Chicago Bulls: Free agency

If Love goes to Bulls, what's Gasol's role?

July, 24, 2014
Jul 24
2:49
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Lost amid all the speculation revolving around Kevin Love's possible relocation to Chicago is the fact Love's arrival would have a direct impact on the Bulls' biggest offseason acquisition to date: Pau Gasol.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
David Banks/USA TODAY SportsNewly-acquired Pau Gasol would have to head to the bench if the Bulls get Kevin Love.
With Love in the fold alongside Joakim Noah, Gasol likely would be the odd man out of the starting lineup. Neither Love nor Gasol has ever been known as a great defender, so there's little chance that Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau would decide to play all three together to start games.

Gasol is signed for three years and made it clear during his introductory news conference that he believes the Bulls can compete for a title and he still has plenty left in the tank.

By all accounts, Gasol is a solid teammate and the type of player who will fit in well with any locker room. But how would he handle coming off the bench on the back end of a storied career? If he knew the Bulls were going to add Love, would that have changed his thought process in free agency?

When former Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni decided to use Gasol in a reserve role at times during the 2012-13 season, the former All-Star expressed his displeasure.

"I'm not excited about it," Gasol told reporters after a loss to the Bulls in January of 2013. "It's not something that I've ever [done], coming off the bench. But right now I'm more worried about us as a team and us struggling, so it would be selfish of me talking about how I feel of something in particular."

The end of that quote may prove to be the most important for Gasol and the Bulls moving forward. He's also proven to be a team player in the past and would be best served leading the second unit in this scenario. Love is just 25 years old and is one of the best players in the game. Gasol could still be an important member of a championship-caliber team, he just wouldn't hear his name called at the beginning of games.

After losing out on Carmelo Anthony in free agency, the Bulls made the right move to go after Gasol as a contingency plan. Now that Love remains stuck in limbo in Minnesota, the Bulls are making the right play by continuing to go after him. If the Timberwolves accepted a deal for Love of Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic, as Sheridanhoops.com reported earlier this week, Gasol would fortify a group off the bench that would still be strong. Gasol, Tony Snell or Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Brooks would be at Thibodeau's disposal in what would remain a deep roster.

Gasol surely wouldn't be happy coming off the bench, but if Love were to come to Chicago then Gasol should take solace in the fact he would be on a better team than even he could have imagined when he signed his Bulls contract last week.

Bulls rounding out the new Bench Mob

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
2:04
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is going to walk into training camp in September with a roster full of something it lacked the past two seasons: depth.

[+] EnlargeAaron Brooks, Stephen Curry
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY SportsAaron Brooks, who is closing in on a deal with the Bulls, would give them a scorer off the bench.
As the Bulls continue to announce new deals, Thibodeau's group takes a shape that the veteran coach has to like. On Monday they signed second-round pick Cameron Bairstow and re-signed veteran Kirk Hinrich; later this week they likely will sign first-round pick Doug McDermott and free-agent guard Aaron Brooks.

Like the rest of the organization, Thibodeau was disappointed that the Bulls were unable to land Carmelo Anthony in free agency, but the next best option was to land several players who should make the Bulls a stronger team from top to bottom. Bulls general manager Gar Forman and executive vice president John Paxson believe they have done that over the past few weeks when they signed four-time All-Star Pau Gasol and European star Nikola Mirotic and drafted college player of the year McDermott.

On paper, the Bulls' 2011-12 roster was deeper heading into the season. That one featured Derrick Rose coming off winning the MVP trophy the season before, Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng in the starting lineup with Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik, Jimmy Butler, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson, among others, coming off the bench.

While the 2014-15 roster can't match the talent right now, it may come close over time. Thibodeau has the chance to go 11 deep to start training camp, which makes the Bulls one of the deepest teams in the league. Rose will be back in the starting lineup alongside Noah, while Gasol likely fills out the rest of the group with Dunleavy and Butler.

The bench consists of Hinrich, Tony Snell, McDermott, Mirotic and Gibson. With the addition of veteran combo guard Brooks, a move that is likely to be finalized in the next couple days, the Bulls have the type of depth that every coach in the league would love. Brooks gives the Bulls an insurance policy should Rose or Hinrich go down with an injury and could be even more valuable if Thibodeau decides to play either of those two off the ball more this season.

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While this group may not have the pure talent of the 2011-12 group, it does have more outside shooting. Dunleavy, McDermott, Snell and Mirotic can all knock down long-range shots, which should give Rose, Hinrich and Brooks more room to operate. The Bulls still don't have a create-your-own-shot scorer other than Rose, a fact that may prove to be a fatal flaw in the playoffs, but they have a talented group of passers that should create open looks for one another.

The only other real question for this group on paper is at the center position. Forman and Paxson will continue to look for another backup big man to play behind Noah, who will turn 30 years old this season and needs to save as much energy as he can for the grind of the playoffs. Veteran Nazr Mohammed has said he would love to be back in Chicago for his third year. Rookie Bairstow may prove to be an answer for a few minutes each night over time, but the Bulls would be best served to bring in one more big man to back up Noah, Gasol and Gibson.

In the meantime, Forman and Paxson can take solace in knowing that they have created a luxury for Thibodeau in regard to a deeper roster. It will be up to Thibodeau to take advantage of that depth over an 82-game regular season.

The Bulls have Bench Mob 2.0 in place. It will be interesting to see if it can be as successful as its predecessor.

Pippen talks LeBron, failed Melo pitch

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
11:46
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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Scottie Pippen, Carmelo Anthony Michael Loccisano/WireImage"'Look at the roster' -- that was pretty much it," Scottie Pippen said of the Bulls' pitch to Carmelo Anthony.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen doesn’t know what it’s like to lose in the NBA Finals, but he figures LeBron James learned a lesson in doing just that for a second time in four tries with the Miami Heat.

After judging the slam-dunk championship at the Nike Chi League all-star festivities Saturday, Pippen was asked if he was surprised James left for the Cleveland Cavaliers following Miami’s one-sided loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals.

“I kind of figured he’d go back [to Cleveland],” Pippen said at Whitney Young High School. “I don’t know if he could hold that team up. I think [Dwyane] Wade's physical ability had him thinking, like, ‘Hey, maybe this is not the place I need to be.’ It was a great run for them. They weren’t as successful as they thought they would be, but you went to the Finals four times, so you can’t hold your head down too much about that.”

Six rings in six tries gives Pippen room for such backhanded praise.

While the Bulls reportedly had a meeting with James’ agent during this summer’s free-agency period, they failed at landing their true big target: Carmelo Anthony.

Pippen, now a special advisor to Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf, was a major part of the pitch to Anthony.

After Pippen’s family pictures with Anthony from a Nike European summer tour elicited great hope in the Windy City, the Hall of Famer was part of the Bulls’ daylong Chicago presentation to Anthony on July 1.

But after all the wooing, Anthony stayed in New York and signed a $124 million deal to remain a Knick. The Bulls were reportedly his second choice. It's a familiar story for the Bulls, who haven't been able to land a major free agent in the post-Jordan-and-Pippen era.

“I’m not disappointed,” Pippen said. “Guys are going to make their decision at the end of the day, so you try to make a pitch, and hopefully it works. It hasn’t worked so far, but still, we did what we had to do as an organization to try and attract one of the best free agents out there.”

What was the pitch, given that Chicago couldn’t offer a max deal?

“'Look at the roster' -- that was pretty much it,” Pippen said. “We have a roster we think has a championship pedigree. We’ve been playing good basketball the last few years, even without our star player. Just adding some pieces was the pitch we were throwing at him. We felt that he was a big piece that we needed to get over the hump.”

As far as big pieces, Pippen said he likes the addition of 7-footer Pau Gasol, who had his introductory press conference Friday.

“We have size, and we got two big guys that can really pass the ball,” he said. “Pau gives us inside scoring that’s much needed. ... It’ll be great for our basketball team because we haven’t had a dominating low-post scorer in the block for a while.”

With James in Cleveland, Pippen said he thinks the Bulls have as good a chance as any team if Derrick Rose gets back to form.

“I think it’s wide open now, other than looking at San Antonio as the defending champion,” Pippen said. “I think a lot of teams have the opportunity to step up.”

No sulking for Bulls, who move forward

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
9:59
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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LAS VEGAS -- When the final story of the 2014-15 Chicago Bulls is written, this past weekend will serve as one of its seminal points in time.

It started Saturday afternoon a few hours before the Bulls' summer league team played its first game. That's when the organization came to the realization that Carmelo Anthony was staying in New York for sure and taking all the extra millions that came with that decision.

[+] EnlargeTom Thibodeau
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesTom Thibodeau will have an improved roster to work with in 2014-15 after the Bulls' busy weekend in free agency.
The Bulls were upset. They felt confident Anthony understood and appreciated their direction and the opportunity to contend for championships right away. But instead of sulking over the choice, they went into action with their contingency plans. Pau Gasol announced he was headed to Chicago soon after Anthony made his decision. The Bulls came to terms with veteran Kirk Hinrich on Sunday -- and then a few hours later, prized European prospect Nikola Mirotic tweeted out that he was headed to Chicago. In a 36-hour span, the Bulls improved a roster that was already solid.

Is it a roster that can contend for a championship? Only time will tell -- the Bulls still lack the type of create-your-own-shot scoring that Anthony would have provided -- but it is unquestionably deeper on paper than it was at any point in the past season. Obviously, the health of Derrick Rose hovers over everything the Bulls do, but the front office did a nice job of loading up the rest of the rotation with players who should be able to contribute in several ways.

Rose is the key, but Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Hinrich and Gasol are all proven veterans who know how to play. Jimmy Butler is one of the best defenders in the league and, if he develops a consistent shot, will make himself a lot of money. Tony Snell struggled at various points this past season but has played well to start summer league.

Rookie Doug McDermott has also looked solid to start summer league play and is being counted on to help the Bulls stretch the floor with his shooting prowess. Mirotic remains a bit of a question, in the sense that he has never played an NBA game, but the Bulls' front office has always believed he would produce at this level, and his length should help spread the floor for Rose.

That's 10 players Thibodeau should be able to count on to produce in some form this year. What is left for the front office in the coming weeks? They have to decide if they believe second-round pick Cameron Bairstow can make the roster this season. No matter what, they must continue to try to add another backup center to take a little pressure off Noah. Veteran Nazr Mohammed remains interested in playing for a third season in Chicago, but it it's unclear if he'll be back.

The Bulls must continue to evaluate backup point guard options. With their recent moves, they have the ability to wait and see how the market unfolds, but D.J. Augustin isn't an option anymore after agreeing on a two-year deal with the Pistons on Sunday. Bulls GM Gar Forman needs another veteran in the mix for this role and has had good luck filling that need the past few seasons.

No matter how the rest of the roster is filled, the Bulls' have their core in place. These are the players who will decide how far the Bulls go in the playoffs next season. These are the ones Thibodeau must mold into a contender over the next nine months. The Bulls badly wanted Anthony, but they did the best they could, given the circumstances. It's a tired refrain for frustrated Bulls' fans, but the belief within the organization is that this is still a team that has the ability to contend for a championship right away. The pieces are in place -- now it's time to find out if there's enough talent.

Thibodeau hopeful Mirotic is ready for NBA

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
8:00
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Coach Tom Thibodeau is hoping that, after three years, prized European prospect Nikola Mirotic is finally ready to come to the Chicago Bulls.

Mirotic recently worked out a buyout with Real Madrid, and the Bulls sound ready to find a way to make it all work. After finalizing the deal for Pau Gasol, their focus will turn back to Mirotic so that he will be ready to come over for the upcoming season.

"[Executive VP of basketball operations] John [Paxson] and [general manager] Gar [Forman] have been in contact with him for a long time because we have his draft rights," Thibodeau said before the Bulls' first summer league game on Saturday night. "Hopefully, something will be worked out. At some point, he will hopefully come, then we'll see where he is."

Thibs happy for James: Thibodeau didn't mention Carmelo Anthony by name on Saturday after being spurned at the altar in free agency, but the veteran coach did sound happy for Anthony's good friend and Cleveland Cavaliers megastar LeBron James about his return to Cleveland.

"It's good," Thibodeau said of James' decision. "That's what he felt was best. The one thing about LeBron, he's always stayed true to himself. So it's good."

Was he surprised by James' choice?

"I didn't really think about it, to be honest with you," he said. "He's a great player. He's been great for the league. It's a great story. [We will] just get ready for next season."

Thibodeau hides disappointment over Melo

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
9:29
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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LAS VEGAS -- It's the middle of July and Tom Thibodeau is already in midseason form.

The Chicago Bulls coach spent a few minutes with the media before his team's opener in the Las Vegas Summer League, and it was like talking to him before a regular-season game in Milwaukee in March.

The basketball lifer was obviously disappointed by the fact that Carmelo Anthony decided to stay with the New York Knicks -- Thibodeau and the Bulls invested a lot of time and effort into their recruiting pitch to Anthony -- but he didn't show his frustration. He didn't even mention Anthony by name.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Rose
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesThibodeau's loyalty to his players is displayed in his restraint when speaking publicly about them, and his confidence in them shows in his resiliency in response to missing out on Carmelo Anthony.
Did he think the Bulls' pitch to Anthony went well?

"At this time of the year, [executive VP of basketball operations] John [Paxson] and [general manager] Gar [Forman] have talked to a number of players," Thibodeau said. "You make your presentation, we think we have a lot to offer. We feel we have some good options, and we're looking forward to the challenge of next year."

That's as deep as Thibodeau will go. Anybody who has followed the Bulls over the past four seasons knows to read the tea leaves with the veteran coach, though. His refrain will always remain the same: Whether Anthony landed in Chicago or not, Thibodeau was always going to be of the belief that the Bulls have more than enough to win. It's a mantra that has defined his coaching career and his tenure with the Bulls.

But there's no doubt Thibodeau will motivate his players next season by reminding them that, in the end, Anthony spurned Chicago. Anthony turned his back on Thibodeau and what was widely believed to be the best situation to win a title right away. Even if Thibodeau understands how much Anthony fought with the decision and how much money he would have left on the table, Thibodeau will use Anthony's choice as yet another motivational ploy in firing up his team. He thrives on the "us against the world" mentality and will remember that in the future when the Bulls face the Knicks.

(Read full post)

New home, same LeBron obstacle for Bulls

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
1:16
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah had better get used to seeing Cleveland a lot more in the spring again.

The Bulls always knew they were going to have to get past LeBron James in order to win a championship. Now they'll just have to do it by going through Cleveland the next few years.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James and Joakim Noah
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsJoakim Noah will have to deal with LeBron James a lot more now that he is returning to the Cavaliers.
With James' decision to return to the Cavaliers, the Bulls must hope against hope that Carmelo Anthony will turn down almost $60 million in guaranteed money from the New York Knicks, or find some way to work out a sign-and-trade. The Bulls got encouraging news in the aftermath of James' announcement, when sources told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that Anthony had eliminated the Lakers and is deciding between the Bulls and Knicks.

If the Bulls don't land Anthony, they are looking at the very real possibility of heading into next season as the third-best team in their own division. James' choice makes the Cavaliers the new favorite in the Central. The Indiana Pacers, despite all their dysfunction at the end of the season, still have Paul George and a core that has been to the Eastern Conference finals the past couple of seasons.

If Lance Stephenson decides to sign elsewhere, that will change the dynamic within the division, but it won't change the fact that James' presence in Cleveland remains the biggest roadblock facing the Bulls.

James' decision has other ramifications on the Bulls -- namely, the backup plan of trying to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Love is "intrigued" by the possibility of playing with James, and would be open to signing a long-term deal with the Cavs.

If the Bulls don't land Anthony, the next best option is to continue calling Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders to see if they could work a deal to bring Love to Chicago.

The Bulls' offer figured to include Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and/or Nikola Mirotic along with a future draft pick or two. If the Cavaliers offer Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick in last month's draft, along with a few other assets, will that be too good of a deal for the Timberwolves to pass up? Gibson and Butler are great defenders and solid players, but they don't have the potential star power of Wiggins.

No matter what happens in the coming days in free agency, the Bulls know that James remains in their path more than ever. Like it did in Miami during his first season there, it's going to take him some time to learn the intricacies of playing with new teammates like Kyrie Irving and company, but James is the type of player who makes everyone around him better.

The Bulls have the same kind of talent in Derrick Rose -- a player who opens up space for everyone else on the floor -- but Rose has played in only 49 games in the past three seasons because of various injuries. James' move doesn't change much in that regard. Rose must continue to work on his game and hope his body can withstand the grind of a long NBA season. Until he can prove that he is healthy -- and playing at the same level -- it's foolish to believe the Bulls are a serious contender to win a championship. Even if Anthony signs in Chicago, the Bulls still need an elite-level Rose to be a serious title contender.

The key for the Bulls becomes simple now. They must hope that Anthony signs with them, which would give them the superstar scorer they've been missing throughout the Tom Thibodeau era.

Anthony's presence would take a lot of pressure off Rose and the rest of the team, and it would be an antidote for the intense defense James has played against Rose in the past. The Bulls have to hope that Anthony remembers what their pitch was -- that Chicago offers him the best chance to win right away.

The Knicks can offer the most money, but they are still selling hope. Anthony must buy into the notion that the Knicks' new kingpin, Phil Jackson, can turn around the roster in summer 2015, when he'll be working with a lot more cap space.

The Bulls have to hold onto the belief that Anthony knows that the best way to get through Cleveland and to a championship is to join forces with Rose and Noah. The reality for all parties is that they are much better equipped to do that together, not apart.

Parsons a gamble for Bulls as backup plan

July, 8, 2014
Jul 8
1:04
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Chandler ParsonsTroy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsChandler Parsons, a second-round pick in 2011, is in for a big payday this summer.
As the basketball world awaits a decision from the top stars in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls have to continue planning for the future despite the uncertainty of the present.

If Carmelo Anthony does not sign in Chicago, the Bulls are going to have a lot of choices to make in a short amount of time. Like many teams, the Bulls have money to spend but there is a lot of competition to land second- and third-tier free agents. Once the first big dominoes of free agency fall when LeBron James and Anthony make their decisions, everything else will come down quickly.

The Bulls have several contingency plans in order and they must act decisively if they are left at the alter by Anthony.

With that in mind, here are a few of the options Gar Forman and John Paxson will have to consider if Anthony passes on the Bulls:

Chandler Parsons, SF


It always seemed like Houston would end up matching whatever offer materialized for the restricted free agent. But if the Rockets end up landing Chris Bosh, maybe the game changes for a team like the Bulls. At 25, Parsons is sure to have many suitors -- the interesting aspect of his deal, as my colleague Tim MacMahon from ESPNDallas.com noted, is that any team that signs Parsons to an offer sheet may then have to wait three full days to see if the Rockets would match the offer.

If James still hasn't made his decision in a few days and Bosh is waiting to see what happens, would a team like the Mavericks or Bulls be willing to gamble on signing Parsons to the offer sheet, in the event that Anthony picks a team?

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There are a lot of moving pieces in this scenario, but it's hard to envision the Bulls making that choice knowing that they may not end up with any of their targets if they tie up their money in the offer for three days and then Houston ends up matching anyway.

Parsons would fill a huge need for the Bulls in the form of outside shooting, but would the Bulls be willing to create enough cap space to land him? According to ESPN capologist Larry Coon, the Bulls would have about $13 million in available cap space if they use the amnesty provision to eliminate the final year of Carlos Boozer's deal and trade Mike Dunleavy. With Nikola Mirotic's arrival looming on the horizon, the Bulls wouldn't even come close to offering Parsons a competitive offer if Mirotic wants somewhere between $6 million and $8 million.

As Coon noted, the Bulls can't offer Parsons the same kind of "poison pill" contract the Rockets offered former Bull Omer Asik because Parsons has already been in the league for three years and is not bound to the same contract restrictions. Plus, if the Mavericks, or another team swoop in to sign Parsons to a big offer sheet, then the Bulls are out of contention anyway. Parsons is a close friend of Bulls center and fellow Florida product Joakim Noah, but that tight bond probably isn't going to be enough to bring him to Chicago.

Gasol

Pau Gasol, C



Gasol's name has been on the Bulls' radar for a while. The front office flew out to meet with Gasol last week in Los Angeles and he seems to be at the forefront of any non-Anthony contingency plan. As with Parsons, there are a lot of teams contending for his services. The Bulls don't figure to offer Gasol nearly as much as the Lakers will, but they can sell playing on a team that believes it has a legitimate chance to contend next season in the much weaker Eastern Conference. Still, landing Gasol is going to be tough because of the quality of suitors in the hunt for him.

Stephenson

Lance Stephenson, SG



The mercurial 23-year-old Pacers swingman has already turned down a five-year, $44 million deal from Indiana and ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported Monday that the two sides are still "far apart on a deal." I still don't believe the Bulls will make a serious run at Stephenson because of his documented ability to upset a locker room, but if they whiff on other names, he remains a possibility, especially if the Pacers can't come to terms with him.

Deng

Luol Deng, SF



Don't hold your breath for a Deng reunion with the Bulls. Deng already turned down a three-year, $30 million deal last season. He and his camp were not happy with how the Bulls approached the contract process and there are still lingering feelings on both sides. Plus, adding Deng after potentially missing out on Anthony & Co. would not satisfy a fan base that already knows what kind of team the Bulls are with Deng in the fold.

Ariza

Trevor Ariza, SF



The Washington Wizards swingman would fit into the Bulls' system on many levels. He is a solid defender and can knock down open jumpers -- as evidenced by some of his performances in the Wizards' first-round playoff win over the Bulls. Washington would still like to re-sign him, but he could be an answer if the Bulls are willing to splurge a little.

As the Bulls' front office tries to filter through all the scenarios, the big problem they have is the same one every team is dealing with. Many organizations have a lot of money to spend this summer.

As the Bulls learned in the past with Carlos Boozer, and others, teams usually have to overpay in free agency. That's why it's more imperative than ever for the Bulls to target one big free agent and lock him up right away if Anthony isn't ready to come to Chicago. The Bulls aren't going to have time to wait and see what happens in a crowded marketplace.

Bad luck most to blame, not Bulls, for Melo

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
1:00
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Just a few hours after beginning the recruiting pitch to bring Carmelo Anthony to Chicago, Bulls general manager Gar Forman exited the United Center, walking out the same entrance that Anthony had come in. It was just before 6 p.m. CT on Tuesday as Forman strolled to the parking lot alongside Chicago Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough. The basketball lifer was in good spirits as he headed to his car.

[+] EnlargeCarmelo Anthony
Jim McIsaac/Getty ImagesCarmelo Anthony appears likely to take a max contract from either the Knicks or Lakers.
The first part of the meeting had apparently gone off without much of a hitch. Anthony had been whisked into the United Center by a van carrying, among others, coach Tom Thibodeau. He was given a private tour of the Bulls' new practice facility and was sold on the belief among many within the organization that the Bulls gave him the best chance to compete for a championship right away.

Signs of Anthony wearing a No. 7 Bulls jersey alongside the Larry O'Brien Trophy dotted the sides of the building. As Forman got into his car, he had a lot to feel good about. He and assistant GM Randy Brown were among several members of the organization headed over to continue speaking with Anthony at a downtown hotel. Optimism was the prevailing theme of the day as Forman left that day.

Six days later, all that optimism has been replaced by reality.

Anthony is now expected to decide between taking a five-year max contract with the New York Knicks for about $129 million or a four-year max contract with the Los Angeles Lakers for $96 million. The Bulls' offer would have started at only about $17 million next year, given that the organization would like to keep its core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Doug McDermott intact.

According to one source with knowledge of the discussion, it was a strategy that Anthony seemed to be on board with, especially when it came to keeping Gibson. He knew the Knicks had to gut their roster when they made the original deal to acquire him from the Denver Nuggets during the 2010-11 season. He didn't want to have to endure that again if he landed in Chicago.

So does that mean Forman and executive vice president John Paxson should be criticized because it appears Anthony is going to take max money, even when he went on record earlier in the year saying that money wouldn't be the most important factor in his decision?

No, but a large portion of the Bulls' fan base will anyway.

That's because of the cumulative letdown of big-time free agency over the past four years. Forman and Paxson did not land LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the summer of 2010. Some fans still haven't gotten over that and never will. Now that it appears Anthony is headed elsewhere, all those old feelings are resurfacing.

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Forman and Paxson aren't blameless in this situation. It's up to the front office to find a way to make the team better, but it's hard to fault them when a player wants to take more money elsewhere.

The larger issue with Forman and Paxson is what happened in the days since Anthony's meeting. That's when ESPN.com's Chris Broussard reported that, according to sources, Rose wasn't actually part of the formal recruiting pitch to Anthony and was "shocked" to see Anthony there. On the surface, that's hard to believe considering last Tuesday marked the first time since the Game 5 playoff loss to the Washington Wizards on April 29 that the basketball floor at the United Center was down, according to several sources.

But the perception remains that the division between the Bulls' front office and Rose's camp seems only to be growing over time. It started just before the All-Star break last season, when Rose admitted that he was still a long way from returning to the floor, even though many within the organization believed he was just a few weeks away from making his return from an ACL injury he suffered in April 2012. The disconnect grew deeper a couple of weeks later, when Rose's brother, Reggie, voiced his displeasure to ESPNChicago.com regarding the lack of movement from the front office to put better players around his brother.

It's the job of Forman and Paxson to form a united front within the organization. But between the Rose drama and the on-again, off-again drama surrounding Thibodeau's future in Chicago, the Bulls have looked anything but unified at various points in the past two seasons.

Forman and Paxson aren't alone in the blame game. Rose, once the most universally beloved athlete in town, is now one of the most questioned. He has only played 49 games in the past three years and has repeatedly said he didn't want to recruit players. Bulls officials have played coy from the beginning about what Rose's actual involvement was last Tuesday, but they would much rather their star swallow his pride and sell some of the league's brightest stars, like Anthony, on the virtues of playing in Chicago.

Whether Rose went out of his way to speak to Anthony for hours may not have made much of a difference in the end, especially if Anthony was just going to head to the biggest payday all along, but the perception is that Rose and his camp aren't on the same page with the front office. It's a perception that all involved can't shake and one that reflects poorly on the entire group.

Rose still believes he is the best player in basketball. It's that inner confidence that allowed him to become the league's youngest MVP in 2010-11, and it's that belief that elevated the Bulls to new heights in the post-Jordan era. But now that confidence -- and stubbornness -- seems to be hurting the Bulls more than helping them, which is why Rose is facing more criticism than ever from a fan base that misses watching him play at the highest level.

Passing out blame is usually one of the stages of grief fans go through when their team and city is jilted in free agency. They need a scapegoat and an outlet for the feelings of sadness. The reality for the Bulls is that maybe the blame in this situation should be chalked up more to bad luck than anything, or anyone, else.

If Rose hadn't been hurt, it wouldn't have changed the entire course of the organization. Maybe they would have been able to claw past LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2011-12 the way many within the organization still believe. Maybe Anthony would, in fact, sign in Chicago for less knowing that Rose is still one of the top players in the league, not a question mark coming off his second major knee surgery in two years.

Several people deserve at least some blame for the fact that Anthony doesn't appear to be heading to Chicago, but none of them could have overcome the one thing that has hovered over the Bulls since Rose went down with his first knee injury: bad luck.

What's next for Bulls after Melo?

July, 3, 2014
Jul 3
7:05
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Carmelo Anthony remains the apple of the Chicago Bulls' eye. The organization continues to hope that Anthony turns down the financial security of a max offer, or near-max offer, from the New York Knicks as he makes his final decision on where to play in the coming days. While the Bulls remain confident in the recruiting pitch they gave to Anthony, Bulls officials understood that it was always going to be toughest to convince Anthony to leave New York. The feeling from many within the organization after Tuesday's pitch is that this is a two-team race between the Knicks and the Bulls.

The question, as has been the case all along, remains whether Anthony is willing to leave millions of guaranteed dollars on the table in order to chase a championship in Chicago. With the help of ESPN salary capologist Larry Coon, the Bulls' numbers, in regards to an Anthony deal, stack up this way. If the Bulls keep a preferred core of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Doug McDermott intact, they will be able to offer Anthony roughly $17 million next season. What that also means is they'd have to fill up the rest of the roster with a majority of minimum-salary players.

While the Bulls are holding out hope that Anthony decides to join forces with Rose and Noah, the feeling from several sources remains that Anthony will decide to stay with the Knicks. With that in mind, let's take a look at the next few options the Bulls will have if they do indeed miss out on their top target.

1. Make a push for Kevin Love again

The Bulls have kicked the tires on a Love deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for several years. If they don't land Melo, expect them to make some more calls to Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders to see if they can work something out. Since Love wasn't moved before the draft, there's a solid chance that Saunders will try to persuade Love to stay one more time before potentially dealing him before the trade deadline in February.

2. Go for Gasol

The Bulls were scheduled to meet with Pau Gasol on Thursday in Los Angeles as he ponders his own future, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. Having made a little more than $19 million last season, Gasol figures to be in line for a pay cut, but interested teams have to figure out just how much of one he's willing to take. From the Bulls' perspective, Gasol would fill a need as a back-to-the-basket offensive weapon and a solid presence in a tight locker room. According to Coon, if the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer and deal away veteran Mike Dunleavy, they would have roughly $13 million in available cap space.

With a number of high-quality teams pitching for Gasol's services -- and the fact that the Lakers can still offer big money -- the Bulls need to make a strong financial offer and tie it around the fact that they are ready to contend for a title right away. Even then, that might not be enough depending on the other offers Gasol figures to get.

3. Bring Nikola Mirotic over

[+] EnlargeNikola Mirotic
AP Photo/Darko VojinovicMirotic's Bulls future is bright, but he would be no substitute for Anthony if the team decided to sign him for the upcoming season.
There's been a lot of speculation regarding Mirotic's status in recent days, a fact that hasn't gone unnoticed by the Bulls front office as it tries to figure out its next move. For the moment, Mirotic's status with the Bulls this season is uncertain. The organization had always hoped it could land Mirotic for the midlevel exception, but now, in order to bring him over, it'll have to dip into its cap space to make it happen. Is Mirotic worth $7 million to $8 million per year? How much of an impact would he be able to have during his first season in the NBA? The Bulls remain high on Mirotic, but the idea that his addition would put the Bulls that much closer to a championship in his first season in the league is far-fetched at best.

4. Worst-case scenario

If the Bulls fail in Options 1-3, the frustration of the fan base will permeate throughout every aspect of the organization. Assuming they don't find any takers for a Boozer sign-and-trade, the Bulls could still amnesty the final year of his deal and move Dunleavy -- but what would they do with the $13 million left in cap space?

Lance Stephenson appears to be a last-ditch possibility. I don't believe he would work well in coach Tom Thibodeau's locker room, but he has the type of talent that could continue to blossom in the right situation. The Bulls will keep tabs on Chandler Parsons, a good friend of Noah's, but it's hard to believe the Rockets will let him walk as a restricted free agent -- especially if they don't land Anthony or LeBron James.

The Bulls' biggest problem is the same one it faced as free agency began: There are some solid names and possibilities on this list, but if it doesn't land Anthony or Love, the organization can't feel confident in the notion that it would start the upcoming season as a legitimate title contender.

Carmelo Anthony's visit to Chicago

July, 1, 2014
Jul 1
12:31
PM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com


CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls' sale pitch to Carmelo Anthony is underway as the team meets with the New York Knicks free agent on Tuesday at the United Center.

ESPNChicago.com's Nick Friedell is there and will post updates throughout the day here.

First can't hurt for Bulls on Carmelo tour

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
10:43
AM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive


CHICAGO -- Carmelo Anthony's first stop on the free-agency express is expected to be Chicago at some point on Tuesday, the first day free agents can speak to teams about signing in other cities. This revelation, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein, can't be a bad thing for the Bulls.

Out of all the places Anthony could have traveled to first, he chose to start the tour in Chicago. That means the Bulls can make the first impression, the first of many impressive pitches he will see over the next week or so. In order to understand the things that Anthony may see and do in Chicago, it's important to go back in time to see how the organization handled the free-agent recruitments during the summer of 2010.

[+] EnlargeJoakim Noah
AP Photo/Seth WenigJoakim Noah likely will be part of the Bulls' sales pitch to Carmelo Anthony.
While Tuesday is technically the day the Bulls are expected to give their major pitch to Anthony, it's a safe bet that they will make first contact with the 30-year-old All-Star at 11:01 p.m. CT on Monday night. That's because it's the same plan they executed four summers ago while going after that year's batch of free agents. Various members of the organization were sent all over the country to hand deliver iPads to the top free agents in the league right after the stroke of midnight. Bulls radio play-by-play man Chuck Swirsky went to Texas to deliver a pitch -- and a Bulls iPad -- to Chris Bosh. Swirsky had a previous relationship with Bosh given that he used to be the play-by-play voice of the Toronto Raptors, Bosh's former team.

Former Bulls executive Jeff Wohlschlager went to Los Angeles to hand deliver a Bulls iPad to Carlos Boozer, the man the Bulls would ultimately land after striking out with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Bosh. It was a presentation, and gift, that clearly left an impression on Boozer.

"I was in L.A. meeting with [Miami Heat president Pat Riley]," Boozer recalled in 2011. "I think it had to be like midnight Eastern time or whatever that day, so it was like 9 West Coast time or something. I was going to have dinner with [the Heat], and right at 9 o'clock at night, a dude knocks on my door and I'm like, 'What's poppin'?'"

Wohlschlager handed Boozer a briefcase.

"I pop open the briefcase, and it's an iPad with an intro to the team and the players that they had. The history, showing the championships that they had won in the past. Showing how good we can be if I came ... On the briefcase, there was a big Bulls logo. It was like a titanium briefcase, and you opened it up and it had the iPad sitting there, and it had a big picture of me in a Bulls uniform."

While it's unclear at this point whether the Bulls will fill up more iPads full of information, what is another safe bet is that the organization -- in some form or fashion -- will be in front of Anthony the second they can be. The Bulls put a lot of time, effort and money into their recruiting pitches four years ago. This time around figures to be no different given that the general feeling within the organization is that the Bulls are just one piece (Anthony) and a healthy Derrick Rose away from contending for a championship this coming season.

To that point, while the Bulls have been hesitant to reveal whether Rose will be part of any formal pitch, what seems clear is that All-Star center Joakim Noah will be at the forefront of whatever the Bulls decide to do with Anthony. Coach Tom Thibodeau acknowledged that Noah likely will be involved in some way last week and it makes sense given the fact Noah and Anthony have known each other for more than a decade. The pair spent their formative basketball years within the northeast AAU circuit and have a lot of respect for each other's game.

Noah enjoys playing the role of lead recruiter, a role he thrived in during his time at the University of Florida with both basketball and football players. He would be more than willing to take Anthony around the city and sell him on being a Bull, much the same way he did with Bosh back in 2010. This time, he hopes the results are a little different. Noah was convinced Bosh was going to sign with the Bulls after their meetings, only to find out that Bosh opted to go to Miami to sign with James, Wade and the Heat.

"I thought [Bosh] wanted to come to Chicago," Noah said during an interview in August of 2010.

Four years later, Noah has to hope he can send a message to Anthony that sticks with him throughout the course of the next week when he meets with other teams and other players.

As part of the pitch, the Bulls are also likely to chauffeur Anthony to their new downtown practice facility. After years of making players drive out to, and usually live in, the suburbs, the Bulls are about to open a new state-of-the-art facility later this summer that sits right across the street from the United Center. It's a big selling point for an organization that can now sell players on being just a short drive from downtown Chicago.

While money, and Rose's health, figure to be huge parts of any discussion with Anthony, especially given that the Bulls are hopeful he will take a little less money to allow them to retain Taj Gibson, what may be most important in the Anthony pitch is how he responds to what Thibodeau is selling. Anthony has said that he is just focused on winning a championship. In order to do that, Thibodeau must sell him on the fact he's the man who can lead him there.

"When a player is looking at free agency they're looking at, 'OK, who are the players that are there?'" Thibodeau said on ESPN Chicago 1000 last week. "And I think that's an easy sell for us. Because not only do we feel they're great players, but they're high character guys. And they play as a team and they play for each other. And I think that's attractive to people."

The Bulls believe they can offer the best place for Anthony to win immediately. They'll get their chance to convince him of that on Tuesday.

Paxson: Winning is Bulls' free-agent pitch

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
9:21
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
John Paxson, Michael Reinsdorf, Jerry Reinsdorf, Rahm EmanuelAP Photo/Scott EisenA new practice facility and committed owners are among the Bulls' selling points, John Paxson said.

CHICAGO -- John Paxson has a simple message for free agents as the Chicago Bulls get set to make their recruiting pitches to prospective free agents in the coming days. The Bulls' executive vice president believes that the game's top players want to hear the same thing.

"I think the biggest thing is how much do guys want to win?" Paxson said Friday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "The fact that we've not had our best player for the last couple of years, and I know there's still questions about Derrick [Rose] because he hasn't played in two years, but the fact that we have not had our best player -- but prior to that we were in the Eastern Conference finals -- and we have certain players like Joakim Noah who have matured and improved as a first team All-NBA player now -- if the goal is to be with a team, to be a part of a team that is about winning, and in a culture that we feel strongly about is about winning -- then I think players want to be in that situation, I really do. And that's what we're about."

Paxson believes the winning culture that has been created during the past four seasons under coach Tom Thibodeau is going to be one of the franchise's most important keys as it gets set to talk to some of the game's top players. The free-agency period begins at 12:01 a.m. ET on July 1 and the Bulls are expected to be heavily involved, particularly in their pursuit of New York Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony.

"We have a coach who is very, very passionate about winning," Paxson said.

"We have an owner who's passionate about winning. I know Jerry [Reinsdorf] and [team president and C.O.O.] Mike [Reinsdorf] want to get back to that level. So I think that's the big thing and you can say anything you want outside of that -- we love Chicago and the city will sell itself, all those things -- but I think at the end of the day it comes down to where do you think you can win a championship.

"Even though we had setbacks with injuries to Derrick and those type of things, [general manager] Gar [Forman] and I talk about this a lot, we still believe we have very, very good players. And we believe that we've set up a culture that is about winning. Maybe we are a player or two from being the type of team that's there every year, and that's where we're trying to get to."

Aside from the winning culture, Paxson referenced the new Bulls practice facility, which is located across the street from the United Center near downtown Chicago, as an interesting wrinkle to sell to players. In the end, Paxson knows that the Bulls' success in luring players to Chicago will depend on how they respond to the message. The Bulls' front office is hopeful that Rose's recent injury problems will not hamper that pitch in any way.

"At the end of the day, the most important thing is if you can show [prospective free agents] your vision on how you're going to win," Paxson said. "And how you believe that can have some staying power, and that's our goal. I think if you do that and they say, 'That's what I want to be a part of,' then they'll be a part of it. If they don't, then you move on and you try to find another avenue to make that thing happen. So we're going to put our best foot forward. We think we have a lot to offer and we'll see how that goes."

The Bulls remain optimistic that they will be able to land the type of player they couldn't get to sign on the dotted line in the summer of 2010. The Bulls made a strong push to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh, but ended up missing out on all three and settled for Carlos Boozer.

Paxson acknowledged that Jerry Reinsdorf has given the front office the green light to spend how it sees fit. Whether that means diving deep into the luxury tax or using the amnesty clause to wipe away the final year of Boozer's deal, Paxson made it clear that Reinsdorf was "all-in" on the plan to get the Bulls back to the top.

To validate that point, he referenced a story from Thursday night's draft, in which the Bulls selected New Mexico big man Cameron Bairstow with the 49th overall pick.

"We're getting calls leading up to that pick with teams offering us a ton of cash," Paxson said. "For people that sit there and say that the Bulls always make decisions based on money -- we never even considered taking a deal like that last night. And Jerry's sitting there in the room -- because we were looking at a player that we think can maybe play a role for us down the road. And we sat there and bypassed [the offers].

"I talked to somebody last night from another team and he said, 'I got to tell you, there are not many owners that when they heard those dollar figures would have said, 'No, I'm not going to take that kind of money.' Jerry has been over the years ... Is he smart about his money? You bet. But ... he's in. He wants us to [succeed]. He always wants us to spend the money efficiently. But he's in, he wants us to use the resources that we have."

Rose disagrees with Webber on Melo, Bulls

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
10:57
AM CT
By Staff
ESPNChicago.com
Jalen Rose disagrees with his "Fab Five brother" Chris Webber and believes Carmelo Anthony would be a great fit with the Chicago Bulls.

"I think he would fit right in with that team," Rose, an ESPN analyst, said Tuesday on "The Carmen & Jurko Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000. "I think if you're able to make that a Big Three, now Miami is looking to Chicago and saying, 'Wow we've got some real competition' in an overall weak Eastern Conference this year."

Webber told "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" on ESPN Radio last week that he believes Anthony should go to a team with an offensive coach rather than one fronted by a defensive mind like the Bulls' Tom Thibodeau.

Rose said if he were Anthony he would want the Bulls to execute a sign and trade deal to acquire him rather than a straight signing. The Knicks are the only team that can offer Anthony a five-year, $129 million contract. The Bulls, or any other team, can offer Anthony only a maximum four-year, $96 million contract.

"In order for me to leave that kind of money on the table they better have Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson coaching with Pop and Red Auerbach as assistants," Rose said.

Boeheim: Melo will take pay cut to win

June, 24, 2014
Jun 24
4:43
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim believes his prized pupil, Carmelo Anthony, would take less money to sign with a contender this summer.

[+] EnlargeJim Boeheim, Carmelo Anthony
Michael Martin/NBAE/Getty ImagesJim Boeheim believes finding the best place to win will be the driving force in Carmelo Anthony's free agency decision.
"In my opinion he wants to win," Boeheim told ESPNChicago.com on Tuesday. "I think that's the bottom line. He realizes that this is his peak, three or four years ahead, where's the best place to go and win? I think he'll take a little less money. I don't think that's that big of an issue. Obviously money is important to all of us. There's not many people in the media or any place else that take a better job if they're an extra 20 percent or 30 percent -- and it's still a good situation. Not many people turn those things down. But I think Carmelo wants to win, I think he wants to get into a place where he feels they have a legitimate chance to win. And I think that will be the driving [force], the thing that drives his decision. But obviously he's enjoyed New York, he likes his time there. But I think he wants to win."

Anthony officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks on Monday and is considering the Chicago Bulls, among several teams, as he figures out where he wants to play next.

Boeheim doesn't buy into the notion that Anthony is just going to sign with the team that can offer him the most money. The Knicks are the only team that can offer Anthony a five-year, max contract worth $129 million. The Bulls, like the rest of Anthony's suitors, can offer the All-Star only a four-year deal, maximum $96 million contract.

To clear that kind of space, the Bulls would have to amnesty Carlos Boozer and then gut the rest of their roster. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Anthony would be joined by a slew of players on minimum salary deals.

The Bulls, like everyone else in the Anthony sweepstakes, are hoping that Anthony will take a little less to build a championship foundation around him.

"I don't think it's a money issue," Boeheim said. "I think he wants to obviously make what is a fair wage like everybody else. I don't think Phil Jackson is taking a minimum salary in New York. I don't think Derek Fisher is, I don't think [Carmelo] should. I think LeBron James is a good example. They're both looking at what's the best place for them from a business perspective. And players can do that now, it's the rules. It's the way [the system's] set up. And I think they should try and make that decision. But it is a hard decision; you don't know exactly where you can go and when."

Boeheim, who guided Anthony and Syracuse to a national championship in 2003, believes that a piece of Anthony's heart remains in New York, but he is intrigued by the possibilities in Chicago.

"I think he likes New York," Boeheim said. "I think he's really enjoyed being there. I think his family enjoys it. Yes, I think he does like that. But I think at the end of the day, you have to make a decision on where is the best place to win. Where can you win? And that should be what drives this decision. I think it is what will drive this decision.

"The problem with that is you're just speculating now. 'All right, I come to Chicago, Derrick Rose gets hurt again. Now where are we? How tough is it now to win?' If you've got a healthy Derrick Rose, and the other pieces they have in [Joakim] Noah is certainly one of the best defensive all-around centers in the game. You've got [Jimmy] Butler, you've got a lot of little pieces there, a lot good players, you've got a great coach, a proven coach [in Tom Thibodeau]. I think it's is an interesting choice."

Boeheim knows the health of Rose, who has played just 49 games the past three seasons because of two knee injuries, will be a question Anthony must ponder as he tries to process his decision.

"Obviously that's something that you have to think about, in terms of how healthy Derrick Rose is," Boeheim said. "But I think Carmelo would enjoy playing for Tom. I got to know Tom last summer. I think he's a great coach. I think he's got a good feel for players, how to deal with players, how to talk to them, how to get the best out of them, how to be tough, when to be tough. I think he'd be a great guy to play for, I really do and I think Carmelo would enjoy that. But it's a tough decision, there's no question about it."

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
22.0 3.3 1.5 40.0
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.4
AssistsD. Rose 4.8
StealsJ. Butler 1.5
BlocksP. Gasol 2.1