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The start of Spring means the NBA playoffs are around the corner.  This should be good news all around for basketball fans, if you’re like me and completely bored of an even more uneventful NBA regular season than what is to be expected.  Yes, Chef Curry is still cookin, Kobe is still retiring, Lebron is still mad, George Karl is still in Sacramento, and the Spurs are still good.  The story lines have remained the same across the league since Halloween, and aside from a few Boogie tirades, Lebron social media standoffs and Blake Griffin blackouts, this season has lacked the high stakes and high drama we need to come from 7 games between Golden State and San Antonio, and the possibility of Boston, Miami or Toronto knocking off a tumultuous team in Cleveland.

With the postseason in view, the next few weeks aren’t only important to those 16 teams who will see the court in mid-April, but also to the organizations who are already looking toward next year, or have been for months.  NBA tank-a-thon 2016 is in full effect in Philly, LA and Phoenix, but come June 23rd, will it even matter? There’s a significant yet rarely discussed major detail in the tanking discussion – losing the most games rarely gets teams the coveted number one draft slot they so desperately want out of the draft “lottery.”

To be transparent, I support about 90% of conspiracies I hear about in general, and fully believe that there is no NBA Draft Lottery for the top 3 picks.  Those picks are bestowed upon the teams selected by Adam Silver, and David Stern before him, in order to keep parity in the NBA to the best of their ability while maximizing revenue and dominance in the major markets.  While I know this is constantly debated and there is much evidence to the contrary, I don’t really care to hear it, and basically operate under the assumption that this is fact.

That aside, it’s also important to note that the 2016 draft class is very shallow with a significant talent drop off after the first two picks – likely Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram – and there is abundant skepticism as to whether either of them will become a franchise, super star, foundational leader wherever they end up.  In some ways that makes getting a top 2 pick even more significant than in other years, but on the other hand, maybe it’s best for teams not to cash in their good karma in what might be a wasted year.

With that in mind, who has the best chance of locking up the draft’s top pick?  Let’s see…

If they were to show the draft balls on TV, as it stands now, Philadelphia and their impressive 9-64 record have the largest claim to the #1 pick with a 25% chance of opening their envelope (do they still do envelopes?) last.  They are in such desperate need of that franchise player to round out their squad of top picks in Joel Embid and Jahlil Okafor if they can ever stay healthy, and probably should be rewarded for what has been just an epic tank job, and potentially their best work to date.  But I just don’t see it.  They’re going to get a top 3 pick given that they have a 64.3% chance of landing on the medal stand, but the #2 spot seems like a better place for the Sixers so they don’t have to make the Simmons or Ingram decision, and can just play the hand they’re dealt.

That 9-64 record in Philly is particularly remarkable this year given that they have 7 more losses than even the Los Angeles Lakers.  The Lakers have been nothing short of terrible, and it comes at an optimal time when LA would have to give up their first round pick to Philly if it fell outside of the top 3.  Instead, the Lakers have a 55.8% chance of keeping their pick, and a 19.9% chance of it landing at #1, making it less discernible when Silver selects them to be the next and forever home of Ben Simmons, the kind of star that LA requires, forming an up-and-coming big 3 with D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle.

And there’s no one that would hate that more than Boston.  But Boston is in a weird spot with this year’s draft.  They’re seemingly in an incredible spot given that they have Brooklyn’s pick, and the 4th best odds of landing in the #1 spot, at a time when they’re urgently in need of a star to put them over the top.  On the flip side, their team is young but not that young and they’re actually a contender in the East given the right match up.  The star they need has to contribute now, not in a few years when their current core is on the decline.   If Silver bestowed #1 on the Celtics, it might make the most sense to complete some type of blockbuster trade that gets Boston star power this year.  But having the #1 spot go to the highest bidder doesn’t sound like the best thing for the NBA.  Boston and everyone else would be better off if they were to land #3, grab a role player who can help win some games, and continue their efforts to bring KD, Kevin Love or Boogie to the City on a Hill.

So that’s my prediction for this year’s “lottery” – Lakers, Sixers, Celtics (via Brooklyn) 1,2,3.  Minnesota’s too small for Silver to let them rise to dominance with Wiggins, Towns, LaVine AND Simmons, and the Bulls’ chances are too small at 0.5% to pull another Derrick Rose scenario so blatantly.  But there are still 3 weeks left in the season and anything can happen.  In the meantime, you can follow tank-a-thon 2016 here to stay updated on the odds across the bottom of the league.

And for the record, I know videos like this exist; I just choose to ignore them.

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Damian Lillard is not a lot of things.  He was not highly recruited out of high school and he was not a major college player.  He’s not a 2014 FIBA World Cup winner, cialis or a 2016 NBA All Star.  He’s not a member of Nike’s elite, order and he’s not Steph Curry or Kobe Bryant.  So how is it possible that Damian Lillard is the talk of the NBA in early March, post trade deadline and headed into crunch time before the playoffs?

Because Portland.  You might see a woman walking her turtle on a leash down Pearl St. and you might catch an angry Damian Lillard dropping 51 on Golden State. Where zip off cargo pants and gluten free bread reign supreme, and a carpet can be the grand marshal of a parade, the Blazers are overcoming meager expectations and audacious snubs to do their part to keep things weird in the NBA.  I guess we shouldn’t even be that surprised.

So how did we get here?  The Blazers weren’t supposed to be good.  Lillard struggled down the stretch last season only to watch LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicholas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez leave in free agency and trades.  On draft night, the Blazers were poised to be absent of any big men this season and due to pay Lillard max money over the summer without the feeling that he had certain future All-Star potential.

But 2016 hasn’t gone as planned, in a good way.  A rebuild turned resurgence when Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh headed West in the Nicholas Batum trade bolstering the Blazer bench.  CJ McCollum has emerged as the NBA’s most improved player, Meyers Leonard plays with confidence behind the arc, and angry Damian Lillard has come to define clutch in a very raw Steph Curry kind of way, averaging 30 and 8 in the month of February.   Instead of 30 wins and a front row seat at the Draft Lottery in June, the youthful, “long term potential” Blazers have 33 wins with 6 weeks left in the season, a firm grip on a playoff spot and a very heavy bandwagon.

And I totally get it.  I might even join it.  Next season when the Bulls streak of giving up 100 points has hit 50, you might see me in PDX Carpet Adidas, covering my compost pile, and pretending to know why they call it #RipCity.  Regardless, it’s fair to say that things are staying weird in Portland for a while, and I’m not mad about it.

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The reigning champion Golden State Warriors have been rolling through the NBA with a whole lot of wins. For much of this season, and the Warriors have been compared to the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls who also happened to have an incredible season during their reign as the champs. One could say the Warriors are running with the Bulls. Today, pharm the Warriors have the chance to tie the Chicago Bulls record of 44 straight wins at home.

How do the Warriors compare to the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls? Through 59 games Golden State is sitting at 54-5 and the ’95-’96 Bulls were 53-6.

During the Bulls iconic season, they accomplished what no team had done before, or has been able to since, but the Warriors are knocking on their record-setting door.

Chicago won 18 games in a row during one stretch of the 1995-1996 season. They also led the league in scoring (105.2 points per game), ranked third in defense, lost just two home games all season and won more road games (33) than any team in NBA history. RESPECT. Come playoffs, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen lost just one game in their road to the finals and ended up beating the Seattle SuperSonics for the title.

This season, the Golden State Warriors started with a 24-0 run. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are hotter than hot and their team is in the hunt for a 73-win season.

So what do we think? Will the Warriors tie the Bulls record? It will be no easy feat as their opponent is the OKC Thunder – who just lost to Golden State by a mid-court, buzzer-beater in OT from Steph Curry in Oklahoma City. Let’s just say, tonight’s game will be entertaining to say the least (something Bulls fans aren’t currently able to enjoy). Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are thirsty for a win.

Despite all their success in the recent years, Steph Curry’s MVP award and countless three-pointers the Warriors don’t necessarily get the respect they deserve.  None of the contestants on Jeopardy could identify the team from their logo…I say it adds more fuel to the Golden State fire.

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Derrick Rose has been pulling on our Bulls-fan-heartstrings since 2012 when our NBA Finals hopes and dreams were crushed by his first crippling ACL injury. Over the years, viagra we’ve stuck with Rose through additional season ending injuries as well as the minor ones. Ever since the heart wrenching ACL tear, pharm Rose has never returned to his MVP self, medical rather Bulls fans have seen glimpses of the explosive Rose of years past. This year, news that Rose has returned to “MVP form” has been making headlines.

Since Derrick’s Christmas Day performance against the OKC Thunder, he seems to be playing with a renewed sense of confidence. It’s almost like he’s having fun playing basketball again. Don’t get me wrong, the guy has been through quite a bit. Even this season he suffered that horrible orbital fracture which required him to play with basically one eye and a protective face mask, but 2016 has shown DRose in a far better spirit. The boost in confidence and performance comes at the perfect time for the Bulls who are currently without All-Star Jimmy Butler who suffered a sprained left knee. Butler has at least a few more weeks of recovery and Rose is needed to take the Bulls under his wing and right some serious wrongs – like the Bulls playing like total garbage most of 2016. Chicago has fallen from the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference to the No. 6 seed.

I don’t know how good I can become. Nobody knows . . . I think it’s an unknown ceiling. The way that I’m playing right now, the shots that I’m taking I didn’t take when I was younger. I’m shooting off glass now. Defense could get a lot better, but I love the way I’m playing offensively – Rose told ESPN

And then moments later we see news like this flooding twitter feeds:

I swear, Rose’s hamstring must be the tighest in all the land. Lets get yourself a membership to a hot yoga studio and STRETCH. IT. OUT. Now, Tuesday night’s game at the United Center against the Wizards wasn’t the most crucial, but was it necessary to sit out the entirety of the game? Maybe don’t play 30-40 minutes, but give your teammates some jolts of energy from time-to-time within the game. I know Rose is also being cautious due to his history with injury, but I’m not sure he’s ever going to be the dependable guy the Bulls can lean on. Maybe Bulls fans have severely high expectations (me, specifically) having had players like Michael Jordan who literally played no matter what because he was a monster competitor, but Jordan never injured both knees. Who am I to judge?

Here’s what I know to be true. When Derrick Rose shows up to play, the Chicago Bulls instantly become more exciting to watch. He alone can set the entire tone for the team in that particular game. Now, the question is, can this aggressive and successful DRose last? I’m going to take the road of least expectations over here, so if I’m proven wrong I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Sunday was one for the books at the United Center as the Chicago Bulls hosted Kobe Bryant for the very final time. Earlier this season Kobe announced his retirement and the Bulls made sure the correct homage was paid to the NBA superstar in his final visit to the Mad House – with the exception of a win, viagra the Bulls went ahead and took the 126-115 W over the Lakers. Sorry to spoil the special moment Kobe.

The Black Mamba has been consistently compared to Chicago’s Michael Jordan as a candidate for ‘Greatest Player of All Time.’ From his style of play, to his competitive drive, to his championship pedigree, even down to his tongue-wagging ways, many say Bryant is the closest thing to Jordan since Jordan (definitely a compliment). Kobe even passed MJ on the all-time scoring list, but won 5 Championships, one fewer NBA title than the Goat. I’d like to give a shout-out to Phil Jackson, who coached both legendary players during their prime-time domination years.

Did you know Kobe almost even played for the Bulls back in 2007 after Chicago and LA tried to negotiate a big fat trade between the Lakers, Bulls and Kings? Fun fact right? It obviously didn’t work out and would have completely changed the landscape of the Bulls (they would have never had a high enough draft pick to snag Derrick Rose in 2008 with Kobe on the team). Bryant did say, that Chicago had been his top destination aside from his Lakers.

The night started with PJ Rose grabbing a quick fist bump with one of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. Despite PJ’s overwhelming cuteness, Pau Gasol really stole the show giving his former teammate and friend quite the tribute. Gasol introduced Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup with a personal video that had the fans on their feet. Truly humbling kind of moment between two former teammates feeling all the love and respect for one another.

Kobe put up 22 points in his final game in Chicago and was provided plenty of hugs and admiration. Other than a loss for the Lakers, Bulls fans gave the former NBA MVP an honorable send-off. With 45 seconds left in the game, Bryant checked in at the UC for the final time and fans gave the guy a standing ovation, I’m talking lots of applause here. It was a beautiful thing.

The Bulls actually put on a good show Sunday night, which is unusual as of late. E’Twaun Moore and Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 24 points each. Gasol was right behind with 21 points and Bobby Portis and Doug McDermott combined for 33 points off the bench. The Lakers aren’t currently the best team in basketball, but it’s always nice to see your team play well after some rough games.

Farewell Kobe Bryant. It was an honor to watch one of the greatest of all time play the game. The Lakers will never be the same without you.

 

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Spring training is virtually hours away while the Cubs front office is working to make all our dreams come true on the field, sildenafil who is in charge of our destiny along side the Master – Joe Maddon(under contract for four more seasons)…

Theo announced in late October the Cubs will invite back their entire coaching staff next season!  Except one jokester of course….

Will Ferrell had a busy day with the Cubs, here coaching third base last year at Spring Training.

A few coaches to watch:

John Mallee (pronounced May lee) plays the role of the Cubs of primary Hitting Coach.  Mallee recognized around the league for his techniques and expertise in instruction came to the Cubs in 2014 , formerly with the Marlins and Astros.   This Chicago native is also somewhat an Entrepreneur with his training DVD’s, “Teaching The Professional Swing” and “Teaching Hitting Drills”   Check out a little of this preso by Mallee…the Moneyball approach to hitting…

On the corners….Brendon Hyde formerly head of Cubs Player Development moved to 1st Base Coach last year, and Gary Jones, a 24 year veteran coach, takes the place of 3rd Base Coach.  There was a little drama last year when it was announced that Gary wasn’t returning due to Rick Renteria’s departure, but shortly thereafter Maddon announced he will be retaining Jones.

Coach Mike Borzello & Chris Coghlan chat

Behind the plate, Mike Borzello Catching Coach (Godson of Joe Torre) was a member of four World Championship teams with the Yankees: 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.  And, in 1999, appeared as John C. Reilly’s catching double in Universal Pictures’ “For Love of the Game” with Kevin Costner …

Former Cub David Martinez came to the Cubs as an outfielder in the 1983 MLB draft, but didn’t come up to the Majors as a Cub until 1986 and served as an injury replacement for the beloved Bobby Dernier.  David Martinez also coached with Manager Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay.

Fitting with the Cubs platform of giving back former 16 season MLB Player and now Bullpen Coach Henry Blanco participates in the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation, helping develop and implement innovative concepts that generate funds for the benefit of children’s charities.  This is only almost half of the Cubs talented staff which can be found at http://m.cubs.mlb.com/roster/coaches/.   With all the media hype and player excitement it is sure to be an exciting season.  Tune in next time to learn the inside scoop on the progress of the Wrigley Renovation!

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