Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: As of Monday afternoon, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told the media that in his discussions with general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson that “they’re not actively seeking to move anybody." By midnight, Bulls forward Luol Deng was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Bynum and three future draft picks. Active must be in the eye of the beholder. ... “The moves made [Monday night] will put us in a better position to make the entire roster stronger for the future and to compete for a championship,” Forman said. Maybe, but not likely this year. The deal will also bring to light once again whether or not the organization and Thibodeau are on the same page, especially considering Deng is one of Thibodeau’s favorite players. A Bulls source not only confirmed the deal before the official announcement, but also insisted the organization “was not tanking." That was a tough sell considering all Deng does for the Bulls. It might even be a tougher sell to their coach.
Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Early Tuesday morning, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made it official on Twitter. "Welcome @LuolDeng9 to the Cleveland Cavaliers!" Gilbert tweeted at 12:54 a.m. ... It was the best possible outcome for the Cavs, who turned Bynum's attractive contract into a valuable asset who may be able to help the Cavs salvage this floundering season. It was unclear whether Deng would be here for Tuesday night's game against Philadelphia at The Q. ... Chicago had insisted it was not going to part with Deng and hoped to resign him this summer. Sam Smith reported early Tuesday that Deng turned down a last-minute three-year $30 million offer from the Bulls, who became convinced he would leave them empty-handed this summer. So they decided to take the Cavs offer that would allow them to get under the salary cap as well as pick up three draft choices.
Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Strengthening that postseason belief was the impending trade involving Bayless, one that sends the reserve guard to Boston in exchange for sharpshooter Courtney Lee. The players learned of the deal on their flight home after beating the Pistons, the atmosphere onboard equal parts sad and salutary. At a time where the seesaw season could easily teeter into oblivion for the Grizzlies (15-18, last in the Southwest Division), the trade was viewed as a sign of stability, and multiple players said it deepened their trust with the front office. “It’s very encouraging when you see the front office try to get better and see what we need to improve at,” Zach Randolph said Monday, before the team’s practice at FedExForum. “That’s what you’ve got to do, that’s what we’ve got to do. We want to be a top-echelon team. This season is far from over. For us to say that we’re out of the playoff hunt and we won’t make the playoffs is ludicrous because we still have a chance."
Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: The Celtics are still awaiting final league approval for the trade that will send guard Courtney Lee to the Memphis Grizzlies for combo guard Jerryd Bayless. Bayless was not at practice. Lee, after bidding the C’s good luck prior to Sunday night’s loss to the Thunder in Oklahoma City, left the team, presumably to fly east. Lee’s departure opened at least a temporary window for Keith Bogans, who appeared in only his fifth game against the Thunder and also scored his first points with the Celtics, courtesy of a second-quarter 3-pointer.
Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman: According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Thunder is involved in trade talks with the Celtics and Grizzlies, entering as a third team in their rumored swap of Courtney Lee and Jerryd Bayless. The word, according to Stein, is that OKC would send sporadically used veteran forward Ryan Gomes to Boston, with the Celtics to cut him soon after. For the Thunder, this strictly makes sense for financial reasons. By trading away Gomes, OKC would get his entire salary off the books. If the Thunder chose to simply cut him, the amount he has already been paid would remain. Gomes has only appeared in five games this season, never playing more than 10 minutes. He hasn’t played in nearly a month and remains far out of the rotation.
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Before Monday night’s game against the Hawks, coach Jason Kidd said the plan was for Andrei Kirilenko to play right around the same 14 minutes he did in the Nets’ wins in Oklahoma City Thursday and at home against Cleveland Saturday. But plans can change. Kidd instead opted to play Kirilenko for 21 minutes Monday night, getting another excellent effort from the versatile forward as the Nets came away with a 91-86 victory to give them a third straight win. “I thought it was 14,” Kidd said with a smile afterward. “I think we stretched him a little bit. He will let us know if he wants to come out, but I thought [Kirilenko] was a big plus for us offensively and defensively. We probably stretched him a little bit farther than we wanted to with the 21 minutes, but he was effective for us.” Kirilenko said the increase in minutes was simply part of the maintenance program he and the Nets have put together to try and ensure the back spasms that have plagued him since the opening weeks of training camp back will finally stay away for good.
Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Joe Johnson took over late in the fourth quarter to carry his new team to the victory over his old team. Johnson spent seven seasons with the Hawks, six as an All-Star, before being traded two summers ago. He scored nine of the Nets' final 14 points to clinch the victory. "It was good to be able to make some plays down the stretch," Johnson said. "Seeing how we were in a little rut there in the fourth quarter, it got contagious and we started making plays and making shots." Johnson finished with a game-high 23 points on 10 of 22 shooting. Kevin Garnett summed it up this way: "Just to see him take over and be Joe Jesus, that's what we like to call him. Because he might not be there when you call on him but he's there when you need him."
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times: It took Chris Paul two days to finally get out of his funk after he learned he had a Grade 3 AC joint separation of his right shoulder that will sideline him up to six weeks. Paul was injured Friday night in Dallas but doesn't need surgery. The Clippers All-Star point guard learned that the AC joint separation is an injury to the area connecting the collarbone with the front part of the shoulder blade, and a Grade 3 is considered the worst of the three grades. "I woke up [Sunday] and was done feeling sorry for myself," Paul said Monday night in his first interview since the injury. "I've got to approach the rehab and get back as soon as I possibly can." Paul probably won't return until after the All-Star break, around Feb. 17. Paul sat out his second consecutive game Monday night and is in line to sit out 20 games. "I felt it when it happened. I could sort of hear it and I knew that it was pretty significant," said Paul.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: Don’t let the final score fool you. Of the 86 losses the Orlando Magic have suffered since the beginning of the 2012-13 season, their defeat Monday night should be considered one of the worst. The Los Angeles Clippers dominated them from the opening tipoff until the beginning of the fourth quarter and clobbered them 101-81 at Staples Center. “We didn’t fight tonight,” power forward Glen Davis said. Even worse, center Nik Vucevic sustained his second concussion since March when he fell awkwardly and banged his head on the court. Although the severity of the injury is unclear, Vucevic now will be subject to the NBA’s return-to-play concussion protocol, which requires that players with concussions pass a series of neurological and physical tests before they can play again. “We’ll leave it in the hands of the doctors now,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. Vucevic had missed Orlando’s last two games because of a sprained left ankle, and the team hoped his return would give them a boost on both ends of the floor. It didn’t.
Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Sidelined by an elbow injury since the season’s second game, Turiaf delivered nine rebounds, two blocks and an assist after his lungs shouted at him some in his first game action since a Nov. 1 victory over Oklahoma City. “After the first minute and a half, I felt pretty good,” he said. “Obviously, I just have to get in better conditioning, just keep going. I just tried to play the game the right away, just making sure my teammates were getting open shots by setting good screens and moving the ball and playing defense.” Coach Rick Adelman played Turiaf with the starters briefly late in the third quarter and with a second unit in desperate need of a boost the rest of the game. Turiaf didn’t score, missing his only shot, but he helped his teammates do so. The Wolves got 47 points from its bench after the team’s reserves scored only five points in two of three games last week. Teammate Kevin Love cheered Turiaf on in the 3½ minutes they played together at the end of the third quarter, obviously happy to have him back. “I definitely felt appreciated,” Turiaf said. “It felt good to become welcomed back, to see your teammate happy, see your teammates excited for you. That’s what this team sport is all about. I appreciate it, thank you Kevin.”
Marc Narducci of The Philadelphia Inquirer: With news of a legitimate winning streak, an impressive individual honor and yes, even a discussion about the playoffs, the 76ers returned home from a bountiful West Coast road trip with some real optimism. It took just one half of almost defenseless action to squash all those feel-good stories. The Sixers suffered a late second-quarter meltdown and never recovered during Monday's 126-95 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves before 10,736 at the Wells Fargo Center. Thus, the four-game winning streak built during the 4-1 West Coast trip is over. Monday's loss took some of the starch out of the announcement earlier in the day that Sixers forward Thaddeus Young was named NBA Eastern Conference player of the week. ... Coach Brett Brown said during his pregame media gathering that he didn't give the playoffs any thought at this point. Good idea. Now the challenge is for the Sixers to bounce off the canvas when they visit Cleveland on Tuesday.