Jack Simone – Talking Boston Celtics (Plus Charlotte Hornets & Chicago Bulls)
It was a pleasure to welcome NBA writer, Jack Simone to Triple Zeros! We covered his unique journey into the world of sports journalism and just how he finds time to cover all of the beats that he does. He gave his take on the Boston Celtics’ loss in the NBA Finals, what happened to star forward Jayson Tatum, and on the job Boston’s Ime Udoka did as a rookie head coach. How did the Golden State Warriors’ experience impact the Celtics and, ultimately the series? Also, Jack sends a strong message on Marcus Smart‘s ideal role on the team going forward.
Then, we get into the Hornets hiring Kenny Atkinson to be their head coach only to have him back out days later. How big of a surprise was it and in what direction will they go now? Also, what draft prospects make the most sense for the Hornets in Thursday’s draft? Could they make a move for a young upside player to fill a big need?
Lastly, what does Jack make of all the rumors surrounding the Bulls? Hear what he thinks of that and what Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert would have if the Bulls traded for him this summer. Plus, what should they do with youngsters Patrick Williams and Coby White?
Follow Jack on Twitter (@JackSimoneNBA) and read his work for Heavy, Celtics Blog, At the Hive, and Enjoy Basketball. Also, check him out on the “From the Rafters” podcast.
This episode of Triple Zeros kicks off by updating the latest buzz around the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks. The Rudy Gobert rumors took a big blow with a report of the core expected to be back including Nikola Vucevic. But we did get an interesting nugget about their free agency plans. The Hawks have been linked to Utah Jazz center as well as Detroit Pistons forward, Jerami Grant. Will they move John Collins? Will Bogdan Bogdanovic‘s knee hold up after another surgery? Zooming out, Stephen Curry put on a Herculean performance in Game 4 of the NBA Finals. But he needs his co-stars to start co-starring going forward. Where will the next Boston Celtics or Golden State Warriors come from? Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns are negotiating in public. And if Phil Knight’s money is not good enough, who’s is?
On the NFL side, Chicago Bears quarterback, Justin Fields, has both impressed and struggled in camp. While that is expected, the team should do this one thing to help him out this season. Former Bears and new Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive lineman, Akiem Hicks, took a shot at the quarterback history in Chicago. Man, was he spot on. Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp just secured the bag this offseason. Cleveland Browns quarterback, Deshaun Watson, is facing yet another allegation. That makes 24 now. Lamar Jackson‘s contract situation has devolved into a one-sided PR battle. Wal-Mart’s money is better than Nike’s apparently.
The Review-Preview: 2022 NFL Draft and NBA Playoffs 2nd Round
This episode of Triple Zeros kicks off with some NFL Draft discussion. The Chicago Bears made some interesting choices with their Day 2 and 3 picks. Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Mitchell Trubisky found themselves as clear losers despite both being veterans and former high draft picks themselves. A.J. Brown and Hollywood Brown both find themselves in better situations after being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, respectively. What does it mean for their old teams? New Minnesota Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah got flamed after his trade with the Detroit Lions netted less than expected.
On the NBA side, wrapping up the first round of the playoffs. What is next for the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks after varying levels of disappointment in their first-round matchups? The Utah Jazz appear headed for a Rudy Gobert–Donovan Mitchell break up while the Minnesota Timberwolves need Karl-Anthony Towns to put up or shut up. Nikola Jokic needs Jamal Murray back from a rehab process the guard has admitted has been mentally challenging. The Toronto Raptors have a brighter future than the Brooklyn Nets. Plus picks for the second round!
This episode of Triple Zeros wonders if the Donovan Mitchell–Rudy Gobert era has run its course for the sixth-seeded Utah Jazz. Then, could Gobert make sense for a Chicago Bulls team that is sliding and has clear weaknesses? Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks have won five straight to take over the eight-seed. No team wants to face them in the NBA Playoffs. Kevin Durant is right about the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. They both have to retire his number, you cannot tell the story of either organization without mentioning him. Both Los Angeles teams have dealt with injuries. However, the Lakers are sliding while the Clippers have done better than expected. And Zion Williamson‘s workout videos come off as more of a demo reel than a notice to the New Orleans Pelicans front office.
Switching over to the NFL, the new overtime rules aren’t bad. It is good that they are keeping it to the postseason (for now), though. Indianapolis Colts owner, Jim Irsay lit into Carson Wentz. That is nothing compared to what is being alleged about Washington Commanders owner, Daniel Snyder regarding ticket sales. Bruce Arians may or may not have been made to step away from the sidelines. Still, he leaves an indelible mark that the league is still trying to emulate through rules changes. The Los Angeles Rams have signed Bobby Wagner to a big deal. This begs the question, once again, is the salary cap real? Finally, Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin proved once again why he is a certain host’s favorite NFL head coach.
The calendar has turned to March and the madness is about to begin. Yes, that might have been a reference to college basketball but that still doesn’t change for the NBA. Last week I covered the Eastern Conference.
The playoffs bracket in the West is closer in terms of playoff positioning, but the Los Angeles Lakers sit at the top led by all-time great LeBron James. Can we consider LeBron a legend even though he is still active? We can get to that next week when I’ll be diving into some of the more debatable topics this league provides its fans.
Home-court advantage is going to be critical. If Denver gets home court over the Thunder (which would happen if the playoffs started today). Both teams are significantly better at home than on the road. Think about if Oklahoma City stole home-court advantage and was able to win their first-round series. That could change the outlook on the franchise.
The current seventh-seeded Mavericks actually boast a 21-11 road record, so they could play spoiler in a series. Luka Doncic is built for the playoffs. They might lose their first-round series, but there will be fireworks because of the Mavericks averaging 116 PPG, which ranks third in the NBA.
Other potential suitors for that eighth and coveted spot are the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and New Orleans Pelicans. All of these teams sit no more than four games back. The most compelling story is the upstart Pelicans who are led by rookie sensation Zion Williamson. But we have to respect what Memphis has done here. Their schedule after the all-star break was second in difficulty, and with a little over a month to go, they have a solid three-game lead. The Grizzlies are led by another rookie sensation in Ja Morant.
Look at the top-seeded Lakers. They have two of the top-five players in the league. Some are here to argue that Giannis Antetokounmpo is the best in the league and I have no qualms about it. I would be remiss to say that LeBron is still the number one player in the world given his incredible IQ, distribution, and understanding of the game and what needs to be done to win a title.
Still Up There
At this point, we are tired of LeBron and it skews our view on him in terms of greatness. In any best-of-seven series, the Lakers will have an all-time great as the best player on the floor. But will his supporting cast be able to do enough to get him to the finals?
The number-one threat to the Lakers returning the NBA Finals is the Clippers. After an intense six-game series where the upstart Clippers pushed the Warriors to the brink with inspiring play, free-agency ended with them having acquired the defending Finals MVP in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, a two-way superstar who could help the Clipper reach the promised land. The Clippers have the star power and defensive prowess to wear the Lakers down and are 2-0 against their cross-town foe.
But this reporter has seen this before. Who remembers when the 2011 Chicago Bulls went against the Lebron James led heat? Yes I know, we have different levels of stars. And Leonard and George are lengthy defenders who can combat LeBron. But when it comes down to it in a best-of-seven, give me LeBron.
Keep an Eye On
The Nuggets and Rockets are third and fourth in the Western Conference. The Nuggets main question still remains. Do they have the star power to get to the finals? Simple answer. No.
Denver is a good team, don’t me wrong. But right now they would face the Thunder in the first round; no easy out. In the second round, they would face the Clippers. They don’t have the bodies to guard the likes of Leonard and George. The athleticism of the Clippers would be too much.
The Rockets are a gimmicky team trying to beat you by spreading the floor and being unconscious from the three-point line. They have the superstar power to get to the Western Conference Finals but those stars haven’t punched their ticket to finals since 2012. That was when James Harden and Russell Westbrook were with the Thunder.
How It Plays Out
Throughout a seven-game series, the Rockets will be worn down. If they come out of the first round, they’ll be minced meat for either the Lakers or Clippers. The bottom-four teams in the playoffs have young (to a degree), up-and-coming teams that will have their title window soon. Just not quite yet. The Thunder are the surprise of the season.
After trading Westbrook and George, everyone thought the team would tank to hopefully draft their next superstar. That is not the case. Chris Paul and company are having a fantastic season and look to ruffle some feathers in the first round. Utah is a defensive dynamo led by Rudy Gobert. Unfortunately, they do not have enough pop to get to the finals. Hopefully, they’ll see Donovan Mitchell pop in the playoffs again. The Jazz are just hoping to advance to the second round.
As for the Mavericks and the Grizzlies, the only thing I want to see is the blossoming of Doncic and Morant. These two young players are on another level, and I hope to see them raise their game in the playoffs. Doncic has been in big moments for nearly a decade and you can tell in his early career he has the makings of being something special. He is currently averaging 28.5 points per game, 8.8 assists, and 9.3 rebounds.
One for the Road
Ja Morant is the Rookie of the Year in my opinion. Trust me I love Zion just as much as the next guy. But Ja has been nothing short of special for this upstart Memphis bunch and a playoff appearance in his rookie season is nothing but a sign of great things to come.
It is March and that can only mean one thing. The basketball world will come into the focus with the NCAA tournament and the NBA playoffs to follow shortly after. These are all the things I am looking for in this year’s playoffs. If you read last week’s article I chose the Boston Celtics, and for this week. I believe the Lakers will meet them in the NBA Finals, and the winner will be in next week’s article.
If you have anything you want to discuss you can hit me up on twitter @illiniRyan7