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.