Michael Jordan Defends Athletes’ Right to Protest After Donald Trump’s Tweet

Players protesting during the national anthem has become a divisive issue, but Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan believes freedom of speech should prevail.

“One of the fundamental rights this country is founded on was freedom of speech, and we have a long tradition of nonviolent, peaceful protest,” Jordan said Sunday in response to a question about President Donald Trump’s tweet to the Golden State Warriors, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. “Those who exercise the right to peacefully express themselves should not be demonized or ostracized.”

“At a time of increasing divisiveness and hate in this country, we should be looking for ways to work together and support each other and not create more division,” he added.

     

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Dwyane Wade, Bulls Reportedly Reach Contract Buyout After 1 Season in Chicago

Dwyane Wade‘s homecoming with the Chicago Bulls is reportedly over after only one season.

The veteran guard and the team have come to terms on a buyout, the Chicago Tribune‘s K.C. Johnson reported Sunday.

ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski offered insight into Wade’s possible landing spots:

Wojnarowski would add that the Cavaliers are the “clear frontrunner” because of LeBron James, but it will take time for Wade to decide. 

Wade was set to earn $23.8 million for the upcoming season before he hit free agency next summer. He is giving back $8 million of his $23.8 million salary in the buyout, per Wojonarowski.

The 2016-17 season ended on a higher note than many expected for the Bulls, but they were still in need of a full-scale rebuild. The front office took notice in the offseason, sending Jimmy Butler and the No. 16 pick in this year’s draft to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.

The writing was on the wall for Wade at that point. On the Aug. 22 edition of ESPN’s The Jump, ESPN.com’s Nick Friedell revealed “the young players on the Bulls really can’t stand [Wade]” and had grown tired of playing with the 35-year-old guard, which begins at the 3:07 mark of the video below.

A buyout makes sense for Wade as well. Instead of spending the 2017-18 season on one of the NBA‘s worst teams, he can potentially contribute to a playoff contender. 

Though Wade is in the twilight of his NBA career, he can remain an effective as long as his minutes and role are limited. He can’t single-handedly carry a team anymore, but he averaged 22.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per 36 minutes last year, according to Basketball-Reference.com. He also shot 31.0 percent from beyond the arc, his highest percentage since 2008-09.

The Bulls, however, were worse when Wade was on the court. Chicago had a minus-2.4 net rating with Wade and a 2.1 net rating without him, per NBA.com.

Those numbers illustrate why Wade’s next team should give him a more limited role in its rotation. If he is asked to carry too heavy a load, signing him will likely prove to be counterproductive.

As long as Wade is willing to accept coming off the bench, he could be a strong addition for any contender ahead of the regular season.

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Kevin Durant Responds to NFL Players Protesting During National Anthem

Kevin Durant not only supported the many examples of protest during the national anthem around the NFL Sunday, he believes sports can unify people across the country.

“A couple hours out of the day, you see people from different walks of life coming together and celebrating a sport. That’s what it’s all about,” Durant said Sunday, per Chris Haynes of ESPN. “Obviously, wins and losses and who’s the best, that stuff is fine, but the bigger picture in sports, it just brings us all together, and you get to enjoy each other for a couple hours.”

“And I think our NFL players are doing a great job of sending a great message, and we stand behind them as athletes, and we support them as well.”

While there have been several examples of protests against racial injustice over the past two seasons, the movement expanded this weekend following comments from President Donald Trump. At a rally in Alabama Friday, the president said that kneeling players should be “fired,” while referring to those in question as a “son of a b—h.”

What followed was over 100 players around the league kneeling during the national anthem, with others locking arms as a sign of unity.

Meanwhile, Trump also called out Durant’s teammate Stephen Curry this week while rescinding the Golden State Warriors’ offer to visit the White House. The NBA finals MVP had no hesitation about who to side with following the controversy.

“My reaction was we stand behind Steph, obviously,” Durant said. “That’s our brother, our teammate, and he’s our leader. We follow behind him, and we stand behind him. We support him in this time.”

Although the protests have received mixed reactions among fans, it’s clear he sees positives in what his fellow athletes are doing at this time.

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DeAndre Liggins Reportedly Traded to Hawks from Clippers; Will Be Waived

The Los Angeles Clippers cleared $1.67 million in a trade exemption by dealing DeAndre Liggins to the Atlanta Hawks, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Per Wojnarowski, the Hawks plan to waive Liggins, who has a non-guaranteed contract.

The 29-year-old spent most of 2016-17 with the Cleveland Cavaliers before ending the season with the Dallas Mavericks.

      

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Kristaps Porzingis ‘Ready for the Challenge’ After Carmelo Anthony Trade

With Carmelo Anthony gone, Kristaps Porzingis is ready to become the New York Knicks‘ go-to player.

“I am ready for the challenge,” he said Saturday, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. “I’ve been preparing myself for this moment.”

The Knicks agreed to send Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and the Chicago Bulls‘ 2018 second-round pick, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Porzingis and the remaining Knicks players had plenty of time to prepare for the move, as Anthony was the subject of trade rumors for more than a year. Heading into what could be the final season of his contract, the 10-time All-Star appeared destined to be dealt as soon as the Knicks found a fair deal and he waived his no-trade clause.

Now that he is gone, New York can start its rebuild around Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and Kanter.

While Porzingis has the talent to be a franchise cornerstone after averaging 18.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game this past season, there are questions about his desire to remain with the organization. After Porzingis skipped his exit meeting at the end of last season, then-team president Phil Jackson considered trading him, per Wojnarowski.

The 22-year-old center also apparently had issues with head coach Jeff Hornacek, according to Isola, although he expressed a desire to put that drama in the past. 

“Honestly, I would love for this year to be a new start,” Porzingis told Isola. “All I’m looking for is a fresh start and not to talk about that anymore.”

This season will go a long way toward determining whether Porzingis can be the centerpiece of the Knicks’ rebuild.

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Nikola Mirotic Reportedly Agrees to New 2-Year Contract with Bulls

The Chicago Bulls and power forward Nikola Mirotic came to terms Sunday on a two-year contract worth $27 million, The Vertical’s Shams Charania reported.

According to Charania, Mirotic also has the right to veto any trade in the first year of the deal.

Mirotic put up numbers in line with his career stats during the 2016-17 campaign, having averaged 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists while shooting 41.3 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three-point range across 70 appearances.

His player efficiency rating is cause for concern, though, as it dropped for the second straight year. The third-year pro posted a 17.9 PER as a rookie with the Bulls, but the figure dropped to 15.6 during his sophomore campaign and 14.5 this past season, according to Basketball Reference.

The low point came in March when he was briefly removed from the rotation. He admitted the situation took a mental toll, per Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

“This season has been hard,” Mirotic said. “It’s been very difficult for me to find a way to enjoy the game. There are a lot of reasons. One of the reasons is me, too. I understand that.”

An ever-changing role is nothing new for the 26-year-old former Real Madrid star. He has frequently switched between Chicago’s starting lineup and bench since making the jump to the NBA.

Nevertheless, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago noted Mirotic continued to speak highly of his time with the organization as his future came into question during the latter stages of the season.

“I just wanna leave a good impression for the Bulls,” he said. “Whatever decision they make. It’s been a pleasure. A lot of people dream to be here; I was one of those guys when I was in Europe. I was really like, ‘I wanna go there and play for the Bulls.’ The history they have. For me, it’s a dream come true.”

Ultimately, the Bulls felt he remained an important enough piece of the rotation to keep him in the fold moving forward. It bears watching whether any other changes they make during the offseason will result in a more defined role for him next season.      

Mirotic has enjoyed stretches where he looked primed to become a high-impact asset for Chicago, particularly as a rookie. Now the question will be whether he can turn that remaining untapped potential into on-court production as he heads toward what are typically a player’s peak years.

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Tristan Thompson Reportedly Pursued by Knicks Before Carmelo Anthony Trade

The New York Knicks reportedly wanted big man Tristan Thompson if they were going to trade Carmelo Anthony to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

On Sunday, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com reported the Knicks “were rebuffed” when they asked for Thompson.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reported the Knicks finalized a deal to send Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, pending a trade call Monday. Shams Charania of The Vertical detailed the return package, noting the Knicks will receive Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a future draft pick.

              

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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