Category Archives: NBA

Association Thoughts

Just a random collection of thoughts on the NBA ahead of Boogie Cousins’ return.

‘Dubs’ More Than a Name

Game over. That has to be the feeling around the NBA as everyone braces for the return of DeMarcus Cousins. His presence alone is big news, but it is who and what he is returning to that makes his debut the beginning of the end for everyone else.

The Golden State Warriors don’t ‘need’ Boogie to win (another) championship. They know that as well as he does. They also don’t need him to be the guy who averages 20-10, though that guy will certainly show up occasionally.

All they need is a solidifying presence at the pivot. We’ve already seen the evolution of the Warriors ‘death lineup’. Now imagine that being the primary grouping instead of just the final blow that puts teams out of their misery.

The Warriors have had their worst (relative term) season of this run so far. With Boogie set to make his highly-anticipated debut against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Association is about to witness the basketball version of Thanos ready to snap.

Lakers Seeds Flourishing

When LeBron James went to L.A. it was widely considered a non-basketball business move. He could pursue his off-court ventures and play for a legendary franchise while helping develop their younger guys. Well, LeBron’s vision may have been better than anticipated.

For all their well-earned grief received in James’ absence, the young Lakers dispatched of the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime. Now 5-7 without their mega-star forward, the core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma have had ups-and-downs ice this stretch. Their upside was evident against OKC.

Their issue is consistency. It remains to be seen if that will change. James is not due back, according to some reports, until February. In the meantime, the young core will continue to build confidence and try to maintain that level once LeBron does return to the floor.

A Bunch of Bull

Imagine firing a coach, hiring his philosophical opposite, then firing that guy only to hire a lesser -version of the guy you let go, to begin with. If your head is spinning, you’re not alone. Bulls game and the rest of the NBA alike are wondering what exactly is the plan.

A leadership group that has built lost of its reputation on identifying and developing talent cannot even lay claim to that. If Lauri Markkanen’s stagnation is a reflection of the organization (duh) then those in charge must be held accountable.

John Paxson has said that if this rebuild is unsuccessful, those clamoring for his job will get their wish. It is fair to wonder if that will be the case. Ownership has long been reluctant to make changes on the executive level. Maybe that changes with the team currently a laughing stock.

Failure to Launch

The Houston Rockets will not win the NBA championship this season. James Harden is more likely to win the MVP again and I’m not certain that happens either. The Rockets are banged up without Chris Paul and Clint Capela, but even they would not change to ending.

Houston’s window was different from most contender in that it was put together somewhat on the fly with older players. Trevor Ariza left before the season, and in general, the switchy defenders from the last year are all gone.

If the Rockets cannot defend those switches with the same veracity, what are they? They are a deeply flawed team too-reliant on their remaining healthy star. They also don’t do that defending thing too well. Even when Paul and Capela return, there is no cure for what ails this franchise.

Season Half Over, Bulls Completely Done

Bulls Fans Given Little Hope in Tumultuous Season

Same Old Song

Stop me if you have heard this before, but the Chicago Bulls lost again. I wrote how the NBA is in a really fun place right now with the young talent and intrigue across the league. Not a part of that feel-good aura surrounding the Association, the Bulls. The place where they reside is neither fun nor intriguing; unless of course, you enjoy rubbernecking.

Expectations were not high coming into the season. The second year of a rebuild, a coach with job security questions (he has since been fired), and a roster that, despite some young pieces, is largely devoid of the talent needed to turn around the fortunes of a franchise. They drafted early last year – likely this year as well – but haven’t been the worst team in the standings despite the on-court product.

Not All Bad

That is not to say the front office duo of John Paxson of and Gar Forman have drafted poorly. To the contrary, the embattled pair can actually hang their hat on identifying talent that exceeds their drag slot. They can even claim development as a plus. That is where it ends, however. How they have handled players beyond that has left a lot to be desired.

More concerning is that it has come in a variety of forms. There were players the Bulls had and moved (Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic), players they sold the chance to get (Jordan Bell), even players that hinted at wanting to be in Chicago (Michael Porter Jr.). Granted, there is no guarantee those players would be who they are or that the Bulls would have even known what to with them.

Perception is Reality

Chicago’s inability to string together successes in the draft and free agency, then parlay that into a championship has been omnipresent under this leadership group. In a recent interview on local radio, a former Chicago beat reporter asserted that, around the rest of the NBA, players consider the Bulls a laughing stock.

Half-way through the 2018-19 season – and two coaches in – it is hard to argue those players are wrong. There have been personnel and schematic issues that have continued. Why that is important is because it was fundamentally why Fred Hoiberg was relieved of duty. Under Jim Boylen, the team has played better defensively, but have largely dropped across the board offensively.

Fans Deserve Better

So fans are left to wonder. When will the team be competitive again? They seem committed to being bad this year after denying the need to in the past, but they continue to win games they shouldn’t. It’s bizarre cheering for your team, not necessarily to lose, but definitely not to win. Since they do well on the draft and develop aspect, it makes sense to want them to have their pick of prospects.

This is life at the moment for Bulls fans. It is similar to the Chicago White Sox, also owned by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, and their situation with Kenny Williams. He had a heck if a run, but it is time for a change. The GarPax era has under delivered. Hopefully this coming offseason – yes it is already at that point – brings the sweeping changes. Hopefully, those changes bring another championship.

NBA In Fun Place

Adobe_Post_20190102_213829The NBA is in a fun place right now. The evolution of player movement has ushered in an era where trades are even more unpredictable. The Paul George and Jimmy Butler trades are prime examples. Heck, Kawhi Leonard got sent to another country.

 

Anthony Davis may be the next. Now teams like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and even the Golden State Warriors have to consider making a move in the same vein to avoid missing out.

 

The league has always been based on “super teams”, but the Celtics’ iteration led to LeBron James‘ player control movement. Golden State emerged, restoring hope for organically built teams to prosper. Then Kevin Durant happened and then everything was out of whack again.

 

The George trade threw an interesting wrinkle in the player movement stratagem: send players to option ‘Z’. In other words, their least desired destination. Not the “worst” destination, that needs to be specified. Rather, the best package gets the deal done, regardless of player preference.

 

I know, groundbreaking stuff. What is interesting is that the recent deals have yielded positive returns for all parties involved. Again it meds to be specified, of course the goal is a win-win trade.

 

To actually see it bear out that way, though, is exciting. That is because it may lead to more deals, which brings us to the New Orleans Pelicans. More specifically it brings up their franchise player.

 

While AD has not asked for a trade, we have seen this movie play out countless times before. So who is going to pay up for arguably a top-three talent? Those previous trades showed that any team can swoop in and steal away a prized player, so none can really be counted out. Still, some destinations do stand out above the rest.

 

Los Angeles is obviously at the top of the list. LeBron a has a history of assembling talent-laden rosters and his representatives added AD as a client this year. Add in James’ comments in the media that spurred a league-wide memo about tampering and the dots connect themselves. Especially after the Lakers — whiffed on George — may not be where Kawhi ends up even if he comes to L.A.

 

The package would likely need to include two of the four young core members of Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and Josh Hart. Which two is where it gets tricky. That Magic Johnson could pivot and deal for someone like Washington Wizards’ guard Bradley Beal instead makes it trickier.

 

Boston is finally at full strength after Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving both missed all or part of last season. They sit fifth in the East at the moment and are always attached as potential trade partners for big names. They have assets rivaling those of L.A. with the added benefit of not being in the same conference.

 

That is how Kawhi landed in Toronto and Butler in Philly. Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge just has to determine whether or not to pull the trigger. Something he has been reluctant to do for the most part.

 

Then there are the defending champion Warriors. They already added DeMarcus Cousins, who has yet to suit up but is said to be close to returning. Even with all that firepower they too are reportedly interested in the player known as the “Brow”.

 

Beyond those three, any team with assets is a viable landing spot. AD is a generational talent and one that every team will likely make a bid for. The Lakers risk losing out on yet another superstar and Boston is mentioned whenever stars are surrounded by trade rumors. The Warriors would have to do some remodeling get a deal done.

 

The darkhorse teams all risk gutting themselves for a one-year rental hoping to emulate what the Thunder did with George. It is a risk that most teams are willing to make. The only question is how do moves like that affect an NBA teams future? Maybe that is a question for another post…

Bulls Bad in 2018

pexels-photo-752036~22018 Bulls are Bad

Bottoming out

What is the endgame? That has to be the question on the minds of all Chicago Bulls fans following Wednesday’s loss to the Brooklyn Nets that dropped their record to 7-25. This is shaping up to be the worst season since the 1998-99 season; following Michael Jordan‘s retirement. The issue here, however, is this Bulls team did not lose an MJ. They are not coming off of a single championship, let alone a second three-peat. In fact, this Bulls team only won 27 games all last season; 13th in the East.

Building Through The Draft

The thought going into last season was the Bulls would be rebuilding. That is code in 2018 for tanking. Chicago won more games than they should have, ending up taking Wendell Carter Jr with the seventh pick and Chandler Hutchison with the pick acquired in the Nikola Mirotic trade. Carter has been compared to Al Horford; a technician that can fill a variety of roles on offense and anchor a defense. Hutchison was a player the team fell in love with during the pre-draft process; going so far as to guarantee they would select him. Both may become really good players, but the NBA is a superstar driven league.

Greater Expectations

Top to bottom, this roster is just a collection of secondary and tertiary options playing out of position (Jabari Parker) or in the wrong role (Justin Holiday). The hole at small forward – created by the Jimmy Butler trade – is glaring. Drafting the right prospect is not necessarily the problem for this front office. The Bulls have largely done well on that front, but that is relative. They were a middling playoff team, so they could get by with getting the most out of under-the-radar players. When teams are bad, they must get immediate, high-impact players. Last year’s first-round pick, Lauri Markkanen forms a talented and dynamic duo with Carter Jr in the frontcourt, but that is where the hype ends.

Looking Ahead

Rumors swirled over the summer that, behind closed doors, the Bulls are not completely sold on Kris Dunn. Zach LaVine began the season as a candidate for Most Improved Player. That praise has since given way to criticism over LaVine’s late-game shot selection. To make matters worse, he is now dealing with an ankle sprain that will sideline him up to a month. It is just another injury added to the list in a season that saw Chicago start the season without Dunn, Markkanen or Bobby Portis – who is also dealing with an ankle injury. While no one likes to see injuries, it would be foolish to overlook the proverbial silver lining.

2018 Bulls Bad; 2019 Better?

The aforementioned issues have the Bulls with the worst record in the league; a dubious honor with the kicker being a shot at the number one pick. This assumes – already a risk with this team – that Chicago doesn’t get in its’ own way and win games unnecessarily. Discussion on the overall confidence in this front office is warranted. Questioning the tactics of Head Coach Jim Boylan, also fair. The 2018 Bulls are bad. Getting the first pick in the collective hands of Vice President John Paxon and General Manager Gar Forman, however, has proven beneficial in the past. Perhaps they can deliver again.

NBA Weekend Eventful

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NBA Weekend Eventful to Start

Is anybody else’s head spinning? Not that the Association can really ever be boring, but Friday and Saturday showcased what makes it so compelling.

Full Friday

From a failed trade reminding us of 2011 to Russell Westbrook not mincing words. Spencer Dinwiddie and Allonzo Trier continued to earn their new money; Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid both dropped 40, albeit with different end results. Kawhi had 28, but it was Lillard time in TO, and Golden State and Miami both won close games with late runs. By the way, all this was just Friday.

Saturday Night Fever

Saturday night brought its own brand of drama. Orlando stayed undefeated in Mexico. Washington and Phoenix completed a simplified version of the nixed deal, minus Memphis. Speaking of, the Grizzlies fell to 3-5 in December after losing to Houston. James Harden had 32-12-10 while leading the game in points and rebounds – his 10 assists tied Chris Paul. LeBron and Lonzo used triple-doubles of their own to take out the Hornets; while the Thunder downed the Clippers behind Paul George’s game-high 33 points. Chicago, Detroit, and Phoenix upset San Antonio, Boston, and Minnesota respectively. On to Sunday.

Friday Files

Adobe_Post_20181214_144101NBA:
James Harden goes 50-10-10; has 19 free throws as Rockets topple Lakers 126 – 111
• Spurs find defense; blow out Clips 125 – 87
• Bulls lose to Orlando 97 – 91; reportedly bench Parker
• T.J. Warren’s 30 points vs Mavs help Suns snap skid; overshadow Dirk’s return

NFL:
• Philip Rivers, Chargers exorcise demons on TNF; stun Chiefs at Arrowhead
• Keenan Allen goes down with hip injury
• OBJ out again with quad injury vs Titans
Carson Wentz to possibly be shut down for rest of season

Bulls Sink Further in Lost Season

We can't forget MJ on the wall of our bedroom (we were eleven in 1992), french paper Le Monde's director said one day (was it in 2001?)
Photo by: Steven Largouet

MEXICO CITY – Let the good times roll. It can be difficult to detect sarcasm in writing, but hopefully it was clear in this case. It wound take extraordinary circumstances for even casual basketball fans to not see what is going on with the Chicago Bulls. Yet somehow, the front office and head coach continue to say things like “change is difficult”. Or that they “did have some distraction“. There is no way they are watching the same things as everyone else.

As if the 97-91 loss to Orlando was not enough, a report came out that not only would prized free-agent Jabari Parker – he of the 2-year $40M contract – not see regular minutes going forward, he might not even remain with the team through the season. Since that is not enough, the Brooklyn Nets and Spencer Dinwiddie agreed to a 3-year $34M extension. How does this impact the Bulls, you ask? Dinwiddie was cut by Chicago, for someone named R.J. Hunter. All of this and there is still the matter of the media firestorm over the developments this season. A season that, although clearly not set up for a playoff run, has been embarrassing nonetheless.

So what next? Well since we can likely rule out a change in management, the best hope is that the Bulls young guys continue to develop – perhaps in spite of the organization – while the Bulls continue to lose games. Then the could use what will assuredly be a top-4 pick to draft their superstar wing; that being the clearest position of need. The hot name is Zion Williamson, the 6’7” 285 pound forward from Duke. Interestingly enough Williamson’s own teammates, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish have also been linked to the Bulls. You will probably get a different answer on who the pick should be depending on who you ask.

The true question remains, will it matter? Can this front office – that actually has drafted well – attract the seemingly elusive superstar free agent? The recent failures with Parker and Dwyane Wade last year will not do much to help. There were already stories of players avoiding the Bulls, can GarPax change that if they are the ones causing it? Is Jim Boylen really the coach that is going to get this team on track and back to the playoffs? There are more questions and fewer answers every single day with this team.

Bulls Brooding Over Boylen

Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylen questions a call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Indianapolis.

DEERFIELD, IL — Not even two weeks. Newly minted head coach Jim Boylen has not been in the position for two full weeks and he may have already worn out his welcome the players. According to this report on Yahoo.com, players contacted the NBPA to complain about their new leader’s “extreme tactics”.

Those tactics included three two-and-a-half hour practices that included extra conditioning drills, military-style pushups, film session immediately after games and calling for practices after back-to-backs. Calling for a practice Sunday was reportedly the final straw.

Following a 9-15 start to the season, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson fired Fred Hoiberg and named Boylen to the post; omitting ‘interim’ from his title. Both he and General Manager Gar Forman have since come to the defense of Boylen.

The choice to go with Boylen is looking like the wrong one. Concerning when looking back on Paxson’s presser where he spoke on the team lacking “energy and spirit”.

Boylen has since refuted the initial reports; saying it was only a couple of players. It is an ominous development, nonetheless, and one Boylen is said to have been notified of. His response? Proceed as planned. This likely gets worse before it gets better. So who is really to blame?

On their umpteenth coaching hire — two this season alone — and poised to select another, it would be fair to wonder how much longer the front office duo known as ‘GarPax’ will get to besmudge the legacy the Bulls built.

Seemingly capable of building teams that compete but never seriously threaten — asterisk on the Derrick Rose era — GarPax are wearing thin on a passionate and increasingly vocal fanbase. Looking at the past tendencies of ownership, however, suggests a divorce is not soon to come.

Bulls in Familiar Territory with Youth Movement

Wallpaper of Derrick Rose with Michael Jordan in the background
Photo by: RyanHurstDesigns

CHICAGO — In all fairness, it was time to trade Derrick Rose, and it is clear who won the first Jimmy Butler trade.

This group also has intrigue. Lauri Markkanen looks like a special player, Lavine can go off on any night and Wendell Carter’s play has made his seventh overall draft cost seem like a bargain. The jury is still out on Kris Dunn, but when on his game he is a tough defender with a knack for closing games.
The elephant in the lineup is at the small forward position. The hope was that Parker would be a case of talent overcoming fit. Now the hope is likely that Jabari is elsewhere next season with an incoming rookie manning that spot.

It is not all on Parker, though he has not exactly put his best for forward. Although undersized, Jabari is a natural power forward and is a square peg in a defensive hole on the wing. Not that his post defense is great but you live with it because he is such a mismatch for most bigs in the Association.

That is another issue. The average power forward is closer to Parker’s profile than when he came in to the NBA. His advantage is diminished with each new class. Make no mistake, Jabari Parker has All-Star ability. Just not at small forward, and probably not in Chicago.

Part of the the thinking behind Jabari at the three is Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr both look like solid blocks to build on. The failed experiment has resulted in Parker coming off the bench; something I’m sure neither side foresaw.

With the team drafting guys like Denzel Valentine and this year’s second first round selection, Chandler Hutchison, signs point to the Bulls selecting a wing player in the upcoming draft. Duke forward Cam Reddish perhaps?

Whoever the Bulls choose, it will likely be Gar Forman and John Paxon making the pick. Whether that is a positive or negative remains to be seen. Hopefully the Bulls get it right, regardless of who is calling the shots.

Bulls Out of Luck Against Celtics

Bulls || Image Source: cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/24/files/2016/06/nb...
Photo by: David Berkowitz Chicago

CHICAGO — History was made at the United Center Saturday night. 133-77 was the final, but the Bulls came out on the destroyed end.

Coming off a thrilling victory versus the Thunder, the Bulls suffered the worst home-loss in franchise history; a 56-point dismantling by the Boston Celtics, who earned their fifth straight win.

Frigid from all over the floor, Chicago’s starters were held scoreless the first 9 minutes. Head Coach Jim Bolyan rightfully benched them. It appears firing Fred Hoiberg has fixed all that is wrong with the Bulls. Go figure.

Perhaps a roster thin on talent and depth is more of an issue. Maybe it was the first month plus that saw three members of a young core out with injury? How is Jabari Parker’s homecoming going? Amazing how firing one guy did nothing for 90 percent of those things. If only there were more people to fire.

Seemingly gifted infallible job security, John Paxon and Gar Forman have spent their tenure building up to disappointment. The gift that was the Derrick Rose era coming closest to a championship run. The Jimmy Butler era helped spur the current rebuild.

This iteration of the “baby” Bulls is long on youth, and a quick look at the standings suggests Chicago will be picking high in the lottery yet again. Another youth movement. When you never finish you’re never done. GarPax will live forever.