Posts Tagged ‘Russell Westbrook’

Since We Last Spoke: Brian LaHair has become The Babe reincarnated in Cubbie Blue, Josh Hamilton went on a binge (the home run hitting kind, not the other kind), NATO has begun its takeover of our fine city, President Obama endorsed gay marriage, and we’ve achieved peace in the Middle East. Well, maybe not the last one, but while we’re fantasizing about things that never happened but should…

…The Bulls just swept the listless, overmatched, lazy defending, inconsistent, bite-off-more-than-they-can-chew-by-saying-they’d-rather-see-The-Bulls-in-The-Playoffs Philadelphia 76ers, and they’re up 2-0 against the obviously aging Boston Celtics. Doug Collins has pulled out the last of his receding Silver Fox coiffure trying to figure out how to stop reigning MVP Derrick Rose from shredding his entire team en route to averaging a triple double for the series. The few Sixer fans who’ve bothered to show up for the two games at Wachovia Center chanted, “MVP, MVP!” every time Chicago’s finest stepped to the free throw line to put the nail in the coffin of this clearly inferior team. Luol Deng fed off of D-Rose’s championship tone setting play, and he showed why he was an All-Star earlier this year. Joakim Noah tore up the court the way only he can. He embarrassed the hell out of Spencer Hawes at every opportunity. 

I know this was a shortened season with more likelihood for injury and setbacks, but damn! This was simply ridiculous. There will forever be an asterisk linked to whoever claims Larry O’Brien this year, but this really felt like Da Bulls’ year. For real. Legitimately. The same feeling is probably being felt by Oklahoma City or Miami or (yet again) San Antonio natives this year, too. Well, go ahead and marinate on this: take Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden off of the Thunder. Remove LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh from the Heat roster. Timmy goes down along with Manu and Tony? Hell, take the top three players from any contender, and they instantly become candidates for the lottery. 

Fuck the 2012 NBA season. Derrick Rose may never be the same again. A torn ACL takes away a leaper’s leap and a cutter’s cut, especially a 6’3″ point guard’s ability to explode to the cup the way Derrick does (did?). No one wants to hear this, and I guarantee he feels worse than anybody about the whole situation, but it bears mentioning that without Derrick the Bulls might not ever get back to their championship level with Thibs’ current core. 

Anybody remember Penny Hardaway by any chance? Exactly.

But it has been a depressing season this year for Chicago sports. Not the traditional “our teams suck” brand of depression. It’s the brand of depression that involves high expectations, championship-caliber ball being played and then injuries and unforeseen circumstances taking over the fate of a season. The window in professional sports gets smaller and smaller for franchises, and the Bulls’ window might have just slammed shut with one snap of a kneecap. The same happened with the Bears this year. And the Blackhawks. 

Which brings me to a very important existential question: is it better to have loved and lost or never to have loved at all? The sports version of that conundrum boils down to this: is it better to have a great team and have it injure itself before potential gets realized or just to have sucked all along. Maybe we should round up a gang of Cleveland Browns or Charlotte Bobcats (sorry, Mike) fans to gain some perspective into the world of sucking. Or we can just take a cue from one of our baseball teams, and just, oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’m saying this…
…wait till next year.

First things first: Happy Birthday, Shaq. We’re gonna talk about point guards today. You and Penny should’ve stayed together, man.

Point Guards run the offense, but right now the best ones are running the NBA and dominating debate on who’s number one. While East Coasters praise Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo as the league’s best, and everyone else claims Chris Paul as numero uno, I’m here to point out something that has somehow slipped under the radar of basketball talking heads this year: DERRICK ROSE IS THE REIGNING MVP! Oh, and the Bulls have the best record in the NBA. He put the team on his back again Sunday, but he was still overshadowed by other point guard performances around the league.

Deron Williams put up 57 Sunday (!), but keep in mind that it was against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats. And, Rondo needed overtime against the Knicks to assemble that monstrous triple double. Is Danny Ainge serious about trading him? That would be about as dumb as the time he got up in MJ’s face during the ’92 Finals…

The Big O revolutionized the position, but it used to be that you had to have a dominant center to win championships. Magic, still the undisputed best point guard of all-time, had Kareem. It wasn’t until Isiah won twice with his misfit centers and Jordan and the Bulls won six with the likes of Bill Cartwright, Will Perdue, Luc Longley and Big Bill Wennington that teams started to restructure the way they looked at the draft and the way they handled free agency to accommodate this shift in roster power. Teams started to build around game-changing point guards. The 76ers put all their eggs in the Iverson basket (and then subsequently turned him into an off guard). Steve Nash won two MVPs with the Suns (and burned out in the playoffs every year), shoot-first Chauncey Billups led the 2004 rag tag Pistons to a title. Frenchman Tony Parker was 2007’s Finals MVP.

Now we’re in an age where the debate rages on as to who is the NBA’s best point guard. Don’t get it twisted: an argument can be made for any of the clear-cut top five. The order in which they are arranged is the topic of discussion. Right now, D-Rose is on pace to become the greatest point guard, not of his era, but of all-time. He was the youngest MVP ever last year. He’s only 23 and in only his fourth season. His potential and unrelenting will to win put him in a class by himself. Some of the shots and layups he has the audacity to not only attempt but then hit are nothing short of spectacular on a regular basis. He hasn’t won a championship (yet), something only Rondo has done out of the group of point guards I’m bringing up in this column. Just to clarify, here’s how my current list of Top 5 NBA Point Guards looks:

5. Chris Paul: Honestly, I can’t stand this guy. The first time I ever saw him play in a game at Wake Forest, he cheap shot punched some kid in the nuts. Not cool, man. Not cool. That turn of events sort of stuck with me as he ascended to the NBA’s upper echelon of point guards. I only have him on this list because I have to. Fuck Lob City. 19.7 PPG, 8.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 2.2 SPG Clippers are 22-14.

4. Russell Westbrook: With Kevin Durant on his side, these two have an opportunity to make Oklahoma City a legitimate contender for years to come. Westbrook’s play is a bit sporadic at times, but there’s no denying his explosiveness. A rare breed and lots of potential to stay on this list for years to come. 23.7 PPG, 5.5 APG, 4.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG Thunder are 30-8.

3. Rajon Rondo: He has the heart of a champion, and that’s something I infinitely respect. Arguably, the best defender on this list, his creativity on the offensive side of the ball has allowed him to spread touches amongst The Big Three and keep them happy since their arrival in Boston. The lone NBA Champion on this list. 14.3 PPG, 10.2 APG, 5.4 RPG, 1.7 SPG Celtics are 19-17

2. Deron Williams: It’s too bad things turned out the way they did for him in Utah. Jerry Sloan could have shown him a thing or two. He seems stuck on a crappy New Jersey team now, but that sort of gives him the unparalleled opportunity to prove himself as a leader and a winner. However, since he left Illinois, I haven’t really seen either of those characteristics from him. His combination of strength, court vision, scoring ability, speed, passing prowess and ability to take over any given game make him number two though. 22.6 PPG, 8.2 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 SPG Nets are 12-26. Ouch.

1. Derrick Rose: Stacey King exclamations and Chicago bias aside, Derrick Rose is the youngest MVP in league history. None of the other members on this list have been MVP. Derrick Rose not only tops this list, but he defines the criteria of what a point guard, a leader should be. Who do you want on your team leading the way? The will to win, loyalty to team and the ability to takeover when need be (as he did Sunday in Philly and in the 2nd half last night against those annoying Pacers). Derrick has stated time and time again that he is about one thing, and that’s winning games and eventually a championship here in Chicago. 22.4 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 0.9 SPG Bulls are NBA best 32-8.

Who’s with me?

Ed’s note.
I am. 

The 61st Annual NBA ALL-Star game came and went over the weekend. Amidst all the Oscar buzz and red carpet glitz and glamor, did anyone even notice?

Seriously, who is scheduling these events nowadays? The NBA is fighting to regain its fan base and attract new ones simultaneously, and The Commish can’t even get his timing right? Good luck with that whole rebuilding process, Señor Stern. The schedule making powers that be failed to notice that Hollywood’s biggest night took place the same night? Really?

 

So many issues I have with today’s NBA. Lucky for me, the pros always outweigh the cons, and I continue to con myself into believing in basketball.


I heard they’re using this year’s game as a tutorial for young ballers to show them exactly what not to do when they step on the hardwood. Even Luol Deng, a premiere defender in my book, practically sprinted out of the way for Blake Griffin to obtain a perfectly clear dunking lane. C’mon, Lu! It’s your first ASG. Swat that shit to the first row! Seriously, the defense is absolutely atrocious. But you knew that before tuning in to watch. What I don’t know is how they got Thibs to patrol the East sideline with the game’s reputation being what it is. I was taking over/under bets on not if, but how many times Coach T would stroke out due to lack of defense. The West scored 88 points…by halftime (yes, that is a record). The Bulls have held opponents to less than that (in entire games) 18 times this  year! 


The West won the “game” 152-149 if anyone gives a shit. And Kevin Durant was the game’s MVP. He’s so slick.


There was a moment in the 3rd quarter when Kobe took it to the rim, and DWade fouled him. Hard. It was a shot to the nose- a playoff foul. I smiled a little. Actual defense. It was in apparent retaliation to a good defensive stop by Kobe against Wade on the other end of the floor. And then a little bit later, Kobe broke Mike’s all-time All Star scoring record. Damn. I guess I have to come to terms with Kobe being this generation’s version of the one we call His Airness. I suppose it’s better him than LeBron, he of the ringless, opportune turnover variety. A part of my basketball self dies with every MJ record that gets broken. 


Yes, the game actually came down to the final possession(s) and a little bit of my favorite elements of the game: defense and coaching. This reminded everyone watching why Tom Thibodeau is a master of both-reigning Coach of the Year-by ironically exposing LeBron, yet again, for what he truly is: an oligophrenic, overhyped failure when it matters. Why don’t him and overhyped, one dimensional forward  Blake Griffin just duke it out in the sky where they belong, making for a Dunk Contest someone would actually want to watch? That’d be one for the ages. Have Vince Carter, Mike, Dominique and Dr. J judge that shit. I’d watch. 

 

I’ve seen LeBron do things no other player is capable of, and I’ve seen him not do things a superstar of his caliber should be able to accomplish. Maybe he’s just not a professional winner.


And maybe The Flash is turning out to be more of a flash in the pan, after all. I like DWade because he’s a hometown guy, but for us to overthrow the Eastern Conference champions here in The Chi, we need his and LeBron’s weaknesses revealed in May. Too bad Thibs can’t be there to sabotage them again. Or can he? (Insert evil genius laugh here) 

 

When travelling, I often state that no matter how much I love a place that I happen to visit, I always, ALWAYS love returning home to my city of Chicago. I’ve been many places, many cool ass places, but Chicago is where I’ll stay, probably forever. I’ve got the flag tattooed on my arm and the lakeshore wind tattooed on my soul. I felt a similar sensation after watching the ASG on Sunday. I love watching the entertainment value of the game’s biggest stars. Despite all the hate toward it, the dunk contest is still cool to watch. The three point contest is timeless (still bitter about Hot Sauce’s snub). But no matter what (excluding Shaq and Penny in the mid ’90s), I’m never swayed to another team or out of town players. I’ll always bleed Chicago red and black. That’s why Luol’s limited run in his first appearance didn’t bother me. That’s why Derrick’s ridiculously massive shoe deal getting no talk from mainstream media all weekend didn’t affect me (you know if LeBron or Kobe signed that same deal, it would’ve been top news; difference being Derrick deserves every zero in that contract). Humility sort of comes with the territory ’round here, so when Chris Paul, Deron Williams, even Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook get mentioned as the L’s top point guards ahead of Chi Town’s Finest, we remember that it’s all about one thing: winning. That’s what we’re about in The WINdy City.

 

That’s why this is my kind of town.




 

You crazy son of a bitch…I see what you did there.

You fooled all of us, Mr. Thibs, but I”m savvy to what you’re up to, and boy was it glorious. Not only did you manage to rest Deng and Rose, but you also planted the seeds of doubt into the heads of LeWade, drawing up a last minute play to ensure that they fail.

Oh and you better believe that vision will be softly creeping in the Heatles heads as they are sleeping. Failure in the postseason is the final mountain that LeBron has to get over. It’s haunted him for years now, and while the Heat are far and away the best team in the league right now, the questions are still surrounding the Heat’s ability to close in important games. There’s really only one place to kill those doubts, and that’s in the finals.

Speaking of doubts…

You had to know that Kobe was going to trash talk LeBron. He tries to emulate Mike after all. Kobe dared LeBron to take and make that final shot, and LeBron passed it up and turned it over. Now, I get that this is an exhibition and it’s all in good fun, but in the interview afterwards LeBron looked like a man who knew that every single talking head, blog, and sports media outlet was going to be asking the same stupid question that’s been plaguing him for years.

To that, let me say this. You were supposed to be better than this, LeBron. It’s a mantle that was given to you, sure. But it’s not exactly a mantle that you shy away from. You view yourself as the Chosen One.

I mean, you can’t be complaining when people are calling you out for not winning. It comes with the territory man. This is the NBA, the best players in the league win rings. Lots of them. Rare exceptions come at the cost of Dynasties. Malone, shit, almost a whole generation of 90’s basketball players lost to Mike and Hakeem.

That’s the thing LeBron, you aren’t Malone, or Barkley, or Stockton, or Ewing. You’re LeBron damn James, arguably the most intimidating and freakish athlete in the history of basketball. You’re the freakiest player in a league full of freaks. Durant is 6’10 and you could play him as a shooting guard, and you’re still more athletic than he is.

Comes with the territory.

As for what the All-Star weekend meant for the Bulls, we’ll see. Derrick didn’t dance, because he’s not like that. He also played like 4 minutes. Ditto with Deng. I think we found out that Thibs isn’t a maniac. He understands what games matter and which ones don’t. I think that there may be a master plan to it all. He might really be the evil genius the Bulls need to beat the Heat, but it’s gonna be a rough ride.

Rose and company are definitely the underdogs in all of this. Noah’s triple-double was fun and all, but that supporting cast is inferior to the Heat’s. Winning a playoff series against them is highly unlikely, but there are a few ways that they can possibly pull it off I think. Getting Rip Hamilton will help, but it’s going to take perfect basketball and another Heat chokejob for the Bulls to get it done.

It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t look good. The Bulls do need to trade for some better pieces, because even if the Bulls sneak by the Heat, there’s another pain in the ass that’ll be waiting for them.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7-GuLCYA-E]
Oh Lawd, pass the whiskey.