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Friday, June 23, 2017

Stories by Steve DelVecchio:

Report: Jimmy Butler’s attitude toward Fred Hoiberg made players ‘uncomfortable’

Jimmy Butler Chicago Bulls

There has been a lot of talk about the Chicago Bulls not getting enough in return from the Minnesota Timberwolves with the Jimmy Butler trade, but that may have something to do with teams knowing Butler’s relationship with his coach had soured.

In a lengthy feature about how the Butler trade came together, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported that it was essentially a known fact that the Bulls did not want to build around Butler. It seems as if they ultimately chose head coach Fred Hoiberg over Butler, as the two never seemed to be on the same page.

More from Lowe:

The Bulls were rather publicly uncomfortable with the idea of Butler as foundational player. Butler and Hoiberg never jelled, and at times, including around midseason, Butler’s bristling at Hoiberg’s instructions and calm personality made people on the team uncomfortable, a source said. That stuff will not happen with Thibodeau. Butler craves a hard-ass coach. Hoiberg was never going to play to that type.

The Bulls acquired young point guards Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn — two players with plenty of potential — and essentially moved up nine spots from No. 16 to No. 7 in Thursday night’s draft. While that seems like a reasonable price for Minnesota, Lowe notes that Chicago asked for more from other teams (like Eric Bledsoe and the No. 4 pick from the Phoenix Suns), but nothing ever came of it. Some teams were concerned that Butler would just leave in 2019 when he is eligible to become a free agent.

If you remember, Butler was openly critical of Hoiberg just months after the coach was hired by the Bulls. More recently, Butler did some things on the court that would not fly under a coach like Tom Thibodeau, and perhaps that is the way the All-Star swing man wants it to be.

Jeremy Kerley ‘didn’t have a lot of respect’ for former Jets OC Chan Gailey

Jeremy Kerley had his worst season as a pro with the New York Jets in 2015 before he became a key piece of the San Francisco 49ers’ offense last season. I guess that’s what happens when you have an offensive coordinator you respect.

In an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, Kerley spoke about catching only 16 passes in 16 games back in 2015. He blamed former Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.

“What changed a lot for me was in my fifth year, in New York, somebody telling me that, for whatever the reason was, I wasn’t good enough to play in that offense or I wasn’t a fit for that offense,” Kerley said. “And even though I knew I was, it still pissed me off to the point where I was just like, ‘You know, what can I do to try to separate myself or stand out more?’ And I think, just from that point on and 2015 was by far my worst year in the league.

“I absolutely hated the NFL. I wasn’t getting any playing time at receiver; I was just strictly punt return. Me and Chan Gailey were always … we didn’t see eye-to-eye. I didn’t have a lot of respect for him. It was probably the same for him.”

Gailey retired at the end of last season after spending two years with the Jets. According to Kerley, Gailey was too set in his ways to get the most out of his players.

“Chan was just one of those type of guys that he has his mind set up before he sees whoever’s there,” Kerley added. “I mean, he just wasn’t a fit for me, so when we came in it was kind of like, I had just signed a four-year, $16-million extension. So I’m assuming this is my time, I’m going to play or I get to maximize my play. And it was the exact opposite. I can’t speak highly of a guy who never really let me have an opportunity to prove…

“For whatever the reason was, I just feel like we were going to bump heads after that. I don’t say this about a lot of people, but I don’t really have a lot of respect for that and how that situation went.”

Kerley, who caught 64 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns last season, is not the only one who has been critical of Gailey. Jets running back Matt Forte recently questioned the way Gailey handled the backfield in 2016.

Kerley made similar remarks (read them here) after he signed with the 49ers last offseason, but he didn’t single Gailey out. Apparently the wounds are still fresh.

H/T Pro Football Talk

Mike Trout reportedly wanted to sign ‘lifetime deal’ with Angels

Mike Trout

Mike Trout will be just 28 years old when he becomes eligible to hit free agency after the 2020 season, and the Los Angeles Angels are going to have to pay an astronomical amount of money in order to keep him. According to a report, Trout proposed an idea back in 2014 that could have prevented him from ever having to sign another MLB contract.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was told by sources that Trout proposed the idea of a “lifetime deal” when he was negotiating his last contract extension with the Angels. The idea would have been to sign something like a 14- or 15-year deal rather than the six-year pact the two sides eventually agreed to.

Angels owner Arte Moreno apparently felt a deal of that length for a 23-year-old player with only two full seasons under his belt was a bit too risky.

Trout set himself up for life with that rare, record six-year deal and will have a “second bite at the apple,” after he broached an extreme mega deal in talks (14 or 15 years, according to people familiar with those talks) before word came back that Angels owner Arte Moreno decided not to go for the lifetime deal for the two-year superstar, but hardly anyone’s repeating that strategy. It’s no certainty they would have been able to work it out the super mega deal, anyway, as Trout seemed pleased at the middle ground of six. But it was quite an interesting thought put forth by Trout’s side.

As Heyman notes, the Angels had already committed a combined $442.5 million to Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson at the time. In hindsight, none of those were good deals.

Pujols is signed through 2021 at an average annual salary of $24 million. He’ll make $29 million when he’s 40 and $30 million when he’s 41, which is a disturbing thought for a 37-year-old who is hitting just .239 with a .286 OBP and .382 slugging percentage — all career-lows by far. Hamilton is gone and Wilson was average, but never the ace L.A. expected him to be.

Trout could still end up signing an extension with the Angels before he hits free agency, but it will cost the team more than it would have if they worked out a lifetime deal. While he probably won’t get as much as this soon-to-be free agent, his contract will be eye-popping. If for some reason the Angels lose Trout, the “lifetime deal” report will infuriate fans.

H/T CBS Sports

Report: Celtics believe they can sign Paul George to extension

Paul George

The Boston Celtics were reportedly in serious discussions with the Indiana Pacers about a Paul George trade on Thursday, and those talks are not necessarily dead just because the 2017 NBA Draft has come and gone.

The Celtics are still loaded with future first-round picks, and the Pacers may be looking at a total rebuild. It seems unlikely that Boston would give up much in a trade if George is just going to leave as a free agent next summer, but one sports anchor in Boston says he has heard the Celtics believe they can sign George to a three-year extension as long as they also add Gordon Hayward this offseason.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who reported back in March that George would love to play with Hayward, is skeptical of George signing an extension with Boston.

If anything, it seems more likely that there would be a handshake agreement in place. Would Danny Ainge risk giving up a bunch of assets without putting pen to paper? There would obviously be some risk involved.

Skeptics will argue that George wants to play for the Los Angeles Lakers, who are the Celtics’ biggest rival. However, George is 27 and the Lakers could be years away from being able to contend with the Golden State Warriors in the West — unless a certain someone joins George in LA. If the Celtics find a way to add George and Hayward to a starting lineup that already includes Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and Avery Bradley, George may decide his best chance at capturing a title will be in Boston.

Matt Forte expected to be ‘offensive workhorse’ for Jets?

Matt Forte is one of only a handful of players the New York Jets have left that have already celebrated their 30th birthday, but he is expected to remain a huge part of the team’s offense in 2017.

While there has been some speculation that Forte could end up being the next veteran released by the Jets, Connor Hughes of NJ Advanced Media predicts that Forte will be an “offensive workhorse” for New York this upcoming season. There has been some talk about Bilal Powell earning a bigger role, but Hughes expects him to remain a complimentary piece in the Jets’ backfield.

Former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire, the Jets’ sixth-round draft pick, could also get some work, but Forte will likely be given the chance to dominate touches. The question is how well the veteran’s body will hold up, especially after he suffered what sounded like a significant knee injury late last year.

The Jets are staring at a total rebuilding season, so it’s somewhat puzzling that they’re going to pay Forte $4 million in base salary. But if they’re going to keep him, they might as well try to use up every ounce of good football he has left.

Pacers president: Paul George wanting to leave team is a ‘gut punch’

Paul George

The Indiana Pacers had to have known there was a legitimate chance Paul George wouldn’t sign an extension with the team, but that didn’t make the official word any easier to handle.

After the NBA Draft Thursday night, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard revealed that he has not spoken to George since before the 27-year-old informed the team he plans on leaving after next season. When Pritchard received the call from George’s agent, he says he was devastated.

“For me it was gut punch,” Pritchard said, via Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star. “It was a total gut punch because we had many conversations over the summer about players that we’d like to add, a little bit of a style we’d like to play. In my opinion, I was very inclusive with (George) and the message over the summer up until this weekend was, ‘Let’s build a winning team.’ When that came in that he wanted to look at another place, it was gut punch for us.”

Pritchard was obviously upset on a personal level, but he was also unhappy with the way information leaked revealing George intends to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent next summer. That has made trading George far more difficult.

“Becoming public was a big issue,” Pritchard said. “The conversation with his agent was very challenging.”

Pritchard said he is still confident a trade will be completed before the season. In reality, the report about George wanting to play for the Lakers shouldn’t have affected much. Any team interested in trading for him is going to inquire about George signing an extension next offseason, and they would have likely learned of his intentions at that point.

George’s decision to move on from Indiana should not have surprised anyone, especially after the way he spoke about his teammates during the postseason. Pritchard simply thought he had more time to attempt to change the All-Star swingman’s mind.

Report: Chiefs GM John Dorsey was ‘blindsided’ by firing

The Kansas City Chiefs made a surprising decision this week to fire general manager John Dorsey, who had been with the team in that role since 2013. Typically moves of that nature come immediately after the season — not two months after the NFL Draft.

Something had to have been up, right?

If so, Dorsey wasn’t aware of it. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Dorsey was “blindsided” by the Chiefs’ decision to let him go.

Dorsey has been considered one of the better front office executives in football. While Andy Reid gets a lot of the credit (and got a contract extension the day the GM was fired), the Chiefs are 43-21 since Dorsey took over the roster and have made the playoffs three times.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why Dorsey was shown the door. Some wondered if the manner in which he informed Jeremy Maclin of his release played a role, but that’s highly unlikely. The most popular theory is that Dorsey, who has ties to the Packers and lives in Green Bay, is waiting for his mentor Ted Thompson to retire so he can become the GM of his hometown team.

Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star speculated that Dorsey may have asked for too much money from the Chiefs knowing he will eventually land a job in Green Bay regardless. Mellinger made it clear that he was only guessing, however.

Whatever the case, it’s hard to believe that the decision to fire a GM in June was strictly business related.

Josh Jackson canceled Celtics workout as they were flying out to meet him

Josh Jackson

The Boston Celtics used the third overall pick in the NBA Draft Thursday night on former Duke star Jayson Tatum, and it sounds like their decision was made simple by the refusal of another player to meet with them.

Just before the draft began, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge revealed that Kansas swingman Josh Jackson canceled his workout with the team while Ainge and others were in mid-air flying to Sacramento to meet him.

“I never talked with Josh. No one in our organization did,” Ainge said, via Nicholas Goss of NESN.com. “They canceled a workout on us when we flew out to Sacramento, and they just decided to cancel it as we flew.

“There was something, that he didn’t want to play for the Celtics. In spite of that, we’ve watched Josh for two years, and we’re fans (of him). He’s a terrific kid and a good player.”

Ainge compared the situation to when Kris Dunn didn’t want to work out for Boston a year ago, and he said the Celtics still considered Jackson at No. 3 and tried not to “penalize” him. Still, Ainge made it clear the last-minute cancellation bothered him.

“I was mad,” he said. “Flew across country, are you kidding me? I had to get up at 4 o’clock and fly back home. There’s nothing to do in Sacramento.”

Jackson is from California, so perhaps he wanted to be drafted by the Phoenix Suns at No. 4 to be closer to home. Either way, the comments he made about the Celtics earlier in the week don’t really match his actions.

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