Carmelo stays in New York; Bulls getting Gasol

7327531After what seemed like a month of speculation, Carmelo Anthony finally confirmed today that he will be staying in New York to play with the Knicks. It would appear he’ll be signing a 5-year deal worth more than $122 million, but less than $129 million. As a result, the Bulls look to be close to acquiring Pau Gasol. They’ve been saying all along that Gasol is their “plan B” if they miss out on Anthony, but I’m not entirely sure why.

First, let’s get this Carmelo stuff out of the way. He had stated a while back that he simply “wants to win.” The Knicks and Bulls emerged over the past few days as the only possible destinations for Anthony to sign, with the Bulls being the clear-cut better team of the two. Yet Anthony chose to stay in New York. Maybe it was a decision he made based on his family and the fact that he is from New York, or maybe it was a decision based on money. Honestly, I’m going with the latter.

If he really wanted to win, he would be signing a contract with the Bulls today to team up alongside Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and Taj Gibson. Instead, he’s re-signing in New York where he has no chance to win a title this year, and most likely for the next few years to come. If it was really going to come down to where he would make the most money like it would appear it did, then why was his decision dragged on for so long? I don’t get it. Moving on.

All reports indicate that the Bulls are finalizing a deal to acquire Pau Gasol sometime very soon. Whether it’s via a sign and trade with the Lakers or signing Gasol outright, they should have him within 24 hours. My questions is why are they doing this?

Gasol is a good offensive big man, but he is lackluster on defense and is getting up there in age (34). To me, he seems like a slight upgrade from Carlos Boozer and that’s it. This also makes me wonder exactly what the Bulls plan on doing with Taj Gibson now.

I was under the impression that the Bulls organization wanted Gibson to be their starting power forward this upcoming season. He certainly deserves to be. However, assuming Gasol is a Bull next season, he will most likely be the starting power forward, thus meaning Gibson will be back on the bench. It makes zero sense to me why the Bulls would want this scenario. Gibson is probably a step or two behind Gasol on offense, but his defensive game is one of the best of any big man in the league. Overall, Gibson is a better player today than Pau Gasol and I cannot understand why the Bulls seem to want Gibson back on the bench. Quite honestly, if I were Gibson, I’d be requesting a trade as soon as this Gasol deal becomes official.

So let’s assume the Bulls get Gasol. They’ll still be lacking a true number two scorer to go along with Derrick Rose. Maybe Doug McDermott can be that guy, but he’s just a rookie and you can’t count on a rookie to do too much for you. Maybe Nikola Mirotic can fill the role, but again, he’s never played a game in the NBA. The Bulls will no doubt be a better team than they were in 2013-14, but I question whether or not they’ll have the roster to make it by the second round of the playoffs, let alone the Conference Finals.

There are still some solid free agents available, and the Bulls presumably will have some money to spend now that they won’t be getting Carmelo. It’s possible they can still upgrade their roster, but I wouldn’t classify them as a serious threat to come out of the Eastern Conference next season just yet. Losing out on Carmelo really hurts, especially since LeBron James is back in the Central Division.

As for Gasol, I suppose only time will tell how that move pays off. Personally, I think it’s a mistake and simply a knee-jerk reaction to not getting Carmelo Anthony. In the minds of the Bulls’ management, I think they saw Gasol as an opportunity to get the next biggest name available, and it may come back to haunt them.

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Rose should wait for next season

Derrick RoseAs the Bulls’ season inches closer and closer to the end, this team is showing no signs of doing anything spectacular come playoff time. They might get by the first round (depending on who they play), but there is also a solid chance they won’t. Every week lately, it’s somebody else leaving the lineup due to injury. Gibson, Hinrich, and Hamilton were all out of last night’s game in San Antonio. Even if Rose did come back, I just don’t see this team going anywhere, which leads me to my main point.

Derrick Rose should wait to return to the Bulls’ lineup until next season. Like I already said, I really don’t see the Bulls going anywhere come playoff time. If Rose is back for the playoffs, there is a good chance that he won’t even be totally back to normal form (even though he says he won’t return until he’s 110 percent). There are too many holes on this team preventing them from being any major threat to do damage in the playoffs. Think about it, even with Rose, do you really think they could beat Miami in a 7-game series? Not a chance.

There is no point for Rose to come back at this point and risk another injury. He would be smart to sit out the remainder of the season and take the entire off-season to get as healthy as possible.

The Bulls really weren’t built to win anything this year anyway. Knowing that Rose would be out until late in the season, Gar Forman and John Paxson signed guys like Robinson, Hinrich, Belinelli, Radmanovich, and Mohammed to somewhat “get by” this year. This summer, I would expect to see the Bulls make another slew of moves. However, this time I believe they will be made in more of an attempt to win next year knowing that Rose will be/should be healthy from day one. Having said that, the Bulls are going to have a tough time signing any quality free agents because of the fact that they are going to be heavily restricted by the salary cap. There have been talks already of them possibly trying to trade Deng to get under the cap…

My bottom line here is that there is no need for Derrick Rose to return this season. If he comes back, the Bulls aren’t going to beat Miami in the playoffs (they might not even get to Miami), and they sure aren’t going to win any championships this year. I would much rather see Rose spend all summer getting even healthier so that the Bulls can make a serious run next year, assuming Deng is still with the team.

Bulls Game 3 Preview

Tomorrow night, the Bulls and 76ers will face off against each other in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series. The Bulls took Game 1 (while losing Derrick Rose), and the 76ers won game 2.

Game 1 for the Bulls went they way that they wanted it to go for the most part. They dominated the boards and built themselves a comfortable lead in the second half that they were able to ride all the way to the final buzzer. Obviously, the down side to Game 1 was the loss of Derrick Rose to a torn, left ACL.

Game 2 was the exact opposite of what us Bulls fans have gotten used to seeing the past 2 seasons. After playing a decent first half, the Bulls came out flat in the third quarter, especially on defense, and Philadelphia ran away with the lead to tie the series at 1 apiece. This was one of the worst defensive performances of the year for the Bulls, without a doubt.

Heading into Friday night’s Game 3, the Bulls need to get back to the style of play that got them to 50 wins this season, and a share of the best record in the NBA.

The Bulls have a reasonable size advantage down low on the 76ers, and they need to make use of it. Game 2 was a rare instance where the Bulls have been out-rebounded this season. Philadelphia totaled 38 rebounds, while the Bulls only had 32. Noah, Boozer, Gibson, and Asik need to step it up in Game 3 and use their size to their advantage and win the rebounding battle. The Bulls thrive on second chance points, so getting as many rebounds as possible, especially on offense, will give them an advantage in the game.

Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng HAVE to show up for Game 3. These two combined only managed to get 17 points in Game 2, which is not the recipe for a victory. With Derrick Rose now gone for the remainder of the playoffs, Boozer and Deng are the Bulls’ best 2 offensive options in their starting lineup, and they have to step up their game from here on out.

Jrue Holiday. Someone needs to contain him. He was the heartbeat of the 76ers offense for much of Game 2, and he single-handedly kept Philadelphia in the game during the first half. Whether it is permanently placing Deng on Holiday, or double teaming Holiday when he has the ball, the Bulls need to limit his effectiveness in this series and make someone else step up for the 76ers.

Fast break points for Philadelphia KILLED the Bulls in Game 2. It seemed like after each defensive rebound by the Sixers, they had at least two guys breaking up court creating 2 on 1/3 on 1 breaks that lead to a large portion of their overall point total. The Bulls are going to have to really make an effort to get back on defense and not allow the 76ers to get too many fast break points.

I know that I have just listed a number of things that the Bulls need to improve on heading into Game 3, but they are more than capable of doing so. It’s how they ended the last 2 regular seasons as the number 1 team in the NBA. Assuming that they can get back to playing the way that they did for each of the last 2 regular seasons (yes, even without Rose), they should win Game 3, and this series.

Thanks for reading.

Bulls Are A True Team

This entire season for the Bulls has been plagued by injuries to some of their biggest key players. If you were to look at their record, however, you would never know it.

Richard Hamilton has missed 32 games, Derrick Rose has missed 14, and Luol Deng has missed 9. Yet, the Bulls still have the NBA’s best overall record at 38-10. They are the definition of a true team.

In Hamilton’s place, Ronnie Brewer has done more than step up his game. He has become one of the best defensive players in the league, while also greatly improving his offensive game. His confidence has sky-rocketed this season on the offensive end, and it is very noticeable every time he handles the ball. He is simply no longer afraid to drive to the hoop or take a shot.

When Luol Deng has missed games due to his wrist injury, once again Ronnie Brewer has been the man to take his place at small forward. Moving into Brewer’s place at shooting guard with Deng and Hamilton out of the lineup has been Kyle Korver. While Korver has been a bit of a streaky shooter at times, he has still been consistently finding ways to get his job done. Even Korver, an offensive player, has really stepped up his defensive game this year.

Taking the place of Derrick Rose lately has been a combination of C.J. Watson and John Lucas. I don’t think the Bulls could be any happier with the way these two have played in Rose’s absence, especially Lucas. Last week when the Bulls took on the Heat at the United Center without Rose in the lineup, Watson and Lucas combined to score 35 points, with Lucas scoring 24. The Bulls won that game 106-102. Without the MVP in their lineup, the Bulls have won some big games and have now improved their record to 10-4 with tonight’s win in Orlando.

The Bulls ran away with tonight’s game by destroying the Magic 85-59, again without Rose. I posted a blog a before the NBA trade deadline saying that the Bulls shouldn’t trade for Dwight Howard, and this is why. Even without their best player in Derrick Rose, the Bulls have been able to get some huge victories. They have gotten these wins because of the depth of their team and the all around contributions from every player on their roster. Every player on the Bulls understands their role on the team, whether it’s to play top-notch defense (which is the case for most of the guys), or provide scoring on the offensive end. They outwork, out-hustle, out-rebound, and even more importantly, play better as an entire team than any other franchise in the NBA. The Bulls are the epitome of a true team.

Much, if not all of this credit, should be given to head coach Tom Thibodeau. He has gotten every one of his players to believe in his system and philosophies. Even with all of the injuries that have been suffered this year by the Bulls, Thibodeau has kept his team together and gotten them to give their best effort night in and night out. He won the Coach of the Year Award last year, and should win it again this year. However, the NBA doesn’t like to hand out one award to the same person two years in a row.

From Watson to Lucas, Brewer to Korver, Gibson to Asik, as well as the rest of the Bulls roster, each player is doing their job, and doing it well. The Bulls have the best record in the NBA not just because they also have the league’s best point guard, but because they are the best team in basketball.

Thanks for reading.

Rose Looking For Revenge

Tonight is the first meeting between the Bulls and Pacers since Indiana beat the Bulls in Chicago 95-90 in late January. It was after that game that Derrick Rose said he would not forget the way the Pacers acted after winning.

As the final buzzer rang to end the game, the Pacers’ players and coaches began jumping around like they had just won a playoff series. What they had done was hand the Bulls their first home loss of the season, which is a nice accomplishment, but not worthy of a playoff-type celebration. Immediately following the game, Derrick Rose stated that he could not wait to play the Pacers again and that he would be seeking revenge for not just the loss, but for the actions of the Pacers. If there is one thing you should never do to a star and dominant athlete, it’s to never make them angry.

Aside from the incidents that took place the last time these two teams met, the biggest story heading into tonight’s game has to be that both teams are currently in the middle of 6-game winning streaks. The Bulls and Pacers are arguably playing their best basketball of the year right now with the Bulls sitting in the number 1 spot in the East, and the Pacers in the number 3 spot. With that said, tonight’s game is going to prove to be a huge measuring stick for the Pacers. They will find out just how close they are to being able to play with arguably the toughest team in the NBA. As for the Bulls, they need to prove to themselves tonight that they can beat the Pacers without much of a problem. After the way that Indiana stuck with the Bulls in just about every game during the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals last year, my guess is that the Bulls are at least a little worried about playing them again. The fact is, however, that the Bulls are a much better team than the Pacers, and like I said, they need to prove this to themselves with a big win tonight.

It is going to be an intense and emotional game tonight for the players on both teams, especially Derrick Rose. I wouldn’t be surprised if he put up one of his best games of the year tonight after the comments that he made following the last meeting between these teams. I know one thing is for sure, and that is that I’ll be glued to the TV from 7:00-9:30 tonight.

For anyone wondering, the game is on WGN and it starts at 7:00.

ISU’s Hopes Shattered

Being a student at Illinois State University, I wanted nothing more than for our men’s basketball team to win the Missouri Valley Conference championship today. If they had done so, they would have been given an automatic berth into the men’s NCAA basketball tournament for the first time since 1998.

ISU entered the MVC tournament as the number 4 seed in the conference. In the first round, they beat Northern Iowa 54-42 to advance to the conference semifinals. In the semis, they beat Wichita State 65-64 in a thriller. Wichita State was ranked #14 in the country heading into that game. By beating the Shockers, Illinois State moved on to the conference championship against Creighton earlier today. Unfortunately, we came up short in this one. Creighton won by a score of 83-79 in overtime.

For a while it looked as though ISU might have been able to pull off the upset. At one point in the second half, we were up by 7 points. Creighton ended up coming back and taking the lead heading into the final minute of play. With 6 seconds left in the game, ISU tied it up on a lay-up to send it to OT. The bad thing about going into overtime was that it heavily favored Creighton. It was obvious that the longer this game was extended, the tougher time ISU was going to have trying to contain the Blue Jays.

Over the years, Illinois State’s basketball program has never been recognized as a “top” program in the country, let alone the Midwest. Had they been able to pull off the victory this afternoon, it would not have only been a big win in the sense that they would be headed to the NCAA tournament, but it would have been a huge feat to put on their resume when trying to recruit future players. I honestly believe that ISU’s basketball program has the potential to be a lot better and a lot more well-known than they are today. In order to make that happen, however, they need to start winning big games like this one today. The top players coming out of high school aren’t going to want to commit to a school that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament in 14 years. If ISU could find a way to make it into the NCAA tournament sometime in the next couple of years, I really believe that they could then get some better recruits to sign on with the program.