Friday, October 31, 2003

Bulls and THAT'S Scary! Happy Halloween everyone! one of the top holidays for a college student. Bill Simmons, aka "the Sports Guy", finished up his 3-part NBA preview today with a look at the East. I guess he doesn't beleve in saving the best for last. I looooove reading his columns, they're so damned funny, but I oftentimes disagree with his prognostications. Here's his rankings:
15. Hawks 14. Bucks 13. Knicks 12. Heat 11. Bulls 10. Raptors 9. Sixers 8. Magic 7. Cavs 6. Pistons 5. Hornets 4. Wizards 3. Celtics 2. Nets 1. Pacers
Now you can see why this miffed me a little bit. I'll grant him this though, in this year's East, its hard to predict who's gonna do what. His reasoning for the Bulls being so low is that he has a sixth sense when it comes to picking a team that everyone thinks will be good but isn't that good, and this year its the Bulls. Hard to get worked up about that though, difference of opinion. And this is obviously his opinion driving the rankings, his preferences in players and teams. For instance, he's a huge Celtics fan, so him putting the Celts at #3, seems as crazy to me as me putting the Bulls at #6 are to him. But come on...the Celtics? Also he put the Pistons very low, cause he still can't believe that they chose Darko over Carmelo
And then there's Carmelo. There are few sure things in life, but this is one of them: Joe Dumars will regret taking Darko over Carmelo. Maybe it won't hit him this season. It might not even hit him until 2007 or 2008. But it's going to happen. This is "Bowie over MJ" all over again. You can't pass up on someone who ... A) Had the best college season in 15 years B) Like Bernard King, was practically created by God to play small forward in the NBA C) Could be the most engaging, likable rookie since MJ ... just because Tayshaun Freaking Prince looked good in the Philly series. Hey, I like Tayshaun -- I could see him being an above-average scorer off the bench for the next eight years. And I'm sure Darko will be fine, even if I can't imagine him being any better than Raef LaFrentz five years from now. But you can't pass up Carmelo Anthony. That's ridiculous. Every Piston fan should have a sick, queasy feeling right now, like the way you feel when you realize you left your bank card in an ATM machine ... only you'll be feeling that way for the next 12 years. Just prepare yourself now. He's that good. I feel very strongly about this.
Although this time last year he said this about Yao Ming:
One more thing: Years from now, we will remember "Yao Ming over Jay Williams" the same way we remember "Bowie over Jordan," "Traylor for Nowitzki," "Carroll for McHale and Parish," "Aguirre over Thomas" and every other great draft day blunder in NBA history. I'm not just predicting it, I'm guaranteeing it. Think about it. At best, Ming develops into a bigger, more athletic Rik Smits. Fine. But then you throw in Yao's adjustment problems (going from China to the United States -- yikes), his laid-back demeanor (what happens when NBA players start pushing him around, elbowing him and intimidating him?), his inability to play in the low post, and the way he'll struggle fitting in with his teammates, as well as lofty expectations, inevitable problems adjusting to a higher level of competition, the fact that NBA players will go out of their way to dunk on him (just like they did with Shawn Bradley -- and they ruined his confidence, too), the isolation of playing here, the meddling Chinese government ... I mean, did Smits have to deal with any of those things? Can't you picture Shaq rubbing his hands together and saying, "I'm going to dunk on that Chinese guy as much as humanly possible next season"? This is a disaster waiting to happen. Repeat: This is a disaster waiting to happen. I feel very strongly about this.
So basically...I won't take his Darko-hatin for shit. How could one be so wrong about Yao Ming. ugh. Which reminds me of this:
Last year on TNT: Kenny: "Houston's gonna need to learn that Yao will be their best player." Charles: "Kenny, Steve Francis is their best player" (and we all know later how he bet that Yao would never score 20 points in a game) This year EJ: "There's a look at the Franchise" (while the camera shows Steve Francis during warmups) Charles: "Yao Ming is the franchise"
So what's the point? I just don't understand how everyone is doubting Darko already, saying he should never be picked over an established college star, when Yao proved that theory false JUST LAST YEAR. I just didn't know it'd be such a long-winded point. Isn't there a Bulls game to talk about? Oh, right. the Hawks are in town, and Jerry Krause's banner will be raised to the UC rafters. Scottie's already said that he doesn't even want to watch it. (damn...grow up). But what's on my mind is how the fans will react. I predict this: the fans that are gonna show up to a game against *the Hawks* will be real Bulls fans. And while they may not all like Krause, they will respect him. So there could be some boos, but I expect a lot of cheers, and some nice signs and such. But, not a love fest. Then again...boos can perpetuate once a few start goin. We'll see. I hope the fans show a little respect though. The Hawks this offseason dealt away Glenn Robinson and signed Stephen Jackson. They still have their 'big 3' (hehe) of Abdur-Rahim, Terry, and Ratliff. The key per usual will be up front, and seeing if Eddy can get his offense goin against a top-notch shot blocker like Ratliff. Jamal should turn in a good game tonight against Atlanta's backcourt of Terry and rookie Boris Diaw (who I'm anxious to see actually), and Chandler should be playing tonight, so that's good news. Summary: the Hawks suck, but hopefully the Bulls don't play as bad as they did on wednesday, cause they can lose to anybody.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

That Feeling When You Almost Throw Up and it Kind of Just Stays in Your Mouth "Don't worry, Don't....worry. I'm not gonna do, what everyone thinks I'm gonna do, and just flip out" That game last night will be remembered by me for a while. Its just the culmination of such offseason and preseason optomism, the return of Scottie Pippen, an opener at home against a real bad team....and just goin out there and laying a huge crap-filled egg. Played poorly on both ends of the court, the Bulls not only gave a losing effort but a boring one at that. I lied when I said I was gonna take notes during the game, besides I had little chance to write since my hands were primarily used for burying my face in them. Chandler sat out the entire game to rest the back, and he would've undoubtedly made a difference. Its no secret that the Bulls' biggest weakness is interior defense, and Chandler could've helped out there. But that alone wouldn't have turned around such a dismal overall performance. The one 'note' I kept saying to myself all night was "Where's Eddy Curry!". who was a complete non-factor. It was my impression that he would be the first option on offense, yet by the end of the third quarter I was begging him to be taken out (although once I saw Corie Blount come in I regretted it). I did miss the first 10 minutes of the game, so I'm wondering what were the first few possessions like. did Eddy get the ball? Did he get muscled from the basket, or put up poor shots, or simply got into foul trouble. Cause something must've made him dissappear the rest of the night. But enough talking about that game. To be honest, I'm not predicting gloom and doom by any means. It's hard when you're throwing away these schedule gimmies early in the season, but at the heart of it you're only talking about one game. They have another such game at home Friday against Atlanta, and I'll definately be watching Curry because last season Theo Ratliff put him in the hurt box. I still think they'll be just fine, but naturally that's not the opinion of the chicago 'columnists', especially Mike Downey, who may just be the worst sports columnist I've ever read in Chicago. And yes I am including Skip "draft Desagna Diop" Bayless.
Otherwise, S.O.B. Same old Bulls. They were horrible. Terrible. Miserable. Indefensible. It doesn't matter that they had to do without 7-foot-1-inch Tyson Chandler (injured) and 2003 top draft pick Kirk Hinrich (ill) and 2002 top draft pick Jay Williams (out for the season after a motorcycle accident). No excuses. It was a game that every loyal season ticket-holder in the building expected the Bulls to win anyway, which shows you just how wrong a fan can be. It was a game that Cartwright thought the Bulls were prepared to play, which shows you just how wrong a man can be.
My god, "Same old Bulls?" That attitude sickens me, one game into the season and it's already "well they can't be very good, because after all, its the Bulls". I just thought I'd step up on my soapbox and attack that culture of fan before it gets out of hand. The Bulls shouldn't be held in the same regard as the Cubs (its ok i'm a huge Cubs fan, and no I don't believe in curses), the Phillies, the Clippers, the Washington Generals, The Brooklyn Brawler, France, and other chronic losers. The last 5 years have not been pleasant, but if you stand back and look at it all from a distance, the Bulls are one of the most successful franchises in major pro sports. They should be associated as a winning franchise, and try and tell the fans of a couple dozen other NBA teams how sad you are you havent seen a title banner raised in a whopping 6 years. (hmm...there's already something I've read about just that idea). I'm not saying that losing all these games over the past few years is acceptable, in fact I'm pledging the opposite: don't make it establish a culture of losing already. Expect and demand victory, and this year, expect and demand the playoffs. And DEFINATELY don't infer anything about the season based on this giant suck-bomb the Bulls put up last night. Just another bump in the road back to respectability.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Happy Opening Night!!! Well kids, this is what we've been waiting for. All the talk during draft night and during the free agent period is now subsided to watch the actual games. Actual games! Now Bulls fans, this is when it gets fun. The funnest time in being a fan is when the team is starting to get good. Starting to become a playoff contender, and you feel like you're growing with them. Then when the Bulls start playing meaningful games in April, It'll be even sweeter. OK, I realized that my Eastern Conference preview really should've meant "teams worse than the Bulls", and that the Top 5 really doesn't matter. But for the sake of continuity, I'll finish the preview, albiet the descriptions will be a little abbreviated. 5 - Philly 76ers OK, I fell for it last year with the Hawks, thinking that Glenn Robinson was still a difference-maker. But what the heck, I'm fallin for it again. Robinson is the best sidekick Iverson's ever had, certainly a better scorer than Keith Van Horn. I really think it'll help Iverson a lot to have someone who can score at will. Part of that trade that was overlooked though was the fact that the Sixers were also aquiring Marc Jackson, who in the East is actually one of the better centers. Add that to a returing returing supporting cast of Snow, Thomas, McKie, and Coleman (yeah, I said it), and Philly has a team that could go deep in the Conference playoffs. 4 - New Orleans Hornets This may have been a higher ranking, but look at the man on the sidelines. In one of the strangest coaching moves I've ever seen, Paul Silas was fired and replaced by native son Tim Floyd. He may be the native son to New Orleans, but he's also the native son of a place I call "The Land of Those Who Can't Coach" (the name needs work). Maybe the Bulls teams that Floyd coached had little talent, but it still seemed that they had no coaching at all. I guess everyone deserves a second chance, so this is Floyd's. And with a team loaded with talent, this will be his last chance. Especially since they'll be moving to the west next year. 3 - Indiana Pacers This is the complete opposite of the Hornets. This team would've been ranked LOWER except they fired Isiah and replaced him with a real coach in Rick Carlisle. For a team that's been said to have underachieved, a coach like Carlisle can mean a lot more wins. Losing Brad Miller will hurt some, but Scott Pollard will help out defensively and in fact probably create more shots for Jermaine O'Neal by simply getting out of the way. For this team to be successful though, Pollard needs to stay healthy and Ron Artest needs to take his pills every morning. 2 - New Jersey Nets What? the Nets aren't ranked #1? I'll just give one reason, I'm not sold on Zo. However, if signing him was necessary to retain Jason Kidd, then it was worth it. If Kidd left it would've crippled the franchise, so taking a flyer on a man coming off a debilitating kidney disorder may be worth it. People make a big deal over the Lakers' squabbles, yet the Nets this year may be just as bad. First theres Kidd allegedly wanting coach Byron Scott Fired. Then Alonzo is mad that the team paid Dikembe Mutumbo to go home. Then the whole mess with Kenyon Martin's extension (see the celtics preview). The team still has loads of talent though, and if everything goes well they could even beat one of the big 5 of the west. 1 - Detroit Pistons Now those who know me know I love the Pistons. That may seem odd coming from a Bulls fan, yet I just love the moves they've made over the years in assembling this team. While they doesn't have a go-to star, they just drafted one in Darko Milicic. BUT, don't get me wrong, he's not ready to take the reigns and lead this team. But the beauty of the work GM Joe Dumars is that he doesn't need to. The backcourt of Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton is one of the the best in the league. They still have defensive player of the year Ben Wallace, and forward Mehmet Okur is ready to become real contributor. The team is also very deep, and did I mentioned they aquirred a hall-of-fame coach in the offseason? If Darko gives them anything come playoff time, they will be a team to be reckoned with. Wow, those descriptions weren't very abbreviated at all. Enjoy the game tonight. With Stackhouse out and the Bulls being at home, needless to say this one should be in the bag. Like a nerd I'll probably be taking notes, so hopefully there will be some game comments tommorow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Eastern Conference Preview - Part 2 Happy Opening Night! now on with the preview... 10 - Toronto Raptors Just look up a season preview from the past couple of years….will Vince stay healthy? If though, then the Raps can contend for a playoff spot. But they're not as good as their playoff run from 2 years ago even with a healthy Vince. Antonio Davis will continue to be a distraction until he is shipped out of town. One bright spot though could be rookie Chris Bosh, the 4th overall pick who's trying to be the second coming of...Tyson Chandler. They don't have much other scoring help out there for Vince, so its possibly gonna be a long season. And if Vince gets hurt, it'll be a long and *boring* season. Although not as long and boring as this team preview was. 9 - Miami Heat The Heat have assembled a good core of young players in the past few years, namely Caron Butler, Dwayne Wade, and now Lamar Odom. Add that to holdovers (read "contract albatross") in Eddie Jones and Brian Grant, and that's a good start. A good start to 9th place in the East. They could win some games, but there are still a lot of questions. Who exactly is gonna play the point. I suppose Wade or Odom, but neither is a proven (or traditional) point guard. And for those teams with size, the Heat are in real trouble. I mean their front line outside of Brian Grant is AWFUL. Samaki Walker and Loren Woods awful. And losing your hall-of-fame coach a week before opening night isn't gonna help. Its fun to see the Heat and Knicks being so bad after they almost ruined basketball forever in the mid 90's with their thug-ball. The Heat have the decidedly better future than the Knicks though, especially if they could find someone to take Eddie Jones off their hands. 8 - Boston Celtics Yes, they would've ranked higher if they hadn't done the Walker trade. But I still think that was a good trade for the Celts. Walker will soon find out like Kenyon Martin did that 20 and 10 is fine and good, but you need to be a special player to get a max extension (Shawn Marion notwithstanding). And Walker is the kind of guy who would let management know how he felt every step of the way. And while Raef LaFrentz has a bad contract, he's still a solid player. And If you've seen the new slim and trim Vin Baker, it may be 1998 all over again for the Vin man. But even after counting on LaFrentz and Baker to produce, Paul Pierce will still have to score 40 points a game. And he just might. Oh and by the way they have no established point guard either. And this is a playoff team (maybe). Oh...THAT'S why they call it the "Leastern Conference". Teeheehee, now I get it. 7 - Orlando Magic This team is practically a mirror image of the Celts. They have one star, and not much else. McGrady is an even more prolific scorer than Paul Pierce, but he possibly has even less help. They signed Juwan Howard in the offseason, but they already had a similar player in Drew Gooden. As far as traditional big men they're very sparse (like most teams), and like other teams they don't have a legit point guard. Makes you wonder how valuable Jay Williams would be just about now. I mean if he could walk and stuff. (rim shot). What the Magic do have is "G-Force" Gordan Giricek, and you know what? That's good enough for me. Expect McGrady to carry the load once more…and become the KG of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. 6 - Chicago Bulls That's right. I'm putting the Bulls this high. #6 in the conference. Yes its because I'm a Bulls fan. But look at all the teams behind them. They're all severely flawed as teams. The Bulls are the most offensively complete team on the list so far, so that's why they're #6. You can argue that the Celts or Magic could have a better year based on their star power, but in reality there isn't much difference between their expected records, and you could have each of them 6,7 and 8. Make no mistake, I EXPECT the Bulls to make the playoffs, and if they don't blame must be placed on either Cartwright or the personnel. I'm not really sold on Cartwright yet, especially in his rotation decisions, but perhaps not having to worry about playing Jay Williams and a new group of Vets will help out. This team has loads of talent, and just needed help in learning how to win those close games that they seemed to throw away so many times last year. With Pippen and Gill now on the team, along with Rose and Marshall, the team has a core of productive veterans (not just old bench-warmers) who can take this team to playoff level. This is far from a guarantee however, if the team starts off badly before the yearly "West Coast Circus Trip of Death" things could go sour quickly. Of course there are always injuries to worry about, as has been already shown in camp with Rose, Chandler, Fizer, etc. All those factors considered, the present and future of the Bulls comes down to the "C-Unit" (I read that somewhere) of Chandler, Crawford, and Curry. Its easy to extrapolate their performances in the latter half of last year, but remember that most of the teams at that time have given up. The true test in the teens' progress will be this year. No Excuses :) The top 5 tommorow....

Monday, October 27, 2003

Eastern Conference Preview - Part 1 Well there's enough Bulls team previews out there, notably the one by Mikey from a few weeks ago. I thought I'd change gears and run through the 'competition' in the East. Notice the quotation marks there, they infer that the Eastern Conference actually blows. away we go! 15 - Milwaukee Bucks Startin at the bottom. The big 3 which was one game away from the NBA finals 2 years ago is all gone with the final piece shipped away when Sam Cassell was dealt to Minnesota. George Karl was paid some money to go replace Tim Hardaway on ESPN (and I thank them for that). The Bucks are left with a few talented young wing players in Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and Tim Thomas. The point guard of the future is there in the name of TJ Ford, a name that gets Dick Vitale a little excited in that special place. But they have no size to work with at all. And even less after paying Anthony Mason and Jason Caffey's bus fares out of town. They will battle with Utah for the worst record in the league. (or as I call it, the Pavel Podkolzine lottery) And as you will see Utah will have a huge advantage cause they don't get to play in the East. 14 - Cleveland Cavaliers Putting the Cavs this low doesn't mean I'm hatin' on LeBron. There's no doubt in my mind that LeBron will be special soon. For all those who group him with busts coming out too early and not knowing the game, what separates him from most prospects is that he does know the game, where to be on the floor, and how to find his teammates. As a team though, the Cavs have a lot of problems. As good as LeBron is, he'll need some adjustment time. Darius Miles has still yet to prove anything. Dajuan Wagner is having more knee surgery, and my man Big Z is always an injury risk. This team definitely has talent, but I can't see them winning many close games with so many young players on the court. Hmmm..I don't think I mentioned LeBron James' name enough. I guess I'm guilty of over-hyping him, and now Jay Mariotti will be at my door soon with some sort of blunt object. 13 - Atlanta Hawks Whoo-wee the Hawks are bad. For some reason last season when they traded for Glenn Robinson I bought into the Lon Kruger playoff guarantee. Well, one year later, and not only is Robinson gone to the Sixers, Kruger's gone too! So based on that you can pretty much guess how the year went. The Hawks still have not-quite-stars in Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Jason Terry, and an actual legit center in Theo Ratliff. I'm looking forward to see Eddy Curry match up with Ratliff this year, cause last year old Theo put Eddy in the hurt box. That puts me right there with the 600 Hawks fans left in Atlanta. 12 - New York Knicks Yes, I hate the Knicks, that's why I put them here. However, I also put them here cause they're really bad. Scott Layden refuses to give up and rebuild, continually bringing in more players with more contracts and hoping simply to compete in the East. Which isn't much of a long-term plan. Instead of following up a good draft by dealing Spree for Terrell Brandon's expiring contract and much needed cap relief, Layden instead made it a 4 way deal so he could get...Keith Van Horn. Van Horn is a good player, but like most of the Knicks, severely overpaid. Getting Mutumbo does get them bigger, but signing Dalibor Bagaric would've also gotten them bigger, and neither move gets them any better. They have no starting point guard (sorry not even Frankie Williams), but what they do have is a potential starting 5 of undersized power forwards: Thomas, Sweetney, McDyess, Harrington, Weatherspoon. Oh I forgot, McDyess is still injured and Othella Harrington will be traded to the Bulls for Jamal Crawford. But a man can dream. 11 - Washington Wizards If there's a Wizards team, without the Jordan "last time for the third time" tour, can you still hate them? Instinctively I'll probably still wish they lose every game, but now that the sideshow is gone the team can be re-evaluated. They've signed their most acclaimed free agent in Gilbert Arenas AFTER Jordan leaves. But is Arenas' breakout year last year mean he's ready to have a team built around him? Jerry Stackhouse (when he gets healthy) returns after realizing he was gonna get little on the free-agent market, but both him and Arenas need the ball to thrive. The key for this season and the future will be Kwame Brown. Under a new coach not putting him in the doghouse every other week, Brown has the opportunity to finally show why he was the #1 pick 2 years ago. Watching him have a couple of good games against the Bulls last year showed me that he has the talent to still be special. Other young big men include Brendan Haywood and Jared Jefferies (remember him?), and all will be counted on to make this a successful year. New coach Eddie Jordan will try and employ the same up-tempo scheme that he ran with Jason Kidd and the Nets. It'll be interesting to see Arenas trying to run that show, but unless one of their big men make the leap, the team is still years away. -to be continued...