While the Houston Rockets realize that trading Tracy McGrady will not be easy, the club now believes it has a better than 50 percent chance of moving the fading superstar by the Feb. 18 trade deadline, according to league executives.
The Rockets are in discussions with several clubs about McGrady, and sources say two of the teams near the top of their wish list are Washington and Chicago.
Nothing is imminent with either team, but there are potential deals with both clubs that Houston would be interested in pulling off.
Washington, which league executives believe is in cost-cutting mode after the Gilbert Arenas disaster, could have McGrady for a deal featuring Caron Butler and some expiring contracts, perhaps Mike Miller and Randy Foye.
Chicago, which has definite interest in McGrady, also has the combination of young talent and expiring contracts the Rockets are looking for. There is a Bulls player Houston covets, but it's not clear who that is. Since the Rockets surely realize that Derrick Rose won't be traded, logic suggests it's Joakim Noah.
A package of Noah, Brad Miller and Jerome James (the latter two have expiring contracts) would work financially, but sources say the Bulls have no desire to part with Noah.
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Bulls have a little fun in 120-87 win over Pistons
The Bulls discovered something about their team in the last two games.
Faced with home games against bad opponents, the Bulls took care of business, built big leads and then something became obvious - backup center Aaron Gray has developed a fan following.
Some of the loudest cheers in the Bulls' ridiculously easy 120-87 victory over Detroit on Monday night came when Gray stood up to enter the game and then when he dropped in a layup at the 6:26 mark of the fourth quarter.
Asked if he realized the level of Gray's popularity, Joakim Noah revealed an odd name for the third-year center.
"The Pookster played very well tonight," Noah said. "He was very focused and excited to play. He said he wanted to play tonight and he stepped up huge for us; a lot of touch on that layup."
Of course, some things defy explanation, such as that nickname for Gray.
"I think Drew Gooden gave him that nickname, if I remember correctly," Noah said after a long chat with former teammate Ben Wallace in the training room.
Anyway, the short-handed Pistons arrived on a 12-game losing streak and never came close to ending it at the United Center. Detroit (11-25) played without Tayshaun Prince (knee) and Will Bynum (ankle). Ex-Bulls guard Ben Gordon sat out the second half with a groin injury after taking just 1 shot (a miss) during a seven-minute run before halftime.
"There's still a lot of basketball left," Gordon said. "I'm still optimistic that once everyone gets healthy, we'll start to play the way we know we can and turn this around."
Bulls forward Gibson is batting recurring case of plantar fasciitis
Chicago Bulls rookie forward Taj Gibson sat out practice on Tuesday afternoon due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
"He going to go see the doctor today and get some therapy," Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro said after practice. "He's feeling a little bit better, but that plantar fasciitis is bothering him a little bit, and he'll get some treatment on it.
Del Negro revealed that Gibson has been battling the injury for most of the season and irritated it during the Bulls' win over the Timberwolves on Saturday night. "It's not a tear, but he's got some inflammation in there so he's got to get some treatment."
Del Negro wasn't sure if Gibson would have to miss any additional time this week.
"Let's see how he feels [Wednesday]," Del Negro said. "I'd like to get him some practice in [Wednesday] before we get up to Boston."
18 Cities On List For US World Cup Bid
Chicago and the Bay Area are the two surprise omissions from the list of cities on the USA's World Cup bid
Chicago's World Cup bid met the same fate as its try for the Olympics when the Windy City was dropped Tuesday from U.S. plans for the 2018 or 2022 World Cup.
Americans organizers selected 21 stadiums in 18 metropolitan areas to submit in their bid book to FIFA in May.
Also left off was San Francisco, but organizers said the Bay Area could return to contention if the 49ers get a new stadium in Santa Clara. Others not making the cut included Cleveland; Detroit; Jacksonville, Fla.; and St. Louis.
Chicago, beaten by Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympics in October, has virtually no chance of getting back in consideration. That was a major surprise, given that Soldier Field hosted the 1994 World Cup opener.
"I think there's a little Olympic fatigue. I think the Park District had a tough time wrestling with FIFA requirements in short order after the IOC decision," U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said.