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SportsMonday: Bulls Avoid Disastrous Trade; Hawks Locked In Four-Way Tie

The buzz heading into the trade deadline on Thursday was that the Bulls had the chance to trade promising seven-foot center Omer Asik to the Rockets for Courtney Lee, a 6-5 shooting guard from Western Kentucky who comes off the bench.

Or as part of a deal with Memphis for O.J. Mayo, the former USC standout who had also been riding the pine until Rudy Gay went out with an injury.

Bulls GM - who says he was never close to a deal despite the rumors - would have been nuts to make either trade, something that become even clearer as other options emerge late Sunday and early Monday.

It is certainly questionable whether the Grizzlies would have even done a deal with the Bulls (or vice versa). Memphis owner Michael Heisley, a longtime local (St. Charles), has had a spotty relationship with his hometown team. It was an annoyed Heisley whose forthright comments about preliminary negotiations that could have led to a Luol Deng for Pau Gasol trade a few years ago embarrassed the heck out of the Bulls brass. Heisley contended the deal would have happened if the Bulls had simply been willing to bump up their payroll a bit and pay some luxury tax. The Bulls denied it.

The most exciting thing about the possible trade with Houston was that Lee can really shoot it, even in limited minutes. Plenty of guys can compile decent shooting percentages when they have 30-plus minutes per game to get themselves going, but this year, averaging just 18.8 minutes, Lee is shooting 45 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range.

Nevertheless, in general, you shouldn't trade a young, promising big man for a young, promising shooting guard.

The Rockets eventually ended up trading Shane Battier to Memphis for Hashem Thabeet, the 7-foot-3 Tanzanian by way of UConn who is almost certainly on an express trip to Bustville. There were some other dimensions to the deal but those were the two main ingredients. At this point, Thabeet isn't half the prospect Asik is and yet he was still able to command talent like Battier in return. That is a better gauge of how valuable a big man should be than Asik-for-Lee would have been.

Then the buyouts began. The biggest news from NBA buyout-land has been that Golden State and 6-10 power forward Troy Murphy would reach a deal where they would pay him most of the rest of the money on his contract and he would become a free agent. Late Sunday that seemed a done deal and Murphy was rumored to be headed to the Celtics. Boston's controversial trade of Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green last week would make a lot more sense if Murphy came aboard to help fill the hole inside created by the departure of Perkins.

It also now appears as though the Clippers will do the same thing with shooting guard Rasual Butler, who played his college ball at LaSalle in Philadelphia. And the early favorite to sign him is the Bulls.

But Butler's shooting numbers should give the local team pause. He has hit on only 32 percent of his shots from the field this season (he is actually slightly better from three-point range than he is overall - 32.6 to 32.3). He was better last year (40 percent overall) but last year he played 31 minutes per game. He wouldn't get those kind of minutes with the Bulls. And at this point, who knows who else might be cut loose.

Hawk Tawk
A sucky second period didn't quite drag the Blackhawks down on Sunday, but it made them scramble for their latest two points. They allowed conference rival Phoenix to rally from two two-goal deficits in the middle period and eventually escape the United Center with a point for forcing - though losing - a shootout. It could have been considerably worse.

The Hawks could afford to give up a point, though, after a couple huge results on the road during the week. They rallied to knock off the Blues 5-3 in regulation early last week, then played their best game in awhile on their way to a 3-0 victory at Nashville.

The coolest thing is, Jonathan Toews is playing some of the best hockey of his young and still oh-so-promising career, and he capped off an awesome week with a pair of goals against Phoenix. And neither of those were the captain's biggest play of the evening. That happened in the shootout, when Toews led off and slipped his shot along the ice and just in between the inside of Ilya Bryzgalov's right pad/skate and his stick for the only goal of the extra session. It held up because Corey Crawford stoned three straight Phoenix shooters to cap off the win.

The Hawks are now locked in a four-way tie for seventh in the Western Conference. They have the exact same record as two of the other teams in the deadlock and they are only a point in back of sixth-place Calgary, which has played two more games.

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