Considering the rumblings that Pistons GM Joe Dumars had his sights set on either Nate McMillan or Maurice Cheeks as the team's next head coach, along with the notion that Dumars had apparently hoped to make a hire before the start of last week's NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago, ESPN's Chris Broussard wonders if the hold up with regards to a coaching decision gives any indication that Phil Jackson - recently tabbed as an adviser for the head coaching search - could soon be running Detroit's front office (Insiders only). According to popular thought around the league, Brian Shaw would be Jackson's first choice, and while some insist that Dumars is still in charge as the general manager, Broussard suggests that their next coaching hire will be a strong indicator of how much control the Pistons legend still has of the franchise. Here are more notes out of the Eastern Conference tonight:
Boozer and Richard Hamilton were considered the two players most likely to be traded by the Bulls, but as Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com noted earlier today, neither guy has drawn much interest. One report indicated that the Bulls are reluctant to pair Hamilton with a draft pick to get below the tax line, in which case I wouldn't expect the team to find a taker.
Just to make sure they don't slip through the cracks, here are a few odds and ends from overnight and this morning, as the trade deadline creeps closer....
The Eastern Conference may have been on the losing end of yesterday's All-Star Game in Houston, but there's still plenty happening around the conference. Here's the latest:
SATURDAY, 11:56am: Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reports that the Raptors have "no interest" in trading for Boozer or his contract.
FRIDAY, 12:05pm: Although the Raptors and Bulls discussed a potential swap involving Carlos Boozer and Andrea Bargnani earlier this season, reports have indicated that talks aren't currently active. However, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, there's an offer on the table from the Bulls that the Raptors could revisit if they choose.
Johnson reports that the Raptors were told that a deal of Boozer and Nate Robinson for Bargnani and John Lucas III is available whenever they want it. While a Boozer/Bargnani swap wouldn't be permitted under the league's trade rules, the addition of Robinson's minimum salary and Lucas' $1.5MM salary would make it work.
The duo of Boozer and Robinson has significantly outperformed Bargnani and Lucas on the floor this season, but such a deal would appeal to the Bulls based on its financial implications -- the hypothetical trade would allow Chicago to slip below the luxury tax threshold this season. Additionally, although Boozer and Bargnani are both under contract through 2015, Bargnani is owed $22.25MM over the next two seasons, while Boozer will make $32.1MM.
If the Raptors were to accept the Bulls' offer, it would likely make Toronto a taxpayer this season and next, significantly reducing the team's ability to make other moves.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times relayed some gems out of Bulls camp tonight, reporting that Chicago is still taking and making phone calls as the trade deadline approaches. He cites a source within the organization that says talks between the Bulls and Raptors involving Carlos Boozer are "off the table," and that there hasn't been a high demand for Richard Hamilton. As for Derrick Rose's status, the reality that he might not return this season hasn't put any additional pressure on Chicago to find more help or try to lessen the payroll. Here's more of what we've heard tonight out of the Eastern Conference:
Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio is hearing plenty of chatter from around the league, and shares a lot of information in his latest dispatch. He identifies the player receiving the most attention as the deadline approaches, and dishes on several big names. We'll cover the highlights here:
Not content to simply rank the NBA's teams, one through 30, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports also includes plenty of interesting trade rumors and nuggets within his power rankings. Here are the items of note from Spears in this week's installment:
The Bulls have been one of the elite teams in the NBA since the summer of 2010, when they missed out on LeBron James and instead added Carlos Boozer and coach Tom Thibodeau. They seem poised to once more make a move toward the top of the Eastern Conference with the impending return of Derrick Rose from injury. Several executives believe they, more than any other team in the Eastern Conference, could have what it takes to knock off the Heat, according to Grantland's Zach Lowe (Twitter link).
So, it's somewhat surprising that they apparently initiated discussions last week with the Raptors about swapping Boozer for Andrea Bargnani. Chicago fans have peppered Bulls.com scribe Sam Smith with potential Boozer trade scenarios nearly as long as Boozer has been in town, and while the 31-year-old power forward hasn't lived up to his five-year, $75MM contract, he has been playing some of his best basketball of late. He averaged 19.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in January, well above the 15.3 PPG and 8.9 RPG he's posted over the past two years as a whole. Not coincidentally, the Bulls went 12-4 last month and rekindled talk of title contention.
If the Bulls are serious about the Bargnani deal, they wouldn't appear to be entirely motivated by finances. As Luke Adams of Hoops Rumors noted when he wrote about the rumor this afternoon, the Raptors don't have an expiring contract to aggregate with Bargnani's deal to make the salaries match in such a swap, meaning Chicago would have to take on at least one more player on a multi-year deal. Plus, the trade would short-circuit any chance either team could seek salary relief by amnestying Boozer or Bargnani, as traded players aren't eligible for the amnesty clause.
Bargnani's deal, which has $32.25MM left on it including this year, ends in 2015, the same year Boozer's does. Bargnani also comes with a 5% trade kicker the Bulls would have to pay. Still, he's due about $5MM less per season that Boozer is, and depending on whom the Raptors add to the deal, the Bulls could at least lower their tax bill this season. Chicago is close to $4MM over the tax line, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has never been a taxpayer, as Mark Deeks of ShamSports documented.
Perhaps the Bulls simply want to sell high on Boozer, believing that he'll revert back to the norm following his recent hot streak. If so, his contract makes it difficult, meaning they'd likely have to take back another sizeable deal that another team doesn't want. Only the Magic have a trade exception large enough to absorb Boozer's $15MM salary this season, but Orlando doesn't make much sense for him. The Nets appear willing to dangle Kris Humphries and his $12MM salary, but I don't think two teams that entered Friday in a tie for fourth place in the Eastern Conference would be motivated to help each other out. That's part of the problem with teams that might have interest in Boozer from a basketball standpoint, as Eastern contenders like the Heat and Celtics would like to boost their front lines, but probably not in any way that enhances Chicago's title chances.
If the Bulls do trade Boozer this year, it would have to be with a team that's not afraid to take on long-term commitments. With so many franchises trying to clear cap space for either this summer or 2014, when King James could hit the market, there aren't a ton of options. In an injury-plagued season, the Timberwolves are looking toward the future and it seems like they're ready to make a move, so maybe they'd be willing to consider a core of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Boozer, but I doubt it. Unless the Bulls get something done with the Raptors, I think Boozer stays put, at least until the summer, when Chicago might have a field of trading partners wider than the one out there now.