As the Bulls return from an eventful Western road trip, it's a good time to check the NBA news.
Utah coach Jerry Sloan retires:
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It would be easy to call Sloan a true original, but there probably used to be hundreds of people like him. He just outlasted them all in the NBA.
Sloan was humble and straightforward, but always an interesting interview. He was also very open and accommodating, the only head coach who would regularly eat dinner in the press room before the game.
Typically when you'd ask a Jazz public relations official when Sloan would be available for a pregame talk, the answer was, "Just grab him when he's finished dinner."
Sloan's resignation in the hours following a 91-86 loss to the Bulls seemed to come from left field, or the corn field, since he was a dedicated resident of rural Illinois. But it must have been brewing for some time.
Jazz guard Deron Williams was handed blame for Sloan's departure because of a halftime argument during the Bulls game. Sloan may have provided a better clue the day before when he spoke at the morning shootaround about watching three of his former players suit up for the Bulls.
"This organization's always tried to do things the right way," he said. "We don't spend a lot of money in those situations, generally speaking. I've always known the parameters I work under. That's not a problem with me at all."
The Jazz lost Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Wes Matthews and Eric Maynor in the past 12 months.
Sloan seemed to thrive on being combative with players. Maybe having a less competitive team is what actually sapped his energy.
Cousins removed from team plane:
This story broke late Saturday night after Sacramento lost at home to San Antonio. The Kings had possession trailing by 2 with about five seconds left and guard Tyreke Evans missed a good look at a 3-pointer as time expired.
According to NBA Fanhouse, DeMarcus Cousins wanted the ball down low and got into an altercation with teammate Donte Greene in the locker room. Greene threw the inbounds pass and, apparently, Cousins felt the pass went to the wrong player.
Cousins was later removed from the team plane and inactive for Sunday's game in Phoenix. So the Kings essentially acknowledged the incident.
How does this relate to the Bulls? Well in some ways, it helps explains why coach Tom Thibodeau prefers to keep a model citizen like Keith Bogans in the lineup instead of trading for a questionable personality.
I've heard NBA scouts talk about how Cousins had blowups with his Kentucky coaches in most every game last season. My experience is when troubled and talented are words used to describe an NBA player, trouble usually wins out.
There have been guys who found trouble and turned out to be solid players, such as Dennis Rodman, Ron Artest or Jason Williams. Attacking a teammate who didn't throw you the ball wasn't part of their rap sheet, though.
The Bulls know they need an upgrade at shooting guard, but will have to think long and hard about bringing in guys like Denver's J.R. Smith or Memphis' O.J. Mayo, two players with NBA suspensions in their past.
That doesn't mean the Bulls wouldn't bite, though. They also believe the right guy can be heavily influenced by strong teammates. Smith will be a tempting addition when he hits the open market this summer.
Boston beats Miami again:
Boston's 85-82 win over Miami on Sunday proved more of what we already knew: A veteran Celtics squad can bottle up Miami's Big Three, and the Heat has enough firepower to (nearly) pull out wins after playing poorly for 3½ quarters.
I still think Boston would be the better playoff matchup for the Bulls, because of its age and injury potential.
Regardless of matchups, the No. 2 seed in the East would be a valuable prize, due to the potential of homecourt advantage in the second round.
Miami's second visit to the United Center on Feb. 24 will be significant. It should be Joakim Noah's second game back from a thumb injury and the Bulls would clinch the season series with a win, since they only visit Miami once.
Johnson plays in Iowa:
Bulls forward James Johnson will return soon from a D-League assignment and the trip appears to be a success. In his eight games with the Iowa Energy, Johnson averaged 19.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.5 blocks. He shot 53.5 percent from the field and 91.8 percent at the foul line (45-for-49).
Mistake-prone as he is, Johnson is still an impressive athlete with a variety of skills. It would be nice to see the slimmed-down Johnson get a shot at guarding LeBron James.
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