Chicago Bulls

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 holidays are here and that means food, drugstore family and football.  No wait, this is Christmas and that means food, family and BASKETBALL.  It’s easy to get confused because Christmas is to the NBA what Thanksgiving is the NFL.  An annual tradition that dates back to 1947 of all day basketball folly.  In 2011, the slate of games grew to 5, tipping off at 11am, and has stayed as large and as long ever since.

This year we’re looking at anything and everything from coast to coast match ups, a Finals rematch (or preview), East vs. West face-offs, and a Staples Center showdown, all complete with the requisite NBA Christmas uniforms, which I am not mad about this year.

If you’re looking to pick and choose when to watch vs. when to eat, sleep or spend time with the fam, here’s the game by game rundown.

11am CT New Orleans at Miami

A match up of the somewhat surprisingly intriguing Heat vs. the under performing Pelicans.  The Brow is always a fun watch and seeing him take on Hassan Whiteside in the paint shouldn’t disappoint.  But New Orleans is ravaged by injuries and an inability to adjust to the new coaching staff.  While I’m much more partial to New Orleans for eating, drinking and dancing, I’d pick Miami in this one.

1:30pm CT Chicago at OKC

The NBA so wanted Derrick Rose vs. Russell Westbrook to mean what it used to.  Unfortunately three knee surgeries has taken its toll on one much more than the other.  Despite this, the Bulls beat the Thunder earlier in the season behind a great game from Rose, who has since lost his facemask, the height of his hair, and his shot.  Both teams are playing under new head coaches who made the jump from college ball, but OKC is surging, while the Bulls count their lucky playoffs stars that they’re in the East.  I want to take the Bulls to turn it around and bring this one home because they always seem to surprise me on Christmas but without Joakim Noah, I have little faith this holiday season.

4pm CT Cleveland at Golden State

Get out the eggnog early because this is going to be good.  You can call it a Finals rematch or a Finals preview, but the top teams in each conference are at full strength with Cleveland seeing the return of Kyrie Irving this week, and they’re about to go at it.  Golden State boasts one of the best crowds in the NBA, who have been getting to games an hour early just see Steph Curry warm up.  And Lebron, well he’s mad.  Golden State makes history with every win so I’m picking the Warriors, if only to hope for a Riley Curry sighting at the post game press conference.

7:00pm CT San Antonio at Houston

Eat dinner quickly so you can be on the couch for an in-state battle of two completely opposite teams.  The Spurs quietly have the second best record in the NBA with only two less wins than the Warriors.  Pop is still sitting during games since it’s not April, and Kawhi Leonard shows us nightly how much bigger, stronger and faster he is than other top shooting guards in the league.  He’ll face another one in James Harden on Friday, but Harden’s Rockets have not done anything quietly this season.  Already working with an interim head coach and Dwight Howard trade rumors, the Rockets have been incredibly mediorcre so far, and outright bad at times.  They are however coming off of a 3 game win streak and have the talent to put on a show at home.  But if NBA fans know one thing, it’s to never bet against the Spurs.

9:00pm CT Los Angeles at Los Angeles

Many family Christmas gatherings may be able to relate to this match up – two passive aggressive siblings, living under the same roof, cut from the same cloth, with so little in common on any level.  On one end of the floor, the Lakers are a mess.  In the midst of the Kobe retirement tour, they boast two young stars in the making in Randle and Russell, who go in and out of the lineup for no apparent reason.  Kobe may score 34 points, or he may have 3 or 4 air balls.  Meanwhile, the Clippers are as good as they’ve ever been, but it doesn’t look to be good enough.  Their team is filled with controversial players who have never made it quite as far as they should have, and it doesn’t look like they ever will after the first few months of the season.  Kobe will be looking to go out with a bang in his 16th Christmas game, but I’d still take the Clippers to use the holiday to get their season back on track, as they continue to chase the shadow of the Warriors.

And that’s a wrap on Santa’s gift to all NBA fans this year.  Wishing you a very merry NBA Christmas, from our SDI family to yours!

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Joakim Noah

My heart aches for Joakim Noah and his ailing knees. In less than two years Jo-No has gone from a MVP candidate and Defensive Player of the Year to knee surgery ruining his 2014-2015 season and coming off the bench for a second year player (Nikola Mirotic).  Talk about a tough turn of events. Now it seems those pesky knee issues have resurfaced and they could be a bigger problem than we think.

Joakim Noah is the heart and soul of the Bulls, viagra his energy alone can propel a team, viagra but do Jo-No fans need to brace themselves for the probable reality of Jo leaving Chicago?

Here’s the low down. He had actually been slated to start Monday night’s game against the 76ers, but decided to sit out due to knee soreness. Now normally, if a player has a little soreness we wouldn’t lose sleep over it, but this is a very telling season for Noah and his knees are the second worst next to Derrick Rose’s two completely reconstructed knees.

“You don’t plan on these things. I wasn’t expecting it. I’ve been feeling great up to this point, and it just happened. I don’t think it’s [anything] too serious, but it was definitely a situation where I had to be smart. I wanted to play tonight really bad.”

Another extremely important tidbit, Noah’s contract is up at the end of this season, he’s currently making $13.4 million and that seems a bit steep a price for a guy to come off the bench. Noah needed to regain his stature and prove to new Head Coach Fred Hoiberg he deserves his starting roll and his money. Otherwise, Noah could potentially be shopped around come the trade deadline in February because the reality would be the Bulls could lose Noah all-together during Free Agency this summer.

To top things off, the Bulls have TOO many big men. Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and that list doesn’t even include rookie Bobby Portis. Basically it’s too many cooks in the Center/Power Forward position kitchen and not enough shooting guards. The Bulls need to unload one of them.

Noah hasn’t had the comeback season he had been hoping for, but it’s still early. Maybe coming off the bench wasn’t his thing, but his most memorable moment was elbowing a Hornets player. What happened to all those triple-doubles of seasons past? If his knees can get it together, Noah has  plenty of time to step up his game. Unfortunately, if Noah’s knees don’t cooperate, we could have a goodbye in our future.

It devistates me to think about Jo-No and all his messy-bun-swagger wearing a different jersey, but I think it’s safe to say Noah fans should prepare ourselves for potential NBA heartbreak.

 

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Aye dios mio, search the Bulls defensively crumbled against the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday allowing the previously win-less Hornets to score 130 points on them – ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY POINTS.

We can trash talk the Bulls play against the Hornets all we want, see but the overlying issue here is whether this was just a one game blunder with a valuable defensive lesson, or if this is the future of this Bulls’ squad under new Head Coach Fred Hoiberg (and small tear falls down my cheek).

Jimmy Butler was the first to vocalize his frustration with the game, explaining that the team hasn’t been playing tough enough defense. Butler, who was brought up in the league under coach Thibodeau who preached his defense-minded game strategy until he was blue in the face, is definitely not used to getting out played on the boards by a 0-3 team.

We got to nip that in the bud now because that’s not winning basketball. It will never be winning basketball here and it never has been winning basketball here. We’ve always prided ourself on playing hard and not being pretty. Tonight, we were pretty, we were soft. Got our asses whipped. – Jimmy Butler

Something interesting to note, was prior to Tuesday’s game the Bulls were fourth in the NBA for points allowed per 100 possessions according to ESPN Stats. There was also Pau Gasol’s huge Lebron James block to win the season opener and Jimmy Butler’s game-winning defensive moves to hold onto a win against the Magic. The Hornets did however shoot over 50 percent from the field and 60 percent from beyond the 3-point line – so maybe they had their most incredible game ever, or there’s something deeper happening here. Butler seemed to think the problem was rooted in all the offensive scorers on the roster. With the additional offensive freedom given by Hoiberg, the goal has been to out-score other teams. What’s essential to remember is that basketball is a two sided game. You have to make the buckets, but you also have to stop other teams from scoring. The Bulls are too big and too strong to get out rebounded by any team, use your size to an advantage guys.

After a game like this, comparisons between new Head Coach Fred Hoiberg and previous coach Tom Thibodeau are inevitable. Is Hoiberg’s offensive freedom-focused strategy actually the path to success for the Chicago Bulls? Thibodeau’s strategy was criticized for being overly focused on defense, not producing enough offense to win the big games against opponents like the star-studded Miami Heat of season’s past. Will we ever see a happy medium? A team that is able to produce the points, but also prevent opponents from going on crazy scoring runs. I guess I’ll have to put it on my Christmas wish-list.

Tonight will be an ultimate test as the Bulls prepare to take on the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder. If defense doesn’t show up to the game tonight, things are going to get real ugly real fast.

The goal is to have Jimmy feeling more like this after the game:

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San Francisco 49er’s quarterback Colin Kaepernick is having the worst week (season?) ever. I won’t run down his stats but let’s just say that since week one, nurse no rx the number of interceptions he’s thrown is akin to the number of bottles of wine I’ve drank in the same time span. And I spent ten days in Italy. Yikes. Then stories came out about him not caring about mechanics. Oy.

Well after weeks of him sucking the life out of Niners fans everywhere, case they finally benched him. And that’s not even the most embarrassing part. Their backup? Blaine Gabbert. There’s really only one stat you need to know about him, pilule and that would be his record as a starter: 5-22.

I think my favorite part about this story is that the 49er’s front office is framing this not as a true benching, but as a “mental break” for Kaepernick. What the FRONT DOOR is that?! What’s the fix for this, a spa day? Are you going to check him into Promises citing “stress and exhaustion”? “No, no, we aren’t firing you! We’re giving you a mental break from the duties we hired you to perform that you can’t perform well enough to be successful” said no boss ever.

But guys – there’s more. The streets are talking, and they’re saying that the front office waited until this week to bench (or whatever?) him because they are playing the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. Why is this relevant? Well because according to the Niners, the Falcons’ defense is weak and I guess they wanted to give Blaine the best chance to succeed which…five and twenty-two you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How did the Falcons feel about this comment?

Photo credit: NESN

A MESS. All that’s missing is Kirk Cousins‘ screaming YOU LIKE THAT?! in the background because I am more than entertained. These Niners get the “better than cable” award.

Alright, here are your Chicago sports in 25 words, more or less. I had to change that from “25 words or less” because I got a little long-winded this week.

Chicago Bears
By all accounts, they don’t suck nearly as much as their record indicates (if there were any GREAT two-win teams, these 2015 Bears top that list amiright?!). I’m excited for next year – that’s right, I’ve officially checked out.

Chicago Bulls
They gave up 130 points to the Hornets last night. The been-around-since-1988-and-have-won-zero-championships-conference-or-division-titles Hornets. The perpetually-in-the-lottery Hornets.

RIP Bulls’ Defense, 2010-2015.

Chicago Blackhawks
Headline, verbatim: Woman who accused Patrick Kane of rape no longer cooperating with investigation. ?

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Our Bulls are 2-0 and that is definitely something to smile about. Now, capsule I wanted to bring our attention to something a little less comfortable, sovaldi Derrick Rose and his current masked situation.

Blurred Lines

Rose has played two games and is still standing, search so his new protective mask is doing it’s job. Even better, he scored 18 points in the home opener and 15 points in Brooklyn on Wednesday. Despite missing preseason with an orbital injury, Rose’s explosiveness looks almost up to MVP Rose standards. We’ve seen speed, assists and even some spin moves. One slight hiccup, after Tuesday’s home opener against the Cavs Rose admitted he can only see out of one eye – hence his inability to make a three-point shot at the moment.

“I wish it was a blink, but it’s all the time,” Rose shared with the media in his post game interview, “Like right now, I see two of you.”

“When I’m out there playing, I’m only using one of my eyes,” he continued. “I close my left eye whenever I’m out there. So I just got used to it from practice.”

Looks like we’ve got a one eyed wonder out there. Or a pirate sans the eye patch. The blurred vision is a symptom of Rose’s recovery, but hopefully that doesn’t last too long. I’d be dizzy for sure with blurry vision, but Rose let us know “he’s a pro,” and he can handle it.

Even his new head coach has had a bit of fun with the situation,  “I think he sees three baskets right now,” Hoiberg said. “I told him, ‘Aim for the middle one.’ That’s part of it right now, the depth perception. It’s probably still a little bit off. He’s still out there working on [3s], shooting them, but we want him to be aggressive getting to the basket and making plays for his teammates.”

Bottom line, as long as Rose stays healthy and is movin’ and groovin’ out there creating open shots for his teammates everyone is happy and the Bulls will most likely continue winning.

Off the Court

DRose’s ex-girlfriend/accuser is seeking $21.5 million in damages. Quick recap: Rose and two friends are being sued by a woman who alleges Rose sexually assaulted her in August 2013. Rose has obviously denied all allegations, but things are kind of messy. The case is currently in the hands of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, but Rose lived in Illinois during that time. Apparently, this isn’t impacting or distracting Rose’s performance on the court, he said he’s letting his lawyer handle the legal information and he’s doing his job on the court. More news to come on this topic in the coming months.

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