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.

 

NBA Playoff Roundtable

A meeting basketball neo-experts (and pod cast contributors) convened to discuss some of the issues surrounding this seasons (2016-17) NBA playoffs.
Joining Lamar are Mike Brown, A.J. Campbell and Greg Powell.
Lamar: Any surprises in the playoffs thus far?
Mike:  None in terms of the teams at the top doing what they were expected to do.  I did hold out hope that the Bulls could upset the Celtics especially after jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
A.J.:  Speaking of the Bulls the Chicago Media spoke on how Bulls Vice President John Paxson was quiet regarding the future of star player Jimmy Butler during the final press conference.
Apparently that gave the impression that the Bulls may be looking to trade him and if that is the case they blew a great chance last season when his value was at it’s highest.
Greg: For a long time I thought the Bulls should have built around Butler given how he has developed into a two time All-Star but now I suspect that Jimmy will require another front line player along side him to return the Bulls to contender status.
Mike:  Most observers feel that the bottom line always comes first when it comes to the Bulls and team development and for a long time I gave them credit for astute business moves but fact is teams like San Antonio, Cleveland and now Boston have made money maintaining a winning record and culture.
Lamar:  Well at least the Bulls have been a top three team in attendance for the last 18 or so years.
Greg:  That , my friend can attributed to the Chicago fans who can be knowledgeable and loyal but also extremely naive.
Mike:  Well Jimmy may not lead the Bulls to the promised land at age 27 but he may command a 200 million dollar extension and Mr. Reinsdorf, you can take that for data !
Lamar:  I think we can all agree that the NBA title will be won by either Golden State, Cleveland or San Antonio, but who are some of the other teams making a name for themselves going forward?
A.J. :   In the east the Bulls, Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons are heading south.  On the upswing we got the Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.
Greg:  I believe in Boston’s Isiah Thomas who has been playing out of his mind.  The Celtics are small but they got a lot of dogs.  Avery Bradley is really a glue guy and rookie Jalen Brown is going to be real good.
If Boston can pick up Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz in free agency they will be dangerous in the east.
Lamar:  What about the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo?  This cat is a starter on the All Star team in just his second year.
A.J. I have a theory/test for new young players and that is if a young player cannot lift his/her team at least past the first round then they are not ready and will need more seasoning prior to super-stardom..
Mike:  Well look at Micheal Jordan, It took him 7-8 years before he won his first title.
Lamar:  How about the Western Conference?
Mike:  Houston is definitely on the rise, OKC and the L.A. Clippers are a couple of moves away.  The Utah Jazz are showing great strides but they may lose their best player Haywood next season.
Greg:  The L.A. Clippers better jump on Melo before it’s too late.  They have a severely flawed roster and could probably get him now for J.J. Redick.  Paul George from the Indiana Pacers could also be available via trade.
As far as the Spurs go they got Kawhi Leonard and a bunch of old dudes. I can see improvements though from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets.
Lamar:  Who wins the Title?
A.J.:  Just like last year I am riding with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Mike:  There is still room on the Warriors bus for all of you (laughs).
Greg:  Well you all know that I am leaning towards LeBron as the G.O.A.T.
Lamar:  Interjecting, that will be different session for another time.
Greg:  Even though I rate LeBron as the best player walking the earth I find difficult to pick him over a Warriors team adding Kevin Durant (generally considered to be the 2nd best player alive) and so I have to choose the Warriors.
Lamar:  Since my beloved L.A.Lakers are not quite ready I will have to pick the team sporting the best organization in sports,  The San Antonio Spurs.

Are The Chicago Bulls Soft ?

When did things start to change?

Chicago Sun-times columnist Rick Telander suggested that he resembles a big rusty anchor. The person of note is one Zaza Pachulia, starting center for the Milwaukee Bucks. Blog co-conspirator A.J. suggested that up to game two of the NBA playoff series between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks the Bulls were more or less having their way.

Only after an incident during game two when Zaza hit Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic’ in the back of the head only to follow later with another elbow to the head during a scrum did this series actually become a series.

Of course this could be a bit of a stretch to suggest that this incident was the catalyst for a Milwaukee resurgence but after it happened the Bucks took the Bulls to triple overtime and then defeated them twice prior to game six scheduled for Thursday night in Milwaukee.

During the Buck victories Zaza Pachulia could be clearly seen literally taking the ball right out of the hands of Bulls players after rebounds.

The Bulls have tough players I mean Derrick Rose is from Chicago’s Englewood community and others like Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler back down from no one.

But it wasn’t until game three where 161 pound back up point guard Aaron Brooks landed a punch in the chest of Bucks guard Jarryd Bayless that I was reminded that he may have been the first Bulls player since former center Bill Cartwright to fire off a retaliatory foul for his team.

Now a team does not have to be well versed in the art of hand to hand combat to win a championship but it was interesting to see Nikola Mirotic’ approach Aaron after the punch to offer comfort, support and probably thanks.

Intimidation is and has always been a part of sport and teams normally address it by maintaining focus and execution however the Bulls now have a hungry, well coached and motivated team in their way.

The Answer ?

The answer is no, the Bulls are not a soft team . They have historically been a defensive oriented team even during the halcyon years of Micheal and Scottie.
These Bulls are known for a physical brand of defense which includes fighting aggressively through screens and chucking cutters coming through the lane.

What may be lacking is the need for time spent together during this injury ravaged season. That is one of the reasons Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau kept stressing the need for increased practice time.
Injuries to key players have played a part in inhibiting the progress needed to improve defensively.

The team, as it currently stands is engaged in a bit of a dog fight with a young, long, athletic and suddenly awake Milwaukee Bucks team and the Bulls may have to take advantage of their experience by controlling game tempo and by exploiting their size advantage.

In the meantime:

Bucks guard Middleton is a deadly shooter, stay home on defense !

Forward Giannis Antetokounmpo must be kept out of the lane as he and point guard Micheal Carter Williams are poor outside shooters. Play off of them and step up high to cut off dribble penetration when they drive.

Center Zaza ( the aforementioned anchor) Pachulia is not a shot blocker and should be challenged off the drive…If you dare.

And finally the Bulls might want to send in a big man to follow Rose or Brooks as they attack the lane. Drive and dish opportunities along with lob passes should result.

The Bucks collapse their entire defense at the first inkling of dribble penetration. The Bulls guards should pass out to shooters where the resulting second or third pass rotations should lead to wide open shots.

Next up? The Cavaliers and Vader.