Could a similar, healthy Bulls team take down Miami?
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The Bulls obviously face the potential of their final home game of the season Monday against the Miami Heat unless the Bulls can get another win. It likely will be without Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, the latter telling reporters at practice Sunday he still was vomiting when he tried to do small workouts with the team. He said he hoped to sit on the bench during Game 4 Monday, but wasn’t sure with so much coughing and an inability to get up and down regularly. The Bulls have done a lot of talking about vomiting in these playoffs, believed to be approaching an NBA record.
But whenever this does end for the Bulls — and the digestion as well — the immediate future looks pretty intriguing. Here the Bulls are having won a seventh game in Brooklyn and then Game 1 in Miami in consecutive games. And without Derrick Rose, Deng and Hinrich.
So you come back next season with a perimeter rotation of Rose, Jimmy Butler at shooting guard/small forward with Marco Belinelli and Hinrich. The hope, of course, is the Bulls can retain Belinelli, who also shoots and can make plays, giving the Bulls at least three legitimate pick and roll players who can make plays, which is the essence of coach Tom Thibodeau’s offense.
Then you rotate Luol Deng, Butler, Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah up front with perhaps one big man addition and maybe keep Nazr Mohammed around as an emergency player like the Kurt Thomas role.
Could that team without a whole lot of changes or major additions from this season give Miami a run considering the group now has done so as well?
Addition of Jack gives Warriors a boost
-- Warriors coach Mark Jackson was getting his own dig in about his boss, Warriors GM Bob Myers, who was seventh in the executive of the year voting. Said Jackson about Stephen Curry being a game time decision Sunday: “Bob Myers and his seventh place finish did an excellent job of going out and getting Jarrett Jack. We'll give him the basketball and trust that we'll be just fine. Hopefully, Steph is ready. If not, we've got guys who are more than capable of going out and getting us a win."
Myers held onto the No. 7 draft pick and took Harrison Barnes, who came up huge in the Game 4 win over the Spurs Sunday. There were talks with a number of teams about trading for veteran small forwards, but the Warriors kept the pick. And while Andrew Bogut, traded for the popular Monta Ellis, didn’t play much of the season, he’s been big against the Spurs and Tim Duncan as the Warriors dominated San Antonio on the backboards Sunday and have outrebounded the Spurs in every game. Yes, the small ball Warriors. And then there was the big acquisition of Jack as the Hornets (Pelicans) were clearing space to match the Suns offer for Eric Gordon. That’s worked out well.
Jack along with Carl Landry, the latter signed as a free agent, were instrumental coming off the bench in the regular season to bolster the Warriors with Bogut out and provide the depth for their playoff run. Jackson routinely finished games in a three-guard rotation with Jack, and Sunday with Curry off the ball because of an ankle injury, it was Jack making the plays down the stretch and rallying the Warriors with a dozen points in the fourth quarter and overtime and constantly beating the Spurs’ defenders off the dribble. Jack is becoming the Chauncey Billups of 2013, the man who finally found his place with his fifth team in eight seasons. A smallish shooting guard who handles the ball, he was considered by teams the “tweener,” too small for shooting guard and too much individual ball handling to run the team. But that notion is disappearing rapidly the way Nate Robinson has played in the playoffs as well as Jack, who is about 6-2. That’s becoming a premium with loose rules on the perimeter for players who can make plays with the ball and run pick and roll no matter the size as teams are slowly recognizing. It may be the legacy of these playoffs.
Jack also is a student of the game as he told reporters afterward his position flexibility is not anything new as he “didn’t have to read a Phil Jackson Zen book or anything like that.” And asked about Curry still scoring 22 on a bad ankle, Jack likened it to “Isiah Thomas against the Lakers in the Finals.” Barnes sitting nearby shrugged. He wasn’t born yet.
NBA news and notes
-- Obviously there’s much speculation with the Celtics regarding the futures of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, though most executives around the league believe given the limited market for highly paid veterans the Celtics most likely will make one more run with a presumably healthy Rajon Rondo. Perhaps their biggest surprises, though, were the playoff declines of Courtney Lee and Avery Bradley, both of whom are likely to be available in a package. The Clippers with their first round ouster seem the only destination that might tempt Kevin Garnett to team with Chris Paul and likely a new coach. But given improving every season with the Clippers, even if they don’t retain Vinny Del Negro you’d have to assume he’d be a serious candidate for one of the many open jobs. ... Not that they’d consider it — and I assume they wouldn’t — but what about a sign and trade of Chris Paul? He’s 28, has a history of injury issues and apparently doesn’t love Blake Griffin. Imagine the package you could get as you have Eric Bledsoe, who can play the position pretty well. Chris Paul on the market. How much attention and players would that bring? And, after all, he couldn’t get you out of the first round. Nah, just thinking out loud. ... It’s a new general manager for the 76ers, Sam Hinkie, from the Houston school of analytics and going behind the numbers no one else can figure out and then just hoping someone dumps James Harden in your lap. The Rockets did accumulate a bunch of “assets,” which appeared to be something, and you figure the 76ers will go that way now as well. Which probably means they’ll offer up their tweeners, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, since they pretty much have no chance to make the playoffs for awhile with that roster. The new guy can always move the No. 2 pick he didn’t make.
-- Jason Kidd will be in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, though not for this season. He’s now gone seven consecutive playoff games without scoring a point. That’s 161 minutes and missing all 14 shots. Really, this is the team talking about challenging Miami? The Knicks are talking about having Steve Novak out there more for scoring, which should really help their defense. ... Since being suspended in the Boston series, J.R. Smith is shooting 27 percent. New York media reported him “clubbing” late into the night before Game 1 against the Pacers. He’s since shown up with the flu and has been missing practices. A lot of players have been sick, as the Bulls know. So it happens. But imagine questions being raised about a conservative, solid citizen like J.R. Smith? What is this world coming to? ... Pacers coach Frank Vogel, who really is most famous for appearing on David Letterman’s Stupid Human Tricks segment in 1986 as an eighth grader brushing his teeth while spinning a basketball on the end of a toothbrush, says he still is asked about it and does the stunt for his daughter’s friends’ backyard barbeques. He does have pretty shiny teeth.
-- Miami’s Norris Cole will forever be listed in NBA records as the Bulls’ 2011 draft pick, No. 28. Cole is the playoff’s three-point shooting leader with at least 10 attempts at a staggering 10 of 13, eight of eight against the Bulls. Vladimir Radmanovic is the official leader at three of three. The Bulls, though, never intended to pick Coles. They worked feverishly in draft night to move up to get Nikola Mirotic, which they did at No. 24. The Thunder also were angling for Mirotic, but after the Bulls selected him they took Reggie Jackson, now starting with Russell Westbrook injured and bollizing up a heck of a lot of late plays. Miami ended up with Cleveland State’s Cole in the multi-team swap giving the rights to Bogan Bogdanovic to Minnesota, which also got the rights to Malcolm Lee from the Bulls. The Rockets acquired Jonny Flynn and Donatas Motiejunas for the 23rd pick and Brad Miller. Minnesota also got a 2013 first ... I know Memphis is a good defensive team, but do you have to be if the other team is playing Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder is having trouble scoring, obviously, without Russell Westbrook. Perkins is averaging 2.2 per game in the playoffs and shooting 28.6 percent. Perkins has gone way up to 2.7 per game against Memphis as perhaps he’s getting hot, but shooting 14.3 percent. Though I think Jason Kidd is asking him for scoring tips. ... Thabo Sefolosha against Memphis is averaging 4.3 points per game on 30.8 percent shooting. Yes, it looks like Kevin Durant will have to score 100. Maybe they could use Nate Robinson, whom the Thunder bought out after the 2011 lockout because they felt he wouldn’t play. Robinson played that season with Golden State and signed with the Bulls last summer in an unguaranteed minimum. The Oregonian newspaper wrote that the Trail Blazers Will Barton may be the next Nate Robinson. Yes, he’s now a cult figure and model. Next Jordan? Who cares? Next Nate!
-- Though the Bulls have been fighting for Team of the Playoffs with their march of the infirm, the Golden State Warriors nudge them out having tied the Spurs 2-2 (including that incredible blown lead in Game 1) headed back to San Antonio, where the Warriors just won for the first time in 30 games. It was the second overtime game of the four Sunday, another classic. And you have to credit the Warriors with Curry dragging along his sprained ankle for a change. The Warriors got the Spurs, despite their height advantage, to match down. You wonder if Golden State could have dealt with Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter down the stretch, but the Spurs tried to outshoot them, which is tough. ... The Pelicans announced Eric Gordon underwent yet another arthroscopic procedure. And how can you not want him now? ... Derek Fisher is shooting 55.6 percent on threes in the playoffs. But did you still want him taking that quick transition 28 footer instead of going to Durant late in that Game 3 loss to Memphis trailing by four? ... When the Warriors won in San Antonio last week for the first time since February 1997 their backcourt that day was B.J. Armstrong and Latrell Sprewell. ... New Suns general manager Ryan McDonough is the son of the late legendary Boston sportswriter Will, who was among the first to make the transition to TV expert. Brother Sean works for ESPN and Terry in player personnel for the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL. McDonough was among those in Boston who helped steal away the draft the Suns, notorious for selling them off, used to take Rajon Rondo. McDonough also had to talk up Michael Beasley, who has one more year and a buyout and was accused in an assault recently. Beasley went No. 2 in the 2008 draft to Miami behind Derrick Rose and immediately in front of O.J. Mayo, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and Danilo Gallinari. Brook Lopez went 10th and Roy Hibbert 17th. Good Miami missed on that one. ... David Lee gave it another shot Sunday and went eight scoreless minutes. And though Lee led the league in double/doubles this season and was the Warriors’ only All-Star (see, I had Stephen Curry and the coaches picked Lee), the Warriors’ lineup with Andrew Bogut is proving more troublesome for the Spurs, spreading the court more for their shooting game and opening matchup opportunities for rookie Harrison Barnes.
-- The Warriors Sunday won their first playoff game while shooting under 40 percent since May 14, 1975. That is a day of infamy for veteran Bulls fans as it was Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. The Bulls in their best chance for a title before Michael Jordan led by 14, by 11 at halftime, by six going into the fourth quarter with Bob Love holding Rick Barry to two of 15 through three quarters. Barry then hit six of his next seven shots as the Warriors, 48-34 that season, went on to win 83-79 in Oakland and then sweep Washington in the Finals. Barry called it a “fantasy year” for Golden State. It also signaled the breakup of that great Bulls team in perhaps the most egregious act ever for a coach as Dick Motta urged the players to deny playoff shares to Love and Norm Van Lier despite them leading the team in average minutes played. Motta said if the two hadn’t held out in training camp the Bulls would have had home court advantage and won. It’s also why you never saw Motta at many Bulls reunions.