Archive for the 'michael jordan' Category

28
Oct
08

Chicago Bulls 2008-2009 Season Preview

UPDATE: Multiple reports are out that Thabo Sefolosha will get the starting role next to Derrick Rose tonight over Kirk Hinrich. While it’s interesting that Thabo will get a shot, and not a horrible idea, he did not play all that much during the preseason. This is just another example of what worries me about Del Negro as a coach. It’s not that he won’t have good ideas or cannot communicate well with his team, but it seems like he just doesn’t know what he’s doing a lot of the time. Hopefully he’ll learn quickly, because I think it will be a long year otherwise. Thank goodness it’ll be fun to watch Rose regardless of the team’s record.

Projected Starting Lineup

5 – Drew Gooden

4 – Tyrus Thomas

3 – Luol Deng

2 – Kirk Hinrich

1 – Derrick Rose

Projected Bench

Guards

Ben Gordon

Larry Hughes

Thabo Sefolosha

Forwards

Andres Nocioni

Thabo Sefolosha

Michael Ruffin

Centers

Joakim Noah

Aaron Gray

Not Gonna Play

Demetris Nichols

Cedric Simmons

Michael Ruffin

9 Luol Deng SF 23 6-9 220 Duke $9,385,000
Deng needs to take another step this season. He gained good leadership experience over the summer with the British national team. Now he needs to bring that experience to the Bulls. The two players with the most years of NBA service on this roster, Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden, aren’t going to get that job done. Deng also needs to be more aggressive on offense. Too often he catches a pass, dribbles once and shoots. He needs to work on his triple threat game more instead.

90 Drew Gooden PF 27 6-10 250 Kansas $7,151,183
Gooden is the team’s most accomplished low post scorer. This ability will earn him minutes and seems to have earned him a starting role on opening night. We’ll see if Del Negro gets fed up with his lack of concentration the way Gooden’s past coaches have. Gooden is talented and in a contract year. I expect motivated play from him, but nothing we have not seen before.

7 Ben Gordon SG 25 6-3 200 Connecticut $6,404,750
Ben Gordon will score. However, will the team jerk him around after all of the contract issues over the summer? I envision a Reinsdorf-Paxson-led minimization of Gordon’s role unless they plan to trade him during the season, which is sounding unlikely. Anybody else think the toe stub thing was extremely strange? Poor Ben. Nobody is going to pay him his $10 million, but he also does not deserve the way the Bulls have treated him.

34 Aaron Gray C 23 7-0 270 Pittsburgh $711,517
Gray lost 30 pounds over the summer and while he was not overweight before, he was probably one of the slowest players in the NBA. His speed should be improved, but he is not going to outrun anybody. I think it was KC Johnson who recently humorously wrote that Derrick Rose might lap Gray in a down court sprint. Gray is a solid backup Center with a soft touch and a big body. The only problem is the Bulls do not seem to have a starting Center.

12 Kirk Hinrich PG 27 6-3 190 Kansas $10,000,000
So Hinrich is coming off the bench? I think if that’s how they’re going to use him, they need to try and trade him. Maybe he is too small to guard 2s every game and has had trouble adjusting to playing off the ball, but he is too valuable to play bench minutes. Sure, he would be a great backup PG, but does anybody else see that going over well for the long-term? This situation concerns me. That said, he did have a down year last season. If he does not revert to his prior form, maybe he will be best suited to come off the bench.

32 Larry Hughes SG 29 6-5 185 $12,827,676
While I do not wish the man harm, pain or misfortune, his injury was kind of a blessing in disguise. It will allow Del Negro to look at a back court situation he wishes he had. A situation with a manageable four guards deserving of time instead of five. While Hughes has really surprised me with his effort on both ends of the court in preseason – what is it, 2002? – he is still far and away the least valuable guard in the rotation. Too many bad, forced shots and too much defensive risk taking for glory steals. The Bulls would trade him if there were any other team in the league willing to take on his contract. Unfortunately the only team out there who might consider it would be Cleveland for Ben Wallace.

35 Demetris Nichols SF 24 6-8 216 Syracuse $711,517
May he’ll develop out of nowhere? Not going to see much playing time.

13 Joakim Noah PF 23 6-11 232 Florida $2,295,480
Noah has me worried. He was supposed to have the starting Center job all wrapped up but now it looks as if natural Power Forward Drew Gooden will start there. Though entering his second professional season, Noah is said to have major conditioning issues. And this from a lanky guy whose major assets are energy and grittiness? He was arrested in the offseason for carrying an open container and was found to have a joint hidden in a pack of cigarettes on his person. While the joint does not worry me the cigarettes do. This guy might actually be the one who would START smoking after becoming a professional basketball player. I still have very high hopes for what Noah will eventually bring to the team, but I am worried, very worried.

5 Andres Nocioni SF 28 6-7 225 $8,000,000
I expect Nocioni to settle in to a solid 7th man role, bringing energy and scoring off the bench while annoying other teams best scorers part-time with his in your face defense. He is not a great defender, but he can bug the hell out of some guys. He and Deng have the best rotation situation of any position on the team.

1 Derrick Rose PG 20 6-3 190 Memphis $4,822,800
He needs to start from day one. Looked great in preseason, showing the ability to get to the rim almost any time he wants. His defense still has a ways to go, but he will create a lot of open outside shots for teammates with his penetrating ability. If the season goes wrong, Rose will leave us fans with at least something entertaining to watch regardless of the record.

2 Thabo Sefolosha SG 24 6-7 215 $1,931,160
I guess Thabo is a starter. Interesting. This is a role he can grow into and be strong in. However, with guys like Hinrich, Gordon and Hughes on the bench behind him, how much time will he have to do so? Great defender. Good ball handler and passer. So-so shooter. Last season he showed the ability to get to the rim but had some trouble finishing. He has all the tools though we are still waiting to see him put them all together. Now is his chance.

15 Cedric Simmons SF 22 6-9 235 N.C. State $1,742,760
See Demetris Nichols but take away two years.

24 Tyrus Thomas PF 22 6-9 215 LSU $3,749,880
I expect a huge year from Thomas. He had a very strong preseason, showing a ton of energy and more desire than he has in years past. However, even though his mid-range jump shot is improving, he is settling for it way too much. I think his FG % in the preseason was in the mid-30s. That is not going to cut it. He needs to play to his strengths – opportunistic interior offense and help side defense – and bring the other aspects of his game along slowly. Playing with Derrick Rose should really help Thomas. These two, hopefully, will turn into THE duo for the Bulls for years to come.

Coach: Vinny Del Negro
I am worried. Very worried. Let’s hope I am wrong. He seems smart and likable. The players seem happy with him for now, which is all you can ask so far. However, tonight will be the first regular season basketball game he will coach at any level. When Michael Jordan decided to try and play major league baseball the White Sox manager at the time said, “I’m interested to find out if baseball is as hard as I think it is.” While I am no kind of basketball coach, right now I’m interested to see if being an NBA coach is as hard as I think it is.

Average Age: 24.3

Average Height: 6-7

Average Weight: 218

Source: ESPN.com – Height, weight, age and salary vary based on source.

Team Preview:

The Bulls are one of the youngest teams in the league this season and over the upcoming 82 games that fact is going to be visible in their play. However, recent Bulls teams that won 47 and 49 games were also very, very young. The main difference this year will be a head coach who has yet to coach a regular season basketball game at any level as well as an excessive depth of talent. In fact, the combination of those two features will ultimately spell doom for this team’s playoffs hopes.

The Bulls are crazy deep at every position, yet unfortunately lack any transcendent stars. Sure, Derrick Rose looks like he’s going to be a star in the near future, but is probably a year away at the very least. While most teams would probably envy the depth that the Bulls roster features, a head coach is totally new to the profession might have trouble with it. Del Negro’s inconsistent rotation over the course of the preseason doesn’t point to good things for the regular season. He’ll have some tough decisions to make with more players expecting not only major minutes, but to start than he has roles to fill.

The balance of this talented roster is indeed fragile. You have Thomas, who is entering his third season, a season by which players who are going to be strong pros usually start to show it. He’ll be facing off against Drew Gooden for minutes in a contract year for Gooden. The Bulls have two promising young centers in Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray, yet Del Negro seems poised to start the undersized Gooden at Center. This decision of course would leave two men who each thought he had a chance to start competing for backup minutes. And that’s just the frontcourt situation.

At the three, they have Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni. This position probably will feature the most stable rotation. Having just signed a large extension, it should be clear to everybody that Deng is the starter. Nocioni puts forth as much effort as anybody on the team, but is unfortunately only a so-so defender. That said, he brings an excellent scoring burst off of the bench. The only wrench that could be thrown into this rotation would be Thabo Sefolosha being forced to play more at the SF position than his natural role as a 1 or a 2, which brings us to the guards.

Five guards on this roster have realistic expectations of starting. Hinrich and Hughes have started since sometime in each of their rookie seasons. Rose, the number one pick in the draft, has every reason to believe he should start after a very impressive preseason. Ben Gordon, coming of an unsuccessful negotiation for a contract averaging over $10 million per year, is both in a contract year and clearly believes he is worthy of starting.

Of course a coach with a talented, deep young team needs to try out different lineups in preseason to see what he has. However, Del Negro has gone far beyond testing the waters. Multiple players have started, gone to the bench and started again in this short exhibition season. Minutes for certain players have looked just like what Tyrus Thomas has said he hates most:

You can’t produce consistently if you don’t play consistent minutes. It’s impossible, regardless what people say. You play me five minutes and then say I’m inconsistent? That’s crazy. You won’t be consistent playing 30 minutes a game for three games and then five minutes a game for the next six. It’s not going to happen.

This roster has too many quality players, especially guards, for everyone to stay happy. Del Negro is going to have to piss off a couple of guys. However, he can keep the faith of the rest of his players by establishing both a starting lineup and a regular rotation early in the season. A rookie head coach is going to need his team to buy in. Unfortunately, it does not look like Del Negro is going to give his players the consistency they desire as he keeps talking about how the lineup and rotation are going to have to be fluid and change from game to game. I think the chemistry on this team will start to suffer early in the season and will never recover. During the offseason the Bulls will purge about half of this team and move forward with the core they truly hope to rebuild around.

Predicted record for 2008-2009: 35-47

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18
Mar
08

Bulls 97 – Hornets 108 – Unfortunately, winning without a star in the NBA is not a realistic possibility

The Bulls blew this game and there was no excuse.  HOWEVER, the refs helped them out.  Hornets were getting no calls on all sorts of fouls the entire game, especially new NBA golden boy Chris Paul.  I point this out not in an effort to complain about unfairness, I’ve long since given up on the NBA ever attaining fair, quality officiating.  Instead I think the behavior of last night’s crew of referees (Bennett Salvatore,  Leon Wood, and Mark Ayotte, for reference) proves yet again that this is a league in which you must have a superstar player to have a successful team.  The Bulls do not have such a player.

While most NBA fans have known about this requirement for a long time, I’ve stubbornly resisted the theory.  My resistance was a result of enjoying watching team basketball more than watching one amazing athlete charge to the hoop while four other guys on his team stand around.  Think the Cavs or the Heat.  I don’t want to sound like Larry Hughes, but that’s not what basketball is about.  I can appreciate watching a transcendent talent as much as the next person, but that type of talent should sustain a team through offensive droughts as opposed to dominating the ball all game.  Think Jordan during his early years in the league vs. his championship-winning years.  Despite what David Stern says, I believe through and through that the NBA unofficially wholeheartedly disagrees with me.

The NBA wants superstars it can use to sell the game, which makes sense from a business perspective.  I believe that somehow the referees know it is in their best interest to help these superstars emerge and stay as visible and successful as possible each game.  Do I think the NBA takes the refs aside to explicitly list its favorite players and give marching orders?  No.  But David Stern and his people have some influence here and I will never believe otherwise.  In order to win throughout the regular season and even more so in a seven game playoff series a team has to have a star player to get the preferential treatment from the officials.  Once the star stars getting the love from the refs it spreads to the rest of the team.  This requirement existed just as much during the Jordan years as it does today, but in my opinion it’s hurting the game.

———————————————————-

Game observations

Chris Paul, for all my whining, is amazing.  His ball handling abilities are ridiculous.  His court vision appeared supernatural as he shredded the Bulls weak defense with no-look laser passes and alley-oops.  But for all of his freakish abilities he seemed to have just as many character flaws last night.  Despite getting as much star treatment from the refs last night as I’ve seen any player this season get, he still complained about supposed missed calls so much you’d think he was on the Pistons.  It really was tiring.  Also, one of the qualities that makes him so good but that also makes him hard to root for is that he is a cheap shot artist and acting artist.  He got away with murder all night not only because he’s a star, but also because he’s outstanding at sneaking in reaches, holds and slaps and flops at just the right moments.

I like Jim Boylan and wish him success in the future, but he’s in over his head right now.  His attempt at a rotation last night was laughable.  When you have one of the best guards in the league tearing up your defense, why don’t either of your best perimeter defenders (Hinrich and Sefolosha) play even 17 minutes?  Larry Hughes is a good player who can do certain things well, but the Bulls need a coach who is not afraid to bench him when he’s hurting the team.  Last night he was hurting the team for almost the entire game yet Boylan rarely sat him, instead rewarding his poor shot selection and lackadaisical defensive effort with minutes.  It’s not as if there was no quality alternative.  The Bulls are stocked with guards!?!  Being the highest paid player on the team should not necessarily guarantee you minutes every night.  For some reason the Bulls have a big problem understanding that.
I continue to wonder what this team can do in the offseason.  If they get rid of Ben Gordon who carries them through games like last night?  Nobody else currently on the roster can score like that as consistently (note that I wrote as consistently instead of consistently).  Sefolosha and Hinrich probably have some value around the league right now, but who plays man-to-man (not passing lane) defense and who in the world distributes the ball if those two are gone.  Obviously Deng isn’t going anywhere because Paxson would rather shoot himself.  They likely will package Tyrus with somebody so he can go to another team and average 12 and 13 like Tyson Chandler.

If I’m in charge I would amazingly keep most of what’s currently here together.  The other options don’t look to be that great and I think with a leadership change there’s enough talent here to be good.  They don’t have that star player is wrote is so necessary, but they don’t have a way of getting him any time soon.  In my opinion they need to do whatever possible to get rid of Hughes, whether it’s a buyout or another bad contract attached to a more acceptable attitude on the court, his presence will hurt the team. Unfortunately I think unloading him will be next to impossible and will not happen.

17
Oct
07

Bulls Discourse – To trade or not to trade

A reader by the name of Joe P. has been leaving some good comments lately, while apparently not paying attention in class.  I was responding to his most recent comment and my response got so long, and included so much that I feel passionate about, that I thought I’d make our discourse a post of it’s own. 

Joe, I hope you don’t mind that I’m doing this.  If you do, please let me know and I’ll take it down.

You can see Joe P’s comments attached to the previous post.

Joe P, October 17:

Alright Cam. Quickly going to talk about Da Bears (or should I say Da Bums) then I am going to move onto the Baby-teen Bulls.

I am starting to lose my faith in Lovie. I don’t think he is a very good game planner. I am angry that Hester isn’t involved in every play. Aside from my long-snap idea (see above), which apparently is not original only to me, Hester is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS the fastest guy on the field. Tell me that the New England Belichicks wouldn’t game-plan him in more than four plays a game. All you need to do is run him on a fly route on almost every pass play. If the safety comes over to help, then you have taken out two defenders with one receiver, advantage Bears. If the safety doesn’t come over to help the CB, throw it really really far, because, similar to what Steve Smith told Testaverde, you can’t overthrow Hester. And, even if you do, it won’t be an interception and it spreads the D.

Let’s be serious. The Bears O sucks. It has to be creative. The whole 60% run, 40% pass game plan isn’t cutting it. The D also has been crappy, but their crappiness isn’t as palpable.

Okay, onto the Bulls. This is really an important first quarter season. We have an unsigned Gordon. We have an unsigned Deng. And, we have a bona-fide, championship hungry superstar that wants to come to Chicago in Kobe. More importantly, we have an immediate threat in the Boston Celtics Ceatles (the dumbest nickname in the history of professional anything), and the future threat of whatever team LeBron jumps ships to (maybe Chicago).

One way this whole situation could shake out is that the Bulls resign both Gordon and Deng, which we can do. The problem is we can’t do much else. Based on what I have seen so far, the Bulls will probably be good, but not great. Good-ness is what management needs because it keeps the seats full, Greatness is what fans want because it wins championships. I might be wrong. Maybe the Bulls turn the corner and are able to play perfect team basketball. Maybe Gordon or Deng or both become the superstars we need and the Bulls become insanely good.

The second way this whole thing shakes out. The Bulls are competitive, but not great. We then get rid of everything we can, with the exception of Deng, to try and get Kobe. I think a trade for Kobe is possible if Gordon is signed, with the Laker’s understanding, to an amount high enough to make the trade legal. Kobe would be a good starting point, and with Deng, Wallace, Thomas/Noah(whichever isn’t included in the trade) the Bulls would be a very talented starting group.

Finally, the Bulls could resign everyone, see how everything shakes out, risk mediocrity for the next couple years, and try to lure LeBron onto the favorite team of his childhood.

Basically, I think that these Bulls, as they are constructed now, are not going to be able to compete with a healthy Celtics or Cavs team. Certainly, the Bulls cannot compete with a healthy Suns or Rockets team. The Bulls need to either emerge from their proverbial cocoon and kick ass as a team re-born or restructure for the present or the future.

Cameron Watkins, October 17:

Joe P.,

I haven’t lost any faith in Lovie, but I don’t think I ever had as much faith in him as others did.  It has always seemed to me that when he’s matched up against a great coach he’s inevitably out coached.  He is, in my opinion, a very good but not great football coach.  This is evident even when he’s goes up against another very good coach because in that situation whichever team has more talent on the field that day always wins.

I’ve heard multiple reporters claim that Hester actually isn’t the fastest Bear (apparently it’s Danielle Manning) and thus it would stand to reason that he isn’t always the fastest player on the field.  However, he is VERY VERY VERY fast.  Bernard Berrian is pretty darn fast too.  Let them both run fly routes, send Moose across the middle, and put Olsen or Clark 15-20 yards out while being covered by a linebacker and somebody is bound to be open.  I’m no football expert, but I don’t see how this could fail.  The difference between what I’m proposing and what the Bears are running is – like you’ve proposed – keeping Hester in the game on offense.  That change would make the difference.  I don’t understand why they don’t do it.  He’s proved he’s at least acceptable at catching and blocking, so why can’t he be an every down receiver?

The D is hurt but something has to change nevertheless.  Far less talented teams are giving up less points every week.  Maybe it’s too much Cover 2, I don’t really know. 

Okay, on to the Bulls.  I find it amazing how badly Kobe wants a chance to prove he’s Michael Jordan 2.  I’m not sure if I want him to be a Bull or not – it of course all depends on what it takes to get him – but I can’t say I’m disappointed that Chicago is clearly his dream location and the only team out of the three he’s pinning for that the Lakers will ever trade him to.

I truly believe that if they re-sign Gordon and Deng and hold on to all the players currently on their rookie contracts for as long as possible they will have multiple very good shots at a title.  Think of the Pistons over the last five seasons, but younger and less arrogant/dismissive/overconfident/lame.  I don’t believe they will ever need superstars to win it all because they are soooooo deep and talented.  Injuries won’t stop this team.  Very few if any other teams in the NBA can say that.  One injury to a big three player on the Celtics and they’re done.  Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe, Tim Duncan, any of these players are out for a long part of the season or any of the playoffs and their team is done.  The Rockets could be the one exception.  I think they could weather an injury to Yao or McGrady.  Their not as deep as the Bulls, but they’re deeper in all-stars and still have good overall depth.

Kobe and Luol are not enough to win a championship.  I’d love to have Kobe, but if we have to give up too much to get him it’s just not worth it.  Most I think I’d give up is Gordon, their choice of Tyrus or Noah, Chris Duhon, Ben Wallace if they wanted him, and every future Bulls draft pick for the next 10 years.  The problem is, unless they take Wallace I don’t think the salaries match up.  The Bulls would probably have to give up two starters (assuming they extend Gordon and Deng for more money) and change to make salaries work.  Plus, I don’t even think that would work because the bumps in the salaries that would come from the extensions wouldn’t even come into play until next season (I believe).  

If the Bulls keep everybody they will not be mediocre.  They will be a top 5 team in the power rankings for the next 3-4 seasons.  The only reason their window will be that small is they won’t be able to keep guys like Thomas, Sefolosha and Noah when their rookie contracts run out because they’ll be too close to the salary cap already.  It’s too bad, because if this team could stay together for 10 years I am sure amazing things could happen.  When Ben Wallace’s contract comes off the books in a few years they’ll have room for 1.5 out of the three I mentioned, but that still means losing two of them.  Suddenly the Bulls aren’t so deep.  

If LeBron does decide to leave Cleveland, the only way the Bulls are going to be able to get him is with a sign-and-trade.  I don’t see why Cleveland would ever do that with a team in it’s own division.  The Bulls won’t have anywhere near enough space under the cap to sign him straight up.  There is always the chance that LeBron will decide he already has enough money and will take a smaller contract to make things work out for whatever team he picks, but I highly doubt that will happen.  

Finally, I have to take issue with your assertion that the Bulls will not hang with a healthy Celtics or Cavs team, particularly the Cavs.  BronBron is an amazing talent.  No doubt.  However, the Bulls are superior to the Cavs at every other position.  With the outstanding D the Bulls will have LeBron won’t be enough.  Also, as I’ve well documented in previous posts, I don’t believe the Celtics will be able to hang with the Bulls in a 7-game series.  To avoid redundancy I, and pissing off more Celtics fans, I won’t go into that again.  

The other issue I see facing the Bulls right now is how they’re going to sort out the guard situation.  Hinrich, Gordon, now Deng, Sefolosha, Duhon, Curry and Gardner all are worthy of playing time as guards.  Hinrich, Gordon and Deng aren’t going anywhere this season unless something happens with Kobe (or a big man to be named later, but I doubt that).  Sefolosha is likely to get a lot of tic as well unless he shows he hasn’t improved from last year.  Then you have Duhon, Curry and Gardner.  There’s space in the rotation for one of them, and not much space at that.  Duhon brings the veteran experience and probably better defense than the other two.  Curry and Gardner both bring more athleticism and scoring ability, which are both valuable traits off the bench.  If I’m Paxson, I’m tempted to trade one or two of them to a team needing guards.  The only problem is you’ll get a role player back in exchange and what role on the Bulls can be improved upon by anybody short of an all-star?  Oh well, too much talent is a very good problem to have.

In closing, the Bulls are going to be VERY good this season.  They may start slowly, as they seem to do every year, but they will finish the season strong, go deep in the playoffs, and have a good shot at a title.  The future is bright as well.  Steve Nash can’t play like an MVP until he’s 40.  The Pistons are aging quickly.  I think the Mavs are going to break down this season after two years of huge playoff disappointments.  The Spurs will decline with Tim Duncan because Tony Parker and Manu Giniobili are as good as they are because they play on the same team as Tim Duncan.  The Rockets and Jazz will be the Bulls’ primary foes in the coming seasons, but the Bulls match up well against both teams.  Exciting times are ahead for us Bulls fans. 

31
Jul
07

Who wins with a “big 3”?

After reading this insanely positive article by SI’s Ian Thomsen I have ask, when was the last time you can remember a team winning their conference or the championship with a “big 3” and nothing else around them?

I remember the Wolves had a big 3 with Garnett, Sprewell and Cassell but they lost in Western Conf. finals to a deeper Lakers team.  I remember when the Mavs had a big 3 of Nowitzki, Finley and Nash but they lost twice in the Western Conf. semis and once in the Conf. finals.  The Nets had a big 3 last season with Carter, Kidd and Jefferson but they lost in the Eastern Conf. semis.

Garnett, Pierce and Allen have more combined talent than Garnett’s last big 3 and certainly more than New Jersey’s.  They’ll also be playing in the Eastern Conf. which, although improving, is not as strong as the Western Conf. that those Mavs teams lost in.  Nevertheless, it’s a team game and short of having Michael Jordan on the court it takes a team to win a championship.  This will not be a team.  These three superstars will most likely fit well together.  However, after a season of playing 44 minutes per game because they have absolutely nobody on the bench to help will these three guys – all of whom are over 30 – have enough left to carry this team to a championship?  When young, deep teams like the Bulls and Raptors are pushing the tempo on them in a 7-game series are they going to look like the Heat did in last season’s playoffs, old and slow?

I expect this team to win 50 or so games in the regular season and be extremely fun to watch but they’re not going to win any championships.    

UPDATE:  ESPN’s John Hollinger made a similar point about a big 3 not being enough.  He noted last season’s Wizards as another team with a big 3 who didn’t go all the way.  I’d say they’re more of a big 1 and medium 2 but you get the point. 

26
Jul
07

Upside to the Donaghy Scandal

Will the Donaghy scandal ultimately help the NBA more than it hurts?  In David Stern’s opinion probably not.  He feels that the quality of the officiating up to this point has be very strong.  We, however, very much disagree. 

Many have pointed out that one of the big downsides to this whole scandal is that it will make the jobs of the remaining NBA referees even harder because they will be under such intense scrutiny and pressure.  To us that scrutiny is a good thing.  

NBA officials work within the parameters of a star system.  Michael Jordan wasn’t supposed to foul out of the game.  35,000 fans who paid to come see Jordan play would not be happy if he sat down for good early in the 4th quarter with his 5th foul.   David Stern knows that the lifeblood of the NBA is the fans and the refs probably know that also.  The refs don’t call too many fouls on star players and Stern doesn’t complain.  In Jordan’s day the fans left happy after most of his games because they watched his phenomenal cross-overs, dunks and fadeaways for 40+ minutes, including the game’s final few. 

The Donaghy scandal may positively impact the NBA by forcing the officials to call the game as they see it.  The casual fan who only came to see LeBron James may not like it when he fouls out, but the true basketball fans will enjoy a game where every player is competing on a level playing field.  When rookie Joakim Noah is hacked by Dwayne Wade this coming season the ref will have to call the foul, and, call it on Wade instead of nearby Dorell Wright.  Instead of giving the superstar a no-call at the expense of a rookie as refs are known to do, or instead of calling the foul but putting it on the next closest non-star instead of Wade as they are also known to do, the ref will feel obligated to make the right call.  Last season he or she would have known that they wouldn’t be scrutinized for protecting Wade because that’s how the NBA works.  However, that ability will be, or at least should be, taken away from them this season because everyone will wonder, “Is he protecting Wade or protecting a point spread?”

This scandal may leave an embarrassing smudge on David Stern’s legacy but hopefully it will lead to better product on the court, at least as far as us true basketball fans are concerned.

26
Jul
07

Remember these days . . ?


We don’t like to.

Better days are ahead.

13
Jul
07

Some of last year’s doormats much improved for ’07-08

The offseason is a time for limitless optimism when looking at your favorite team, or any team for that matter. For most teams the 2007-2008 season won’t go as well as they’re picturing now. For a few teams it will go even better than they’re imagining. We can’t say for certain what will happen but here are 4 teams we expect to improve significantly compared to last season.

Should be better in ’07-’08:

Charlotte Bobcats



The Cats should be much better this season, but it probably won’t be due to
Morrison’s play. He’s likely to see more time on the bench this season.


When the Cats selected Bandan Wright it immediately looked like Michael Jordan placed his UNC affinity above the good of his team. However, a short time later when news came out that Wright was being traded for Jason Richardson things started to look better. Richardson does come with some question marks. Will Richardson get hurt again? Will he play the way he’s played for most of his career and like he did at the end of last year? Or, will we see the same underwhelming player the Warriors saw for the first 3/4 of last season? Sure, it was a risky trade but it’s a risk Charlotte needed to make.

They’ve amassed some exciting young talent in Okafor, Felton and Wallace who has turned out to be an amazing pickup from their expansion draft. Sean May is still a question mark due to his frequent injuries but he could turn out to be very good as well. The problem facing the cats going into this draft is that all of their core players were 25 and under. They needed a veteran to stabilize the team and step up in crunch time. They found one in Richardson. The result looks to be a very well-balanced team. They have a great true point guard in Ray Felton, a Michael Jordanesque player in Richardson (don’t get pissed off, all we’re saying is their STYLES of play are similar), an incredibly athletic slasher in Wallace and a dominant defensive player and post presence in Okafor. If May can stay healthy and add some low post scoring this could be a very, very good team in a year or two.

Portland Trail Blazers


Brandon Roy should have a much easier time
this season with more help around him.

A lot still has to shake out before we know what the ’07-’08 Blazers team will look like. They currently have about 20 players on their roster and a ton of untested rookies whose performance will be hard to project. However, they do have a few core players who will give them a similarly balanced attack to the Bobcats.

Greg Oden had some trouble in summer league but everyone seems to agree that he will still be a great, great player in the NBA. His limited offensive game as of now shouldn’t hurt the team much because fellow post player LaMarcus Aldridge has shown some great offensive talent in summer league to complement his strong rookie season. Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is a solid all-around player and traditional two guard. All this team needs to become a perennial powerhouse in the next couple of years is a very solid point guard. Many rumors circulated just prior to the draft that the Blazers were shopping Jarrett Jack hard, which raises questions about the guard that add to his so far inconsistent play. However, Oden, Aldridge and Roy combined with the wealth of young talent on the Portland roster should be enough for them to compete right away while looking for an improvement at the point.

Memphis Grizzlies



Rudy Gay will be one piece in a well-balanced attack for Memphis this season.

There’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Grizz fan, especially compare to what you had to be excited about 3 months ago after you didn’t win Oden or Durant.

It looks like Memphis isn’t letting Pau Gasol go anywhere. They picked up Milicic who as we all know still has a lot to prove. However, Darko only just turned 22. New Memphis coach Mark Iavaroni is looking to run an up-tempo offense that should cater to Darko’s skills. He’ll work the high post while Gasol works the low post. They should form an intimidating big man combo and be hard for smaller teams in the league to stop.

Memphis also has sweet shooting 2 guard Mike Miller in the fold, plus #4 overall pick Mike Conley. Conley is looking strong in summer league and likely will get the starting job as a rookie. Finally, add SF Rudy Gay to the mix, coming off a solid if unspectacular rookie season, and the Grizzlies have a very solid starting lineup. The odd man out would seem to be Kyle Lowry, who is also doing very well in summer league. However, the Grizzlies can dangle Lowry as trade bait in order to pick up a scoring spark off the bench from a team that needs a young point guard (Portland?). The bottom line is Memphis should be better right away and have a lot to look forward to years down the line.

Chicago Bulls – You had to know this was coming


Viktor should see more playing time this season and
the Bulls will be better. We’ll see if Khryapa gets credit
for the improvement or if it happens in spit of him.

While the Bulls were anything but a doormat last season, they look like they’ll be significantly better this year. We’re projecting 55+ wins for Chicago in ’07-’08.

The biggest difference this coming year should be the continued development of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas. Both Deng and Gordon showed significant progress to their games last season. Both are still very young, especially Deng. Look for Gordon to again average in the 20’s with Deng reaching that level as well. Hinrinch will continue his stellar point guard play and should put up similar numbers to his last two seasons.

Tyrus Thomas has been tearing up the Orlando summer league. He’s shown a hugely improved mid-range jumper he developed in the offseason (see below post for details on Tyrus offseason development). Pair his new found shooting ability with his incredible athleticism and he should be in intimidating offensive and defensive force in the league this year.

The Bulls also should have possibly the best bench in the NBA this year. They’ll feature either Andres Nocioni or Tyrus Thomas depending who starts at the 4. Either one should be a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Thabo Sefolosha should build on his very solid rookie season while seeing more minutes this year. Joakim Noah is a perfect bench player at this point in his career. While he won’t bring much scoring he will bring a ton of energy and great defense. Chris Duhon, if he’s still on the team the start of the season, is an incredible point guard for a backup. Viktor Khryapa should see more minutes this year with the departure of several former Bulls power forwards and should display the form that made him a starter a couple of years ago in Portland. Seriously, what other team will feature a bench with 5 players who would be a starter on at least one team in the NBA?

Chicago is still lacking that dominant low post scorer that so many teams covet. However, in addition to their deep bench they will also feature one of the league’s premiere defenses. This D, which will be particularly strong in the key – should make up for their relative lack of consistent low post scoring. Ben Wallace, super-blocker Tyrus Thomas, Jaokim Noah and Andres Nocioni will be one of the better defensive rotations at the 4 & 5 positions in recent memory. Last season Luol Deng took one of his weaknesses, his defense, and made it one of his strengths. His long arms and increased defensive awareness have made his a similar defender to Tayshaun Prince. Hinrich was all-defensive second team and will be that or first team this year. Thabo Sefolosh quickly earned a reputation as a “stopper” for subduing Kobe in the regular season and Dwayne Wade in the playoffs. Finally, Duhon is also a superb defender on smaller guards. The Bulls scoring may be inconsistent at times, but their defense, effort and energy never is.

Barring any unforeseen major changes the Bulls will be one of the top 5 teams in the league this year.




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