Hi ya’ll SDI is taking a break for the summer, to get a bit of R&R, scope out the new news and players on the sports scene, and maybe one of us is tying the knot! Keep up with us on Twitter this summer. We will be back in the Fall with all the Chicago and Charlotte sports news and more!
The Bulls have been out of the NBA action since April, but off-season chatter is booming. If you’ve blocked out the Bulls since they missed the playoffs, you may be a bit out of the loop, but let me catch you up on the details consuming Chicago fans.
Chicago Bulls Joakim Noah and Tom Thibodeau both have mutual interest in rejoining forces. (Source: Mitch Lawrence) pic.twitter.com/P2ps23auJk
— Chicago Bulls Rumors (@chicagobullsbot) June 6, 2016
First, the Minnesota Timberwolves named ex-Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau the president of operations as well as the head coach of their organization in April. Basically, the T-wolves gave Thibs the reigns and said “make us a contender pretty please.” Thibodeau got pushed out of the Bulls organization after the 2015 season mostly because he didn’t see eye-to-eye with the front office – specifically Gar Forman and John Paxson. Despite his winning the Coach of the Year award in 2011 and tying the record for most wins (62) for a rookie coach, Gar and Paxson figured Thibs was the problem with the Bulls. Then the Bulls hired pretty-boy Fred Hoiberg, had the rockiest season I can remember and missed the playoffs entirely. Just loads and loads of disappointment.
Fast forward to May, as news broke that Joakim Noah was over the Chicago Bulls organization and will be exploring his options as an unrestricted free agent this off-season. WHAT! Literally my heart shattered into a million pieces. Jo-No has been a staple in Chicago since being drafted by the Bulls in 2007. He’s given his heart and soul to the team, been viewed as a leader and then Hoiberg struts in and takes away his starting lineup spot. Now, it’s understandable that Hoiberg was trying to jazz things up and find a rhythm for his new team, but pushing his veteran out of the picture probably wasn’t his best move. However, Noah didn’t specifically bring up losing his starting spot as a reason for his desire to move on from the Bulls. Instead, it was all focused on the front office. A fellow player said Noah has no trust in the front office moving the team in the right direction and that players don’t trust Gar Forman. Rumor has it there’s an assistant coach who is also a little tattle tale and tells Gar everything that happens with the team. That same player also indicated that former head coach Thibs acted as a buffer between the front office and the team, which is probably why he got pushed out.
Jo-No is coming off his worst statistical season of his career, only appearing in 29 games, averaging only 4.3 points and shooting under 40 percent from the floor. Let’s not forget about the season ending shoulder injury he suffered and has been rehabilitating. Although the demand for Noah may not be what it once had been, he’s still a presence to be reckoned with. Also any team looking for a veteran leader with sick rebounding abilities would be interested in Noah. He’s 31 and could easily revive his career if he can stay healthy.
This week, rumor has it that Thibodeau is interested in shopping for Joakim Noah during free agency. Honestly, I’m not surprised. Noah had his absolute best seasons under coach Thibodeau and won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2014 with Thibs by his side. Why wouldn’t Joakim want to reunite with his favorite head coach?
Jimmy Butler could be traded to the Celtics next season if the Bulls and Celtics are able to come to a agreement. pic.twitter.com/OI4idKbcGb
— BallersHype (@BallersHype) June 8, 2016
So where does that leave the Bulls? A hot damn mess. Pau Gasol is also a free agent come the off-season so technically the Bulls could be without both veteran centers. Rumors are surfacing that the Bulls should trade Jimmy Butler and completely rebuild. Looks like we may be stuck with Derrick Rose and his two surgically repaired knees. Ummm, go T-Wolves? Thank goodness it’s baseball season.
At best, the first round of the NBA playoffs were something to switch to during Cubs game commercials, and at worst they were straight trash. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul got a couples MRI, Stanley Johnson lost him mind, and Steph Curry channeled his inner Derrick Rose when he returned from an ankle injury only to SLIP ON A WET SPOT and sprain his MCL one half of basketball later. While we did see two oddly competitive game 7s, I don’t think anyone will look back on basketball in April fondly, except maybe Thibs. So with that, round 1 is behind us and lets never speak of it again. We’re now into round 2 where two series may actually turn out to be competitive, and at least all of the teams that are still competing have a compelling reason to win, regardless of how you (or I) may dislike some of them (Cleveland).
Starting in the Eastern Conference, Toronto is fresh off their 2nd playoff series win in the franchise’s 21 year history, and ready to take on the Miami Heat on 48 hours rest. Both teams will go into Tuesday night’s game with nothing more than a shootaround to prepare so I would imagine the play will be as sloppy and bizarre as any in the teams’ round 1 match ups. Miami’s playoff experience, star power and hot shooting will likely move them on to the Conference Finals, but if Toronto’s DeRozan and Lowry can get back up to their regular season scoring numbers, they’ll have a shot.
On the West Coast, the Spurs/Thunder match up tips off the part of the NBA playoffs where you wonder why they even televise games in Atlanta or Toronto, when Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Draymond Green are playing basketball a few thousand miles away. But Game 1 did not turn out to be the elite competition we had hoped. Instead, the Spurs played ‘as good as it gets’, executing flawlessly on the offensive side, and throwing defender after defender at Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, rushing and contesting not just shots, but steps. Before Monday night, I figured the Spurs (probably) wouldn’t score 73 in the first half of every game this series but that we might have to endure an under-achieving Oklahoma City team fall in less than 7 games, with their inexperienced rotation pushing Durant over the edge and out of town. While I was preparing myself to adjust perspective and appreciate the impeccable and dominant Spurs for as long as they’re around, OKC made it interesting with a last second win over San Antonio on Monday, evening the series and reminding us just how fun the NBA Playoffs can be.
And then there’s Lebron. And the inevitable question – can he be stopped? Answer: No. Not in the Eastern conference. The Cavs have a 9 game post-season winning streak against the Atlanta Hawks which is the 2nd longest active streak in the league, coming up short only to the Cavs 12 game run over Detroit who they just swept. They may have to weather a few storms here and there from Al Horford, Jeff Teague and a Hawks team who won’t roll over as easily as last year, but in the end, we’ll still be talking about Lebron, the health of his teammates and their chemistry with the coach 2 weeks from now when they’re headed to South Beach or the great white North for LBJ’s 6th straight Eastern Conference Finals.
Last but certainly not least, prayers up for Steph. He’s poised to return in Game 3 of Warriors/Blazers, but his team is doing just fine without him. They obliterated the Blazers in Game 1 behind the smothering defense of fellow splash brother Klay Thompson, and a triple double from the pride of Saginaw, Draymond Green. They don’t need Steph this series, but they’ll want to be firing on all cylinders when they head to the Conference Finals, so rest between games 2 and 3 can’t come soon enough for the winners of 73 regular season games.
So that’s round 2 in a nutshell. The playoffs are on the up and up, and the TNT crew is in post-season form. It’s way overdue but it’s here and it’s fleeting, so just like Chicago Summer, enjoy it while it lasts.
Never count a defending champion out. The Blackhawks backs were against the wall a few days ago as they faced a 3-1 first-round series deficit, however like post seasons before the Blackhawks surged back to tie the series up and it all comes down to Game 7 tonight in St. Louis.
In my series preview I said the Blackhawks would win in six, but this series deserves a winner take all Game 7, it has been fantastic to watch. Is it just me or is there a pattern here? The start of every playoff series the Blackhawks play like shit and then once Game 5 hits, it’s like a whole new team.
The Hawks have an advantage with their Game 7s experience. The Hawks have played in four of them during the Quenneville era and have won two, including Game 7 of last season’s Western Conference finals against the Ducks in Anaheim, advantage Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks want to keep their hopes for another Stanley Cups alive (that would be four in seven years, not too shabby), while the Blues are desperately trying to end a three-year streak of being ousted in the first round. Blackhawks take Game 7, by a score of 3-2. Go Hawks!
With a heavy heart (and a secret sigh of relief) the Bulls 2015-2016 season is officially over after Chicago beat the 76ers at home on Wednesday. I guess it’s better to end on a win, but the Bulls failure to find a lack of urgency was painful to watch this season and it was all too little too late.
For the 1st time since 2008, the Chicago Bulls are missing the NBA Playoffs. pic.twitter.com/kLFWHY40xD
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 11, 2016
Yes you read that right. The Chicago Bulls failed to make the NBA Playoffs for the first time since drafting Derrick Rose. Also, I’d like to note that the Bulls are in the Eastern Conference, which is by far the weaker of the two and they STILL couldn’t seem to drum up enough wins to snag that 8th seed in the playoffs. If I seem bitter, I am. The Bulls 42-40 record on the season hurt my feelings as a fan. I can’t pin-point just one problem that lead to the Bulls’ demise, it was more like a slew of issues that ended up just blowing the season out of proportion.
We’ll start with the injuries that always seem to hamper the Bulls and ruin my dreams of strutting around town in Chicago Bulls NBA championship swag from this decade. First, Joakim Noah went down in January with a season ending shoulder injury. Then Nikola Mirotic had to have an emergency surgery to remove his appendix which kept him off the floor for some weeks. In early February, star Jimmy Butler sustained a knee injury that kept him out of the game for about a month and some seriously crucial games. Not to mention Mike Dunleavy did not return from off-season back surgery until February. For the majority of the season, the Bulls were kind of a band of misfits and rarely had their starting lineup in tact.
Problem number two, coaching. Fred Hoiberg assumed the role of Head Coach in the wake of Tom Thibodeau’s dismissal in 2015. Here’s the thing, I definitely loved me some Thibs basketball. He wasn’t perfect, but he empowered his players to play passionately and effectively. He was a defensive stone-wall and this year was proof that defense matters a whole hell of a lot more than people like to admit. I hate to say it, but Hoiberg came off as a soft pretty-boy this first season behind the reins. Coming into the season Hoiberg was praised for his work at Iowa State and his offensive focus. Well my handsome friend, that sissy stuff may have worked in the farm fields, but it sure didn’t work in the big leagues. Hoiberg’s lack of command seemed most obvious from veteran players who had played under more, we’ll say ‘aggressive’ coaches. Jimmy Butler first stirred the waters when he spoke out after a tough loss that Hoiberg needed to be tougher on the guys. Umm, I agree. Most recently, Pau Gasol spoke out about how difficult this season has been for him. Players took games for granted, lacked a sense of urgency and maturity. Oh, you mean like your head coach playing a dumb and dumber clip when your season is on the line?
— Comcast SportsNet (@CSNChicago) April 9, 2016
Despite the criticism, from haters like myself, Hoiberg has argued that he has a stronger relationship with his players than it seems through the medias eyes. Prove it buddy.
Problem number three, we have Jimmy Butler in his prime and Derrick Rose still tough, but a little washed up, trying to play on the same team. The two “super-stars” never gelled. Which SUCKS because we’ve seen what happens when you get two super-stars to gel, just google some old highlights of MJ and Scottie Pippen.
So what happens when you don’t make the playoffs? The rumor mill begins a churnin’. Some people think the Bulls should blow up the roster and start with fresh young talent. Others question if the team should keep both Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. Some people are lobbying to axe Hoiberg and the whole front office. We’ve got a lot of emotional fans on our hands here.
Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol have been the free agent talks of the town this year. After Pau Gasol openly expressed his frustrations with the season, we’re all guessing the dude will opt out of his contract, but now focuses have been shifting to Noah. This season proves more than ever that Noah was the leader of this Bulls team and the player who could look at Butler and Rose and tell them to step it up. Now stories have surfaced that the front office may be looking to sign Noah to a short term deal. The question is, would Noah even want to take it after Hoiberg falsely said Jo-No volunteered to come off the bench earlier this season? The front office also believes Gasol is part of the “core” of the team So who stays and who goes?
— ChicagoSports (@ChicagoSports) April 9, 2016
My most favorite rumor of late is the Jimmy Butler trade. Butler’s quick rise to stardom and hefty pay raise has led to a bit of an ego issue and preferential treatment. Lets just say Jimmy’s rubbed some teammates the wrong way and some have gone to infer that his attitude is toxic to the locker room. With his level of play this season, it was clear that Butler was the star of the roster, but leadership is earned and not determined by who gets paid the most (Rose has proven that to us). Jimmy has shown his work ethic is top notch, but he may not yet be mature enough to lead or motivate veteran players. Now, he’s put himself in a predicament as the best player on an extremely dysfunctional team with a very high trade value as one of the most sought after two-way players in the league. If these issues are true, we can’t be surprised if Butler is wheeled and dealed this off season.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) April 14, 2016
When your team doesn’t make the playoffs there are always serious repercussions, especially if you’re the so-called leader of that train wreck of the a team. Put your seat belts on Bulls fans, I’m predicting a wild ride for this off season.
Until next time my friends
At 9:30pm CT Kobe Bryant will be 48 minutes away from retirement. His storied career will come to an end after 20 seasons, 1,565 total games, one MVP, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 5 NBA Championships, and a solid claim to a spot between the 5th and 10th best player of all time. Tonight will be his 65th game of the season, an impressive number for a 37 year old, especially one whose retirement tour lasted longer than any of his previous 3 seasons. As long as it seems to have been since he announced his retirement in poetic fashion in the Player’s Tribune as only Kobe can, it’s decades longer when you think about what’s happened and all he’s been through and accomplished with one team since coming into the NBA as a skinny 17 year old in 1996.
Although I pride myself on being a 90s Bulls girl, I’d be lying if I said I remember much from the first 3-peat, so it’s fair to say that I can’t remember an NBA without Kobe. As the first guard to be taken in the draft out of high school, Kobe was immediately traded from Charlotte to LA, and never looked back. It only took him two years to become the youngest NBA All Star starter ever, and four to create long lasting memories when he threw an alley-oop to Shaq to clinch the 2000 Western Conference Finals. After that there were a lot of awe inspiring highlights, a handful of alarming controversies, lots and lots of winning, and the almost inevitable injuries. And no one did any of those things better than Kobe. From the 15-1 2001 playoff record – the best in postseason history, to the Shaq feud, the 81 point game, to his clutch performance in the 2008 Olympics, it was Kobe’s world and everyone else was living in it. No one will ever forget his 5th NBA title in 2010 notching him 1 more than Shaq, or the free throws he shot when he went down with a torn achilles.
Calling tonight the end of a decorated career feels like an egregious understatement for someone who started 18 consecutive All Star games. In true LA fashion, the Lakers are pulling out all the stops tonight to honor their all time leading scorer, and rightfully so, including a Red Hot Chilli Peppers National Anthem, the customary tribute video, and appearances from 30 of his former teammates. With tickets costing hundreds of dollars more than any of even the Warriors home games this year, it will surely be a night to remember for Kobe, the fans, and probably his opponents – the Utah Jazz – who could very well be playing for their playoff lives amid the circus.
And what does Kobe think about it all? He told ESPN.com, “So far, I’ve been pretty cool about everything. I’ve been very thankful about everything. I’ve been very happy about everything. It hasn’t really hit me yet. We’ll see if it does.”