The NBA season couldn’t return quick enough, and with official tip off already underway, it’s time for ChiSide’s annual NBA season outlook. This year I’ll be posting my thoughts on the unexpected. Last season brought us the unforgettable “Linsanity”, the emergence of the Denver Nuggets and the various trades that put the league on its head the league. With a full 82-game season slated, expect more of the same; expect the unexpected.
1. Kyrie Irving vaults himself into a top 15 player in the league
The 2011 number one overall selection had a rookie seasonbetter than superstar point guards Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook had. The next step for him is to become the players both are. While Irving does not have another Kevin Durant-type on his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a solid foundation that could make huge strides if Irving steps his game up significantly, which transitions into my next surprise…
2. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be a lot better than you think
Head coach Byron Scott has ironed out the kinks in his first two seasons managing the club. After a 19-win first year, Scott got the Cavs to 21 wins in 66 games (equivalent to 26 wins in 82 games), a seven game improvement. If all goes according to plan (barring key injuries), Cleveland can crack 40 wins. If Irving becomes transcendent, power forward Anderson Varejao stays healthy and second-year center Tristan Thompson makes a jump, the Cavs can win a lot of close contests in a weakened Eastern Conference that has lost superstars Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard.
The X-factor for Cleveland will be none other than Varejao. The crafty Brazilian, in my opinion, is as good as Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. Varejao is one of the league’s best floppers (yes, this is a good thing) and draws offensive fouls at an astounding rate. He averaged 11 points and 11.5 rebounds in 31 minutes of play through 25 games last year. Noah averaged 10 and 10 last year in 30 minutes throughout a whole season. There’s no doubt that Varejao’s presence is vital to this team’s success.
3. The Los Angeles Lakers will not lead the league in wins
The Western Conference is tough and the Lakers have the oldest starting five in the league with an average age of 32. In addition to a full 82-game schedule, head coach Mike Brown will be preserving the legs of his older starters for a late playoff run. It would not be far-fetched if the Denver Nuggets were able to finish the regular season off with two-to-five more wins than the Lakers. Continue reading →
After leaving fans with a bad taste in their mouths at the conclusion of last season’s first round playoff exit, center Omer Asik and guard C.J. Watson have moved on to greener pastures.
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 →
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:
Recently I was thinking about how NBA players and the rap game go hand-in-hand. Lots of players are friends with rappers and some players even try their darn hardestto earn respectin the rap game. This got me wondering which NBA players are comparable to current rappers in today’s modern era. Here are my thoughts on who is who:
Jay-Z is Kobe Bryant
This has to be the easiest analogy one could make about the rap game/NBA. Both are living legends who are still active in their respective industries. Jay-Z and Kobe are both “winners”, as Jay has 11 “rings” (platinum albums) while Kobe has five NBA Championship rings. Oh, both are married to bangin’ chicks as well.
Kanye West is Lebron James
This one might come under fire by hip-hop and Ye fans, but the similarities are striking. It’s no lie when you say that both are disliked people by the general public. Kanye hadhis moment(s), Lebron has had his. However, both have proven their worth in their industries and are extremely important to both of their games. Both men have single-handedly altered each of their games in someway both for the positive and negative. It’s also important to think of both as “all-around players”. Lebron can do just about everything on both ends of the court, while Kanye can produce, rap, write, and (try to) sing. Continue reading →
Happy Playoffs! For over a month now we have been given the opportunity to watch one of the best playoffs in NBA history, and they all come to an end with this series. Here’s the schedule, and click after the jump to check out Blake and my series predictions.
Best of seven (2-3-2 format)
Game 1 — Tue May 31, Dallas at /Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC Game 2 — Thu June 2, Dallas at Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC Game 3 — Sun June 5, Miami at Dallas 8 p.m. ET, ABC Game 4 — Tue June 7, Miami at Dallas 9 p.m. ET, ABC Game 5* — Thu June 9, Miami at Dallas 9 p.m. ET, ABC Game 6* — Sun June 12, Dallas at Miami 8 p.m. ET, ABC Game 7* — Tue June 14, Dallas at Miami 9 p.m. ET, ABC *If necessary
By now you’ve probably heard what former Bulls’ forward and legend Scottie Pippen had to say about Lebron James. If not, this is what he said:
“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play the game,” Pippen said. “I may go so far as saying LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game.”
Is Scottie speaking out of spite or does he actually believe Lebron has a shot at taking away the “greatest player of all time” claim away from Jordan? It probably wasn’t easy for Pippen, a fantastic player in his own right, to be overshadowed by Jordan throughout every single Bulls’ championship team. On his own, Pippen would have been most team’s best player.
But are Pippen’s comments as insane as people make them out to be? I’m not so sure. He made the mistake of saying Lebron is already the greatest to play the game, when in reality he meant that Lebron “may end up as” the greatest. When you look at it from that standpoint, things don’t seem as crazy, do they?
As the most unbiased person I know, I get into a lot of arguments with my fellow friends and sports fans. For example, I predicted that the Heat would beat the hometown Bulls in six games. I’m as big of a Bulls fan as anyone, yet I just didn’t think we had enough to get over the hump this year. I look at things from a realist’s standpoint and from that standpoint, the Bulls weren’t looking too good coming into this series and the Heat finally learned how to play together and were playing hotter than ever. Anyways, back to the original topic: Lebron vs. Jordan.
There’s no doubt that Game 3 in Miami is the Bulls’ biggest game of the year thus far. Coming off a disappointing 85-75 loss at the United Center, the Bulls must win Game 3 in order to keep the pressure off them and put it all on the Heat. The first step in winning Game 3 and the series is obviously to stop The Crybabies (Baby Bron Bron, Wittle Wade, Boshtrich), but there’s more to it than just that. Here’s what the Bulls absolutely need to do in order to close out Game 3 and the series:
Rebound, rebound, rebound! Did you know: The Heat have been out-rebounded in every game that they’ve lost against the Bulls. However, last game the Heat turned the tables and out-rebounded the Bulls and won the game. Also, the Heat’s top four players all had 7+ boards on their own (James: 10; Wade: 9; Bosh; 8; Miller; 7). Yes, Mike Miller somehow had the balls fall into his grasp seven times.
Asik and Destroy. Whenever The Turkish Delight is in the game, he seems to affect the Miami Heat offense dramatically. Last game, both Lebron and Wade had a lot of trouble getting to the basket while Asik was on the floor. Luckily, Wade was smart enough to tape a razor blade onto his elbow to take Asik out of the game.
You Booze(r), you lose. Game 3 should be a physical contest, and Boozer is anything but physical. Right now the only thing Boozer is good at is raising my blood pressure due to anger. Coach Thibodeau should only put him out on the floor when Bosh is out there, so these two can continue their nightly pillow fight. However, I’m pretty sure all of Chicago would rather have the Taj-ma-poster out there.
Hit shots. I don’t know an easier way to say it, but the Bulls were pitiful from the field last game. Brace yourself for these stats: 34% from the field, 15% from three-point land and 61.5% from the line. When Bogans and Brewer are among the top percentages from the field on your team, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
Korver. I honestly think the real Ashton Kutcher could sink more buckets. Korver went 1-7 last game from the field and 1-3 in Game 1.
Today’s theme song:
Hit me up on Twitter @Tucci_Bandana if you want me to send you the song.
Sorry for the lack of content recently. It’s finals time at U of I so that means no time to do fun stuff like this. If the mainstream media gets ahold of this one, this will probably be bigger than it should be. Listen closely around the 0:21-0:22 mark.
Crying in the locker room? Is this the 4th grade Park League championship? What a joke. Although there have been no reports telling us exactly who threw a temper-tantrum, why would someone like Erick Dampier be crying? Does Juwan Howard, who’s averaging a staggering five minutes the last 10 games really care about this year’s Heat team that much? Of course not. It was the superstars, the big three. Dwyane Wade, Queen James, and that other one nobody really cares about. They’re the ones that made this whole off season a big show, and they’re the ones that get all the publicity, win or lose.
But crying after a regular season loss to a team that is right there with you record wise? Why? After the game, Dwyane Wade said that “the world is getting what it wanted, the Heat is losing,” DUH Dwyane! You should have known that coming into the season. NOBODY LIKES PEOPLE THAT TAKE THE EASY WAY OUT. You cried over that? I thought Chicago kids are supposed to be a bit tougher. I used to think this was your team, but constantly deferring to Lebron when he is clearly struggling in late game situations is ridiculous. You’re the one with the ring and the NBA Finals MVP award. Don’t cry about losing, do something about it.
This whole story really irked me. Mostly due to Evanston-born coach Erik Spoelstra reporting this to the media. Do you want people to feel sympathy for these guys? You were at their celebration the day after they all signed, so you know that’s not happening. Do you want people to know they care about the game? They should care about the game…if I got paid $14,000,000 a year for anything, even it meant I clean bathrooms with my tongue, you best believe that bathroom would be absolutely spotless.
Back to the players though; Lebron, everyone knows you are the best player in this league. Maybe not the most clutch (1-8 when trailing in the final seconds of a game with a chance to win this year), but without a doubt, everyone that knows a little about basketball, knows that you are a freak of an athlete. When hot, you are probably the only one that has a chance to ever come close to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point total in a single game. When you’re that good, you don’t cry after a regular season loss. You don’t cry about any loss. You’re not Adam Morrison. I don’t know if this is a fact, but I’m pretty sure Michael Jordan never cried after losing a game. Larry Bird surely didn’t. Hell, Kobe probably never cried either. These players went out the next game and did something about it. These players called out their teammates, (just because these quotes are hilarious, here are some examples of Jordan’s…)
“You ever hear of a guy, six-eleven maybe and two hundred sixty pounds, a guy big and fat like that and he can’t get but two rebounds, if that many, running all over the damn court and he gets two rebounds? Big guy like that and he gets one rebound. Can’t even stick his ass into people and get more than that…Big, fat, fat guy. One rebound in three games. Power forward. Maybe they should call it powerless forward.” – Michael ripping Stacey King
“You’re an idiot. You’ve screwed up every play we ever ran. You’re too stupid to even remember the plays. We ought to get rid of you.” – Michael to Horace Grant
“Will Vanderbilt. He doesn’t deserve to be named after a Big Ten school.” – Michael on Will Perdue
“Headache tonight, Scottie?” – Michael asks Scottie, while showing him his 2-for-16 line
How about that Lebron? Tear into Chris Bosh (even though he played one of his best games of the season Sunday, scoring 23 on 9-14 shooting). Tear into Mario Chalmers (who maybe the Heat should look to in late game situations after yesterday). Yell at newly acquired Mike Bibby (even though it’s still not certain he is alive). Great players make their players better on and off the court. They don’t cry.
Stories like this one take away from the game. Instead of talking about the absolute clinic that Derrick Rose put on yesterday (the stats may not show this but if you watched the game, you know what I mean), we’re talking about a team with 3 basketball superstars crying over another lost close game. Instead of focusing on a team like the Bulls who just keep on truckin’ (now 2nd in the east), we’re talking about whether or not Pat Riley should come down and coach these guys. Shaquille O’Neal once said “I wasn’t with the 5 hour practices” when asked why his relationship with Riley was strained. Riley knows Lebron James and Chris Bosh wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of thing. Lebron may declare he wants to take his talents somewhere else after one of those.
These players asked for the scrutiny when they decided to create a super team. They expected getting everyones best shot, and now when things aren’t going their way, the players turn to crying. I wish the NBA was still tough, it would do wonders for the Heat.