76ers

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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Happy New Year Bulls fans! With 2012 behind us, help the Bulls look to take January by storm. Chicago finished off the calendar year at 16-13 and 9-6 for the month. December was a bit of a roller-coaster for the Bulls as they were able to defeat some of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, but also choked against one of the very worst.

The Bulls were a team held to very few expectations entering the 2012-2013 season, but our Bulls are fighters and have proven many of their haters wrong. It hasn’t been an easy ride thus far as every win has been a collective team effort of heart, sweat and intensity.  Let’s take a look at the good and the bad of the final days of 2012.

The Good: The Bulls did some Eastern Conference damage in December. They beat the New York Knicks twice (once at home and once at Madison Square Garden), they locked up a home win and a road win against their playoff rival Philadelphia 76ers, and to top things off they also beat the Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics.

The Bulls reserves are proving that this new crew is just as powerful as the “bench mob”. Marco Belinelli came out of his shell producing some extra offensive power when Rip Hamilton was locked down due to a foot injury and Belinelli took his starting slot.

Nate Robinson has done his fair share and is an obvious spark-plug off the bench. His additional scoring power has kept the Bulls alive in many of their close games. Jimmy Butler plays less than 20 minutes a game, but makes every minute count.

Rookie point guard Marquis Teague has shown promise with his excellent court vision and decision-making. Teague has appeared in 16 games as Kirk Hinrich has suffered a string of injuries.

The Bad: Despite the positive wins, they also had some rough losses. Chicago rode the struggle bus Christmas Day getting blown out by the Houston Rockets 120-97. Don’t get me wrong, since the addition of James Harden the Rockets have been playing well, but it’s always embarrassing to lose by 20 plus points. Apparently Charlotte has Chicago’s number, because the 8-23 Bobcats defeated the Bulls 91-81, a 10 point deficit.

Overall Assessment: Finishing 9-6 on the month is definitely a positive for the Rose-less Bulls. The last few games of December were rather rough to watch as they got spanked by the Atlanta Hawks, trampled by Houston on Christmas Day, and defeated by the lowly Charlotte Bobcats.

If only Carlos Boozer and Kirk Hinrich could get their offensive mojo flowing consistently our Bulls could consider themselves a playoff contender. It’s still quite early in the season for any serious predictions, but the Bulls are in decent shape starting out 2013.

December’s Most Valuable Players: 

Joakim Noah

Messy Bun Swag is taking over Bulls nation. It’s still early, but it looks like Noah is having the best season of his career playing at an All-Star Caliber and making his presence known as one of the most elite centers in the league.

Noah’s biggest improvements come offensively where he is lethal in the low post, but he is now dangerous from the outside sinking jump shots (funky motion and all).  Jo-No scored 30 points and racked up 23 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons early in December and had a game winning triple double against the Celtics mid-month.

Luol Deng

Deng. He. Still. Good. Deng is a player who makes his impact on both sides of the court averaging 40.3 minutes a game. Offensively he leads the Bulls with 17.5 points per game.

In comparison to other elite teams the Bulls lack fire power which leaves much of the offensive load resting in Deng’s hands. Defensively Deng shuts down league superstars such as Carmelo Anthony with stifling defense.

Marco Belinelli

Boy oh boy can things change in a month! In November Belinelli was barely getting playing time and 30 days later he’s starting in place of an injured Rip Hamilton and averaging 10 points a game.

What to Watch in January: 

1/4 at the Miami Heat: Chicago heads to the city where the Heat is on! This is the first Bulls vs Heat match-up of the season and is definitely worth watching. Will our guys be able to defeat the Eastern Conference leading Miami Heat?

1/9 & 1/30 vs Milwaukee: The Bulls will face the Central Division chasing Milwaukee Bucks twice this month; one home game at the UC and one road game at the Bradley Center.

1/11 at New York Knicks: They’ve got another Bulls vs Knicks match-up at Madison Square Garden. Can they our men in red go 3-0 for the season against NY?

1/14 vs. Atlanta: The Bulls have a shot at redemption against the Atlanta Hawks who are standing in 3rd in the Eastern Conference. Hopefully the cards will be in Chicago’s favor the second time around at the UC.

1/19 vs. Memphis: Chicago will take on the Memphis Grizzlies (who have been dominating the Western Conference) for the second time this season, but this time the show will go down at the Madhouse on Madison.

1/21 vs. LA Lakers: Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Lake-Show are heading to Chicago. Although the Lakers aren’t have their greatest season hopefully they’ll get their coaching debacle figured out and put on a good show against the Bulls.

Bring it on 2013 – we’re going to keep on Bullieving!

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Talk about a pick-me-up! The Bulls locked up a huge road-win in Philadelphia last night defeating the 76ers 96-89 at the Wells Fargo Center. Chicago is now 2-0 on the season against their familiar playoff foe. It was another team effort driven by emotion and heart that lead the Bulls to a solid victory. The Sixers are a young, gutsy and hungry team who are always ready to take on the Bulls, but despite the 76ers valiant effort the Bulls were out for blood on Wednesday. Just how did our guys bounce back after their disappointing loss to the Clippers Tuesday night? Let’s dig in.

What You Need to Know:

  • The messy-bun-swagger was in full swing last night as current HAM Joakim Noah led the Bulls with 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. Driven by pure emotion, Jo-No found motivation in the memories of Sixers fans cheering loudly after he injured his ankle during the first round of the playoffs last season. Tonight was payback Philly fans.
  • Chicago’s backcourt is wearing REAL thin right now since Rip Hamilton is still recovering from the torn muscle in his foot and Kirk Hinrich due to a knee injury suffered against the Clippers Tuesday. Fear not Bulls fans, Nate Robinson (14 points) stepped up to the plate as the starting PG and Marquis Teague led the reserves with poise demonstrating his playmaking instincts.
  • Another stand-out since Hamilton’s injury has been Marco Belinelli, who is proving to Coach Thibs that he can be more than just a three-point shooter. Belinelli was the spark to set the Bulls off in the second half and ended up with 16 points.
  • As always the Sixers brought their A-game against Chicago. Jrue Holiday continued campaigning for his All-Star slot with 26 points and 9 assists. Holiday was assisted offensively by the scoring presences of Thaddeus Young (13 points), swingman and Chicago native Evan Turner (16 points) and 76ers’ sixth man Nick Young (10 points).

Your Take Away Piece:

“A big road win was just what the doctor ordered after a tough loss to the Clippers Tuesday. They might have been tired and coming off a late game, but the back-to-back games didn’t pose a challenge to our ferocious Bulls. If Chicago can continue this rhythm they can definitely be better than a .500 team – even without our favorite Derrick Rose.”

What’s Next:

Our Bulls are heading home for a few days to rest up before they face the Brooklyn Nets at the UC Saturday night. The Nets have been an interesting surprise in the Eastern Conference starting the season on an 11-4 run. With one of the deepest teams in the league Bulls fans are guaranteed another exciting game against Brooklyn. If you fell victim to the Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries marriage/divorce, Brooklyn is where homeboy ended up. If you happen to find time amidst the holiday chaos, be sure to tune in at 7 PM on WGN to watch the Bulls and Nets battle it out.

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We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the Chicago Bulls beat the Philadelphia 76ers 93-88 in their first rematch since the Sixers booted the Bulls from the first round of the playoffs last season. As expected, the match-up between the two clubs was a slugfest full of intensity and tight defense. A combination of another All-Star performance from Luol Deng with balanced shooting by the entire Bulls squad resulted in a Chicago victory. Saturday’s win at the United Center was the perfect way to start the Bulls holiday season as they now sit at 8-7 in the Eastern Conference.

What You Need to Know: 

  • Joakim Noah beat his chest, sprinted up and down the court, yelled profanities and kept his energy on maximum high all night finishing with a double double – 12 points and 13 rebounds. Luol Deng was in beast mode leading the Bulls with 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Carlos Boozer also finished with a double-double, 12 points and 12 rebounds. Keep it coming!
  • It was like a bad recurring dream when veteran Rip Hamilton collapsed to the court requiring teammates Deng and Hinrich to assist him to the locker room. Too close for comfort as Derrick Rose tore his ACL against Philly in the first round of the playoffs. It was later announced that Hamilton sprained his left foot, but he returned to the game to make three of four free throws in the final minute.
  • Jrue Holiday gave Kirk Hinrich a run for his money all evening and had a great game for the 76ers finishing with 23 points. He is easily turning into an elite point guard in the Eastern Conference with his stellar playmaking abilities and strong drives to the hoop.

Take Away Piece: 

“There’s no doubt about it, a win against the Sixers was a definite ego boost for the Chicago Bulls. Our big guns in Deng, Noah, and Boozer demonstrated their amazing offensive abilities and the team as a whole gave Philadelphia a tough ride defensively. Games like this prove Bulls fans shouldn’t give up hope – our boys can still compete in this conference while DRose rehabs.”

What’s Next: 

Indiana’s coming to town on Tuesday to take on Chicago at the United Center. Although the Pacers are currently missing their star Danny Granger to injury, they have been playing well without him. Buckle up and tune in at 7 PM on WGN because this match-up is bound to be another tough and gritty battle between two Eastern Conference rivals.

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The Chicago Bulls will get their first opportunity at redemption tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers, nurse the team who eliminated them during the first round of the playoffs. When Bulls fans think of the 76ers we’re automatically taken back to May of last season. Just thinking about Derrick Rose tearing his ACL, viagra Joakim Noah’s season ending ankle injury, Omer Asik missing the most important free throw of his career, and a first round playoff elimination by a team of NBA youngsters – it’s painful to put it all in writing.

The Sixers are still young and out for blood in the Eastern Conference, but will the Bulls put the past behind them and start fresh with this Phili team? Or will the playoff rivalry of last season still put fire in both teams which is bound to create a gritty and exciting game?

What You Need to Know:

  • Sixers have the talents of Jrue Holiday at guard and Thaddeus Young at forward. These two players don’t mess around when it comes to racking up points. Holiday has taken the next step in his career and is making himself the king of this Sixers group. You can’t forget about Spencer Hawes either, his sharp shooting three-point shot added an extra sting to the Bulls during the playoffs.

    Holiday and Young (Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

  • In Wednesday’s game against the Mavericks the Bulls bench looked like a real team producing over 50 points for the first time this season. Both Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer were hot, hot hot! We need another similar performance against the Sixers on Saturday to lock in another W.
  • Our starters have been solid throughout the first month of play, specifically our rockstars Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. Jo-No has become a consistent dual threat and one of the best centers in the league. BUT a bit more defensive consistency out of Carlos Boozer would lend a helping hand as well as a bit more offensive contribution from Kirk Hinrich. At the end of the day the Bulls need to keep their opponents from scoring points and produce more points themselves. Giddy up!
  • The 76ers core is still very young and they’re learning how to win in big-game situations, especially on the road. One of their more veteran players, Andre Iguodala, was traded to the Denver Nuggets in the post season and Andrew Bynum was picked up, however Bynum is still out with an injury so the Sixers lack veteran leadership.

Take Away Piece: 

“The Bulls can absolutely take this one at home and add a notch on their pride belt. The Sixers are still a middle of the road team in the Eastern Conference. If their defense comes out ready to shut down Phili and their bench comes out guns hot, it would be tough for the Bulls to blow this.”

What’s Next: 

We’ve got two teams fighting to establish themselves in the Eastern Conference battling it out on the floor of the United Center Saturday night. Be sure to tune in to all the Bulls and 76ers action at 7 PM on WGN. After watching the Bulls final few games during the playoffs last season, I think we’re in store for a tough and exciting match up. Tis’ the season to BULL-ieve!

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In just six games, the Bulls playoff run is officially over.  The top seeded Chicago Bulls were eliminated in the first round by the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers last night in Game 6.  The Sixers won the final game of a gritty and hard-fought series by 1 lousy point, 79-78, taking the best of 7-series, 4-2, and leaving so many to ask “how did this happen?” 

After such a difficult season filled with adversity, losing franchise superstar Derrick Rose to multiple injuries and then a torn ACL, the injured Bulls will finally have a real chance to recover and come back bigger and better next season.  But not before the critics and the down-hearted analyze and pick-apart the Bulls short 6-game playoff run to determine – besides the obvious injuries – what really went wrong for the Bulls?  How did the team with the #1 record in the NBA with the deepest bench, lose to a mediocre team like Philly?

What You Need to Know:

  • Let’s take a look at the positives. Despite the rowdy crowd and Philly’s home court momentum, Luol Deng, Rip Hamilton and Taj Gibson all finished in double figures providing aggressive offense for the Bulls. Deng (19 points) and Hamilton (19 points) shot lights out in the first quarter and really set the tone for Chicago offensively. Gibson (14 points) was a man on a mission playing with the highest intensity we’ve seen this year.
  • Andre Iguodala

    Now on to the bad: Carlos Boozer had 3 points. After having an amazing Game 3 and 5, Carlos was needed more than ever when it counted in Game 6 and just didn’t show up offensively.  Boozer has been the #1 target for Bulls fans to trash – due to his inconsistency as a player with such amazing ability.   Expect to hear Boozer’s name as the fall-guy for the Bulls collapse in Game 6 – sadly though, he deserves it.

  • In the final seconds of the 4th quarter starting Center (the injured Joakim’s understudy), Omer Asik, missed 2 free throws which then led to Andre Iguodala sinking two free throws and clinching the 76ers victory – it left a foul taste lingering for Chicago fans.We cannot blame Asik for the Game 6-season ending loss. There were plenty of other missed shots throughout the game, however, FREE throws are meant to be easy baskets.

    Omer Asik

    You can guarantee the “Turkish Delight” will be practicing his free throws in his off season workouts.

  • Bulls starting center and fan favorite, Joakim Noah, suited up tonight, but his right ankle wasn’t quite well enough to actually play in the game. He had to sit on the bench and frustratingly watch his team lose by a single point in the final game of their season.
Your Take Away Piece: “The Bulls out-played the 76ers in Game 6, but it just didn’t pan out in their favor.  Chicago is the better team, but the Sixers played a better series and took advantage of our weaknesses.”

Round 2 Match-ups in Eastern Conference

 

What’s Next: The 76ers advance to the Eastern Conference Semi Final Round (aka Round 2) to face the veteran Boston Celtics. And for the Bulls, they have their work cut out for them this off season. There is a laundry list of recoveries that need to take place. Derrick Rose will be having surgery on his torn ACL this weekend, Luol Deng has postponed his wrist surgery until after the Summer Olympics and Noah’s ankle can heal to 100%. Maybe we can pretend the ending to this memorable and historical season never even happened? A girl can dream.

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