In a league where teams can drastically improve overnight (see: 2011 Miami Heat, 2012 Brooklyn Nets), high expectations are to be had when the offseason rolls around. This goes especially for young, contending teams. Where high expectations are held, high expectations are rarely met. This is an adage that generally holds true and can explain what many bewildered Bulls fans are feeling right now in this frustrating free agency bid. Let’s recap some of the moves made so far: first, management lets superstar duster Brian Scalabrine walk (along with more prominent players such as rotation guard Ronnie Brewer, backup center Omer Asik, and backup point guard C.J. Watson). Players like Scals don’t grow on trees. Then, they trade the sharp-shooting Kyle Korver to Atlanta in exchange for a briefcase full of Benjamins and a trade exception (more on this later). And just like that, the bench mob is downgraded into something that resembles more of a sob. Continue reading
Tag Archives: 2012
After a heartbreaking Game 7 defeat, Boston Celtics guard Keyon Dooling said it best:
“Everybody should relax a little bit,” Dooling said. “He is great for the game. He is our game. We need to uplift him, instead of try to tear him down. He is a guy who is the most unselfish superstar I have ever seen. He rebounds the ball, assists the ball and empowers his friends from his community. He is a model citizen. He should not have a stain on his reputation. I hope that it stops.”
No, Dooling wasn’t uplifting any of his teammates. He was praising his opponent, Miami Heat’s Lebron James.
As a Chicagoan, a cursory glance at my Twitter feed during Heat games reveals the same old jabs and jeers at the three-time MVP: “Lebron sucks!”, “Lebron will never get a ring!” “*Insert unoriginal fourth quarter joke here*”. It’s all non-sense. This is a new year, and frankly, I don’t see where Lebron went wrong. He shut his mouth and played the best basketball of his life. The beauty of these NBA Finals is that he has the chance to quiet the noise. What’s even better is that he can accomplish the feat over the greatest competition available, leaving no excuse for fans to continually deride him.
Everyone wanted Lebron to falter in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but I did not. I wasn’t ready to watch the Thunder steamroll a far inferior (and a far more dull) opponent in another unexciting Finals. This year’s matchup
may be will be the most exciting in a decade. When was the last time we saw the top two MVP vote-getters, the Sixth Man of the Year and five total All-Stars competing for the O’Brien trophy? I don’t know if that’s happened since MJ left the game. As much as you hate Lebron, trust me, you wanted him here all along. This is when you should be rooting for him to fail.
Not to take anything away from OKC’s prized possession, forward Kevin Durant. He brings as much to the table as James does, but in a more reserved manner. Durant doesn’t have to deal with media scrutiny, as he is the antithesis of James’ public persona: beloved, uncriticized, uplifted. There’s not much to say about him that is new. The clash of differences between the two stars, however, summons the cliché “good vs. evil” storyline, which just adds to the fire. You wouldn’t have found that in a Thunder-Celtics matchup.
I’m going to continue the format of five thoughts for the series as I did in my NHL preview. I’ll try and keep the stats to a minimum (doubtful). Here we go:
1. The Presence of Bosh
It was obvious that Miami’s previous two victories couldn’t have happened without the return of Bosh. It may have taken an epic Game 7 80% shooting performance that included knocking down a career high three of four three pointers for fans to realize that he’s an undervalued asset to the Heat’s success. During the regular season, the Heat were 42-15 with Bosh on the floor and a mere 4-5 without him. In the playoffs, they are 7-2 with Bosh playing 5-4 without Bosh seeing action. If Bosh continues red-hot shooting from outside, this series can end a game or two early as defense will have to respect him and stretch the floor, opening lanes for Lebron and Wade to penetrate.
An overlooked factor all playoffs has been OKC’s atypical ball protection. During the regular season, the Thunder led the league in turnover ratio, but was able to improve vastly upon that throughout the playoffs, by becoming the second best team in protecting the ball. This can be attributed to the Thunder playing opposition that weren’t exactly huge generators of turnovers, which the Heat are. The Heat, however, didn’t force many turnovers against a usually turnover-prone Boston team. It’s safe to say that PG Russell Westbrook is much more reckless with the ball than Rajon Rondo, though, so the stats may fluctuate back to their norms.
3. Heat X-Factor: Dwyane Wade
Wade has been surprisingly inconsistent in this year’s playoffs. The absence of Bosh may have had a huge affect on that, allowing teams like the Celtics to double-team him constantly, turning him into a jump shooter (one skill he does not excel at). The Thunder do not have the quickness on the perimeter to close out space as the Celtics could do, so we may see more of those patented 25-5-5 games.
4. Thunder X-Factor: Russell Westbrook
I feel as if the Thunder live and die by Westbrook’s play. When the Thunder drop games, you can’t help but look towards Westbrook to see a sub-35% shooting night coupled with a near one-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio. On the other hand, Westbrook has the capability of taking control of the game and scoring at will. The Heat defense will be his toughest task to date, and I really don’t see him breaking it more than one time all series.
5. Thoughts & Predictions
I think this series will mirror the Thunder-Spurs series. Pundits all around will assume the Thunder have the edge, and they will look good… for two games. Lebron will turn on his “Game 6 face” and go off for another spectacular 40+ point-near-triple-double performance in a win to tie the series or take the lead. Durant will be impossible to quiet, as usual, but will not be able to close out the series thanks to a few careless Westbrook games. Like the Spurs, the Thunder won’t know what’s coming after facing three teams with mediocre defending. The Heat will suffocate Westbrook and Harden and force turnovers which will lead to dozens of fast break buckets. Bosh will render Ibaka ineffective by forcing him to the perimeter. Four to five of the games will be instant classics, possibly overtime thrillers. Most will end with only a 3-5 point disparity between the two teams. With that said…
Heat in six games
Finals MVP: Lebron James
And I’ll leave you to a completely irrelevant song that has been on repeat in my Itunes 24/7 since Sunday night:
Lineup: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Sabbath, Black Keys, Jack White, Justice, Avicii, Florence + the Machine, Passion Pit, the Shins, Sigur Ros, Fun., M83, Franz Ferdinand, Metric, Dawes, the Temper Trap, Die Antwoord, Mona, the Growlers, the Gaslight Anthem, Hey Rosetta!, JEFF the Brotherhood, Band of Skulls, Anamanaguchi, SBTRKT, First Aid Kit, Tame Impala, Wax, the Walkmen, FIDLAR, JJ Grey & Mofro, LP, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, At the Drive In, the Afghan Whigs, Miike Snow, Bloc Party, Delta Spirit, the Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Michael Kiwanuka, Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, Tune-Yards, Sharon Van Etten.
Milo Greene, Neon Indian, Dum Dum Girls, Kopecky Family Band, Washed Out, the Jezabels, Aloe Blacc, Trampled by Turtles, Yuna, Bear in Heaven, Walk Off the Earth, Blind Pilot, Animal Kingdom, Chairlift, Dev, J. Cole, the Black Angels, the Sheepdogs, Yellow Ostrich, the Dunwells, GIVERS, DJ Mel, Polica, Empires, Bombay Bicycle Club, Kevin Devine, Wale, Childish Gambino, Doomtree and Macklemore & Lewis.
Dry the River, White Rabbits, Helena, Haley Reinhart, Imaginary Cities, the Head & the Heart, the Devil Makes Three, Overdoz, the Big Pink, Oberhofer, Ambassadors, Twin Shadow, the War on Drugs, DJ Zebo, the Tallest Man on Earth, Chancellor Warhol, Toro Y Moi, O Rappa, Laura Warshauer, Dr. Dog, Bowerbirds, Red Oblivion, Of Monsters and Men, Orchard Lounge, Los Jaivas, Amadou & Mariam.
Perry’s stage: Bassnectar, Santigold, Skream & Benga, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Kaskade, Little Dragon, Star Slinger, Calvin Harris, Porter Robinson, Nadastrom, NERO, Sub Focus, DJ Nihal, Madeon, the White Panda, Knife Party, Zedd, SALVA, Zeds Dead, Paper Diamond, Kid Color, Big Gigantic.
Bold = Headliners
I don’t care if you’re a fan of hockey or not, but HBO’s annual 24/7 documentaries about the teams participating in the Winter Classic are simply spectacular. A camera crew follows around both teams in the weeks leading up to the outdoor game. All of it is completely uncensored and gives fans a look inside of the lives of the players and coaches for a truly unique experience.
In unexpected news, University of Illinois’ freshman standout Jereme Richmond declared for the 2011 NBA Draft today. Richmond was expected to stay at Illinois for at least another year. However, I guess Richmond decided that he didn’t want to spend any more time on the bench. Richmond averaged 7.6 points and 5 rebounds a game in 31 games for Illinois.
The move is a perplexing one, in my opinion. Had Richmond stayed one more season at Illinois and garnered more playing time he may have been able to help his draft stock a bit more. Not playing at all in the NCAA Tournament due to disciplinary reasons can only hurt his stock. NBA teams value character, but some will take a chance on a talent like Richmond. After all, he’s only 19 years old and has time to mature mentally as well as physically.
On the other hand, with stars like Jared Sullinger deciding to stay in school and others like Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving rumored to stay another year as well, Richmond may end up benefitting a bit by leaving early. If Barnes declares for the draft, I can see Richmond getting selected (at best) in the early 20s to early second round. Had Richmond stayed his extra year, he may very well had been a late lottery pick in 2012. He even could have played himself into the top 10, but that’s wishful thinking.
There’s no doubt that the NCAA Tournament is where players make their final impressions on NBA scouts. Every year there are usually a few players who go from relative nobodies to the first round or even the lottery (see: Gordon Hayward). Then there are those players who play themselves out of the lottery or the first round. This year’s tourney was no different. We saw a variety of players improve their stock dramatically while some played themselves into another year of college. Here are my top risers and fallers for the 2011 NBA Draft: