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 ).

 

 

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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.