• The relationship between Luol Deng and the Bulls could come to a head when both look to satisfy their individual interests next summer -- as evidenced by the way that Deng's extension talks with the team (predictably) went sour. No ill will has been generated (yet) in both sides vying for very different things, but Deng's impending free agency and Chicago's tight financial situation could lead to a complicated exit. Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie explains in fine fashion:
The popular thought in Chicago, for years, had the team letting Luol walk while waiving big forward Carlos Boozer with the amnesty provision in 2014. By then, fans hoped, the growth of Butler and Taj Gibson, paired with the possibility of much-lauded international prospect Nikola Mirotic coming into town, would be enough to tide things over while the team utilized cap space to bring in replacements. Toss in the team’s eventual grab of a Charlotte Bobcats draft pick (top-10 protected in the 2014 draft, top-eight protected in 2015, unprotected in 2016) and the possibility of flipping Deng to another team at the trade deadline, and you have a litany of Bulls fans giddy at the possibilities.
The problem for them is, historically, the Chicago Bulls just don’t work that way. And for as much stick as we give Boozer, and as much as we’ve cooled over Deng in this column, finding replacements for their production with that cap space will be nigh on impossible.
Typically, Chicago would let Deng walk, waive Boozer, and work around the edges while extending Jimmy Butler. Typically, the Bulls are far more interested in the savings, while pointing to the fact that they’re not keen to pay the luxury tax for a third consecutive season. With the Bulls slated to be a mid-level exception away from paying the tax in 2014-15 even if Deng walks for nothing, this is a concern. Especially because there are only eight rotation players on the books for that particular season.
• This ranking of the highest-paid NBA players in 1989 is hilarious in comparison to today's salary standards:
For reference, Ewing's $4 million salary would have ranked 168th in the league last season, on-par with Hakim Warrick, Luke Ridnour, Brandon Rush, and Anthony Morrow. In 2013-14, Kobe Bryant will easily be the league's highest-paid player at $30.5 million, with Dirk Nowitzki, Amar'e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard all in the low 20s.
• Andrew Lynch considers the neurological side of the heat check:
Our hindsight bias chalks up the heat check to, well, what its name entails: a player is simply diagnosing whether or not physics is up to the task of withstanding the oncoming barrage. But what if the heat check is less of a conscious decision by the player and more a biomechanical reaction by his body and mind working in conjunction to further his understanding of the game? A brain primed by previous success in several consecutive made jumpers might be one more likely to attempt to recreate that feedback loop as quickly as possible. There are no machinations of the mind or algorithms to consider. Get the ball. Shoot the ball again. Make the shot again. If you miss, well, that’s the cost of doing business, and given the nature of this study, seemingly one that is quick to slip the mind. And it is likely no coincidence that many of the same neurological pathways are shared between addiction, learning and memory. Those shots that go in are those that most easily and most vividly reach the deepest parts of the brain, potentially creating a scenario where the player in question, so good at what he does, creates a self-reinforcing cycle of neurological reward for a job well done that influences the next decision and creates a sense of addiction to that trial-and-conquer sequence of events. The heat check is intoxicating, to an extent that we may not even realize.
• Very much enjoyed Zach Harper's take on the rock-paper-scissors relationship of basketball playing styles, as explained through an elaborate battleground metaphor.
• Tom Ziller of SB Nation takes to task a tired sports media cliché:
Saying that a player makes his teammates better is just another way of saying that someone is a good basketball player.
The cliché lacks specificity, and it's frankly immeasurable. (Something like regularized adjusted plus-minus [RAPM] is a measure of how a team performs when a player is on the court. That includes the player himself, not just the teammates.) Can you be a good player who doesn't make teammates better? Even the most selfish scorers who do that job well "make their teammates better" by relieving defensive pressure. It's a totally meaningless construct when broken down -- not just for QBs, but in basketball as well. But we hear it all of the time. What are we really trying to say when we use it?
In most cases, it's making the right passes. It's a discreet skill we can measure (assist rate, for starters) and, again, a basic job duty of most NBA players. If making your teammates better is doing the dirty work (rebounding, screens, hitting the floor for loose balls) ... isn't that something every player does to some extent? If you do that stuff a lot but stink at shooting and scoring -- say, like Lou Amundson -- can we really say you're making your teammates better? You're making it harder on them by not being all that good in some areas.
• Over at Gothic Ginobili, John Hugar ranks the NBA's teams in order of intrigue. I'm of a different mind when it comes to some of Hugar's assessments (For one, I can't wait to see the Hawks in action), but this first installment is a worthy read all the same. • Fab Melo could get a quick chance to jump back into the league with the center-needy Mavericks.