Tag Archives: Chicago Bulls

East vs. West Week 14: The East is rolling, plus some splits

I thought I wouldn’t write any non-conference roundups until the all-star break, but check out Week 14. THE EAST. There were supposed to be 27 games, but two were postponed on Monday:

(Note: There were a couple errors in a master schedule I have in Excel. Correcting them led to some minor changes in this week’s table compared to others. Minor, but noticeable. Most notably, Week 3 changed from 12-7 to 11-8. Simple data entry mistake that I didn’t notice until now.)

Anyway, the East since Week 7 are 81-89 and last week went 14-11 last week against the West, arguably their best stretch of non-conference play this season. Some of that is a little misleading, though. Oklahoma City is clearly better than New York even though the Knicks gave the Thunder a loss that could be huge in the long run, and Phoenix was likely going to win against Chicago and Washington when both were on tail-ends of back-to-backs. I’m not saying the Suns are worse than those two teams, but rest matters and they had an advantage each game.

And I’ve been meaning to run some numbers that paint a better picture than just looking at overall wins and losses, real or Pythagorean, the latter statistic a little goofy when applied the way I’ve been using it in these posts. I mean, I like to think after 450 games there is a large enough sample size to determine just how good or bad each conference was, and it’s not like anything I do will answer all questions, but I played around with some East-West splits anyway.

So below is what I looked at. I find Oklahoma City inconsistent health-wise to the point I left them off all splits save for conference-wide ones. That sounds crazy but I separated the West into the top eight and bottom seven seeds, but the Thunder were so weird to me that I left them off both. Like, when healthy they’re a playoff team, so it’s not totally fair to put them in the bottom seven where I wanted to see how the best and worst of the East performs against the mehhhh section of the West. This all might sound ridiculous and I apologize. If I run similar splits at the end of the season I’ll include the Thunder. Or just remove the top 8 teams and see if anybody notices.

Cleveland was a close call also, but I included them. This is all controversial, probably. The power I have on my own blog is out of control sometimes:

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Surprise, surprise! Good teams beat up on bad ones! Specifically the West though. I think that proves how much more deep the conference is, though most of us already knew and love to complain about that. Sure, the top five in the East can hold up versus the best in the West with an emphasis on the Hawks, but the sixth to eight spots (and possibly ten by the end of the year) in the West are obviously stronger than the same East seeds.

It is nice that the East has a juggernaut in Atlanta, though, and maybe Cleveland in time, making the conference at least tolerable. I might’ve already said this in previous posts, but the second round in the East is going to be pretty damn fun.

Anyway, hope the splits were interesting. Below is a look at this week’s non-conference games:

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Three Nuggets and Lakers games for the East to feed off of as well as a 13-9 home-road advantage, and the East has some decent firepower overall. The top five teams play nine of the 22 games INCLUDING A GOLDEN STATE-ATLANTA MATCHUP. That’s probably the game of the week, but I’m writing this before I’ve done the Watchability Rankings so who knows.

Anyway, enjoy the week.

The trickle-down effects before and after the Luol Deng trade

Keith Allison | Flickr

Keith Allison | Flickr

I told myself I was going to sleep last night, but then the latest trade in the NBA shook up the Twitterverse. It’s already widely known what Cleveland and Chicago each got in their trade last night, but I’ll list the details anyway:

Chicago receives: Andrew Bynum (who has since been waived), Sacramento’s first round pick (top-12 protected this season and top-10 protected through 2017 then turns into a second-rounder), rights to swap 2015 first round picks with Cleveland (if the Cavs make the playoffs), and Portland’s second round picks in 2015 and 2016.

Cleveland receives: Luol Deng

There was immediate backlash about Cleveland sending three, possibly four draft picks for a small forward with an expiring contract, but general manager Chris Grant has a recent history of making savvy trades, ones often revolving around desperation from other front offices. Here’s a quick summary of those trades, including the pieces involved that were thrown into the Deng trade:

2011: Traded Mo Williams for Baron Davis and their 2011 No.1 pick, which landed Kyrie Irving. In June, Cleveland traded J.J. Hickson to the Kings for Omri Casspi and a first round pick.

That’s the Kings’ first-rounder that Chicago received, which looked more valuable back then than it does now. Sacramento has picked fifth and seventh in drafts since then, and they’d be fourth in the 2014 Draft if the lottery balls don’t alter their position in either direction. That doesn’t bring a lot of hope going forward, but Sacramento has both a new owner and another batch of young players that can hopefully rise up from the West’s cellar, or at least high enough to bag roughly 35 wins sometime before 2017. That’s definitely possible with a top-five pick this year, even with the absence of defense displayed by the squad and Rudy Gay‘s player option that makes a rebuilding team more expensive than it should be.

2012: After trading Sebastian Telfair and Delonte West for Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins, and a 2013 second-round pick, the Cavaliers shipped Sessions to Los Angeles for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono, and their 2012 first-round pick. The pick became Jared Cunningham, which was then traded with Jae Crowder and Bernard James to Dallas for Tyler Zeller. That didn’t turn out so well, but Cleveland nonetheless traded players with little value in their organization for assets.

2013: The Cavaliers traded Jon Leuer to Memphis in order to take on the salaries of Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington, and Josh Selby. The biggest return in the trade, however, was Memphis’ 2015 first round pick. Protection is as follows, according to RealGM:

Memphis’ 1st round pick to Cleveland protected for selections 1-5 and 15-30 in 2015, 1-5 and 15-30 in 2016, 1-5 in 2017 or 1-5 in 2018 or unprotected in 2019 [Cleveland-Memphis, 1/22/2013]

The draft pick looks especially peachy for Cleveland from 2017 to 2019, when Marc Gasol and Mike Conley will either be approaching 30 years of age or into their low-30s if they stick with Memphis for that long. That’s a long time for Cleveland to wait for that draft pick, but it could be a great prize if Memphis goes through a rebuilding phase over those three years. Besides, if Cleveland gets that pick in 2015 or 2016 then it’s in the 6-14 range. It’s yet another high draft pick for a squad that’s had a ton of them lately.

That’s where Cleveland has gone wrong since The Decision, though. The trades Chris Grant made were fine, but they don’t make up for the draft blunders that have plagued the organization ever since selecting Tristan Thompson fourth overall in 2011. It’s led to a trickle-down effect, one that led to the trade last night when Cleveland finally found a (expensive) small forward to add to their core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, whatever improvements come from Tristan Thompson, and whatever that makes Anthony Bennett not so horrible.

But Deng will be one of the oldest 29-year-olds in the league when Cleveland has to decide on re-signing him or not. Deng’s played nearly four seasons under Tom Thibodeau, dog years compared to any other coach and he’s been in the league since he was 19. There’s also a fine line between giving a player with his mileage a three-year deal and one that’s four. $36 million for three years sounds a lot more desirable than $45 million for four, as the last of the latter contract could be albatross-like while the former becomes moveable fairly quickly. There’s also the good and bad that comes with an aging player like Deng who, as Zach Lowe of Grantland noted, doesn’t rely on jaw-dropping athleticism but can barely get separation on offense as is. Lowe also makes a good point on a possible four-year contract with Deng in that some of the money in the last season should be non-guaranteed.

Cleveland also has to address their expiring rookie deals, the soonest being Irving’s and Thompson’s. Waiters’ contract looms the following season, though he and Anderson Varejao have been trade chips for a while now and could be gone by February of 2015. The Cavaliers still have plenty of draft picks, one not mentioned already being Miami’s 2015 first-rounder, protected 1-10 through 2016 and unprotected in 2017. It becomes very nice if the Heat break up their core after this season and rebuild, though Miami rebuilding for more than one season seems like a long shot given their franchise history, geography, and if Pat Riley stays with the franchise.

For Chicago, they gave themselves an opportunity to land a top-10 pick, move Carlos Boozer for whatever they can get back in a trade (Chicago, always conscious about saving money despite being in a huge market, probably isn’t up for using the amnesty clause which would pay Boozer not to play for them), and open up playing time for Nikola Mirotic as soon as next season. Chicago’s not rebuilding as much as they are reloading, even if it means losing not just Deng but also Boozer by next fall.

While the haul for Deng was one of Chicago’s best financial ones possible, it isn’t exactly the greatest they could’ve received in terms of value on the court. Sacramento’s pick might be a coin flip on whether or not it ever falls out of its top-10 protection, swapping picks with Cleveland sounds nice until the best they could move up to is 15th overall (still valuable, though), and the second rounders from Portland suddenly look like they’ll be in the 50-60 range in 2015 and 2016.

Chicago might’ve also booted Charlotte from the playoffs with this trade, a big deal when the Bobcats owe them a draft pick with top-10 protection. At 15-20, the Bobcats currently have the NBA’s 12th-worst winning percentage but are seventh in the East. But with Cleveland having the pieces to make a playoff push and New York and Brooklyn resembling professional basketball teams again, both Charlotte and Chicago look like they’re headed for the lottery. That could be as much of a good thing as it is bad, though, as Charlotte’s protection on their pick they owe Chicago is only top-8 in 2015 and unprotected in 2016. It’s another potential ripple effect from a trade that has more long-term risk than short-term.

Overall, you can make a case for either side of the Luol Deng/Andrew Bynum trade being good or bad. Getting the best of their returns is dependent on what happens this summer. That’s when Chicago hopes to rebuild through the draft, all while Cleveland sacrificed their own draft position so they could land a premier wing to play alongside Irving both in the short-term and long-term.

Until then, another chapter in this trade that will occur sooner involves the careers of Carlos Boozer and Andrew Bynum. Each has the potential to swing the fortunes of a contender while Chicago and Cleveland dwell in opposite sides of “mediocrity”.

LeBron James and the Heat look young again while I age myself

Sometimes aging is smooth and graceful, like realizing I’m only 24 and have plenty of life left in me. Other times it’s a rude awakening, like stressing out over crazy things like responsibilities while being reminded of more enjoyable times, like the first time I watched a basketball team chasing a three-peat make their stop in Minneapolis.

There’s very little I remember about the time the 1998 Bulls came to Minnesota, likely because I was playing basketball with a five-foot hoop, one with an oval-shaped cardboard backboard and an Orlando Magic logo slapped on it my dad squeezed into the basement a couple years earlier. The space to chuck bricks at it to the point it looked like I was trying to mash a hole was something like 10 feet wide and 15 feet long. To the left of the hoop were the house’s furnace and firewood which represented out of bounds along with wherever the carpet near it ended. The right right side of the basement featured a couple steps leading to a worn out couch and a television I watched basketball from when I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, which was basically never.  

That’s probably why I remember very little from that game 16 years ago between the Bulls and Timberwolves. Outside of watching basketball, roughly 99% of my freezing Minnesota winters from 1996 to 1999 – first grade through fourth for me – were spent shooting hoops in the basement or playing NBA Live 95, 97, or 98 after school. Having the flu didn’t stop me from any of those hobbies, and especially not after Michael Jordan’s ‘Flu Game’ during the ’97 Finals. I still remember the times I labored from my bed to the basement, humming the theme song of NBA on NBC only for my legs to feel like Jell-O a few minutes later. It was never a good idea to create my own flu game, but I couldn’t help it.

The little I remember from the time the Timberwolves beat the Bulls, though, like Stephon Marbury celebrating by heaving the ball into the stands, will stick with me for as long as I’ll live. Marbury and the fans acted like they won the NBA Finals that night, but I can’t blame them. After that game, Eight-Year-Old Me thought Minnesota escaped the cellar of the West for good and became a contender.

Here are some highlights of that game:

Even though this season’s Wolves and the one of ’98 were looking to put years of rebuilding behind them, not much was alike in regards to what actually happened during their games. The crowd last night was mostly dead and so was I. The gravitational pull of recliner left me with no urge whatsoever to stand up and pass time between dull moments by exercising. I chose instead to stare blankly at what appeared to be a payment plan for college loans, while other times I scrolled Twitter and online discussion forums about visual snow. It even took me midway through the second quarter to realize the last time I saw Minnesota host a team chasing its third championship was when I was four feet tall. In 2002 I was glued to the PlayStation 2 when the Lakers paid themselves a visit, and I was playing online poker both times the 2011 Lakers won at the Target Center.

Like the enthusiasm, the result of the game wasn’t close to what it was like in ’98. A youthful Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury had the luck of playing a Bulls squad missing Scottie Pippen while last night’s Heat were at full strength and Minnesota was missing Kevin Love. If that sounds like a recipe for a blowout, you would be right. LeBron and Dwyane Wade ended the Heat’s two-game losing streak by doing LeBron and Wade things. After their 21-point victory, Wade video bombed LeBron, giving an accurate summary of the game:

That’s what I’ll remember most about last night. Neither lasting memory from the Timberwolves playing host to the ’98 Bulls or ’14 Heat were highlights from the actual games.

After watching Stephon Marbury celebrate Minnesota’s victory over Chicago by heaving the ball into the stands, I celebrated by shooting hoops in my basement and pretended I was Kevin Garnett with my newfound energy, banging a ball against my head and pretending to be a seven-foot freak of nature. 16 years later, 24 Year-Old Me lounged in the recliner long after the Heat mopped the floor with the Love-less Timberwolves. The time I should’ve spent trying to get back into shape, or anything really, was instead wasted wondering if Wade would ever videobomb LeBron while dressed as an elf. I dozed off shortly after, waking up four hours later and tweeting in my foggy, half-asleep daze about the need for an all-you-can-eat French fry buffet.

For more Timberwolves memories, check this out.

2014: The season of comebacks

Maybe it’s because this will be my first basketball season without worrying about school, but the 2013 offseason was the slowest that I can remember, even topping (or in this case, bottoming?) the 2011 lockout.

The preseason, now what I call the weird season after watching Andray Blatche hoist six threes against the Celtics, didn’t help my NBA withdrawals either. There was this gem, however:

But just when it was tempting to resort to swallowing Halloween candy whole to cure my boredom, the NBA season arrived. There are the usual storylines coming into 2014: the off-season acquisitions we have to wait and see on whether they work out or not, the youthful players we hope evolve into franchise cornerstones, lottery-bound teams last season looking to get back into contention, and so much more.

If I had to pick a working title for this season right now though, it would be “The Season of Comebacks”, starring Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant and Rajon Rondo, among others, who are returning after suffering devastating injuries a season or two ago. We’ll get to see one of those comebacks tonight in Rose, and what a bang he should start the season off with.

But the returns of Kobe and Rondo are still up in the air thanks to another unique element playing into this season: the 2014 NBA Draft. We may witness as much terrible basketball, thanks to tankapalooza, as much as we will witness great play with so many teams having a fighter’s chance at making this season’s Finals.

Whatever the dream matchup for the 2014 Finals may be, it’ll be quite a challenge to outperform what was a battle for the ages between the Spurs and Heat. It feels like that happened forever ago, yet somehow only four months have passed since its conclusion. I just remember wanting more after Game 7 but, after looking back at all that took place, feeling satisfied at the same time. It was like an ending to a great, season-long story.

How will we remember 2014? It’s time for its story to begin. 

Throwback Thursday video: Scottie Pippen dunks on Patrick Ewing, leaves a high five hanging

I forgot to include a Throwback Thursday video last week, so I’ll include two today.

The first one comes from the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, a year without Michael Jordan but that didn’t matter to Scottie Pippen. After putting in a season that cemented himself as more than just a sidekick to Jordan, he had himself a highlight Jordan himself performed three years earlier: a memorable dunk on Patrick Ewing:

Lots of stuff to look at here.

First, Pippen and Ewing’s flattops are sooo ’90s. Good stuff.

And even back then, players got technical fouls for taunting. That caught me off-guard. Still, Ewing doesn’t become a spaz, instead reacting quite well to being put on (yet another) poster. Maybe that’s because he knew ’94 was his year to get by the Bulls, or maybe because he had Charles Oakley by his side, or maybe he knew guys like Spike Lee and John Starks would tweak for him. Such team players, except Spike’s not a Knick. Someone tell him that already. We’re in 2013 and he has moments where he acts like he’s the second coming of Latrell Sprewell.

Last but not least, here’s a shoutout to Pete Myers. Go to 1:35 and see one of the best high fives left hanging of all-time.

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