Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012-13 NBA Season Predictions

The 2012-13 NBA season officially kicks off tonight. Unfortunately, LeBron James is getting his first ring and Derrick Rose has to watch it on TV like the rest of us. Hopefully that image is burned into his brain forever and can use it to re-fuel his fire during rehab and toward the end of the season.

The Bulls open their season tomorrow night at home against the Sacramento Kings. With so much uncertainty ahead, it's questionable how the Bulls will respond without their star player for most of the year ahead. Thankfully, Chicago has been granted one of the easier schedules this season. The circus trip alone looks far less daunting than in years past. Regardless, it's going to be an upward climb if the Bulls want to win the Central Division or let alone make the playoffs.

Usually when I do my yearly predictions I include the playoffs as well. However, I'm not even going to attempt that until the end of the regular season. Too much stuff can happen in 82 games to even start breaking down playoff match ups. Below are my predictions for the 2012-13 season....and yes, I believe Chicago will still be semi-decent and make the playoffs.

Eastern Conference Final Standings

1. Miami Heat
2. Boston Celtics
3. New York Knicks
4. Chicago Bulls
5. Indiana Pacers
6. Brooklyn Nets
7. Philadelphia 76er's
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
9. Washington Wizards
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Atlanta Hawks
12. Detroit Pistons
13. Toronto Raptors
14. Charlotte Bobcats
15. Orlando Magic

Western Conference Final Standings

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Los Angeles Lakers
3. San Antonio Spurs
4. Los Angeles Clippers
5. Memphis Grizzlies
6. Dallas Mavericks
7. Utah Jazz
8. Minnesota Timberwolves
9. Denver Nuggets
10. Sacramento Kings
11. New Orleans Hornets
12. Golden State Warriors
13. Houston Rockets
14. Portland Trail Blazers
15. Phoenix Suns

Award Predictions

MVP: LeBron James (Miami Heat)
Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers)
6th Man of the Year: J.R. Smith (New York Knicks)
Rookie of the Year: Anthony Davis (New Orleans Hornets)
Most Improved Player: Enes Kanter (Utah Jazz)

The NBA season opens tonight on TNT at 8:00 p.m. EST with a rematch of last season's conference finals between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics. This game is followed by the Mavericks/Lakers game. If you're super hardcore and have DirectTV, NBA League Pass is free until 11/7 and you can watch the Washington Wizards/Cleveland Cavaliers game at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bulls Hold On to Defeat Grizzlies 92-88 in Preseason Opener

By Sean Mackey

The shooting was poor and the passing was sloppy, but the Bulls were able to overcome a late game scoring drought to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 92-88 in their preseason opener Tuesday night. Luol Deng looked great, leading both teams in scoring with 18 points and 4 rebounds. New (old) back up center, Nazr Mohammed came away with a double-double off the bench with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Joakim Noah looked like he was back to his old self tallying 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Jerome Jordan came off the bench to lead the way for the Grizzlies with 13 points. Former Bulls scrub, Flip Murray chipped in 11 points off the bench as well.

I fortunately walked in during the huge 32-13 3rd quarter run which inevitably won the game for Chicago. It was nice to see how well Kirk Hinrich was running the floor with Noah, Deng and Rip. However, every time I see Noah run the floor now I get really nervous and think about that gruesome 90 degree ankle twist he had during the 1st round 76er’s game last season. Noah has to stay healthy if the Bulls want any sort of chance at the playoffs this season. I thought Nazr Mohammed played decently from what I could see (Stacey King already has nicknamed him “Nasty Nazr”). He seemed like he was in great shape and was getting back on defense as fast as he could during any sort of turnover situation (and there were a lot of those).

The Bulls shot a ridiculously terrible 1-21 in the final 12 minutes of the game. While Taj Gibson looked great defensively, he was just 1-7 from the field. He had a few hiccups including trying to save a ball that went right back to Memphis. Thibodeau let him have it during the time out for that mess up. Jimmy Butler played almost 25 minutes and went a disgusting 1-12 from the field. The rookie from Kentucky, Marquis Teague played just 3 minutes and had 2 turnovers and a foul. I know he came from a great program and looked decent in the tournament last year but I’m pretty sure he’s going to be buried on the bench this season. Nate Robinson will almost certainly be the second string point guard until Rose’s return. He showed moments of promise and hit all 6 of his free throws.

The Bulls were only able to stay in this game by their defense and by going 30-39 on free throws. The 4th quarter was one of the most dismal efforts I’ve ever seen in a game. Memphis trimmed the lead to 3 before hucking up a terrible shot for which Gibson thankfully grabbed the rebound and the game was over. I know it was just the first preseason game of the year but it looks like the new bench is going to need a lot of work.

The Bulls play again Friday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hopefully they can tweak some of their issues and forget this game ever happened.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bulls Open Preseason Against Grizzlies Tonight; Mirotic Impresses in NBA Debut

The Chicago Bulls open their preseason tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies. This game will mark the return of longtime Bulls fan favorite, Kirk Hinrich along with what the media is already dubbing "Bench Mob 2.0". It also marks the beginning of what will likely be a long season without Bullsformer MVP and star player, Derrick Rose. Here's a look at the probable starters for tonight's game:

PG: Kirk Hinrich
SG: Richard Hamilton
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah

PG: Mike Conley
SG: Tony Allen
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Marc Gasol

Note: Joakim Noah has been MIA the last few days days of training camp due to the death of his grandmother. He'll most likely be a game time decision, but I have a feeling he'll still start.

It'll be interesting to see how well players such as Nate Robinson, Marco Bellinelli and Vladimir Radmonovic play under Tom Thibodeau's defensive schemes. Kyle Korver wasn't much of a defender until playing under Thibodeau. I'd like to think he's a much more servicable player after his two years with the Bulls. It'll also be interesting to see how well Bulls rookie, Marquis Teague plays after his terrible showing during the NBA Summer League.

The Grizzlies won their first preseason game against Real Madrid last Saturday night. Rudy Gay put up a dominating 27 points. Mike Conley looked excellent as well with 18 points and 8 assists. To most NBA fans, this game was just a preseason scrimmage against some lame international competition. However, this game was also the first look at future Bulls draftee Nikola Mirotic. The future 21 year old prospect put up 14 points and grabbed 7 boards. Mirotic was good enough for Zach Randolph to acknowledge his game and earned him some praise from the 11 year vet.

“I like him,” Randolph said. “I told Marc (Gasol) he can shoot the ball. I was asking how old he was. He’s just 21. The kid’s got a real upside. He can play in the NBA.”

Mirotic followed up his performance last night with a 17 point, 12 rebound game in another losing effort, this time against the Toronto Raptors. Former Bull John Lucas III lit up Real Madrid scoring 16 points off the bench going 7-10 from the field. The Bulls are expected to bring over Mirotic at the beginning of the 2014-15 season.

The Bulls preseason debut against the Memphis Grizzlies will be nationally televised on NBA-TV tonight at 8:00 p.m.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sean's 2012 NBA Playoff Predictions

For the 2nd season in a row, the Chicago Bulls posted the best record in the NBA, earning home court advantage for their playoff run. Going 50-16 in a lockout shortened season that included a slew of back to back and back to back to back games riddled with a series of injuries is quite an impressive feat in it's own. A lot of people like to discredit the Spurs when they won in 99 saying "it didn't count" or whatever, and yeah that was a very lame season but this has been a marathon sprint to the playoffs since Christmas. 2011-12 was not like 1998-99 season where there were less games and no all-star weekend. Whoever wins the title this year is truly the last team standing and shouldn't be tagged with an asterisk. With that all being said, the Bulls are hobbling into the playoffs this year with last year's MVP coming off several recent injuries, a veteran shooting guard made out of glass, an all-star forward with a torn ligament in his non-shooting hand and a power forward with a sweet jump shot who doesn't play defense. While all of these attributes are bad, it's safe to say the Bulls are the deepest team in the NBA. Having someone like Taj Gibson and Omer Asik come off the bench is a real luxury and could be the deciding factor in coming up with series wins against the Celtics and Heat. I just hope the roster stays healthy throughout the whole run and that the Heat never a win a title under Lebron's reign. Here are my 2011-12 playoff predictions:

Eastern Conference
1st Round

Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76er's
Winner: Bulls (4-1)

Bulls might start off slow like they did in 1st round last season, but they'll kick it into full gear and make Evan Turner wish he never played them.

Boston Celtics vs. Atlanta Hawks
Winner: Boston Celtics (4-2)

Boston is a veteran team, they've been together 4 years now and they're well coached. The Atlanta Hawks are without their star Al Horford and did nothing in the offseason to get better.

Indiana Pacers vs. Orlando Magic
Winner: Indiana Pacers (4-0)

The Orlando Magic's title run is over. The team has gave up on Stan Van Gundy and the Pacers are a young, hungry squad dying to make it to 2nd round for the first time since 2005.

Western Conference
1st Round

Miami Heat vs. New York Knicks
Winner: Miami Heat (4-2)

The New York Knicks look great on paper. They have the most talented roster in the NBA however, when they're all healthy and playing together, they have no idea what they're doing. Miami will have a field day with this guys but New York will likely win a few home games.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz
Winner: San Antonio Spurs (4-0)

No contest. This is not San Antonio's first rodeo.

Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Winner: Memphis Grizzlies (4-2)

Memphis was great in the playoffs last season without Rudy Gay. Gay has since returned and the Grizzlies are pretty deep. Vinny Del Negro has never won a playoff series...nuff said.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets
Winner: Los Angeles Lakers (4-1)

The Lakers are still awesome, don't let anyone tell you differently. Andrew Bynum has been on a tear and the Nuggets just have a team of role players. They are however, well coached. They'll win one game.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Dallas Mavericks
Winner: OKC Thunder (4-2)

Dallas are the defending champs, however, Tyson Chandler left for NY and Lamar Odom got an early paid vacation. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are awesome but the team itself is inconsistent. This is going to be a good one.

Eastern Conference
2nd Round

Chicago Bulls vs. Boston Celtics
Winner: Chicago Bulls (4-2)

These teams hate each other however, Boston is less relevant now. MJ had trouble with the Celtics his first few seasons and eventually got over the hump. This is Derick Rose's time.

Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers
Winner: Miami Heat (4-1)

Indiana wants revenge on Chicago so bad, however, they'll have to play the Heat to get there. While Indiana has a 6'10 shooting guard in Paul George and a budding all-star center in Roy Hibbert, the Miami Heat have the two best players in the league.

Western Conference
2nd Round

San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Winner: San Antonio Spurs (4-2)

I'm done underestimating San Antonio. They're the grittiest team in the league and Manu isn't injured. They're going to the conference finals.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Winner: OKC Thunder (4-3)

This one's a toss up. The Lakers have the greatest player of the last 10 years and the best center currently playing in the playoffs. I just think the OKC Thunder are young and athletic enough to get over the hump.

Eastern Conference Finals

Chicago Bulls vs. Miami Heat
Winner: Chicago Bulls (4-3)

This is going to be the marquee match up of the NBA playoffs. These are the two best teams going at it and boy, do they hate each other. Derrick Rose may have been injured a lot this year but he's still hungry and I have a feeling will play possum until this series where he unleases on the Heat. I'm tired of selling my team short, they're fantastic.

Western Conference Finals

San Antonio Spurs vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Winner: Oklahoma City Thunder

They split the season series 1-1. This is anyone's series but I think San Antonio's run stops here. Durant seems hungier than he's ever been.

NBA Finals

Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Winner: Chicago Bulls (4-3)

The Bulls are built a lot like the San Antonio Spurs, however they have last year's MVP. This one's going to be tough but I really think this is the Bulls' year. This series would be great.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boozer Takes Over, Bulls Blow Out Magic 85-59

By Sean Mackey

The Chicago Bulls continued their winning ways Monday night with a huge victory over the Orlando Magic, winning 85-59. The Bulls were once again without their MVP Derrick Rose or Richard Hamilton. Carlos Boozer lead the way for Chicago with 24 points, 14 rebounds and 4 steals. John Lucas III came off the bench to score 20 points on 8-13 shooting. Dwight Howard lead the Magic with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

This game was some serious payback for the loss the Magic handed Chicago a few weeks ago. The Bulls defense was completely suffocating. The game also set two NBA records as well. Tom Thibodeau became the fastest coach in NBA history to win 100 games and Chicago holding the Magic to 59 points was a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a regular season game (this includes the entire Jordan era...WOW).

Carlos Boozer was able to manhandle Ryan Anderson (who really isn't a PF). These are the kind of games Booz relishes because of the advantage he has in the post and makes it look easy. Boozer is averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds a game this year which in opinion is pretty damn good compared to the last few guys who held down the PF spot for the Bulls.

The guy who I've been most impressed with lately is John Lucas III. Lucas came out and hit 3 straight 3 pointers to begin this game. This guy thrives on confidence and if he hits his first few shots, he can go the entire game. It's simply amazing to see a 3rd string point guard come out and give the performances he's giving. He's making us all forget about Linsanity.

The Bulls play the next two games against the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday and Saturday. Hopefully, they can take advantage of such a lackluster team and not have a repeat of that bizarre loss to a very depleted Portland Trail Blazers team this last week.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

John Lucas III goes off, Bulls Beat the Heat 106-102

By Sean Mackey

With half the NBA world watching the Dwight Howard saga unfold last night, the Bulls were able to come off with a stunning Derrick Rose-less win over the Miami Heat at home last night, winning 106-102. Third string point guard, John Lucas III came off the bench to lead the Bulls with 24 points on 9-12 shooting. Joakim Noah continued his string of great games, chipping in 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. Taj Gibson also came off with an impressive 8 points, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. LeBron James and Dwayne Wade combined for 71 of the Miami Heat's 102 points.

This was easily the best game I've watched this season. After it was announced that Derrick Rose would not be playing due to a strained groin injury, I'll admit, I wasn't expecting much. Derrick Rose accounts for the Bulls entire offense so coming off with a convincing win against the world's most talented basketball team is a big deal.

John Lucas III was obviously the man of the night. After getting dunked on by LeBron James the last time these two teams met, Lucas came out with fierce intensity. For a guy who's generously listed at 5'11, to be able to come out and shoot 9-12 from the field is amazing. JL3 hit some of the biggest shots of the night including an array of 3 pointers, floaters and the shot every guy fantasises about taking; a fade away jumper right in the face of LeBron James.

The defense really kept the Bulls in this game the entire 48 minutes. Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are getting to be so meticulous about how they block shots, that it's almost an art. The timing they have is just fantastic. Add that, along with a bunch of ridiculously good passers and back door cuts and you have the NBA's most team oriented basketball club.

The sad part about all this is that the Bulls were only able to win by 4. The Miami Heat effortlessly came back from a 15 point deficit in just a few minutes of play. Chicago has to play perfectly to just get a win against these guys. Could you imagine how good the Heat would be if the entire team put in the same kind of effort the Bulls do? They'd be unstoppable.

Nevertheless, the Bulls were able to get a quality win without their star player. The Bulls host the Portland Trail Blazers Friday night. Portland has just acquired Mehmet Okur & Shawne Williams from the New Jersey Nets for Gerald Wallace. They've also traded away Marcus Camby for a yet to be named expiring contract and draft picks. It'll be interesting to see who suits for the game. I have a feeling that Rose and Deng will probably both sit this one out.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bulls Beat Timberwolves, Move Into 1st Place in the East

By Sean Mackey

The Chicago Bulls defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday night, 111-100. Derrick Rose exploded for 31 points, 11 assists and 2 blocks. Luol Deng had a great game as well, posting 21 points and 11 rebounds. Ronnie Brewer did a fantastic job filling in for Rip Hamilton scoring 17 points. Luke Ridnour lead the Timberwolves in scoring with 22 points including 3-3 from three point range. Ricky Rubio looked awesome coming off the bench for Minnesota, ending the game with 13 points and 12 assists.

This game looked like a blowout early in the first half. At one point in the 2nd quarter, the Bulls were up 24 points. This wasn't even because they were playing great defense or anything either, they were shooting 74%! Had the Timberwolves shown any defensive resistance, they probably wouldn't have dug themselves in such a hole. Derrick Rose had to leave the game at one point re-aggravating his turf toe injury. John Lucas filled in decently for about 5 minutes. However, at the end of the 2nd quarter, the Bulls shooting went cold and Timberwolves went on a nice run, cutting the lead to 6 to end the half.

The Timberwolves tied the game in the 3rd and D-Rose went to work like always, shouldering the load the rest of the game. While the Bulls were able to hold off the Timberwolves at the end, this looked like a team that could be very good in the near future...that is if Love and Rubio decide to stay.

Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game. He's arguably already the best rebounder. However, he proved last night that his post game and defensive game need a little work. It's great to have a PF who can shoot the three but when he can't post up against guys like Boozer, he could probably stand to add that to his game over next summer. Ricky Rubio looks like the real deal. He dazzles in a way that's not flashy but effective. He has a great shot at winning rookie of the year and could definitely develop into the next Steve Nash.

With the Miami Heat blowing a big lead last night and losing to the Golden State Warriors, the Bulls move into 1st place with this win. Chicago plays the 1-8 Washington Wizards tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST on Comcast Sportsnet.