Tag Archives: Chicago Bulls

Remembering The Great NBA Lockout Of 1998

I’ve come to believe that I don’t have to worry about football not happening this year, but I’m afraid I’m a long ways from feeling that about basketball. I’ve only got my ear semi-firmly pressed to the ground when it comes to sports chatter, but the majority of news you hear about the NFL is that a deal will ultimately get done. The debate seems to be more about how much training camp time will get cut and at most, will we lose any preseason games? On the NBA front, it’s more about whether they’ll lose a half or a whole season. I am confident that it’s now time for us to prepare for a significantly shortened 2011-2012 season. A great way to do that is to revisit the last season in which a work stoppage wiped out half the season. 1998 saw no basketball games played until February of 99, and when play finally resumed, it was a pretty dreadful season. The Kings were the top scoring team, and the only one to average triple digits, with an enormous 100.2 ppg. Nine or ten teams averaged less than 90 ppg. It’s safe to say that the rust showed. But a few things happened that turned out to set major changes of the tides in motion in the NBA that season. Can we expect similar changing of the guards this season? Let’s revisit some of the top storylines from the 1999 season…

The Spurs won their first NBA Championship, and of course, they’d go on to win three more after that. It was their second year with the short-lived twin towers, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The Spurs were contenders in the years before, with the exception of the lost season of 96-97, which enabled them to land Tim Duncan in the draft. The strike-shortened 1999 season was just what they needed to get over the hump. The Spurs have been a dynasty ever since. In fact, 1999 was the last time the Spurs failed to win 50 games in a season. That’s tough to do when they only played 50 games that year.

Who could it be this year? Maybe the Cavaliers, perhaps? They spent the decade building a contender, but then their star player was lost. It only took the Spurs one year to turn it around, so why should we expect anything different from Cleveland? Like San Antonio, they were fortunate enough to land the number one pick and get a sure-fire franchise player. Or, do you disagree? Add to that, they had the fourth pick too, and got a perennial all-star there. Oh, don’t like that one either? Alright, so maybe they’re a longer shot to win it all this year, but I bet there will be one similarity there. Antawn Jamison’s 11-12 season will look a lot like Sean Elliott’s 98-99 year.

Michael Jordan was no longer there. His Airness retired after notching a second three-peat from 96 to 98. The Bulls immediately fell to the bottom of the standings, losing an unprecedented 37 games in the shortened season. That’s the most losses in a season they had since 1987. Fans and media immediately started searching for the next Jordan. Would it be 5, 10, 20 years before the next Jordan came along? Where are we at now…

Jordan still isn’t here. I think Kobe came pretty close there for a while, but until he gets another title, people will probably always point to the 6-5 championship edge for Jordan. Even if it gets tied up, winning rings with Shaq / Pau arguably has a lesser degree of difficulty than having Pippen as your next best guy. In the meantime, we can pretty much write off Lebron James and Dwyane Wade until further notice. They proved in this year’s finals that they won’t be producing any Jordanesque highlights in the closing seconds of games in the quantities that he did. Dirk’s “clutch” stock skyrocketed this year, but to be the next Jordan, you gotta do dunk contests, not three point shootouts. Though he did rock the tongue out like Jordan in this year’s finals.

Jason Williams took the league by storm. I’ve always felt that J-Will doesn’t get credited enough for his part in winning back the league’s fans. He came into the league as the seventh pick by the Kings and immediately started cranking out must see highlights. He was doing things that no one had really seen on the court to that point. In a year where the pace of play was at an all-time low, J-Will sped the pace up, and he MADE people watch. Practically overnight, his jersey became the biggest selling in the country. It helped that he got to play with newcomers Chris Webber and Vlade Divac, but he definitely played a key role in getting a franchise turned around and become a contender for years to come. I remember 1998 being called a weak draft, much like this year’s installment. Can anyone in this also weak draft class make a similar impact on the league and his franchise?

For the first time since the 1998 draft that produced Jason Williams, the Kings were to select seventh this year. There was no obvious pick, much like 98, so they took a gamble. Only this time it was on someone that already had a little more accompanying fanfare than the relatively unknown Williams had. It’s not too far fetched to imagine that Jimmer Fredette, depending on how his rookie season goes, could wind up being the hottest selling jersey in the league. I envision close to 80% of those sales coming the kids sizes, but I could see him being this year’s must see TV and help soften the blow of a lockout season. He doesn’t have the flashy ball-handling skills that J-Will had, but he has something of his own that no player has had in our lifetimes: his own range. Most rookies have to worry about adjusting to the distance of the NBA three point line. Not Jimmer. The new three point line isn’t even in Jimmer Range. Hopefully the pro game won’t force him to reel it in a bit, much like it did with Williams a few years in, because the 30 foot three bomb is the short white guy’s slam dunk. If Jimmer starts dropping 3 or 4 of those each night, every short white guy in America will be watching his games. Throw in the Mormon population, and the fact that he’s one of those guys you can’t find any reason to hate – unless he just torched your team for 40 or 50 points – the NBA could very well have it’s next lockout-shortened-season-savior.

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Playoffs Getting Interesting…

It’s been a entertaining NBA playoffs thus far. Teams that we thought were favorites aren’t turning out to be the powerhouses that we originally thought they were. Like I said back on 4/20, there’s a changing of the eras in the NBA. I didn’t think it would be this year, but thought it was on the horizon. More and more it’s looking like this year is the year of change. Another good thing is I don’t think any of these series are rigged so far. Well done Stern, usually we can tell!

Mavs 2, Lakers 0 –  As they say once the home team loses the series really starts. I think someone forgot to tell the Lakers that the series started after game 1. Last night’s Lakers game was disturbing to the fans down here in LA, much to my enjoyment. It’s fitting that this is the first year I was somewhat rooting for them because I didn’t want any of the Eastern Conference teams to win it all. I can’t believe I admitted that, but yes, I was rooting for the Lakers a little. I am enjoying that some Lakers fans said they would win the series in 3 games against this soft Mavs team. Obviously, that can’t happen, but it was an indication of how they overlooked Mavs in general. Maybe the players were listening to the radio shows and got full of themselves or maybe this team is just plain dysfunctional. I won’t call this series done, because the Mavs have a long history of choking in the playoffs when the pressure is at it’s highest. The pressure of closing the Lakers out is going to be big, and close to the pressure of closing the Heat out in the Finals four years ago. That Mavs team was much different though, they have only two players from that finals roster, and were much softer without Chandler. This version of the Mavs feels a lot better, but I won’t believe it until they close out this series. Either way, the winner will lose next round to one of the young guns in the changing of the guards.

Memphis 1, Seattle 1 – Everyone thought the young team that would make an impact out West was going to be the Supersonics when it’s really been the Grizzlies who have shocked the world. I didn’t pick the Grizz to win that first series against the Spurs, especially without Gay in the lineup, but did think they were a good team all the way back in November when I regretted leaving them off my playoff predictions. Both franchises have figured out how to build a contender, and they have one glaring thing in common, size. Size matters in the NBA, just ask Steve Nash. It was always the Lakers biggest advantage for the last three years, and what do teams have to do to knock them off? Get bigger. Memphis did that through free agency and trades (Gasol, Z-Bo). Seattle did the same (Perkins, Ibaka), and now both teams look like they could beat anyone with solid role guys and their stars knowing exactly what is needed of them to be successful. I’m going to say whoever wins this series will be representing the west in the finals. I’m rooting for it to be Memphis, because I still have a hard time rooting for Sam Presti to succeed on any front.

Miami 2, Boston 0 – The team I picked to represent the East is looking about as good as it has all season. I thought that Boston was in trouble before this series started. Wade ALWAYS gives Boston fits, and that’s going back to when Wade was the only player worth anything in Miami. Last year I think he dropped close to 50 one playoff game in Boston to help the Heat avoid getting swept. Now that he has Lebron and Bosh who can also give Boston fits, he no longer has to put up 50 to will his team to a win. What’s even scarier about this Miami team is they look more comfortable playing together than they have all year. The Celtics on the other hand look a lot like the Lakers this postseason. They haven’t really looked good for more than one or two games the whole second season. They know it’s their last shot with their great coach, and might be pressing a little too hard or could just be old. Is it a lame duck coaching situation for Boston and LA that’s getting them down? Are they not playing as hard because they know there’s a new coach on the horizon after this season? Probably not, but I have to throw it out there. I guess this series hasn’t started yet since the home team hasn’t lost, but this video seems to sum up how high people are on the C’s right now…

Chicago 1, Atlanta 1 – Of the teams left in the playoffs, I’ve probably watched these two teams the least. I’m not sure why, but I was never totally sold on Chicago. Derrick Rose’s ankle is what this series hinges on, and personally I think getting the MVP is a jinx. No guard since Jordan has won a title the year they won the MVP. This day in age only big men that win the MVP get championships. Like I said before, I haven’t watched Chicago a lot, but is there anyway their defense is overrated a little? Indiana and Atlanta aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts ranking in the middle of the pack in the NBA, but are putting up over 90 in the playoffs where scoring is usually down against the unbreakable Thibodeau defense. Atlanta is the toughest team for me to figure out. They blow teams out, and get blown out just as much. You’re never really sure what you’re going to get from them. I can’t figure out why they went away from Jeff Teague, who was lighting Chicago up in game 2, but that happened, and they didn’t come close to winning. I actually like a lot of Atlanta’s players, but for some reason just can’t seem to talk myself into rooting for them. Don’t they feel like they are Mavs of the East? Good enough to be in the playoffs every year, but not good enough to go very far…


The Best Playoff Dunk?

A month or two ago Sportsnation over on ESPN had a best dunk of the playoffs contest. This Pippen dunk barely beat out a dunk by his teammate MJ in another highlight dunk over Patrick Ewing.  I have to say I remember the Jordan dunk more, but did agree with it winning the contest. This dunk had everything in it. Intimidation, rivalry (well, a one sided rivalry), FU mode, and Ewing was really trying to block that dunk! Anyways, I ran across this video of Pippen telling us a little more about the dunk, and thought it was worth sharing…


Luring Lebron

 

So I was thinking about this a little bit more and thought it makes a whole lot of sense.  Sure, there are about a half-dozen teams that will offer James the max salary, probably something close to 30M/yr for 6 years.  But is that enough to get Lebron?  I don’t think it is, because he can get a team to the Eastern Conference Finals 5 years in a row whether you have a supporting cast in place already or if you build one around him progressively.  He proved that in Cleveland, and he’ll do it anywhere in the East.  I think ownership will have to be included to really lure Lebron, and of course it will be another first in the NBA (if it’s legal in the NBA… is it?). 

Anyways, here’s my theory:  Let’s say the Bulls and Jerry Reinsdorf are desperate to get back to where they were in the 90’s with Jordan.  And let’s say that the Bulls are worth, oh, about $600M estimated (quick search found this value as of 2008).  And let’s say the value of ANY franchise, even the Bulls, will grow at least 50% over his 6 year contract.  That’s a net worth of $900M after 6 years.  And let’s say the Bulls gave Lebron a 10% stake in the team to lure him in, just enough to get his attention but not too much to where you as the owner still have total control.  With the proper valuation figures in place for the negotiation(not just my mba-quality guestimation), Lebron’s net worth can possibly grow an extra $60M in year 1 to $90M in year 6.  So, along with the contract value approaching $180-200M over 6 years, he would in fact be netting closer to $275-300M over that time frame, or an average net-worth of $45-50M a year on the higher end of my valuation theory.

Same should be said about the Knicks, whose value was actually a little bit more in 2008.  They would easily grow 50% over 6 years in their market after a string of playoff appearances, and you could argue they might actually grow way more than 50%.  Those higher end figures could be more on the lower end at that point.

Anyways, again I don’t think it’s legal for a player to own a team while he’s playing, but if it is, and you want the greatest player of his generation for his entire prime and possibly more, this is what I would do if I was an owner.


Vinny Del Negro: From Underqualified to Underappreciated

Two seasons ago, the Chicago Bulls, to the surprise of many, announced Vinny Del Negro as their new head coach. The media knew it was a questionable hire, the fans knew it was questionable, and I knew. There are certain players in the game today that announcers will say, “he’s going to be a head coach in this league when his playing days are over.” I don’t remember anyone saying that about Vinny D. Somehow though, he managed to convince the Bulls he was the right man for the job. In two seasons, though, he has won over a lot of the basketball community – not necessarily for his success on the court, but in large part due to the animosity he has dealt with during his tenure. The Bulls were in rebuilding mode. They were coming off a 33-49 season, but they had reason for optimism with the arrival of #1 draft pick, Derrick Rose. They also had a solid core of young players in Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, among others. In his first season at the helm, Del Negro took the team to the postseason with a 41-41 record and ultimately took the defending champion Boston Celtics to the full seven games in their opening round series. Despite all that, Del Negro remained on the hot seat in which he was firmly planted very shortly into his career. The team clearly was on the ascent though, as no one expected them to make that much noise in the playoffs. This year, it was no secret that management was waiting for any excuse to can him. Still though, he led the team to another .500 season, but this time only managed one win against the top seed Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now that the team has gone out on a losing note, John Paxson and co. finally had an excuse to relieve Del Negro of his duties. Regardless of his success, or lack thereof, many fans are in agreement that Vinny was a bit shafted in his tenure in Chicago and was never really given the freedom to succeed. Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports begs to differ, but that’s nothing really out of the ordinary. I just don’t know who could do a better job with that squad. Sure, Derrick Rose is a nice centerpiece, but are the Bulls really a contender? John Calipari has already reportedly expressed interest, but we all know what happened in his last NBA endeavor. Do I think Del Negro is the best head coach out there? Certainly not. Do I think he did an admiral job considering what he had to work with? Absolutely. There are two things I know about Vinny D…..

  • He once lifted me up so I could dunk a basketball at Arco Arena during his days a player in Sacramento
  • He likes to walk around the locker room naked, according to former teammates.

What does this have to do with coaching? Absolutely nothing. I just had to share those two tidbits about Vinny and likely wouldn’t have another chance to do so. While I hope he gets another shot at the helm of an NBA team, I’m also hoping neither of my local franchises are looking for a new coach. The Kings seem pretty content giving Paul Westphal another year to try and improve on an overachieving 2009-2010 campaign, but the Warriors I am worried about. Many feel that Don Nelson checked out a while ago, and now that he has the all-time Wins record, one can only imagine what he will decide this offseason. Here’s hoping Vinny gets another shot, but just somewhere else.


Four Game Fours, Four Series at 3-1

(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Sunday featured a full docket of NBA Playoff games to keep fans busy. I’m a little over 7/8 of the way through the quadruple header, and I’m going out on a limb to assume the Jazz will hold on to their 20 point lead at the time of posting. First, Miami was able to stay alive thanks to the heroic effort of Dwyane Wade. I got a sense of overexposure dating back to the Heat’s last Championship run – Wade was everywhere and got all the calls. But now that his team is a lower seed again, I’ve come to appreciate, once again, the will and ability of one of the game’s great players. D-Wade single-handedly took over the fourth quarter with a barrage of clutch baskets. He finished with 46 to make sure the Heat held on to this one to send the series back to Boston for at least one more game.

In Chicago, the Cavs ran away from the Bulls despite a monstrous effort from Joakim Noah. I had all the doubts in the world about this kid coming out of Florida. I didn’t see him ever becoming anything more than a role player, but today, he was the Bulls best player on the floor. Noah put up 21 points to go with 20 rebounds, and repeatedly came up with big buckets when other Bulls couldn’t. Problem is, too often were the times no one else could come through. On the other side of the ball, Lebron James was dominant once again, posting his fifth career postseason triple-double with 37 pts, 12 reb, and 11 ast. Mo Williams chipped in a couple huge three pointers and finished with 19.

In San Antonio, the 7th seed Spurs took a stronghold on their series with the Mavs, notching a 92-89 win to send the series back to Dallas with the home team in a 3-1 deficit. George Hill had a breakout game with 29 points to lead the way for the Spurs. The Mavs meanwhile looked like the same familiar disappointing team that continually fails to show up in the postseason. Jason Terry led a respectful comeback attempt, but the Spurs showed that they’re still the better team when the games mean something.

There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played in Utah, but barring a miraculous fourth quarter, the Jazz look poised to take a 3-1 lead back to Denver with three chances to close out the series. Deron Williams is building upon his legacy, further cementing his status as one of the top point guards in the league. Also, Carlos Boozer is showing that he can still be a dominating force in the post, something that teams with cap space will certainly be looking to add to their roster in the upcoming offseason.


Bored? Watch Some Vintage MJ!

We all remember this game, 92′ NBA Finals, Game 5 and Jordan’s unreal 1st half. After scorching Clyde the Glyde and company for 32 pts in the first 23 minutes of the first half, MJ nails another 3 pointer and can only turn and shrug to the NBC announcers. Easily the best half of basket ball I have ever seen from any player, hands down.

Sit back and enjoy for the next few minutes!


Thanksgiving Games of the Day

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions, 9:30am PST

Sentiment for dropping the Lions from the annual Thursday docket has reached an all-time high this year, but personally, I think the Lions are a Thanksgiving Day tradition. They are the tryptophan to my NFL turkey. It’s just too bad they always play the FIRST game. At any rate, today’s game should be somewhat interesting, as Matthew Stafford will take to a national stage against a division rival. Today we’ll see if the Lions are headed in the right direction, or simply mired in another aimless so-called rebuilding phase. If only they had Mel Gray!

Oakland Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys, 1:15pm PST

Many are predicting this game to be an equally bad trouncing as the first game. However, the Raiders placed a little bit of hope in NFL fans’ minds with last weekend’s upset over the Bengals. Oakland is out to prove they are a new team with Bruce Gradkowski at the helm. Meanwhile, Dallas is out to prove, yet again, that they are a legitimate contender this season. Either way, today we’ll find out exactly who these two teams are.

New York Giants @ Denver Broncos, 5:20pm PST

About a month ago, it looked like we’d have a rare big game on Thanksgiving Day. Thanks to the Broncos, losers of four straight, this is no longer true. Instead, the Giants and Broncos will play with a large part of their season on the line. The winner will remain in the playoff hunt, while the loser, presumably Denver, will suffer a devastating loss that would likely kill any hopes for momentum down the stretch run of the season.

Orlando Magic @ Atlanta Hawks, 5pm PST

Atlanta owns the best record in the East, thanks to the spectacular play of Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jamal Crawford. Orlando has had an equally impressive start while adjusting to the reinsertion of Rashard Lewis into the lineup. Three of the five best teams in the East reside in this Southeast Division, so tonight’s game will be a key step forward for the winner of this game in controlling the division – for the time being.

Chicago Bulls @ Utah Jazz, 7:30pm PST

Chicago and Utah are two teams sort of teetering on the balance between good teams and contenders. They both feature superstar point guards in Derrick Rose and Deron Williams, along with rising stars down low in Joakim Noah and Paul Millsap. With the Bulls sitting at 6-7 and the Jazz an even .500 at 7-7, both teams will be fighting hard to pull this win out and stay above the .500 mark.

Portland University @ UCLA, 7:30pm PST

There’s plenty of college hoops action today, but given our West Coast bias, this is the game of the day. Portland has become an unlikely threat to challenge Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference. On the other side, UCLA is unranked, due in part to a season opening loss to Cal State Fullerton. They rebounded with wins over Cal State Bakersfield and Pepperdine. Tonight will be UCLA’s final tuneup before a showdown with #1 Kansas two Sundays from now.


Thanks But No Thanks Lebron

Maybe I’m obsessed with numbers more than I thought. I mean, I’ve always known that I’m a stat freak, but never realized that it went even deeper. As I have written about a few numbers being retired from Rickey Henderson to whether or not Jim Brown’s proposed question on whether Kobe should get two numbers retired when his Lakers career is over, and followed that up by saying it was ridiculous that they retire MJ’s number league wide. I see what Lebron was getting at, but who makes him the ambassador of the NBA!?! Yes he’s great, but why do others have to change their number. Maybe their tribute to MJ is wearing his old number! On Thursday night, MJ finally spoke out on Lebron’s request to have his number retired here. I guess it took Jordan a little while to chime in on it between all those rounds of golf, er, I mean working hard to make the Bobcats better by acquiring SJax… Anyways, I fully agree with the man and his always politically correct statements that if they retired his number, they’d probably have to retire at least another five players numbers! His list included Bill Russell, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson to name a few. Not a bad list as none of them has won less than three titles, and all had just as much of an impact on the game as Jordan maybe not financially, but they were all legends.


Air Jordan’s Enshrinement Caps Off a lot of Memories

Michael Jordan First Trophy

His Airness will be enshrined into the Hall of Fame on September 11 in Springfield Mass, and he is undoubtedly the head of this class. He’s probably the greatest competitor and basketball player we’ll see in our lifetime. I don’t think I fully appreciated until I was about 12 years old around the time of his first retirement. Growing up a Warriors fan, I probably didn’t even realize the importance of the playoffs. I honestly couldn’t stand Jordan in my youthful days. I did like his shoes, commercials (Jordan and Bird playing H-O-R-S-E was my favorite), and of course Gatorade. I just despised him because he always won. Maybe that’s why I’ve never really been a Tiger fan, but I would and do watch whenever a great player is displaying their talents. I can’t even fathom how hard they work to be that good.

By the time he was on his way to his second three-peat I started to become a fan, and realized that this was a type of player that we’d never see again.michael jordan rings He was such a competitor that he didn’t let business and pleasure ever come together. He never really befriended his teammates calling them “co-workers”. He decided against playing in a second Olympics, for what many felt were selfish reasons. Jordan showed Barkley in the 92 Olympics how a player works so hard on a daily basis to be at the level he was. Jordan let out some of his secrets that showed other guys in the league what made him great. He payed for it, as Barkley had his best year following those Olympic games. MJ showed Chuck too much of what he did to prepare himself, and Barkley must’ve taken notes winning the MVP over Jordan in that 92-93 season. Never again would Jordan play in the Olympic games. You have to admire a man who goes out of his way to not get to close to teammates or play for a gold medal to avoid showing them what makes him tick.

I looked through his stats awhile back when comparing him to Kobe through the first part of his career, so if you double those that’s about what he ended with. Here’s a few random ones that you don’t always see 30.1 PPG (highest average of all time), 32,292 points (Kareem and Malone had more), 2,514 steals (2nd to Stockton), and the best shoes in the game. We all know about his MVP’s and Championships as well, that dubbed him the greatest of all time. There’s still youtube clips of him tearing it up. It almost looks like he could still play in the NBA. Good thing they don’t count your post career to get into the Hall of Fame, because he is not a good GM or Owner. I guess it would be hard when you expect your players to be as good as you or possibly just doesn’t care.

Also joining him in the very good class of 2009 is John Stockton, David Robinson, and Jerry Sloan. Once again Stockton will be in the shadows of Jordan even being enshrined into basketball immortality. Tough break for short shorts.Hall of Fame 2009 Stockton Jordan Robinson The Admiral won a couple championships and gold medals. Stockton won gold medals, but unfortunately he played his prime in the Jordan era. Jerry Sloan is being inducted, but is still coaching. I never understood this, why induct a coach for coaching if they are still roaming the sidelines?!? I think they should have to wait until 3 or so years pass after they coached their last game to be eligible. It makes so much more sense!