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Bulls Fred Hoiberg

Raptors To Face A Badly Depleted Bulls Roster In Opener

It’s no secret the Bulls hit the reset button this summer when they traded away All-Star Jimmy Butler and waived future hall-of-fame candidate Dwyane Wade, however, these moves aren’t why head coach Fred Hoiberg will be bringing a badly depleted roster to Toronto for the Raptors home opener on Thursday.

Injuries to Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Cameron Payne and Quincy Pondexter were going to make things challenging enough for Hoiberg over the next month or two, but now he has to deal with additional self-inflicted challenges created by a poorly timed bone-headed move by Bobby Portis as reported by K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

The young, hungry and competitive nature the Bulls sought after choosing to rebuild crossed a line Tuesday when Bobby Portis punched Nikola Mirotic in the face during a practice altercation.

the forward suffered two fractures and placed an early estimate for his absence at “a few weeks, at least.”

The Bulls added “surgery is likely required.”

Bulls said they are evaluating disciplinary action.

Portis will be suspended for multiple games.

Johnson goes on to say Mirotic had won the Bulls starting power forward spot and “signs pointed to Portis possibly being the odd man out ultimately in the rotation.”

In any case, it means the already depleted roster Hoiberg had to bring to Toronto will be an additional two men down and the Bulls coach is going to be forced into playing some lineups he likely never thought would be on the court prior to Tuesday.

The Raptors defeated the Bulls 125-104 on Friday in Chicago in their final preseason game.

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka

Not Rocky, Serge Ibaka Should Keep His Day Job

It wasn’t quite the ‘The Malice at the Palace,’ but the altercation between Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka and Chicago Bulls Robin Lopez will be talked about for weeks to come. Although, just maybe, as fighters, Serge and Robin should hang onto their day jobs.

On Tuesday night the Raptors were looking to break an 11 game losing streak against the Bulls and until the 3rd quarter it looked like they were going to make it 12 in a row.

Jimmy Butler hit a three-pointer with just under four minutes left in the third quarter and Ibaka collected the ball. This is when things got heated between the two. Ibaka apparently hit Lopez with an elbow beneath the basket which Lopez was not a fan of and slammed the ball out of Ibaka’s hands. The ol’ one -two punch ensued which resulted in both players being ejected. After the players separated Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire and Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic ‘got into it’ resulting in technicals for both teams.

The NBA announced on Wednesday that both Lopez and Ibaka would get one game suspensions without pay for throwing punches at one another. Magloire was fined a cool $15,000 for pushing Mirotic.

“What happened is we were playing physical basketball and he got frustrated,” said Ibaka postgame. “That thing happened where you just start pushing each other, like always happens when there’s contact, and then he throws a punch. You know, like a man, I had to defend myself. I’m not just going to be out there and watch a man like him punch me and just walk away. I had to defend myself. So that’s what happened.”

As for Lopez’ take, “Things got heated, we exchanged a few words and it kind of went from there. I’m not too surprised that it escalated. It happens sometimes.”

The exchange of punches itself looked more like a fight out of the WWE where they try and make it look like they hit the other wrestler but completely miss. The fight did cause an uproar in the Air Canada Centre. Anyone that could stand in the stadium was standing and were chanting, ‘Let’s Go Raptors.’

“If something like that doesn’t get your energy going and your competitive spirit going than I don’t know what will,” Fred VanVleet said after the game.

Cory Joseph echoed a similar feeling, “It gave us energy. Obviously we didn’t want Serge to fight, but it gave us that spark we needed.”

The fight not only got fans involved, but the team as well. Prior to the fight the Raptors were trailing the entire game, then late into the fourth quarter they went on a 15-0 run and took the game to OT where Toronto sealed the win 122-120.

“It got us going,” DeMar DeRozan said post game. “The crowd got into it, our fans love things like that, especially with it being a hockey city.”

In the locker room the players were talking about the fight just as much as the fans. When Ibaka was giving his postgame scrum Lucas Nogiera yelled, ‘What’s up Mike Tyson.’ A few moments later when DeMar DeRozan was giving his postgame interview you can hear Jonas Valanciunas yelling, ‘Way to fight Serge!’

If anybody was wondering who Robin’s brother and fellow NBA player Brook Lopez was rooting for, it may surprise you, “Maybe we’ll get a grudge match, who knows? I’m pulling for Ibaka, though.”

However, these players should stick to their day jobs. They would make horrible boxers.

“I don’t think that Serge Ibaka has a malicious bone in his body. He’s a competitor, so is Lopez,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “I don’t think either one of them will go down as ‘Rocky’ or anything like that.”

Fans in a hockey city may be surprised that a “fight” worthy of two minutes for roughing on the ice will result in Ibaka sitting out on Thursday night when the Raptors play the Heat in Miami as he serves a one game suspension. Lopez serves his “fighting” suspension when the Bulls host the Detroit Pistons at United Center.

 

 

Lindsay DunnLindsay Dunn has been a TV sports and entertainment reporter for the past decade. She is currently based in Toronto and covers the local scene including the Toronto Raptors and Raptors 905. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayDunnTV

 

 

Projecting The NBA East Playoff Seeding

Down to a dozen games to go and only three spots seem to have been settled when it comes to playoff seeding. Cavs, Celtics and Hawks appear to have locked in their current postseason rank and everyone else with a chance is still battling for position.

The Cavaliers only have a game and a half lead over the Celtics for first and ESPN projects they’ll finish two games ahead at the end of the regular season. Unless coach Lue goes a little overboard on this “rest” concept, only road games in San Antonio and Boston should really present a test to the team everyone has pegged as returning to defend their NBA title. Of course they’ll likely punt a few games unless Boston is really pushing them.

And Boston’s relatively easy schedule just might give them that opportunity to push the Cavs all the way to the end of the regular season. If it wasn’t for those recent unexpected losses to the Suns, Nuggets and 76ers, the ESPN prediction of a 7-4 run to the finish would look unreasonably conservative.

The Wizards will be doing well to finish out the last 12 games going 6-6. Losers of their last two games, they play 5th place Atlanta and last place Nets before heading out on a brutal five game road trip book-ended by Cleveland and Golden State.  They might need to win out in April to go 6-6. Fortunately it looks like the Hawks are too far back to pass them for 4th.

ESPN has Toronto passing the Wizards for 3rd place and if they win the games they are supposed to, the Raptors will be better than the projected 8-4 over their last 12 games and be ready to pounce on any unexpected major slippage by the Celtics for 2nd.

The real battle for playoff seeding begins at 6th and runs through 10th place. Someone isn’t going to make it who thinks they should.

The Pacers are trying to set some kind of bizarre record for alternating wins and losses (now at 14 games of a loss followed by a win) and if they can keep it up, they should grab one of the three remaining playoff spots. However, they have a tough remaining schedule, so the 5-7 ESPN prediction seems reasonable and could be bad news. A 41-41 record might not be enough for a playoff spot.

Milwaukee is hot and got hot at the right time, but Giannis Antetokoumpo turned an ankle and if he misses the usual two weeks, all bets are off on how the Bucks finish out the regular season. With Antetokoumpo, the ESPN prediction of going 6-7 seems ultra-conservative, without him, it might be generous.

The Pistons are in a tie with the Heat now and forecast to still be tied at the end of the regular season. Detroit needs to make hay from now to the end of March when they have seven winnable games because they aren’t making up any ground in April.

The Heat have won a home-and-home against the Cavs in March and then beat Toronto, but they face a tough schedule to the end of the regular season with Toronto twice more, Boston, Detroit, Washington twice and the Cavs again. They’ll have to perform without their third best scorer in Dion Waiters who might miss the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury.

The Bulls have the schedule to make up ground, but they haven’t been playing well and have lost Wade for the season.

The Hornets have a tough schedule ahead of them and just don’t seem to have anything left in the tank.

Playoff seeding 6th thru 8th is decidedly undecided.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

Chicago Bulls Rajon Rondo

The Cavaliers Should Trade For The Bulls Rajon Rondo

One teams’ trash can be another team’s need and about the only thing the Cavaliers need is a backup point guard, so if the Bulls are fed up with Rajon Rondo, the Cavs should be making a phone call.

It’s beyond clear the Bulls think they made a huge mistake by signing Rondo in the off season. The only good news is they can opt out of the deal before next summer and limit the damages, but it would be even better if they find some poor sucker – er other team – to give them something, anything back in return.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert seems to be the most willing of anyone in the NBA to take on reclamation projects if they advance his team’s chances at a championship and he’s spent the money to prove it.

Cleveland isn’t worried about making it back to the Eastern Conference Finals. They are only slightly concerned the Toronto Raptors pull off some miraculous trade that would actually have them worried about getting back to the NBA Finals. But, and it is a big but, with Kyrie Irving being backed up by Kay Felder (you’re excused for not knowing who that is?) and only Kay Felder, nabbing a reliable veteran point guard that could actually run the show when their real floor general LeBron James takes a rest would be more than just a little nice. Especially when it comes to boosting their regular season record and when they have to face the juggernaut that will come out of the West.

Sure Rondo has a history since leaving Boston of being more than just a little challenging to manage, but if he won’t toe the company line for James, he may as well hang up his sneakers. The Cavs are playing for Championships and Rondo could be a key cog in accomplishing that if he gets with the program – and the Cavs find a way to get him to Cleveland.

Somehow Rondo managed to talk the Bulls into paying him $14 million this season, so he doesn’t fit into one of the Cavs trade exceptions and Cleveland would have to send back nearly $12 million in salary to make the trade math work.

So, a trade isn’t going to be easy to do. Rondo’s value, other than maybe to Cleveland, isn’t that high, so the Bulls can’t expect to get a player back who’s a slam dunk and the Cavs aren’t that motivated to get a point guard to get fleeced.

However, Iman Shumpert makes almost $10 million a year and has shown himself to be a useful defensive guard. Add in Mo Williams $2 million expiring deal and the trade math works. The Bulls couldn’t realistically hope to do better and Shumpert could actually help them.

What the Bulls do at this point is anyone’s guess? Maybe management decides it’s head coach Fred Hoiberg that needs to go instead? But if Rondo is going to be riding the pine for $14 million this season, it behooves them to at least try to get something of value for that contract.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA East

Playoff Contenders And Pretenders In The NBA East

As NBA teams prepare for New Year’s celebrations, their coaches and general managers have to start facing up to some tough realities. Are they playoff contenders or pretenders in the East? Is it time to tank for the best possible NBA Draft Lottery ticket or go all in for one of the readily available last four playoff spots?

Currently there are eight teams fighting for the last four playoff spots in the Eastern Conference: Hawks, Wizards, Knicks, Bulls, Bucks, Pacers, Magic and Pistons and the 12th place Pistons are only three games back of the fifth place Hawks. Whoever can get and keep their act together over the final 40-odd games left in the season is in.

Just for perspective, ESPN Eastern Conference predictions have the Hornets, Celtics, Raptors and Cavaliers at better than 95 percent certainty of making the postseason. Although only the Raptors and Cavs are given any chance at advancing to the NBA Finals. Miami, Brooklyn and Philadelphia are already relegated to just playing out the string. ESPN also provides Strength of Schedule and the usual standings details to help round out where the teams in the East stand.

NBA East

The teams, their opponents, the fans or anyone else for that matter is under no obligation to just accept ESPN’s predictions. These eight teams are so close that the right move could solidify, boost or reverse (if the tank is in) the fortunes of any one of them.

Atlanta Hawks – ESPN 6th

The Hawks have made the postseason in each of the past nine seasons and if any organization has shown they can pull out the stops necessary to get back there again, this is it.

This team is full value for their .500 record. They have shown an ability to beat anyone, like the Raptors and Cavs and then lose to anyone as they did to the Timberwolves and Magic recently.

With fully half of this roster expected to hit free agency in July, one might expect the Hawks to do the rational move and cash in a high value player who will be tough to keep for a very mediocre team to get future assets, but pending free agents haven’t produced much in trade talks in recent years and it’ll be easier to just try to ride this group to a 10th in a row postseason appearance.

At this point, it wouldn’t be safe to go against the ESPN prediction.

Washington Wizards – ESPN 9th

The Wizards have reversed a terrible start to the season, but they did it playing a somewhat soft schedule that included a couple of wins over the Nets in December.

The best arguments for not just blowing up this roster are the two wins over Milwaukee and the wins over Charlotte and Detroit this month, all of whom ESPN has finishing ahead of Washington.

The Wizards financially committed to winning this season and should be actively looking for trades over the next six weeks to upgrade their roster, especially that terrible 29th ranked (worse than the Nets) bench. It wouldn’t take much to keep them solidly in the playoff picture.

If the Wizards don’t make a move, ESPN has got this prediction right.

New York Knicks – ESPN 10th

Will the Knicks break the hearts of their long suffering fans once again? Probably and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s challenging to project any team giving up nearly 108 points per game making the playoffs.

They are getting outscored by their opponents by the second biggest margin in this group of eight teams. They can’t beat good teams and the much anticipated string of injuries to this rather brittle roster has yet to really happen.

It’s easy to see the Knicks trying to turn draft picks into players that could help now and it might work – for this season, but hasn’t this organization had it’s fill of being taken advantage of by other teams for possible short term gain?

The Knicks making the postseason would be a real “feel good” story. However, the competition for one of those spots might just be too tough unless a few of their competitors decide to tank.

Chicago Bulls – ESPN 8th

Underachievers sums up the Bulls season and it might just cost head coach Fred Hoiberg his job, but if that happens, just throw out the ESPN prediction of 8th place. This team would be headed back to the Lottery and looking to retool for next year.

The Bulls have enjoyed the easiest schedule in the NBA and they are blowing it. Worse, they don’t seem to know why things aren’t going better and can benching Rajon Rondo in the second half of games really be the answer? Throw out the all the fancy ESPN stats on this one, since beating the Cavs on December 2nd, they’ve lost to every team that matters to go 5-10.

If any team needs to make a deal, the Bulls are it and they have assets other teams should be interested in. Assuming management can keep its focus, but this is one team that seems destined to return to the Lottery.

Milwaukee Bucks – ESPN 5th

A young Bucks team hasn’t fared so well thru a rough patch in the schedule, but they still hold the largest points differential of the teams in the group while playing the second toughest schedule. A 7-8 December includes losses to the Spurs, Raptors and Cavs twice.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker are the present and the future of this team and any tinkering with this roster has to take these two future (all?)-stars into account. Plus Kris Middleton could return from his hamstring injury after the All-Star break, so the pressure is off in terms of needing to add another impact player.

Sorry Greg Monroe, but the Bucks aren’t under any pressure to move you, but if any team has a point guard they’d like to swap for a big man?

This team is going to the postseason.

Indiana Pacers – ESPN 11th

Tied with Chicago for the easiest schedule in the NBA, a team featuring Paul George should be competing with Toronto for second place in the East instead of owning a spot in the Lottery. There were consequences to shaking up the roster and firing the head coach after what should have been considered a successful season last year.

A team that used to be known for playing big is getting crushed on the glass to the tune of almost 12 offensive rebounds given up and a rebounding differential approaching 5. Add that to the third worst bench in the NBA and what’s become a middle of the road starting group, and even a superstar isn’t going to save you.

A trade for a shooting guard that could score would help as would a big that could rebound, but the Pacers don’t have a lot to offer in return. Unfortunately, ESPN’s prediction of 11th place is looking to be rock solid.

Orlando Magic – ESPN 12th

Apparently someone forgot to mention that the NBA is a guard driven league these days?

The Magic have trouble scoring, they aren’t much of a three-point threat and they could use upgrades at both guard spots. Other than that, this team could be really good. Maybe a trade would help?

Bringing in Serge Ibaka on an expiring deal without the guard play necessary to get the most out of him could easily turn this into a terrible trade for the Magic when he walks away in free agency in July. So sooner rather than later, the Magic have to either trade Ibaka to get something back or trade someone else to get the help needed to turn this sinking Titanic around in hopes of convincing Ibaka to re-sign.

Either way, go with the ESPN prediction. The Magic’s plan for this season didn’t work.

Detroit Pistons – ESPN 7th

Stan Van Gundy is a really good coach, but even he seems flustered by the play of this group. Although, playing the second toughest schedule in the NBA could do that to a team expected to finish somewhere between 5th and 8th before the season began.

The Pistons have played 20 games against teams with a .500 record or better. The Bulls have only played 12, the Wizards 13, and the Hawks and Pacers 14. Van Gundy has his excuse for being in 12th place at 15-20 on the season (not that he’s using it.)

A middle of the road group of starters is supported by the East’s 4th best bench, so slipping into a playoff spot is well within reach and Van Gundy isn’t above rolling the dice on a trade. Although, all the Pistons may need to do is to wait on the schedule to turn in their favor and they’ll meet or exceed ESPN’s prediction.

In Summary,

Contenders: Hawks, Bucks, Pistons

Pretenders: Knicks, Pacers, Magic

Let’s Make A Deal: Wizards, Bulls

 

Who do you think can grab one of the final four playoff spots in the East?

Which teams pull the trigger on a deal – to make it? – or tank?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA playoffs Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James - Kyrie Irving - Kevin Love

Who Has The Star Power In The NBA East?

The NBA is a star driven league and the teams with the biggest stars seem to inevitably make it into the playoffs and the best on to the NBA Finals. However, no star is big enough to do it on their own, they need help on the level of the top 100 NBA players as described by SI.com’s Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney. SI might not be 100 percent right on their selections, but be assured, if a team doesn’t have more than it’s share of talent from this list, their playoff aspirations could be in trouble.

Eastern Conference teams with significant top 100 depth are:

Cleveland Cavaliers (5 players on SI’s top 100)

Assuming a deal eventually gets done with J.R. Smith (96th), the Cavs have SI’s number one ranked player in the NBA, LeBron James backed up by Kyrie Irving (25), Kevin Love (30) and Tristan Thompson (52). This returning starting five averaged an impressive 81.1 points and 31.1 rebounds.

Somehow it doesn’t seem fair that James gets to play with this much depth until one checks out the Warriors who have four players ranked in the top 20.

Boston Celtics (5 players on SI’s top 100)

The free agent acquisition of Al Horford (18th) gives the Celtics a top 20 player to play with Isaiah Thomas (45), Jae Crowder (53), Avery Bradley (72) and Amir Johnson (86). However, this likely starting five only averaged 74.1 points and 24.7 rebounds combined last year. The Celtics might just miss last season’s number 4 scorer and SI snub ranked in the “next 25” Evan Turner. Horford replaces Boston’s top rebounder and fifth leading scorer Jared Sullinger who signed with Toronto.

Orlando Magic (5 players on SI’s top 100)

It may come as a surprise, but the Magic really are a better and deeper team than last year’s 35 win squad, albeit with perhaps more depth at the 4/5 than usual? The acquisition of Serge Ibaka (42) fits in nicely with the smash-mouth style of new head coach Frank Vogel as does free agent Bismack Biyombo (91). They join Nikola Vucevic (75), Evan Fournier (95) and Aaron Gordon (99). A starting five Elfrid Payton, Fournier, Gordon, Ibaka and Vucevic averaged 65.5 points and 28.1 rebounds combined last year.

Orlando could be a playoff team, but with no star in the top 40, depth can only carry a team so far.

Toronto Raptors (4 players on SI’s top 100)

The Raptors top ranked players all played on last year’s 56 win team led by Kyle Lowry (14), DeMar DeRozan (46), Jonas Valanciunas (62) and DeMarre Carroll (73). SI snub Cory Joseph just missing the cut. Toronto’s starting lineup will include Sullinger from the Celtics replacing the 36-year-old Luis Scola. This anticipated starting lineup averaged a Cavaliers-like 78.8 points and 31.3 rebounds combined. Lowry is ranked as the third best player in the East and should be expected to carry his team far again this season.

Charlotte Hornets (4 players on SI’s top 100)

The Hornets live or die on the back of Kemba Walker (33), but he has help from Nicolas Batum (43), Marvin Williams (65) and Cody Zeller (94). Micheal Kidd-Gilchrist made the next 25 snub list despite only playing 7 regular season games last year. These five players averaged 68.9 points and 29.5 rebounds combined.

Washington Wizards (4 players on SI’s top 100)

No one ever said the Wizards didn’t have talent. John Wall (17), Marcan Gortat (55), Bradley Beal (58) and Ian Mahinmi (76) all make SI’s top 100. The presumed starting lineup includes Otto Porter and Markieff Morris with 74.5 points and 29.3 boards combined.

Atlanta Hawks (4 players on SI’s top 100)

This team doesn’t feel like a playoff contender, but Paul Millsap (15), Dwight Howard (34), Kyle Korver (70) and Kent Bazemore (90) indicate there’s still something here. Dennis Schroder takes over from Jeff Teague to lead this group at point guard, their combined averages were 62.6 points and 31.8 rebounds.

In a 30 team league, a middle of the pack team should have at least three players from SI’s list and five Eastern Conference teams do.  Teams hitting this mark include:

Chicago Bulls feature Jimmy Butler (16), Dwyane Wade (32) and Robin Lopez (82) plus three more in the next 25, Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo, so maybe they are better than average?

Indiana Pacers feature the resurgent Paul George (9), Jeff Teague (57) and Thaddeus Young (66) plus two snubs in Monta Ellis and Al Jefferson. George is ranked as the second best player in the East, so expect the Pacers to be in the middle of the playoff pack rather than the middle of the conference.

Milwaukee Bucks have Kris Middleton (39), Giannis Antetokounmpo (48), Greg Monroe (63) plus Jabari Parker in the next 25. (Note: Middleton is expected to miss the next 6 months due to injury)

Detroit Pistons rely on Andre Drummond (29), Reggie Jackson (54) and Tobias Harris (77). Head coach Stan Van Gundy might be the real star in Detroit.

In theory Miami had Hassan Whiteside (35), Goran Dragic (61) and Chris Bosh (37), however, Bosh failed his preseason physical so maybe the Heat can stop pretending they can even be an average team this season?

The star power in the East suggests Cleveland remains unchallenged with Toronto, Boston and possibly Indiana fighting it out for next best. However, the depleted Hawks with four players in the top 100 may not be as badly off as anticipated if they can find the chemistry needed to keep their 9-year postseason run alive.

It should be noted that the Knicks are one of just three Eastern Conference teams to have less than three players on SI’s top 100 list as Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah fell into the snubbed category. The East and the West each have 50 players in SI’s top 100.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Experts Rank The 2016-17 NBA East

It seems like months since an NBA team has made a move that wasn’t anticipated or mattered, so how the NBA East was ranked really shouldn’t have changed much since the end of July when ESPN forecast the standings for 2016-17. Recently Basketball Insiders Joel Brigham and Steve Kyler threw caution to the wind and talked thru their ranking of the Eastern Conference and Pro Bball Report has come to its own conclusions about where this season is headed.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers, last year 57-25

ESPN – Cavaliers
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Cavaliers
Pro Bball Report – Cavaliers

Even with the Cavs three-point leader J.R. Smith still unsigned for 2016-17, any team LeBron James is on remains the undisputed favorite in the East. Besides, no one believes the 31-year-old Smith really has any other option but to re-sign with the Cavaliers.

2. Toronto Raptors, last year 56-26

ESPN – Toronto/Boston tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Raptors
Pro Bball Report – Raptors

Don’t undersell a 56 win season. ESPN tends to overestimate the impact of the loss of backup (stress backup) center Bismack Biyombo on Toronto who Kyler suggests might have the worst hands in basketball and ESPN ignores the challenge Boston will face with the loss of their best rebounder in Jared Sullinger to Toronto. The Celtics may have picked up a few wins with the veteran savvy of All-Star Al Horford, but a really bad rebounding team got worse this summer. Boston is still going to struggle getting the ball back after playing their brand of stellar defense again this season.

3. Boston Celtics, last year 48-34

ESPN – Toronto/Boston tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Pacers
Pro Bball Report – Celtics

Kyler likes the Celtics here, disagreeing with his senior writer on this pick as he is not sold on the Pacers coaching change and he’s got a point, Frank Vogel is a superior coach. However, everyone seems to agree that the top four teams in the East are the Cavs, Raptors, Celtics and Pacers. It’s easy to like the Celtics here.

4. Indiana Pacers, last year 45-37

ESPN – Pacers/Pistons tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Celtics
Pro Bball Report – Pacers

After watching Paul George in the first round of the playoffs, it’s easy to say the Pacers are back and they have a superstar that can carry the team. The Jeff Teague for George Hill move is likely a wash, but acquiring Thaddeus Young is an upgrade and if Al Jefferson can get his game back on track, the Pacers will be one of the tougher teams in the East. Replacing Frank Vogel with Nate McMillan remains a head scratcher?

5. Detroit Pistons, last year 44-38

ESPN – Pacers/Pistons tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Bulls
Pro Bball Report – Pistons

Basketball Insiders seems to think that as many as 12 teams in the East could have 40 or more wins in 2016-17, although a couple of teams are likely to fall short of expectations. Like last season when 10 teams had 40+ win records, the battle for the last four playoff spots is going to be fierce. The Pistons are building from a solid base with a fiery head coach known for getting the most out of his guys (at least for a few years). All the rest have issues to overcome and the Pistons continuity should give them the edge.

6. Chicago Bulls, last year 42-40

ESPN – Hawks
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Wizards
Pro Bball Report – Bulls

ESPN hangs their hat on the acquisition of Dwight Howard to save the Hawks, but that’s not a limb everyone is going to be willing to climb out on. In Chicago the combination of Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade should be enough to get the Bulls back in the postseason picture and it’s hard jumping on a Wizards revival bandwagon before seeing them play a game.

7. Charlotte Hornets, last year 48-34

ESPN – Hornets
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Knicks
Pro Bball Report – Hornets

Yes the Hornets lost Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee, but this team lives and dies on the play of Kemba Walker and as long as he returns 100 percent from his August knee surgery, the Hornets should be back in the mix for a playoff spot. Kyler’s assertion that this team can’t put together back-to-back winning seasons notwithstanding. Unfortunately, the popular Knicks are a team built to break their fans’ hearts.

8. Orlando Magic, last year 35-47

ESPN – Wizards
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Detroit
Pro Bball Report – Magic

Kyler acknowledges the Magic, among others, can win 40 games, although it will likely take 44 wins again this season to make the playoffs in the East. The Magic have issues to overcome, but talent isn’t one of them. This team will rise or falter on new head coach Frank Vogel’s ability to get the most out of what he’s got and just in case you haven’t been paying attention, betting against Vogel hasn’t been a good idea.

9. New York Knicks, last year 32-50

ESPN – Knicks/Bulls tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Magic
Pro Bball Report – Knicks

On paper the Knicks should be fifth in the East like Kyler suggested, unfortunately at this point in their careers some of the Knicks best players have joints that seem to be made of paper. If Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah can stay on the court, the Knicks can stay in the playoff picture and be a threat in the postseason. Based on recent Knicks luck, that’s a lot to ask for.

10. Washington Wizards, last year 41-41

ESPN – Knicks/Bulls tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Bucks
Pro Bball Report – Wizards

A lot of people want the Wizards to figure it out. Wall and Beal are an exciting pair when they are healthy and don’t appear to hate each other (ok, hate is a little strong, but there are issues here). The Wizards are just one year away from a 46 win season, but that feels like ancient history now and if things aren’t going well by Christmas, changes will need to be made. Maybe Scott Brooks can save this motley crew, but we’re not convinced.

11. Atlanta Hawks, last year 48-34

ESPN – Bucks
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Hornets
Pro Bball Report – Hawks

Two seasons ago the Hawks were a 60 win team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but since then DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Teague and Al Horford have moved/been moved on and Kyle Korver has had his 35th birthday. The Hawks are good enough to win 40 games, but that record will still end a nine year run as an Eastern Conference playoff team. There’s no love for the Hawks chances from Basketball Insiders. ESPN putting the Hawks in sixth feels like a lot of wishful thinking.

12. Milwaukee Bucks, last year 33-49

ESPN – Heat
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Hawks
Pro Bball Report – Bucks

The Bucks appear to have improved somewhat from last season, but so much of their success will hinge on the development of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker and getting a collection of talent that doesn’t quite seem to fit to play better.

13. Miami Heat, last year 48-34

ESPN – Magic
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Heat
Pro Bball Report – Heat

The Heat’s Big Three are no more. LeBron James left for Cleveland last year. Wade bolted for Chicago this summer and Chris Bosh may or may not ever play again. Add to this to the loss of Luol Deng and Joe Johnson and the Heat are rebuilding – whether they admit to it or not. The only real question outstanding is if Miami is willing to move out the 30-year-old veteran Goran Dragic for young players and a draft pick or do they stay the course and hope for better than the rationally expected outcome?

14. Philadelphia 76ers, last year 10-72

ESPN – 76ers/Nets tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – 76ers
Pro Bball Report – 76ers

A very young and inexperienced roster of top NBA draft picks with veterans Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson providing some badly needed leadership that should enable this team to double last year’s win total.

15. Brooklyn Nets, last year 21-61

ESPN – 76ers/Nets tied
Joel Brigham, Basketball Insiders – Nets
Pro Bball Report – Nets

It wasn’t easy to field a team that was worse than last year’s Nets, but with a little work (salary dump), the Nets made it happen. And the Celtics can swap first round draft picks with Brooklyn in June and own the Nets 2018 first round pick. This is what basketball purgatory looks like.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMarre Carroll

Ranking The NBA Eastern Conference 2016-17

By Danny Thompson, Full Court Press Radio

Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers ended up defeating the Golden State Warriors bringing the Larry O’Brien Trophy back to the Eastern Conference, but the major question is what did the other 14 teams in the East do to keep the Cavs from repeating? Here’s an early season preview on each of the teams.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Key Additions- Mike Dunleavy Jr and Chris Anderson
Key Loss- Matthew Dellavadova

Outlook – LeBron James just re-signed and although J.R Smith hasn’t (he will), the Cavaliers are the defending NBA Champions with no major losses from last year’s team. Kyrie Irving has turned into a superstar point guard and could be best point guard not named Paul, Westbrook or Curry in the NBA. Dunleavy Jr. brings a solid 3-point marksman off the bench. Now the real question is will Kevin Love still be on this roster on opening night? If he is, then they should repeat with no problems.


2. Toronto Raptors

Key Addition- Jared Sullinger
Key Losses- Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola

Outlook – Toronto entered Free Agency with one major agenda and that was re-signing DeMar DeRozan as soon as possible. Well the Compton, California native didn’t entertain the chance to going back home and signed a huge contract to stay in Toronto. Playoff hero Bismack Biyombo got a huge payday from the Orlando Magic and the team lost a few spare pieces off a team that won 56 games and took the Cavaliers to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. So why do they stay at number 2? Well Jonas Valenciunas and DeMarre Carroll are both healthy and they added former Celtic Jared Sullinger to help in the forward rotation. Besides you have Kyle Lowry and DeRozan as your starting backcourt. There’s no need to go any further.

3. Boston Celtics

Key Addition- Al Horford
Key Losses- Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger

Outlook – Boston didn’t get Kevin Durant, but they got former Hawks All-Star Al Horford to come play in Beantown. The 31-year-old Horford, brings an interior presence, a solid team defender and inside/outside threat from the post. Armed with so many young players, they let Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger go in free agency, but 1st round pick Jaylen Brown should ease some of the load and remember the Celtics still have 1st time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and All-NBA Defensive wizard Avery Bradley as your lead guard rotation. One can only wonder when will Danny Ainge pull the trigger on a big trade for one more big fish to chase Cleveland and Toronto in the East.

4. Indiana Pacers

Key Addtions- Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson
Key Losses- George Hill, Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi

Outlook – No team was more active in the early part of summer than the Indiana Pacers. They made Draft day deals for Teague and Young and during the free agency period and added Al Jefferson from Charlotte. With the additions Teague and Young, the Pacers potentially the best starting 5 in the Eastern Conference. Jefferson brings one of the best low post games to the bench while they still have All-Star Paul George, the always dangerous Monta Ellis and the improving 2nd year stud Miles Turner. Remember CJ Miles and Rodney Stuckey will lead the bench unit along with Jefferson. The major questions is how will new head coach Nate McMillan turn this group into a Eastern Conference contender.

5. Atlanta Hawks

Key Additions- Dwight Howard and Jarrett Jack
Key Losses- Al Horford and Jeff Teague

Outlook – I know when you look at this your wondering why are the Hawks rated this high? Well, adding Howard is going to be bigger than most think. Howard, in this writers opinion, will turn back into the Orlando Howard. Yes he’s a bit older and a lot of his athleticism is gone, that doesn’t mean Howard can’t go back to 18 points, 12 rebounds and at least 2 blocks a game. Howard spending more time in the post will allow Paul Millsap to be able to have more space on the floor on the offensive side. Resigning Kent Bazemore was critical to this team upcoming success especially if one of the draft picks Taurean Prince or DeAndre Bembry can step into the starting Small Forward spot and allow Kyle Korver to come off the bench. But the evolution of Dennis Schroder into an upper ensulion Point Guard is the key for the Hawks to stay in this spot.

6. New York Knicks

Key Additions- Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Courtney Lee
Key Losses- Langston Galloway, Aaron Affalo, Robin Lopez and Derrick Williams

Outlook – New York made some major splashes and took some major risks in the process. By adding Rose and Noah from Chicago they are taking a big risk with guys with no good great injury histories. Noah has had one season since 2009-2010 of playing at least 70 games and we already know about Rose’s history. Bringing in Lee adds another solid role player who knows his role and plays it very well. If the Knicks starting 5 can at least by 65 games together, this ranking might be a bit too low.

7. Charlotte Hornets

Key Additions- Roy Hibbert, Ramon Sessions and Marco Bellini
Key Losses- Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee

Outlook – Charlotte did lose a lot this summer from a team that was one game away from being in the 2nd round of the Playoffs. So after losing 3 key members off last season’s team, how can they stay in the playoffs? Getting a full season from defensive wizard Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the 1st reason. With MKG and Nicolas Batum manning the wings it allows for Kemba Walker to play the passing lanes, which creates more steals. Adding Roy Hibbert at center is a massive upgrade on the defensive side of the floor because Jefferson couldn’t really guard anyone in the post. The main problem once again is can this team score enough points to win. For Charlotte to take that step forward, it’s going to have to be a team effort and they have enough guys who can do that. Watch for Walker to be an All-Star this year.

8. Chicago Bulls

Key Additions- Dwayne Wade, Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez
Key Losses- Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose

Outlook – The Bulls didn’t make the playoffs last year and they lost Pau Gasol among other players, but this team will end up outlasting Detroit to make the final spot in the playoffs. Any time you have All-Stars in Wade and Jimmy Butler it’s kind of hard to leave them out of the playoffs. Wade has something to prove as he was passed over for a major contract this summer. Now they are issues everywhere when it comes to the roster and the style of play that 2nd year Head Coach Fred Hoiberg wants to play. He wants to be a perimeter oriented team, well with Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo you won’t get that at all. None of the 3 of them are close to being 3 point threats. Good news for Bulls fans is with the losses of Gasol and Noah, the #FreeBobbyPortis movement can finally see the light.

9. Detroit Pistons

Key Additons- Jon Leuer, Ish Smith and Boban Marjanovic
Key Losses- Steve Blake and Anthony Tolliver

Outlook – Detroit made the playoffs last year and this unit is still young so they miss the playoffs for what reason? Well, Chicago added Dwayne Wade, New York has a better starting 5 and Atlanta and Charlotte are just better teams currently. Someone had to miss the playoffs. The Pistons can easily make the playoffs if Stanley Johnson and Kentanvous Caldwell-Pope can exceed expectations. What Detroit really needs is that star that can take games over in the 4th quarter. Andre Drummond is a free throw liability and Reggie Jackson is not a closer.

10. Orlando Magic

Key Additions- Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, D.J. Augustin and Jeff Green
Key Losses- Victor Oladipo, Ersan Illavsova and Dewayne Dedmon

Outlook – Orlando made some interesting moves this summer to say the least. Good news is that they have the best shot blocking duo in the NBA, added a new Head Coach in Frank Vogel and they created a buzz in Orlando. Now here is the bad news, they don’t have a go-to-scorer, they have forced the potential face of franchise in Aaron Gordon to play out of position at Small Forward to get him playing time and have a serious issue when it comes to outside shooting. They added Jodie Meeks from Detroit, but he’s still hurt currently. Evan Fournier and Augustin are solid from behind the arc, but that’s really it. 2nd year Guard Mario Hezonja better make a tremendous leap or it’s going to be a long year in Orlando. To be honest, I’m not sold on the Biyombo signing, he’s needed but not at over $17 million per season.

11. Washington Wizards

Key Additions- Ian Mahinmi and Andrew Nicholson
Key Losses- Ramon Sessions, Nene, Gary Neal and Jared Dudley

Outlook – Washington has been going through the injury bug for years, especially with newly paid Bradley Beal. If All-Star Point Guard John Wall could finally get his main guys healthy long enough, this team has enough talent to potentially breakthrough and make the playoffs. New coach Scott Brooks is very good at getting the most out of his teams and if gets this unit in the playoffs, then he should be a serious candidate for Coach of the Year. If Beal and others can’t stay healthy, Wizards fans will be looking forward to next years draft.

12. Milwaukee Bucks

Key Additions- Matthew Dellavadova and Mirza Teletovic
Key Losses- Jerryd Bayless, OJ Mayo and Grievis Vasquez

Outlook – For a team that has one of the best groups of talent in the NBA and were in the playoffs 2 years ago, to be out of the playoffs for potentially a 2nd season in a row is head scratching. Lets be honest, the major hole on this roster was at point guard going into the summer. They went out and drafted Thon Maker (a 7’0 power forward/center) in the lottery, let Bayless and Vasquez go to other teams and went out and overpaid for Dellavadova from Cleveland. They would be better, if Michael Carter-Willams played with a pulse or the team could acquire a point guard for out of place Big Man Greg Monroe. Otherwise it could be a wasted year for young studs Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton in Milwaukee.

13. Miami Heat

Key Additions- Dion Waiters, Derrick Williams and Wayne Ellington
Key Losses- Dwayne Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson

Outlook – It could be a long year in South Beach in 2016-2017 for Heat fans. They have lost the face of the franchise in Wade, key veterans in Deng and Johnson and they still don’t know about the health of Chris Bosh. This spells a recipe for disaster for head coach Eric Spolstra and company. On a positive note, this youth movement will allow Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson to grow as the leaders with Hassan Whiteside anchoring the low post.

14. Philadelphia 76ers

Key Additions- Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and Gerald Henderson
Key Loss- Ish Smith

Outlook – For the 1st Time in years the Philadelpha 76ers aren’t the worst team in the NBA. They added Ben Simmons, Saric and Joel Embiid to the front court that already has Nerlens Noel and Jahil Okafor in the rotation. Now if they can either be bad for one more year and draft a guard of the future or deal a big man or two to get an established one, then we are talking something special in Philly. Simmons alone is one of the few players worth getting NBA League Pass for in the upcoming season.

15. Brooklyn Nets

Key Additions- Jeremy Lin, Grievis Vasquez and Luis Scola
Key Losses- Jarrett Jack, Thaddeus Young and Wayne Ellington

Outlook – It could get really ugly in Brooklyn this year. I mean REALLY UGLY. They tried and failed in free agency, offering contracts to Tyler Johnson and Allen Crabbe only to have them matched by their teams. Their previous 1st round pick went to Boston and their upcoming pick will in most cases head right back to Boston as well. Unless the Brook-Lin connection is the basketball version of wrestling’s Rock and Sock Connection, they will not get out of the cellar in the Eastern Conference.

 

 

Danny Thompson Full Court Press Radio hostDanny Thompson is the Creator and Host of NBA Full Court Press Radio and Lead Columnist for FULL COURT PRESS RADIO.

Check out more from Danny here.
Reprinted with permission.

 

 

 


 

Miami Heat Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade Chooses The Bulls

In an unforeseen shocker, the reliable source for NBA trades and free agent deals says Miami HEAT free agent superstar Dwyane Wade is choosing to join the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls have to clear salary cap space to sign Wade, so the vultures are already circling to grab whatever free talent they can.

Looks like all those comments about Wade feeling slighted by Miami are true after all.

This deal is done and done (on July 7th)

 

 

 


NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose, What In The World Are The Knicks Thinking?

By Frank McLean

One day before the NBA draft the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls hooked up for the first big trade of the offseason.

The Knicks sent centre Robin Lopez, guards Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant to Chicago and in return, the Bulls sent guard Justin Holiday, the second pick in the 2017 draft and the big ticket item in the deal point guard Derrick Rose to New York.

Rose at 27 years of age is a former MVP and has one year left on his current contract at $21.3 million, but the knock on him is that he has a bad jump shot, can’t attack the hoop (any more) and does not play defense.

Oh and let’s not forget one important thing… He has a lingering bad knee.

When you look at the deal from the outside, this is just the latest dumb trade where the Knicks pickup another player who has bad wheels like Carmelo Anthony.

Rose first hurt his knee in the 2011-2012 season and when he came back, he had lost the speed he had when he came into the league.

The knee made him sit out the entire 2012-2013 season, play only 10 games in 2013-2014 and just a little more than half the games in 2014-2015, but at least this past season he was actually healthy enough to play in 66 of the Bulls 82 games.

For someone who the Bulls picked first overall in the 2008 draft, was the NBA rookie of the year and the 2010-2011 NBA MVP, the knee injury has made him a mere mortal.

In the first four years of his career he averaged 21 points and played in 89.4 percent of the Bulls games. Since then he has only averaged 16.9 points and only been able to suit up 38.7 percent of the time.

So when you look at his medical history you go great, he can’t stay healthy, hasn’t played a full season in over five years and if he gets hurt again and with Carmelo Anthony’s knee forcing him to miss time when the Knicks have to play on back-to-back nights, well this why this team keeps struggling.

This is a huge one-year gamble for Phil Jackson, and speaking of Jackson, he seems to be going against what he has said in the past.

First he wanted a coach who would worship his triangle offense. Then he hired Jeff Hornacek as his head coach. In the past Jackson has constantly told the media “I don’t need a point guard” – now he trades for Rose.

You wonder if someone other than Jackson is making these decisions? Like maybe Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan who thinks he is a basketball expert and the main reason the Knicks have stunk for the last 10 years or so.

The Knicks desperately want to make the playoffs this season. If this doesn’t work, they will be lucky to win 20 games.

However, there is an upside to this deal. The Knicks want to be a huge player in free agency next summer and getting the last three years of Lopez’s contract off the books, as well as Calderon and Grant, could leave them with just three players under contract and just $35 million in salaries when the salary cap is expected to be close to $110 million.

This future flexibility assumes Jackson (or Dolan) doesn’t wipe it out by signing guys (with issues) like Dwight Howard to a max deal this summer or maybe Rose’s former teammate and friend Joakim Noah who is coming back from injury.

Meanwhile over in Chicago the Bulls who finished ninth in the East and were supposed to be a major playoff player this year are shaking things up.

When Rose heard he was going to be shopped around in a trade he wanted to go to New York City. Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Wednesday the club was eager to add Lopez, who he said adds “toughness” to the Bulls roster.

“As we said at the end of last season, we are committed to exploring every option to improve this team,” Forman said. “This trade is a significant step in that process. Our goal is to get younger and more athletic, and this trade moves us in that direction and allows us to start changing the structure of our team. In Robin Lopez, we are acquiring a starting center who is a good defender, good rebounder, and brings a toughness to our team. Jose Calderon is a proven veteran who can run an offense and knock down threes. Jerian Grant was high on our draft board last year as someone with a great skill set and positional size. All three players are great teammates and have tremendous work ethic, and we are excited to welcome them to the Chicago Bulls organization.”

Forman’s comment about work ethic is the key phrase here, when I talked to members of the Chicago media who cover the Bulls they all said to man that work ethic was something the Bulls did not have.

So in a nut shell this a great deal for a Bulls team who are trying to rebuild and bring some much needed character to a roster that had none. In New York, this is another deal where it looks like the Knicks are trying to put together a fantasy league roster instead one that can win in the NBA.

Editor’s Note:

Rose is also mired in a sex scandal set to go to trial when the NBA preseason starts in October as reported in the NY Daily News.

The Knicks aren’t just getting a perpetually injured former NBA MVP in the blockbuster deal that will bring Derrick Rose to New York − they are also getting yet another player mired in scandal.

U.S. District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald scheduled the trial for Oct. 4 − the same day the NBA’s preseason begins.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 

 



 

NBA Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg

Da Bulls Miss Playoffs For The First Time After Seven Years

By Frank McLean

Fans of the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers for that matter, can breathe a sigh of relief, the Chicago Bulls will not be in the playoffs. With the Indiana Pacers thumping the Brooklyn Nets 129-105 Sunday night that meant the idle Bulls were mathematically eliminated from the post season for the first time after seven straight years.

The Bulls actually had a 7-1 record against Toronto and Cleveland, but what did them in was their combined losing record of 2-13 against Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte and Boston. Teams that they needed to beat to get one of those eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

Pau Gasol sums up the disappointment.

“I wish we were in a different position right now, but we’re not.

“There’s been times where we’ve dropped games, lost games that we should never have lost, especially at home against certain teams. Those are the times that guys don’t realize how big of a price you can pay at the end of the year and how much of a different position you’re going to be in because of those games in November, December, January that, Ah, there’s still 40 games to play, there’s still 50 games to play.

“That’s just a lack of sense of urgency, a lack of awareness, a lack of maturity that we have dealt with.’’

If you want proof of Gasol’s comments about lack of maturity just check this gem from Derrick Rose.

Last week when speaking with the reporters who cover the Bulls, Rose was talking about how he is getting ready for a big payday when he becomes a free agent at the end of next season. At the time the Bulls still were in the hunt for a playoff berth.

“Of course it’s the biggest, the biggest offseason,’’ Rose said. “But there’s no pressure or anything. Hard work takes care of that. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with being over-prepared and I’m prepared right now, so this offseason is going to make me even more prepared.”

Another reason for the Bulls terrible season was the season ending shoulder surgery center Joakim Noah had in January.

With Noah gone from the line-up there was a lack of veteran leadership on the floor. It was evident when you watched Rose and Jimmy Butler’s play, there was no connection whatsoever. When Noah was playing regularly everybody knew exactly what and where they were supposed to be on the floor.

The front office does not get a way without having a finger pointed at them too and that’s Jim Paxon and Gar Forman who run the team.

Last year before the start of training camp they told the core players not to listen to coach Tom Thibodeau. They felt that he was working the players too hard and that there were too many injuries and when players came back from the injury list they were rushed into playing full minutes and they were getting hurt again.

This put their new coach Fred Hoiberg behind the eight ball when he took over this season as the team was a complete mess.

Players coming out of time outs would forget what play that was being called in huddles, a total lack of playing any type of defense which Thibodeau installed when he first took over the coaching reigns.

Hoiberg has said that this summer consistency is something that he needs to work on so he can do a better job as a coach.

That in a nutshell is what happening in Chicago with the Bulls.

Now everything and everyone is on the table. Even Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose could be traded if the right deal presents itself.

Nobody had this team not making the playoffs and if things don’t get fixed over the summer they may not be there again next season.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 


NBA New York Knicks Derrick Rose

Bulls Season All But Over As Team Just Not Good Enough

In the softest possible stretch of the Bulls season, this team just hasn’t been good enough to hang onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and things are about to get a lot tougher over the final 10 games of the season.

“I think it’s just a team that’s a little bit lost,” Bulls swingman Mike Dunleavy was quoted by ESPN’s Nick Friedell after the loss to the Magic. “In terms of going out there every night, knowing what it takes to win. We give off that impression of beaten down, but I don’t think anybody’s given in right now, I just don’t think we’re good enough.

The Bulls had their opportunity to solidify a spot in this year’s playoffs over the past seven games. Five games at home and two on the road all against teams out of the playoffs and Chicago only managed three wins. Losing both ends of a home-and-home series to bad Knicks squad followed by a beatdown in Orlando to end a stretch of games that will come to define this season.

The Bulls now trail the Pistons by two full games with 10 remaining starting with the red hot Hawks at home then its Indiana, Houston, Detroit, Milwaukee, Memphis, Miami, Cleveland, New Orleans and finally Philadelphia at home to mercifully close things out. A 3-7 record seems likely.

“Obviously, we’re really struggling right now,” Dunleavy confirmed postgame. “We look like a team that’s lost in terms of doing the things you need to do. It’s a lot of stuff. We have to find our way. We’ve had success in the past, but it’s going to be tough right now.”

It’s hard to put a finger on precisely what’s gone wrong in Chicago. The coaching change obviously didn’t improve things. Injuries had an impact, but the Bulls were a .500 team (15-14) when their “heart and soul” Joakim Noah was on the court. They were a little better with All-Star Jimmy Butler (31-26), but below .500 (29-31) with their one-time MVP Derrick Rose in action.

Anyone proposing changes to improve the Bulls for next season should probably let this situation breathe until the draft in June. There’s talent in Chicago and this team was expected to be a lot better, so any rash decisions could easily be the wrong ones.

There are a couple of teams that are pretty happy about the Bulls collapse. First place Cleveland has lost two of three games to Chicago this season and the second place Raptors were swept 4-0. Watching the Bulls slide right out of the playoff picture has to be providing a huge sigh of relief in those two cities.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Can Clinch A Playoff Berth On Monday Night

Someone check a calendar, it’s still March isn’t it? The Toronto Raptors don’t play again until Wednesday in Boston, but they may have already clinched a playoff spot if any one of Indiana, Detroit or Chicago loses on Monday night according to the NBA and Elias Sports Bureau.

The matchups that matter to Toronto on Monday night are:

76ers (9-61) at Pacers (36-33)
Bucks (30-40) at Pistons (36-34)
Kings (27-42) at Bulls (35-33)

Those should all be wins for the home teams, but each of them are 5-5 over their past 10 games, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise if one of them has an even worse than lately off night.

In reality, any scoreboard watching should be of the Nuggets at Cleveland to face the Eastern Conference leading Cavaliers (49-20). The Raptors (48-21) are only one game back of the Cavs and can almost taste first place for the first time in franchise history this late in the season.

“We are in this to compete,” head coach Dwane Casey said after the win over the Magic.

But when asked if being one game out of first place was front and center Casey responded,

“It is, but still, I’d rather have health than anything else and freshness. That’s so important. Nobody wants to win more than me … but it’s a double-edged sword. I understand that it’s important to this organization, this city to fight for a championship. To even talk about playing for a championship is important. It’s never been done here before, so I think it’s important to say hey, we’re fighting for a championship and playing for that pride.”

The Toronto Raptors are only one win shy of tying the franchise record for wins in a season that was set just last year at 49 and they still have 13 games remaining. They are a team that is now on pace for a 57 win season having never cracked the 50 win barrier.

A playoff spot in March? First place in the East a possibility? No one saw that coming – maybe it’s time to suggest this team is actually pretty good?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Can The Raptors Catch The Cavs For First In The East?

If Toronto can keep pace until April, they have a shot, in part because they own the tie-breaker having taken the regular season series with the Cavs 2-1. In the last two weeks the Cavaliers face a list of teams fighting for playoff position and possibly a playoff spot right thru to the end of the season in Atlanta twice, Charlotte, Indiana, Chicago and Detroit.

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler

Da Bulls Beat The Raptors Again, What Else Is New?

By Frank McLean

Stop me if you herd this one before. Inexplicably, the floundering Chicago Bulls beat the Toronto Raptors in an NBA game. So, what else is new? For the ninth straight meeting between the two clubs Monday night in Toronto, the Bulls edged out the Raptors 109-107, but with the Bulls sliding and the Raptors rising, other than the embarrassment, what does it really matter?

The amazing thing is that when you talked to people who cover the Bulls and are with them on a daily basis before the game they were telling everybody that this would be night Toronto snaps the streak.

They came to this conclusion when looking at the Bulls inactive roster for this one.

Sitting at home in Chicago were Pau Gasol with a knee injury and Joakim Noah with a long term shoulder injury. Veteran Mike Dunleavy had a bad case of the flu and when I saw him in the Bulls locker room prior to game he looked like death warmed over. And Derrick Rose was missing as he is taking his time getting back from a left adductor strain.

It looked like easy pickings, ah not so fast folks.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was prophetic earlier in the day when he talked about how the Bulls had won eight in a row prior to Monday’s game.

“We’ve got to figure it out because you don’t want to go 0-for against a team and not find out exactly what it is (that isn’t working). Every time we’ve played them somebody’s come in and had an out-of-body experience, whether it’s (Jimmy) Butler, last game it was (Doug) McDermott (scoring a career high 30), the time before that I think it was (Derrick) Rose or (Tony) Snell or somebody rises up out of the woodwork and has a big night. They have a very talented team, very talented roster and it seems like against us they figure it out and we’ve got to make sure we find out what it is tonight.”

McDermott was the man again scoring 24 points in the first half and finishing up with a game high 29.

Jimmy Butler returned after missing the last three games with a sore left knee, but his presence was desperately needed with the Bulls running out to the court a shorthanded line-up. He only scored 13 points, but with a second left in regulation time he made a huge stop on DeMar DeRozan as he tried to make a layup and send the game into overtime.

The Bulls have now 15 man games lost to injuries and illness. With the win and a Detroit Pistons loss in Washington the Bulls now cling to the eighth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This is why the Bulls are in the bottom half of the standings.

With Derrick Rose broken down again and Joakim Noah’s shoulder still hurting the Bulls need Butler to try and steal a playoff berth.

“Gotta risk it to get the biscuit,’’ Butler said after Monday’s game when asked about playing heavy minutes with the knee the rest of the season. “I gotta do whatever it takes to help my team win. I let the coaches know that. If I’m stepping out on that floor, I’m giving my all for as long as my team needs me.’’

“I think my knee is going to be banged up a little bit,’’ Butler added.“Gotta learn to live with it, get my wind back, get in that gym, get my rhythm back.’’

Rose is taking his time getting back from his injury and with less than 20 games to play in the regular season, if Butler misses any more time with his knee the Bulls will be on the golf course by mid April.

Meanwhile for the NBA Eastern Conference second place Toronto Raptors one thing is certain, they don’t have da Bulls on their schedule for the rest of the regular season and sitting with a 6.5 game lead over the Celtics and Heat with just 16 games left, they can forget about the eighth place Bulls for a while.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler

Can Jimmy Butler Save The Bulls Season?

The Chicago Bulls record has dropped from 22-12 and a projected top four finish in the Eastern Conference in early January to 30-30 and tenth place at the beginning of March and injuries have played no small part in this team’s collapse. The slide was accelerated slightly in early February by a knee injury to leading scorer Jimmy Butler, so the question becomes, can Butler’s return save the Bulls season?

That return could come very soon as CSN Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill reports,

The Bulls will get their best player back Saturday, as Jimmy Butler will return to the team’s lineup against the Houston Rockets, in a game that could see the Bulls fall below the .500 mark with a loss.

What tends to get overlooked is the Bulls issues this season seem to run deeper than just injury woes. The team is just 26-22 with Butler on the court and while the current slide is 3-8 without him not counting the game he was injured in, the Bulls were 5-10 in the previous 15 games. This collapse was well underway before the Bulls lost Butler.

The two-time all-Star Butler leads the Bulls with 22.4 points per game, he’s second in assists (4.3) and first in steals (1.7). He’ll have an impact, but concern about head coach Fred Hoiberg finding a way to get consistent effort out of his players in the face of adversity remains an open question.

The next six games will likely determine the Bulls playoff fate for this season. They play a desperate Rockets team in Chicago on Saturday, then a Bucks squad that’s been winning more games than the Bulls lately on Monday. A road trip to San Antonio would be tough on any team. Then it’s back home to face a surprising Heat team who has refused to let the loss of Chris Bosh slow them down on the back-to-back Friday. A quick road trip to face a Toronto team in the mood for some revenge and a final test in Washington against a Wizards squad that has battled back to within a half game of a playoff spot.

If the losing continues over these six games, then the softer home schedule that comes after against the Nets, Jazz, Kings, Knicks and then the Knicks and Magic on the road might not matter.

That’s a lot to hang on a 26-year-old wing, but no one else is expected to come and save the Bulls season.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Derrick Rose

Bulls Opponents Smell Blood When Chicago Visits

It’s getting bad for the team from the Windy City. In third place just over a month ago, the Bulls have lost their last four games in a row and that comes just after ending a five game losing streak two weeks ago. Their opponents smell blood in the water when Chicago visits as reported by Basketball Insiders Cody Taylor,

“Teams come in and they see us struggling. They know we’re struggling, so they see an opportunity. They come in confidently. … They smell blood and they go for it,” Bulls All-Star Pau Gasol said.

Forget the injury problems of which their are many, those loses have been coming at the hands of teams this perennial playoff team is expected to beat. Nuggets, Timberwolves, Hornets, Trail Blazers and Magic have all feasted on Bull lately.

In January Chicago was at 22-12 and considered the biggest threat in the Eastern Conference to the LeBron James led Cavaliers. Today, they are a .500 team in tenth place trying to not fall so far back before Jimmy Butler returns from injury that a playoff spot is beyond hope.

“At the beginning of the year, we said we wanted to get into the playoffs and the question comes up, ‘Are we trying?’ Derrick Rose asked. “If we are, we got to come out and play a lot different.”

This once proud defensive oriented franchise is giving up 102.8 points per game and is a net -1.2 points per game versus their opponents. In the new more powerful East, no team currently in the playoff picture gives up that many points or has a negative points differential versus their opponents.

As this year’s new head coach Fred Hoiberg said after the 102-89 loss to Orlando, “They scored at will on us.”

Somewhere last year’s head coach Tom Thibodeau is thinking, “see, see.” Somehow he always got these guys to play defense for him.

Gasol is right. There’s blood in the south end of Lake Michigan. Unexpectedly, Bulls are getting slaughtered and it will be up to them to save their season over the next 22 games.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Chicago Bulls Pau Gasol

Chicago Bulls All-Star Pau Gasol Available Cheap?

The Chicago Bulls appear to have gone full bore into ‘get out of the tax mode‘ before the NBA trade deadline expires. They just want to move out the warm bodies at reasonable prices and not surprisingly All-Star Pau Gasol is drawing the most interest according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune,

A first-round pick and a rotation player.

That’s the asking price, according to league sources, from the Bulls in most of their trade talks as Thursday’s 2 p.m. deadline approaches.

Gasol has drawn interest and the Bulls are weighing whether to deal a player who has made clear he will exercise his player option and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Bulls are just a little over $4 million past the luxury tax line and that’s a spot they’ve only ever been in once before. Paying luxury taxes just isn’t in the Bulls DNA, especially now that playoff success seems very unlikely this season.

Note:

If the Bulls can trade both Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol whose combined salaries total $15.9 million and take back the minimum salaries required from a team below the tax line, the Bulls can get their team salary below the luxury tax threshold. For a team that doesn’t like to pay the tax, that would be quite the incentive.

For example:

Bulls trade Gibson and Gasol to Toronto

Toronto sends Patrick Patterson, James Johnson and two of their young players back (salaries totaling at least $10.9 million) plus include the Raptors own first round draft picks in 2016 and 2017.

The Bulls get two rotation players and two draft picks as per their supposed asking price and dip below the luxury tax threshold.

Toronto gets an All-Star power forward for the stretch drive and the playoffs.

 

NBA Atlanta Hawks Al Horford Paul Millsap & Jeff Teague

It’s Just The Calm Before The NBA Trade Deadline Storm

Unlike the NHL trade deadline which is typically a day long snooze-fest of calm, in the NBA, a storm is the norm and this year won’t be any different. Huge names like Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Al Horford, Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony are swirling in the trade winds and it won’t surprise anyone if a truly big name player changes teams by Thursday at 3 pm.

Plus, there are a boatload of very good NBA players who will be waiting on a trade deadline phone call as well. A sample of the names being tossed around includes:

  1. Hawks Jeff Teague, Thabo Sefolsha, and everyone else in Atlanta,
  2. Nets Thad Young and unlikely but possible Brook Lopez,
  3. Hornets Nicolas Batum and Al Jefferson,
  4. Bulls Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol,
  5. Cavaliers Timofey Mosgov,
  6. Nuggets Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried,
  7. Rockets Ty Lawson,
  8. Pacers George Hill,
  9. Clippers Lance Stephenson,
  10. Lakers Brandon Bass and just about everyone else,
  11. Grizzlies have already traded Courtney Lee,
  12. Heat Chris Anderson traded, Hassan Whiteside available,  plus someone else to get below the luxury tax line
  13. Bucks Greg Monroe and Michael Carter-Williams,
  14. Timberwolves Kevin Martin, plus someone please take Nikola Pekovic
  15. Pelicans Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson,
  16. Knicks Jose Calderon,
  17. Magic already dumped Tobias Harris’ contract, Channing Frye is still in play,
  18. Suns Markieff Morris and P.J. Tucker,
  19. Kings Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufas, Ben McLemore  and more,
  20. Spurs Danny Green (those rumors have to be some kind of joke?),
  21. Raptors Patrick Patterson,
  22. Jazz Trey Burke

It’s getting hard to keep up and it’s about to get worse. Most of the names being bandied about will never come close to being traded, but as past deadlines prove, more than enough big deals will happen to keep trade deadline day very interesting indeed.

Interesting deals that happened last year,

  1. Nets trade Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young
  2. Nuggets traded Arron Afflalo and JaVale McGee and got Will Barton
  3. Pistons in a multi-team multi-player deal turned Kyle Singler into Reggie Jackson
  4. Heat in a multi-player deal traded two first-round picks for Goran Dragic
  5. Bucks traded Brandon Knight for Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee.
  6. Thunder turned Reggie Jackson into Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler

It was a wild and woolly NBA trade deadline last year. It’s is going to be just as exciting this time around.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Houston Rockets Dwight HowardNBA Trade Deadline Teams Motivated By Money

For teams that are underachieving, deals motivated by money become a very real possibility. The luxury tax provisions of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement are enough to give any general manager reason to pause. It has to be worth it to pay the tax.

 

 

NBA Houston Rockets Dwight Howard

NBA Trade Deadline Teams Motivated By Money

With about 30 games left in the NBA’s regular season, teams know who they are and their realistic chances of making noise in the postseason, bearing a major trade deadline addition. For teams that are underachieving, deals motivated by money become a very real possibility.

The luxury tax provisions of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement are enough to give any general manager reason to pause. It has to be worth it to pay the tax. It really has to be worth it if your team is about to be hit with the Repeater Tax which comes into effect if your team has been a tax payer in three of the past four seasons.

Per Basketball Insiders, currently there are eight teams that will be subject to the luxury tax if they don’t do anything about it: Bulls, Cavaliers, Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, Heat, Thunder, and Spurs.

  1. Bulls over $4.3 million, potential tax $6.5 million
  2. Cavs over $24.5 million, potential tax $62 million
  3. Warriors $10.7 million, potential tax $18 million
  4. Rockets $3.5 million, potential tax $5.3 million
  5. Clippers $10.8 million, potential tax $18.3 million
  6. Heat $5.5 million, potential tax $8.4 million
  7. Thunder $12.4 million, potential tax $22.3 million
  8. Spurs $1.7 million, potential tax $2.5 million

(Shamsports.com provides a complete history of luxury tax payments)

It’s likely safe to assume the Cavs, Warriors, Thunder and Spurs are reasonably happy paying the tax. They’re in it to win it and if they make a trade, it will either be a fringe player to save a little tax or a genuine basketball move. Money will not be a major factor for any these teams at the trade deadline.

However, the Bulls, Rockets, Clippers and Heat are all in the thick of the rumor mill and as potential tax payers, it makes sense. Significantly underachieving, these teams are motivated by money.

The Bulls season has been hit hard by injuries, but somehow it seems like injuries have been just a contributing factor. Chicago paid the tax in 2013, but that’s it, a one-time only deal and paying the tax for the hope of clinging to a playoff spot is hard to imagine. The Bulls will be motivated to cut their luxury tax exposure by the trade deadline.

A bad start, a coaching change and sitting in 9th place at the All-Star break isn’t where the Rockets imagined they’d be. Inconsistent and just barely a tax team, those Dwight Howard is available rumors make a lot of sense – both team and money-wise.

Looking at the Clippers who have been tax payers the past two seasons and suddenly those Blake Griffin trade rumors don’t seem so far fetched, especially when one considers this team has been a lot better playing small ball (like almost everyone else) than bully ball with two big men on the court. The Clippers are a distant fourth best in the West and have to be thinking about how they can rise up the ranks. Saving some luxury tax dollars in the process would be sweet.

Is there any team that gets more hype than the Heat for such average results? Paying the tax for an NBA Finals team is easy, but forking over an extra $8 million in tax for a middling playoff team doesn’t fit with this organization’s history. Miami is in the thick of the rumors and they should be. It’s either get a lot better or cut salary. Standing pat at the trade deadline makes no sense.

Money isn’t the only factor in trade deadline deals, but it would be foolish to assume that it isn’t a factor and luxury taxes aren’t the only motivating factor when it comes to money either. Creating salary cap space for next summer matters too. However, since the new CBA came into effect, those expiring contracts that can create salary cap space haven’t been worth much.

Almost to the point in the cycle where changes to the CBA are inevitable and general managers still seem to be working through the impact of all the changes from last time. However, money remains a constant and paying extra without results has never been popular.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Chicago Bulls Pau Gasol

Fading Bulls Should Get Pau Gasol His Shot With The Raptors

At age 35-years-old, All-Star Pau Gasol’s chances at another ring are fading, especially if he’s forced to stick it out with a Bulls team that seems to have lost interest in the playing out the rest of this season after so many key injuries. It’s time for Bulls general manager Gar Forman to cut bait and get back what he can for Gasol while giving the former NBA champion one more shot at reaching the NBA Finals.

As ESPN’s Nick Friedell wrote after the Bulls lost again,

On the laundry list of injuries the Chicago Bulls have been dealing with this season, the most important one that has been missing on the injury report is heart.

In the short term, that means that Pau Gasol should be dealt by next week. Gasol is too talented an offensive player to continue languishing on a roster that does not have enough to win a title.

Losers of 13 of their past 18 games, the Bulls heart just isn’t in it anymore as they sit just one game ahead of the ninth place Pistons. Missing leading scorer Jimmy Butler for the next month likely means they aren’t even in a playoff spot when he eventually gets back.

Forman has to do an honest assessment of his team’s situation. While holding onto Gasol might give the Bulls a chance to claim bottom playoff seed in April, moving Gasol along could guarantee him a lottery pick in June and probably more. Even as player who no one will consider as a potential long term piece of the puzzle and someone who could opt out for unrestricted free agency this summer, Gasol has value to a team hoping to contend.

Gasol wasn’t given the nod as Butler’s All-Star replacement this weekend for sentimental reasons. The big Spaniard is averaging 17 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2 blocks and shooting 41 percent from three-point range. He really could make a solid second place team like the Toronto Raptors a legitimate NBA Finals contender.

There isn’t a blockbuster return in the cards for Gasol, he only makes $7.5 million this year, but that doesn’t mean the Bulls would be giving him away for nothing. A second unit player and/or  a young prospect or two and likely a late first round draft pick are all possible and that should be worth a whole lot more than a suspect shot at eighth place and losing Gasol for nothing this summer.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.