eastern conference

The NBA has long been criticized for lacking what makes the NFL appointment viewing 3 days a week: parity.  In the NFL, for sale shorter contracts, key injuries, larger rosters, and less impact by individual players makes for the phrase “any given Sunday” and the fact that 10 different teams have won the Super Bowl in the last 15 years. In the NBA, some people write off the regular season and playoff seeding entirely because only 10 different teams have won the championship since 1980.

Conference superiority has a lot to do with the thin upper crust of champions in the NBA.  As a Bulls fan who reaps the benefits of a #1 or #2 seed in the East despite a similar record to a Western Conference team in the bottom half of the playoff picture, I constantly preach the cyclical nature of conference imbalance.  However, even I was disappointed to see Joe Johnson on my TV in late April last year while Russell Westbrook was at home.

“Cyclical” is a stretch at this point, with the Western Conference’s superiority lasting for the better part of the past two decades.  But I’m not ready to toss the conference format just yet.  The Bulls may have returned with the exact same team, but not everyone in the East followed suit.  We’re only 2 nights in to the NBA season, and it already looks like the East may have taken a major jump towards the talent, play, and energy of Western Conference teams.  You can look at almost any team in the East right now and imagine them in the playoffs (not you Sixers).

When April comes around, it’s hard to picture the Cavs, Bulls, and Hawks without home court advantage in the first round, but beyond that, all other spots are totally up for grabs.  The Miami Heat are the most likely team to join the Eastern Conference elite with the return of Chris Bosh from a blood clot that sidelined him for the final 30 games of the ’14-15 season, joining a backcourt of top NBA guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic.  Hassan Whiteside came of age last season and will complement the very capable Luol Deng and rookie Justice Winslow, who fell in to the team’s lap in the draft.  With this lineup, Pat Riley may have the best chance to challenge former Heat star Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and aim for an NBA Finals appearance.

Since the Heat are no strangers to deep playoff runs, the Knicks and Pistons will be the more unlikely competitors in the East this year.  In New York, the Knicks made a big opening statement topping the hyped Milwaukee Bucks by 25 points on Tuesday.  Consistent play from Kristaps Porzingis, and help from Derrick Williams off the bench combined with a healthy Carmelo Anthony if he doesn’t get traded, will make them an Eastern Conference threat.

In Detroit, Stan Van’s island of misfit toys just might work.  With a surprising victory over the Hawks on opening night, all 5 starters scored in double figures and the team dominated the boards with 59 rebounds to Atlanta’s 40.  Andre Drummond is on the cusp of stardom, and when joined by a healthy Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson, who the team acquired mid-last season, they should be able to consistently execute SVG’s system and recapture the run they had last year before losing Jennings to an Achilles injury.

Aside from Lebron James being the best player in the world and the Cavs heated rivalry with the Bulls, and well, everyone, the East still has a ways to go to match up with the West.  But with improvements to the Raptors, Bucks, Pacers and Celtics as well, this may be the first year in recent memory that there are deserving teams who don’t make the playoffs in the East.  At the very least, we should see an 8th seed with a winning record, an overall step in the right direction.

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Noah and Butler

Alright, cialis alright, sovaldi sale alright! Who’s ready for some legitimate Bulls basketball? (raises hand eagerly) Preseason is fine and dandy, but it’s like going to get Froyo and just having some taste-test samples – you love some, you like some, but ultimately you want to put your favorites all in one tub and experience the magic! So maybe I enjoy Froyo too much, but I am also ready for the Chicago Bulls to run the floor of the United Center on Tuesday kicking off the new season. Who better to challenge our favorite men in red but the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers? Let the rivalry continue!

Remind me, why do we care about the Cavs?

Here’s the skinny, Cleveland currently is and has been the favorites of the Eastern Conference – which is the Bulls conference. First and foremost, they have Lebron James the four-time NBA MVP. He’s a freak of nature when it comes to basketball and my favorite player to hate because he’s always on the opposing team. The Cavs as a whole have crazy depth (we’re talking Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson) and can suffocate their opponents on offensive AND defense. Question is, will the Bulls new offensive-minded approach be enough to overpower the Cavs? Well, we’ll just have to find out.

Keep Your Eyes On: Lebron James and Jimmy Butler

Despite the few Derrick Rose hopeless romantics left in Chicago, we all know this Bulls team is going to be led by Jimmy Butler. He signed his big boy contract this offseason and now we need the man to perform. Butler always plays Lebron James tough since his professional game was developed under Thibodeau who preached defense. Lebron James, is rumored to not be practicing after a back injection, but he claims he is healthy and ready to go. Lebron James with the flu is still tougher to play than most guys in the league so Butler has his work cut out for him – per usual.

Big Bench Mob: 

Joakim Noah has been demoted to come off the bench according to Coach Hoiberg and Nikola Mirotic will be starting in his place. JoNo’s never been the team’s most prominent offensive player, but after a career low season in 2014-2015 and a new offensive minded coach, Noah needs to add something else to the mix. Apparently, that something else is going to be coming off the bench, but I mean Taj Gibson AND Noah off the bench is rather intimidating to other team’s reserves. I kind of love the depth.

Masked Man:

This is definitely day-to-day, but as of right now Derrick Rose is slated to play in the home opener at the United Center on the 27th. Before the orbital fracture during practice (aka breaking his face) I was so optimistic about Rose this season, getting a healthy chance. Now he’s rocking a mask that looks incredibly uncomfortable and I would imagine it’s so hot and sweaty under there. Regardless, we’re not going to get top notch DRose for the home opener, but we may at least hear his name called during introductions. Also, totally unrelated to actually playing basketball, please enjoy the irony of Rose’s Addias 6 slogan “Never Break” – it’s too much for my heart to handle.

Two years in a row our Bulls have kicked off their home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers. You know those NBA schedulers are adding fire to the already existing rivalry on purpose. Tip-off is at 7PM on the 27th, be at the UC or tune in! Time to #SeeRed Bulls babes.

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Benny the Bulls

As we embark on the first pre-season game tonight I find myself giddy with anticipation for Chicago basketball, patient but also a bit anxious because this is a now-or-never kind of season for our Bulls. Since 2011 we’ve been so close we could taste the NBA Finals; Derrick Rose was the MVP, nurse Joakim Noah won defensive player of the Year in 2014, sovaldi Jimmy Butler made his first All-Star team, and the Bulls picked up All-Star Pau Gasol, but for one reason or another (too many heart wrenching injuries to count) the Bulls have failed to get past Lebron James and whatever team he was playing on. So what makes this year different? Can the Bulls get past their Eastern Conference rival Lebron James and his elite Cleveland Cavaliers. I may just be another hopeless optimistic fan, but I think our guys can do it. Here are the three key ingredients to a successful Bulls season.

Staying Healthy:

Well, here I was thinking the Bulls were relatively healthy this season and then Derrick Rose went and broke his face during the first practice. Can we get that guy some bubble wrap already? Luckily, the left orbital fracture he suffered doesn’t require a year of rehab and DRose should be ready to start the regular season (phew!). Aside from Mike Dunleavy who is still recovering from off-season back surgery the Bulls should be as full-strength as they’ve seen in three years. Taj Gibson also had off-season surgery and won’t be starting in the first pre-season game, but he will be using October to ease back into things.

Staying healthy throughout the season is of utmost importance. The Bulls have quite the big man lineup with Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Gibson, and Mirotic all ready to play some minutes. With big men we can dominate the boards, but the bigger the guy the easier it is to get injured – they have more weight pounding down day after day. We know all too well what it’s like to get to the Eastern Conference finals and not have enough strength to defeat the opponent (who is generally the freakishly athletic James). A healthy Bulls team is the only way to win.

Offensive Mentality:

There’s a new coach in town, and he’s got offense on his mind. Fred Hoiberg is known for being an offensive strategist, a very handsome strategist that is, and this is a breath of fresh air for Bulls fans. Ex-Head Coach Tom Thibodeau was a defensive guru, but he burned out his starters forcing them to play ungodly amount of minutes and limiting opportunities for rookies to get playing time. Hoiberg is a different kind of coach and we’re thinking it’s just what the doctor ordered to compete with NBA sharpshooters this season.

Jimmy Butler’s MVP Season:

This off-season our boy Jimmy Buckets got PAID. We’re talking five-year $95 Million contract. Yup, not a bad days work Mr. Butler. After low-balling the rising All-Star in October of 2014, the Bulls front office came to their senses and showed Butler the money. NOW, we need Jimmy to have another incredible season and lead these Bulls to a title. It would be ideal if Butler could take his game to the next level, a little offensive-defensive combo.

 

It’s always easy to speculate as an eager fan, but October 27th will be the first real show of what our Bulls are working with this season. Preseason is just a teaser of what’s in store this year, but we’re READY watch our Bulls ball.

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Game 5 cheat sheet

It’s a do-or-die Game 5 for our Bulls tonight as they’ve found themselves down 3-1 against the Washington Wizards in this first round match-up. If you tuned in for Sunday’s embarrassing display of basketball you may have already thrown in the towel for Bulls basketball this season, thumb but our men in red have another shot to come back with vengeance tonight at home. One final loss gives them a much earlier exit from the post season than anticipated.

Only a few teams have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series in the NBA so the odds are not in Chicago’s favor. The Bulls have faced mountains of challenges and adversity this season and came out on top – the stakes just haven’t been as high. Hopefully they can conjure up some extra energy and come out red hot tonight.

If the Bulls want to salvage their season there are a few crucial things that need to happen, find let’s take a look.

What You Need to Know: 

  • Take Control from the Start: Chicago has let Washington take the reigns FAST in each of the first four games. Letting a team score 15 unanswered points on you in the first few minutes can set the pace for the entire game. The Bulls need to make the Wizards work for each and every basket and create challenges for them. Come out strong against these youngins’ and the game totally changes.
  • taj gibsonGibson is the Key: They have NO ONE to match up with Taj Gibson. Nene (full name Nene Hilario, look but goes by “Nene”) is coming back from his one game suspension after basically kissing Jimmy Butler and throwing a punch in Game 3 and will be busy giving Noah the run around, so Taj is the X-Factor. He’s big and mobile and Washington cannot stop him. He’s coming off a career-high 32-point game 4. Now if only the rest of the team can find some offense.
  • Quit Being Bullied: The Bulls had one of the top defenses in the NBA during the regular season. Since when have the Bulls looked less physical than their opponent on defense? They’ve seemed tired and weak in this series against the Wizards. They are absolutely the tougher team and need to get back to their roots and play the gritty Bulls basketball we’ve seen them play time and time again.
  • Defend the Perimeter: Whether it’s John Wall, Bradley Beal, or Trevor Ariza the Washington Wizards have a hot hand when it comes to the three point shot. The Bulls need to STOP these guys from being wide open at the perimeter. Force the Wizards to face the Bulls’ big men in the paint and get a little banged up in the process.

Take Away Piece:

It’s been a better season than expected for our Bulls, but they aren’t playing like themselves in this series against the Wizards. They need to come out strong (we’re looking at you starting five) and maybe with some offense to defeat the quick and hungry Wizards. If not, we will be saying goodnight to JoNo and friends until next season.

What’s Next: 

see redThe Bulls are fighting for playoff life at the United Center tonight. Tip-off is set for 7 PM and you can tune in on TNT or CSN Chicago – whichever commentators you fancy. If the game goes south, I’d recommend having your favorite calming cocktail handy; tea, chocolate milk, an entire bottle of vino – whichever does the trick! Hopefully our guys can pull this off, otherwise we have many months until Bulls basketball is back in our lives. Let’s just win the game, #BULLieve.

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chicago-bulls-vs-washington-wizards_zps36d6b91f

Bulls vs. Wizards: Round 1

Well, cure hello there Chicago Bulls, the playoffs look so good on you.

After another whirlwind of a season, the ever resilient fourth seeded Bulls are preparing to take on the fifth seeded Washington Wizards in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

You may be thinking this all feels vaguely familiar; a Rose-less Bulls team attempting to claim the East and finally make it to the NBA finals. What’s different this time around? Should we even get our hopes up? The answer is, YES.

For the first time in forever Chicago is heading into the post season completely healthy – say WHAT? Yep, the Bulls have had the same starting rotation for the last 40 games of the regular season. Considering the past few injury prone seasons, this is remarkable and a healthy roster has allowed continuity for our favorite guys. We’re not sure if it’s just luck or different team strategies, but we’re happy with the outcome.

This first round match-up with the Wizards is about as ideal as a first round series can get. Chicago avoided another first round showdown with the Brooklyn Nets and if successful, are hypothetically lined up to take on a struggling Indiana Pacers ballclub in round two. The Bulls have the advantage on paper, but never underestimate a team come playoffs when the intensity sky rockets. Here are all the essential details to cheer on our men in red through the first round.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Washington Wizards

What You Need to Know: 

  • Two Totally Different Mindsets: The Bulls are a team who’s roots are embedded in defense. They smother their opponents and refuse open shooting opportunities. Despite their stifling defense, they can struggle to produce points. On the opposite end of the court the Wizards are young, aggressive on offense and showy. If Chicago can control the tempo the series is theirs. If our guys get sloppy and struggle to get the ball to the hoop, Washington will thrive in transition and snag the advantage.
  • Post Season Primed: The Bulls are experienced in the post season. They’ve made it to the playoffs the last five seasons and advanced to further rounds in 2013 and 2011. Their opponent hasn’t won a playoff series since they beat the Bulls in the first round in 2005 and their guys are baby ballers.
  • Regular Season Recap: The Wizards were 2-1 against the Bulls this season. However, both of their wins were back in January when the Bulls’ roster was in shambles, they’d just lost Derrick Rose and Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland. Later in the season the Bulls gave the Wizards a a beatdown in Washington, so don’t let the record fool you.

Key Players to Watch on the Wizards:

  • Point Guard, John Wall is a 23 year-old stud. The PG made his first All-Star appearance this season and averaged 19.4 points and 8.8 assists per game. His offensive tenacity poses a threat to the Bulls who will be challenged with guarding the quick and talented Wall.

    Beal and Wall

    Beal & Wall

  • Shooting Guard, Bradley Beal is in his second NBA season and shined as one of the Wizards top dogs. The up and coming star averaged 17 points a game and is ready to demonstrate his talents on a bigger stage.

Key Players to Watch on the Bulls:

  • Center, Joakim Noah IS Chicago Bulls basketball this year. He humbly begs to differ, but this two-time All-Star’s play generally determines if his team sinks or swims. He’s had the best season of his career collecting an insane amount of triple doubles all while averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assist and 1.5 blocks per game.  JoNo has had an unbelievable season and there’s no doubt his talent and intensity won’t shine in this playoff series.

    Noah and Butler

    Noah and Butler

  • Shooting Guard, Jimmy Butler needs to shine in this series. Butler will be tasked with defending Beal all while producing offensively. He got off to a slow start this season, but we know the Butler has it in him. He averaged 13.1 points per game during the year, but more importantly played the most minutes per game. His defense is clutch to the Bulls success in this series. If he can trap and frustrate the Wizards’ rising star guards Chicago gains the upper hand.

First Round Schedule: 

Game 1: Sunday, April 20 at Chicago, 6 p.m., TNT and CSN

Game 2: Tuesday, April 22 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m., TNT and CSN

Game 3: Friday, April 25 at Washington, 7 p.m., ESPN and CSN

Game 4: Sunday, April 27 at Washington, 12 p.m., ABC

Game 5*: Tuesday, April 29 at Chicago, TBD

Game 6*: Thursday, May 1 at Washington, TBD

Game 7*: Saturday, May 3 at Chicago, TBD, TNT and CSN

* if necessary

What’s Next: 

BennyWhere you at Bulls-bandwagon? If you fell off throughout the season it’s time to climb back on because things are about to get real. The playoff party begins Sunday at the UC and will only continue to rage on throughout next week.

The Wizards are young and talented, but if Chicago can consistently find their offensive rhythm, their relentless defense will prove too overwhelming for the young studs and force them to crumble under pressure. Prediction: Bulls in 5.

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Bulls are Hungry

Calling all Bulls babes: the NBA playoffs are right under our noses! If you took a backseat after Derrick Rose went out for the season or Luol Deng was shipped off to Cleveland – we don’t blame you, find but it’s time to brush up on your Bulls basics because we’re gearing up for a playoff party.

The league is wrapping up their regular season tonight and our Bulls have secured the role of “most dangerous underdog” in the post season this year. No one expected much out of Chicago after Derrick rose went down with the doom and gloom of a second knee injury. Many suggested the team tank the season and collect themselves a nice lottery pick in the draft. Instead, the Bulls are prepping for the 2014 post season and are easily one of the biggest threats to the top seeded dogs in the East.

What You Need to Know:

1. The Perfect Playoff Positioning? They’re either playing the Brooklyn Nets or the Washington Wizards in a first round show down. It all depends on the outcome of the final games tonight (The Bulls snag a four seed and Indy’s bracket with a loss or a Raptors win. They take the three seed with a win and a Raptors loss). Rumor has it the Nets don’t want to meet the Bulls in the first round after we knocked them out last year. The Pacers clinched the top seed in the East so technically we want the 4th seed to avoid the Miami Heat’s half of the bracket. Let’s not face BronBron and his title contending friends until the Eastern finals por favor.

2. It’s all about the messy bun swagger and the heart hustle and muscle of Joakim Noah this post season. His energy propels the emotional stability of the entire roster. JoNo has been absolutely stunning this season, racking up career high stats. Triple-double is basically his middle name. He leads the team in rebounds, blocks, and assists (yea our center is the best passer on the team, deal with it). Noah’s health and consistent performance is essential for the Bulls to advance to the second round.

3. Crazy Cool Coach: Thibs may look like a Disney evil villain or maybe you get the used car salesman vibe from his fashion sense, but one thing proves true; Tom Thibodeau knows how to coach an NBA team. It doesn’t matter who’s on his bench, NBA players ride or die with their boy Thibs.

4. Defensive Titans: By now we are all aware of the Bulls defensive mindset. Tom Thibodeau has his teams eat and breathe defense and the Bulls are peaking (minus the loss to the lowly Knicks) at the right time. We’re looking your way Jimmy ButlerThey’ve been ranked in the top 5 defenses all season and are about to take the physicality up a notch.

5. X-Factors: Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler. Gibson is in the running for Sixth man of the year and there is no time like the present for him to whip out all the stops. I want ego-smothering dunks and I want dirty defense. Jimmy Buckets had a slow start on the year, but has picked things up since the All-Star break. We need a big burst from Butler to solidify some offense and defense for the Bulls.

6. Down and Dirty Delivery: The Bulls are primitive in their strategic play and do not possess the same finesse as power houses like the Heat and Pacers. Sometimes they barely have much offense at all; it can get ugly. However, the Bulls find other ways to beat you. They’ll physically and emotionally wear their opponents down.

Jimmer

Jimmer Fredette via @ChicagoBulls

7. Jimmer Fever: From the second Jimmer Fredette stepped foot onto a Bull’s bball court, the media and the fans went into their usual Jimmer Fever frenzy. Think Brian Scalabrine White Mamba style, but not a super old NBA veteran. Jimmer is a bench mobber who may not see heavy minutes, but can make an impact emotionally – plus he’s got a nice mid-range shot. #jimmerfeverforever

8. D.J. Augustin is the best pick-up the Bulls could have hoped for. Chicago snatched Augustin after the Raptors put him up on waivers (the NBA equivalent to being homeless on the street). The Bulls were a team who needed a backup point guard, they took Augustin under their wing and he instantly made an impact off the bench. He’s currently the Bulls’ leading scorer.

Brewer's back

Brewer via Chicagobullspics

9. Roster Updates: Ronnie “brew-ha-ha” Brewer is back on the Bulls. We were sad to see him go a few years back, but his return to the bench mob is a happy one. Brewer knows Thib’s intense defensive ways. He plays tough and can give the Bulls a pick-me-up when they need one.

10. No DRose: Derrick rose isn’t making a superhero return to whisk his team off into NBA happily ever after. Let it go, Let it go. (Yes, I went there, Frozen style)

Per usual any playoff advancing is going to take an entire Bulls team effort. Kirk, Boozer, Butler, Dunleavy and the whole gang are going to have to play their hearts out and maybe, just maybe, our Bulls may upset the entire conference. It’s time to #BULLieve.

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