Welcome Home Jabari.

By Lamar Battle

 

 

The Bulls signed UN-restricted free agent and former number two pick in the draft Jabari Parker to a two year 40 million contract.

In selecting the 23 year old Parker the Chicago Bulls may have pulled a fast one over on the rest of the NBA.

What?

Most observers point to Jabari’s injury history as a reason to proceed with caution (two Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries on his left knee.

There are risk involved and the Bulls mitigated them by installing a team option on the last year of a two year deal.  Fact of the matter is the risk was well worth it.

As the number two pick in the 2014 NBA Draft Jabari was projected to be a star player for years to come.  We are talking about a 6′-8″ small/power forward with an improved three point shot (over 38%) slashing and post up abilities.  Jabari is a good passer, smart and solidly built  (given his Tongan roots).

Scouts have pointed to Jabari’s defensive lapses as cause for concern and he will have to show improvement in those areas, however,  the Bulls also have some work ahead of them on that end of the floor (finishing 28th in defensive ratings).  Bulls rookie and number 7th pick Wendell Carter Jr will shore up the interior defense not only because of his shot blocking abilities but also his intelligence and incredibly quick feet.

Actually what the Bulls have done is accelerated their rebuilding process and established a (much needed) team pecking order with Jabari and potential Hall Of Fame player Lauri Markkanen.  The team now boast a group of high draft picks that are long,  mobile and young.  With Denzel Valentine and Justin Holiday the Bulls have also strengthened the bench with guys that have been starters in the past.

Yes, the move to acquire Jabari Parker was not without risk but the potential rewards far out weigh them.  The next free agent class (2019) promises to be a good one but the Bulls chances of realistically landing a player as good as Jabari out of that class are slim.  Who can see Karl Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant or Jimmy Butler saying we would really like to join Chicago and play with their young team ?

The Bulls have managed to do is stay on the path of incremental development while making the team competitive in a suddenly wide-open Eastern Conference.

As for Jabari Parker, his response to double ACL surgeries as told to Sports Illustrated was…” This thing I’m going through is creating some type of greatness. What better way to learn things than for them to be hard?  This type of rehab, this type of journey that I’m living through right now is necessary for my development.  It’s trying to teach me that it all can be taken in an instant”.

Looks like the Chicago Bulls made the right choice and I suspect his best years are still to come.

 

 

 

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Top Five 2017-18 NBA Rookie Leaders

By Lamar Battle

 

Most predicted that the 2017-18 NBA rookie class would be one of the best and from the looks of things they were right.

Who are the Leaders in the race for Rookie Of The Year and team contributions?

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers:

At the quarter mark the leader in the race for ROY is 3rd in rookie scoring 16.6 ppg, first in rookie rebounds at 8.6 rpg and first in rookie assist with 7.5 apg.  At 6′ 10″ and with natural point guard skills Simmons is probably the closest thing to Magic Johnson that we have seen in a while. Along with center Joel Embiid the 76ers are looking like a team of the future in the Eastern Conference.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz:

The rookie scoring leader at 18.2 ppg Donovan came on late as a spectacular athlete who routinely gets the fans out of their seats (You did see that stupendous dunk against the Cavs right? ).  He has the talent and ambition to be one of the best players in the league.

Kyle Kuzma L.A. Lakers:

Quite possibly the steal of the draft and 2nd leading rookie scorer at 17.9 ppg and 5th leading rebounder at 6.7 rpg.   A  6′ 10″ slasher and quality shooter (39% 3 pointers) from Flint Michigan who gives Laker fans a reason to hope for a better future.

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls:

4th in rookie scoring, 14.6 ppg and 2nd in rebounding at 7.4 rpg and 2nd in free throw percentage at 83.3%.  All of a sudden the Jimmy Butler trade is not looking so stupid.  Lauri surprised everybody with his confidence and surprising athleticism.  This kid has All Star written all over him as evidenced in a recent game against the Knicks where he took on the challenge to play the Knicks vaunted Kristaps Porzingas to a standstill and did just that.

Markkanen joins 2nd year players Kris Dunn (a sleeper for sure) and Zach Lavine (two time winner of the slam dunk contest) in what will become a solid nucleus on the Bulls for years to come.

Jason Tatum, Boston Celtics:

Boy did Boston G.M. Danny Ainge pull off a heist with this guy.  Tatum 6′ 8″ with what may be an 8 ft wing span will be barring injury the starting Celtic small forward for a long time.  Jason is 5th in scoring at 14.1 ppg and is shooting an incredible 47.1 percent from the 3 point line…That is correct 47.1 percent !  Boston penciled him in as a starter at 19 years old and they knew what they were doing.

Honorable mention:

Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers:

People who know me will say there he goes again drinking that purple kool aid and giving props to a player ESPN’s Steven A. Smith called a bust.

Lonzo started slow but is now starting to shoot better from the outside ( 10 ppg 34.9 fg%) even though you never hear as much conversation about the outside shooting regarding Rajon Rondo, Ben Simmons, Andre Miller or Jason Kidd.

The metric for Lonzo who among rookies is 2nd in assist, 4th in rebounds, 2nd in minutes and 3rd in blocks will be his impact on the culture of the team.  Can he through the force of his unselfish nature transform the Lakers into a respectable team with a promising future ?

And the winner is:

Stay tuned to what will be one impressive race to the finish.

Stats courtesy of NBA.com

 

 

The Thunder And The Bulls, Two Trains Running.

 

By Lamar Battle

 

Two teams two examples of confusion.  One team ( The Oklahoma City Thunder) were projected to be at this point one of the NBA’s elite teams.  The other, ( The Chicago Bulls ) were projected to be one of the league’s worst and as fate would have it the Thunder are extremely unpredictable and disappointing and the Bulls are seemingly screwing up their chance at a top lottery pick.

The Thunder brought in All Star Paul George and All Star Carmelo Anthony to join 2016-17 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook.

At this point the Thunder is in 8th place in the NBA’s Western conference.. Experts and fans are all debating on what’s ailing the team.  Could it be bad chemistry, Westbrook’s inability to share, Carmelo’s defense ?

The prevailing thought pattern now is that given his free agent status Paul George may bolt this summer so General Manager Sam Presti has his work cut out for him.  Does he keep Paul George throughout the season and risk losing him to free agency or does he trade him at mid season.

If I were in his shoes I would find a 3 and D forward / guard to replace Andre Roberson in the starting line up, bolster the bench and  risk the big three hitting their stride just prior to the playoffs.

 

Da Bulls:

 

At the start of the season it was generally understood that  1. The Bulls would be the worst team in the League and  2. The Bulls would have a legitimate shot at landing a top five lottery pick in what is stacking up as one of the best NBA drafts in years.

All that was before the fight i.e. knock-out.

A well publicized practice brawl between Nikola Mirotic’ and Bobby Portis cost the team valuable games for both.  Portis served an eight game suspension for his role in the fracas and Mirotic’ was out for an extended period with a concussion and facial fractures.

With both players out rookie power forward Lauri Markannen was forced to start.  The team discovered that Markannen is a true player and building block for the future. But did Markannen’s starting prevent the team from losing ten games in a row?

No, it did not.

But, on the way to the draft lottery something weird took place.  Mirotic’ returned and led the team on a 5 game (now 7) game wining streak and to top that off Bobby Portis started playing some of the best basketball of his career.  The Bulls made NBA history by becoming the first team to win 5 games in a row after losing 10 in a row.

So what now ?

In a rare post game interview 2nd year guard/forward Denzel Valentine declared the Bulls as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.  Well, Denzel’s zealousness not withstanding. Bulls brass may have shown their hand when they Put Markannen back in the starting line up replacing Mirotic who had been playing lights out.

That move may signify a commitment to rebuilding and a chance at what announcer Stacey King referred to and I’m paraphrasing the race for the Baggs. ( A not so subtle reference to Duke University super freshman Marvin Bagley III ).

 

 

NBA 2017-18, Let’s Get It On !

 

By Lamar Battle

 

Finally, after the best off season in it’s history the 2017-18 NBA season is here !  So with out further ado let’s break it down.

West Side Story:

Oklahoma City Thunder: 2016 MVP Russell Westbrook didn’t need much help to start with (seriously) but the team added in their primes Paul George and Carmelo Anthony.

The Thunder had nothing last season when Westbrook went to the bench but this year will be different and remember, Brook doesn’t need much help.

Golden State Warriors:  Last seasons NBA champs will be in the mix again boasting game changing three point shooting and near flawless defensive play.  Contrary to popular belief the road to repeating will be littered with land mines in Minnesota, Denver, Houston, San Antonio and OKC.

Can the Warriors avoid injuries and chemistry issues to repeat? Note to self, It will not be a cake walk.

San Antonio Spurs:  The leagues flagship franchise for class and consistency will have to survive the injury bug this year to truly compete.

Little known nugget,  Golden State cannot guard Kahwi Leonard who has been developed into a true superstar and future Hall Of Famer.

Houston Rockets:  Top three player James Hardin has sublimated his ego enough to allow the team to bring in super star point guard Chris Paul.  The Rockets were aggressive in their desire to compete for championships and brought in defensive pieces P.J. Tucker and Luc Richard Mbah A Moute that will pay dividends in the playoffs.

Free Throws:

Do not sleep on Denver and the crucial addition of Paul Milsap.

Show Time is back in LA !

The Clippers will benefit from the subtraction of Chris Paul on the chemistry front

OKC over Golden State in 6.

 

Return Of The … Kid:

 

Boston Celtics:  There are two other teams with a symbiotic relationship between management and coaching to match the Celtics they would be Golden State and San Antonio. Boston is built for the future with young thoroughbreds and a legitimate star(Kyrie Irving).  to contend today.  Do not sleep on this team that obtained Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes to deal with Cleveland? No, those two gentlemen were brought in to balance out Draymond Green and the dreaded Zaza Pachulia….Go figure. The Celtics were dealt a bad hand with the devastating opening night injury to free agent star Gordon Hayward but don’t discount the teams prospects.

Second year man Jaylen Brown is according to ace announcer Chauncey Billups “ready right now”.  Back up guard Marcus Smart is a gamer but a lot could be riding on the accelerated development of rookie Jayson Tatum.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers:  Blog contributor Mike B observed that during a pre-season loss to the Bulls the Cavaliers didn’t seem to possess much chemistry or continuity.  Hopefully the Cavaliers will work out the kinks or it could be a truly frustrating season.

Most experts predict another trip to the Finals for this Eras best player LeBron James but the Cavaliers with new editions Derrick Rose, Dwayne Wade and Jae Crowder still lack size an aspect that hurt them last year against the Warriors.  A number of players are long in the tooth which could make the team susceptible to younger and more athletic teams like Boston and Milwaukee.

However the Cavaliers still have LeBron James and it will be a challenge for any eastern conference  team to beat him in a seven game series.

Washington Wizards:  This team perhaps more than most will benefit from growing together. John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are locked up and they still have the ever solid Marcin Gortat holding down the middle.  The challenge will be the play of the bench for this team.

Milwaukee Bucks:  There was one player actually playing defense during the 2016-17 NBA All Star game.  That player was Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.  Many have predicted that Giannis will carry the torch as the NBA’s best player after LeBron retires.

The Bucks are young, long and hungry.  Second year players Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdan are poised to make a difference for this team that made the playoffs (5th in the east). even without their second best player, Jabari Parker who will return for this season.

Free throws:

Health and maturity stand as test for the young Philadelphia 76ers

Bulls Rookie Lauri Markkanen can hoop

Calling Kyrie Irving “Kid” is one of last psychological edges LeBron still holds.

Speaking of Kyrie, he is ready and so are the Celtics…Boston over Cavs in 7.

 

 

The NBA Finals: A Dream Match-up

By Lamar Battle

Time to prepare for a match-up that has been in the works since the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA season.

The Golden State Warriors (67-15) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) are on a collision course as they meet in the NBA Finals for the 3rd straight time, the series is tied 1-1.

This series has a number of ramifications at stake. To name a few, Cavaliers star LeBron James is sitting smack dab in the middle of a debate as to who is the G.O.A.T. ( Greatest of all time) between him and Former Chicago Bulls player Micheal Jordan.  Opinions vary as voices from all over the internet and networks take sides.

I like what Fox Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd said and I paraphrase, imagine if Micheal Jordan were McDonald’s and LeBron James were Starbucks who had just started making fries better than McDonald’s what would that mean?  In other words the one thing Micheal did better than LeBron was score but LeBron is on pace (as the All Time leader in playoff points) to surpass Micheal in that aspect too.

Warriors forward Draymond Green, so hungry for revenge and redemption (after last years defeat) more or less said that they want to crush the Cavaliers and considering the Warriors undefeated run through the 2016-17 playoffs crushing the Cavaliers is a real possibility.

One aspect rarely mentioned is the opportunity for this series to not only provide the Warriors Kevin (generally considered to be the #2 player in the world) Durant his first title but more important remove him from LeBron’s  considerable shadow.

Durant failed in his first attempt as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder to wrest the title from James but this time he returns armed with a 73 win team  at his back and the desire to beat the man (many have jokingly  referred to as his big brother).

This series represents a crossroads of sorts for both teams and the stakes are extremely high.  For LeBron it represents a chance to test his limits and put himself firmly on the path to becoming the G.O.A.T. as winning a second title against the Warriors would pretty much guarantee.

For the Warriors this represents an opportunity to prove that their 73 win season last year was no fluke and they can be one of the NBA’s great dynasties.

The psychological advantage of winning this title would be so great that a loss for either could mean the end of their hopes period.

Hollywood central casting could not have done a better job.

 

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

 

What’s Wrong With The Cavaliers?

By Gregory Powell and Lamar Battle
What is going on with the once powerful Cleveland Cavaliers, losers of the last three games (most recently to the ninth place Chicago Bulls) and  have slipped out of first place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
I spoke with writer and pod cast contributor Gregory Powell to get his thoughts on his beloved Lebron James and the Cavaliers.
What follows is a pretty thorough breakdown of what ails the Cavs and delivered at a scatter gun pace:
1. I said when the Kevin Love trade was made that LeBron would get a title but might have cost himself a dynasty.
2. J.R. Smith is lost, Kevin Love can’t jump, Deron really can’t jump, Frye is just a shooter, Kyrie can’t play point. Tristan Thompson is being sapped by kryptonite, Imam can’t shoot and all Korver can do is shoot.
Tyron Lue is speaking of secret plans and Golden State just beat the Rockets and Spurs in back to back games on the road.
And nobody plays defense which puts LeBron in the familiar position of having to be the Black Panther for the team to have any chance at all.
3. The team is helpless when LeBron is off the floor and I suspect he was having some Boobie Gibson flashbacks last night against the Bulls.
One of those wild ass teams from the east could take the Cavs out if LeBron isn’t superhuman.  I’m thinking most likely the Washington Wizards though the Boston Celtics will be tough too.
The question remains, will the Cavs have enough left for the NBA
finals?
4. Big problem, when the Cavs go small they play slow and by the way they have no center.
Let me add it was nice to see Bron pass Wilt on the all time scoring list but classless of the Bulls to not acknowledge it at all.
Of course the King is still quite capable of making me eat my words…you know…like last year.
5. The Cavs need to get younger bigger and quicker. No wonder LeBron was yelling for another play maker.
In the off season the Cavs better get rid of all those cast offs and old guys and find some athletes and shooters.
They better plan for LeBrons  golden years before he spends them in LA.
Mr. Powell, why don’t you tell us how you really feel about the Cavaliers?
Let the playoffs begin.

Micheal Jordan Speaks Out On Racial Strife

All time NBA great Micheal Jordan addressed the ongoing spate of police shootings of unarmed black men and the violent retaliatory responses of some African Americans to those shootings.
After spending most of his career avoiding controversial topics as they related to race and politics Jordan felt compelled to speak out and show support for both sides of the apparent conflict between Police officers and African Americans throughout the country.
Micheal Jordan issued his statement through the site, “The Undefeated” and it read as follows:

As a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well.

“I was raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race or background, so I am saddened and frustrated by the divisive rhetoric and racial tensions that seem to be getting worse as of late. I know this country is better than that, and I can no longer stay silent. We need to find solutions that ensure people of color receive fair and equal treatment AND that police officers – who put their lives on the line every day to protect us all – are respected and supported

“Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service. I also recognize that for many people of color their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change.

“To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established Institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The Institute for Community-Police Relations’ policy and oversight work is focused on building trust and promoting best practices in community policing. My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights law organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.

“We are privileged to live in the world’s greatest country – a country that has provided my family and me the greatest of opportunities. The problems we face didn’t happen overnight and they won’t be solved tomorrow, but if we all work together, we can foster greater understanding, positive change and create a more peaceful world for ourselves, our children, our families and our communities.”

   Jordan managed to put his money where his mouth is with separate donations of one million dollars each to the NAACP legal defense fund and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Institute For Community-Police Relations.
While applauding Jordan for finally making his voice heard after an entire NBA career of sitting on the fence and making statements like “Republicans buy shoes too” I have to wonder where did this commitment to social justice come from?
Well, look no further than the 2016 ESPY awards sponsored by ESPN. At the start of the show LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade spoke on the violence particularly the shootings by police officers of unarmed African American men in New Orleans and Minnesota.
All of the players were impressive but LeBron James managed to convey a genuine determination to do whatever he could to help in his community but more importantly to inspire other athletes to do the same.
What does this have to do with Micheal Jordan ?
Micheal Jordan more than any other athlete in history has a brand that is unsurpassed in terms of it’s marketing reach and profitability.  Possessing a net worth of over a billion dollars and an NBA team (Charlotte Hornets) the Micheal
Jordan clothing line & shoe sales have literally changed the way people all over the world dress as sport and active wear have become the norm. Throw back Jordan brand shoes cost upwards of 200 dollars even though they are exact replica’s of Micheal’s first Air Jordan’s.
Micheal Jordan is smart and highly successful so he had to notice LeBron’s slow ascent to legendary status as an athlete who wins on the court and off.  A player who will occasionally speak out when injustices occur.
LeBron James accomplished a seemingly impossible task of winning a major sports championship for the state of Ohio. ( His Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2015-16 NBA title). The Cavaliers also made NBA history as the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win.
But don’t stop there, taking into account what Lebron has accomplished so far in winning three NBA championships It is also worth noting that he has also pledged 41 million dollars to send 1100 Akron Ohio kids to college.
 That’s right, I said 41 million !
So, when LeBron, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony stood on that stage and vowed to follow in the footsteps of Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali one has to wonder just how did Micheal Jordan feel about these events and more importantly, his own place in history.
Micheal has endured some criticism through the years for what some perceive as a profit above all else approach but M J  has a solid record regarding charitable contributions. However, for the first time Micheal Jordan has decided to offer his opinion on a controversial topic.
Could it be that Micheal Jordan has finally found his social voice while risking an image that has been carefully crafted and nurtured through the years?
Or……
Could it be that Micheal can see the slow erosion of his brand and or market share?  Only time will tell but one thing is certain.
Considering the state of ever increasing violence in this country one can’t really complain about any athlete trying to contribute to the cause no matter the motive.
Moving forward though it will be interesting to see just how far LeBron James will go and to what degree will his candor regarding social issues expand.
Article reprinted courtesy of The Remnant Magazine@yahoo.com