All Bull - Chicago Bulls
Checking the Brooklyn Nets on paper, the team pretty much does boil down to Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. The depth isn’t great and the 3-point shooting is average.
That’s too easy for Tom Thibodeau, figuring out a way to defend three players, right?
Well, if there’s one player on the roster that should concern the Bulls, I’d say it’s Andray Blatche.
It’s easy to write him off as one of the many former Washington knuckleheads, but he had his moments. Just two years ago, Blatche averaged 16.8 points per game for the Wizards.
He’s given the Bulls problems in the past, mostly because at 6-11, 260 pounds, he’s a handful in the post, especially for Joakim Noah, who is more of an athletic defender and can get pushed
With just two playoffs seeds still to be decided in the East, Atlanta controlled its own destiny. And the Hawks seem perfectly content to concede the No. 5 spot to the Bulls.
The Hawks were drilled at home by Toronto 113-96 on Tuesday. The Bulls can clinch the No. 5 seed and a first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets by beating Washington at the United Center on Wednesday.
The only way the Bulls won't get fifth is if they lose to the Wizards, while Atlanta wins at New York. The Bulls went 3-1 against Brooklyn this season. Game 1 will be either Saturday or Sunday.
By beating Orlando on Monday, the Bulls ensured their first-round playoff opponent will remain a mystery until Wednesday night.
The Bulls are a half-game behind Atlanta for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but won the season series 2-1 and therefore own the tiebreaker against the Hawks.
Atlanta hosts Toronto on Tuesday night. As the Bulls discovered twice last week, the Raptors seem intent on finishing the season strong, so a Hawks win may not be a foregone conclusion.
An Atlanta loss to Toronto would put the Bulls in the driver's seat. They could claim the No. 5 spot by beating Washington, regardless of what the Hawks do in their final game at New York on Wednesday.
One sidebar to Sunday’s loss in Miami is this question: When LeBron talks, does the league listen?
After James squawked about hard fouls by the Bulls in the March 27 game at the United Center, one common foul by Taj Gibson was changed to a flagrant by the league office. Then in Sunday’s rematch, the Heat attempted 42 free throws -- a season-high for both Miami and a Bulls’ opponent.
After the game, Nate Robinson was asked if he thought James’ complaints made a difference.
“I have no idea,” Robinson said, according to espn.com. “If he has that much power, more power to him.
Kobe Bryant suffered a probable torn Achilles tendon late Friday night at the end of a win against Golden State.
The Lakers are battling Utah for the final playoff spot in the West, but whether they get in or not, Bryant won't be on the floor. He's expected to have an MRI exam Saturday to confirm the initial diagnosis, but already started contemplating retirement on his Facebook page.
Bryant will turn 35 in August and has 1,450 games under his belt, including playoffs, in 17 NBA seasons. This will be a tough injury to come back from. Isiah Thomas' playing career ended with a torn Achilles.
Thursday’s Bulls-Knicks game featured a pretty good chess match between coaches Tom Thibodeau and Mike Woodson.
For starters, New York left all of its big men at home and used a lineup of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Copeland, Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni. The opening tip featured the 6-8 Copeland against 6-7 Jimmy Butler.
It gave me flashbacks of the one-time-only, 2002-ish Jalen Rose Charity Game at the UC when the guys made Jamal Crawford jump center against Jay Williams. Crawford, apparently paralyzed by a fear of losing while trying, didn’t jump.
One sidebar to tonight’s Bulls-Knicks clash at the United Center is the April 28 connection.
On that date last year, both Derrick Rose and New York’s Iman Shumpert suffered ACL tears in their left knee as well as damage to the meniscus cartilage.
Shumpert, an Oak Park native, returned to game action on Jan. 17 and has now played in 40 games this season. Bulls fans don’t need a reminder that Rose’s return is still pending.
It’s an odd parallel, but there is a clear difference between the two players. Shumpert is a 20-minute a game defensive-minded role player, while Rose might put more stress on his body than any NBA player.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had a surprise injury update before Tuesday's game against Toronto -- Richard Hamilton is expected to see his first action since Feb. 26.
Hamilton has been out with a sore back and seemed to completely disappear from view for a while. But he was visible again at practice in recent days and looked relatively healthy shooting around at the Berto Center on Monday.
As recently as last week, Thibodeau said Hamilton wasn't all that close to returning.
"Now he’s been running for a while, he’s been shooting for a while and now, he’s been doing everything in practice, so the next step is to play," Thibodeau said. "We’ll see where he is."
One way to forecast Monday’s NCAA title game is to run it through the “NBA Test.”
This is an ongoing personal observation. Starting in the late 1990s, when every decent college player started turning pro early, the tournament champ more often than not has an edge in future NBA talent.
Sometimes, that means having one dominant player (Syracuse 2003: Carmelo Anthony). More often it’s having the better collection of futures pros (North Carolina 2009: Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Ed Davis, Danny Green, Wayne Ellington).
Based on this theory, it’s been odd to see Louisville pegged as a favorite since the tournament began. Check the NBA Draft sites and there’s only one Louisville player projected as a late first-rounder, center Gorgui Deng.
The Derrick Rose Watch probably won’t be over until it’s over -- either he’ll start playing or the Bulls’ season will end.
Coach Tom Thibodeau sounded encouraging when he answered the usual questions about Rose before Thursday’s game in Brooklyn.
“He's close, but he's not going to come back until he's ready,” Thibodeau said, according to espn.com.” He feels a lot better, but he's still not there.
Thibodeau was asked for his definition of “close.”