort of

NBA 2K18 released its all-time Bulls roster on Tuesday. Well, most of it. We think.

Check out the players below and we'll break down each one (including the mystery legs in the background)

From left to right:

Joakim Noah: A fairly easy choice considering his entire career. Noah played nine seasons in Chicago, averaging 9.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 blocks in 572 games. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 and was named First Team All-NBA. He also finished fifth in MVP voting and became the face of the franchise post-Derrick Rose injuries.

Jerry Sloan: Another easy choice. Sloan spent 10 seasons as a player for the Bulls, averaging 14.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 696 career games. He was an All-Star twice and made six All-Defensive NBA teams. He was an assistant in 1978 before becoming head coach in 1979. He spent four seasons with the Bulls before beginning his illustrious Hall of Fame career with the Jazz.

Derrick Rose: You knew he was going to be on the list. The youngest MVP in NBA history was simply breathtaking in his seven seasons with the Bulls. He was a three-time All-Star, averaged 19.7 points and led the Bulls back from one of the ugliest stretches in franchise history. The knee injuries slowed him down entirely, and he'll never be what he once was, but his spot in Bulls history is cemented.

Artis Gilmore: The best left-handed player in Bulls history is also the best center in Bulls history, averaging 19.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks over seven seasons. He led the NBA in field goal percentage twice, was a four-time All-Star and led the Bulls to a pair of playoff appearances.

Luol Deng: We see you back there, Lu. One of the most recognizable (and probably tired) Bulls was an absolute fixture of the organization for 10 seasons. He averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 637 games. He was twice named an All-Star (while leading the league in minutes both years) and made the All-Defensive Second Team in 2012. An all-time Bulls team wouldn't feel right without him.

Michael Jordan: Um, yeah.

Dennis Rodman: The Worm was another easy choice for this list. His three-year stay in Chicago resulted in three championships for the Bulls, where Rodman averaged 15.3 rebounds (leading the league all three seasons) and set the tone every night for Phil Jackson's squad.

Scottie Pippen: Another no-brainer. Let's keep moving.

Horace Grant: The power forward for Scottie and MJ averaged a cool 12.6 points and 8.6 rebounds in seven seasons, winning three titles in the early 90s while donning his famous goggles. He made the All-Star team in his final season before taking a big payday from the Magic in 1994.

Toni Kukoc (we think): This could be one of two players: Kukoc or Pau Gasol. But seeing as he's just a smidge taller than Jimmy Butler (to the right) we'll guess it's the 6-foot-7 Kukoc and not the 7-footer Gasol. All Kukoc did in seven Bulls seasons was average 14.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists out of primarily sixth man role. He was named the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year in 1996, and he was instrumental in the Bulls' second three-peat. He's littered across the Bulls all-time record books, including 3-pointers (9th), assists (10th) and steals (10th).

Jimmy Butler: The youngest player on the all-time Bulls team is the third of three current players no longer with the Bulls. Butler became a star during his six seasons in Chicago, improving his scoring in each season, being named to three All-Star games and earning All-NBA Third Team honors this past season. He didn't leave on the best of terms, but a player of his caliber deserves a spot on this squad.

Mystery guys in the back: To the right of Rodman in the back, we're going to guess that's Steve Kerr. The second digit looks like a "5." It's also a good bet that on the left side Bob Love is behind Artis Gilmore. Chet Walker may be back there, too. We're still holding out hope that Captain Kirk Hinrich took the team photo and is part of the team.

CSN Preps Preseason Power Rankings: No. 3 Loyola

CSN Preps Preseason Power Rankings: No. 3 Loyola

CSNChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Jul. 31, we’ll unveil the @CSNPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 25.

School: Loyola Academy

Head Coach: John Holocek

Assistant Coaches: Beau Desherow, Tim Feldheim, Pete Devine, Mike Dooley, Tyler Vradenburg, Mike Kotowski, Pat Naughton, Ryan Gallagher

How they fared in 2016: 13-1 (4-0 Chicago Catholic League Blue Conference), made the Class 8A state playoff field, defeated O'Fallon, Oswego East, Huntley and Glenbard West before losing to Maine South in the Class 8A state title game.

2017 Regular Season Schedule:

August 26th vs Phillips at Gately Stadium

September 1st vs Bishop Amat at New Trier

September 9th vs Mount Carmel

September 15th @ St. Francis

September 23rd vs Fenwick

September 29th @ St. Rita

October 7th vs Leo

October 13th @ Providence Catholic

October 21st vs Brother Rice

Biggest storyline: Can the Ramblers replace 16 graduated starters and not skip a beat in 2017?

Names to watch this season:  Senior OL Charlie Gross (Fordham) Senior DL Marty Geary Senior RB Hamid Bullie

Biggest holes to fill: The Ramblers will need to replace 9 starters on offense.

EDGY's Early Take: If any program in the State of Illinois has proven that they can reload year in and year out, it's the Ramblers under head coach John Holocek. Loyola will no question have challenges starting Week 1 against Phillips, yet the program remains strong at all levels. Keep an eye on several new faces including QB Quinn Boyle along with WR Noah Jones and TE Charlie Gilroy.