More thoughts on potential free agents:
The only “news” we currently have about where LeBron will end up in July is all rumor and speculation. But according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, the Bulls are leading the Race for the King: “I keep hearing that the Bulls are atop his list at the moment. That could change, but that’s the word around the league at the moment. [Top three are:] 1. Bulls. 2. Knicks 3. Heat … I think the darkhorse is Dallas who’ll try to acquire him via sign-and-trade. As for the Cavs, it doesn’t look very good at the moment, but things can change. I think owner Dan Gilbert would essentially have to give him the GM job as well to keep him there.”
In unrelated news, I’m currently “in the lead” for Bionic Superhero of the Future, along with Lou Ferrigno, Homer Simpson and the Easter Bunny.
Okay. Sarcasm aside, the New Jersey Nets were also in the running for LeBron. Until last night, anyway. As Ford noted: “If they can land [John] Wall, they suddenly become much more competitive in the LeBron James sweepstakes. if they don’t land Wall, I think we can scratch them off the list. That’s some pretty big stakes.”
They were big. Unfortunately for the 17 remaining Nets fans — and 17 might be too high a guess — the Washington Wizards won the number one pick in the draft lottery and will almost certainly take Wall. The Nets, who were one of the worst team’s in league history last season, ended up with the third pick. Even if the Wizards go crazy and pass up Wall, there’s no way he will get past the Philadelphia 76ers, who have the second pick.
By the way, Bulls player development assistant Lindsey Hunter literally laughed away the idea that LeBron and Derrick Rose wouldn’t work well together. With all due apologies to John Hollinger.
Said Hunter: “I laugh at a situation like that simply because you have two guys who very easily could average over 20 points apiece. When you can walk into an arena and have that in your pocket, you’re winning. That’s an easy choice. That’s not even something to think about.”
Agreed. Even if Jay Mariotti is begging LeBron not to go to Chicago.
One last thing. There was a rumor going around yesterday that had LeBron trying to get Doc Rivers — who just last night coached the Boston Celtics to a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals — to come with him to Chicago. It sounded a little silly at the time…but Rivers upgraded the notion to very silly.
Said the Doc: “I’m not even going to answer that one. It’s funny, I told someone today that’s the first time I’ve heard about it. I said ‘I’m either going to be in Boston or home.’ And one guy said, ‘Well, home is Chicago or wherever else.’ I said, ‘That’s just stupid talk.’ I think that’s just ridiculous.”
The Phoenix Suns got blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Lamar Odom — who finished with 19 points and 19 rebounds — was a huge catalyst. Meanwhile, Stoudemire had only three rebounds in 35 minutes.
What’s worse, here’s what Amar’e had to say about Odom’s big day: “I’m not giving him no hype right now; he had a lucky game in Game 1. We just got to make sure we box him out. I think I focused so much on [Pau] Gasol and [Andrew] Bynum to where he snuck in there and got 19 boards, so now we just got to make sure there’s three guys out there that can rebound well [when] adding Odom. So, we got to do a better job on them.”
Luck, huh? See, to me, rebounding is more about hard work and determination than luck. Do you know who leads the Suns in defensive rebounding during the 2010 NBA playoffs? It’s 37-year-old Grant Hill with 59 defensive boards. Meanwhile, Stoudemire has only 41 defensive rebounds despite playing 75 more minutes than Hill. What’s more, Stoudemire barely ranks ahead of Steve Nash in Defensive Rebounding Rate in the playoffs (12.5 to 10.3). Hill leads the team in DRR at 22.2.
There are several things that bother me about Stoudemire as a big man…and rebounding is one of them. I watch the Suns play a lot, and it seems lik Amar’e isn’t a big fan of going after contested defensive rebounds. And at times, he doesn’t do a great job of boxing out. Again, Lamar Odom outrebounded him 19-3 a couple days ago.
Over the long haul, rebounding wins basketball games, an I’m wary of big men who rebound below expectations. It probably won’t matter, because by all indications the Suns are going to break the piggy bank to re-sign Stoudemire. But it’s worth thinking about, because I’m sure he’s one of the outer blips on the Bulls’ free agent radar.
Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times: “Derrick Rose saved his best for last Tuesday. The Bulls rookie star guard was without a field goal through three quarters. But Rose turned it on in the fourth to help lead the Bulls to a 127-121 win, which extended the Bulls home streak to seven games. Rose, who scored nine of his 11 points and had six of his eight assists in the fourth, had plenty of help. John Salmons scored a team-high 38 points and Brad Miller notched a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. ‘At home, we play with a different type of confidence, a different type of energy,’ Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. ‘Hopefully, as we mature as a team, we’ll understand what it takes to win on the road more consistently. We haven’t done that and that’s why we’re in the situation we’re in; trying to fight for that eighth spot. If we had taken care of business more on the road, like we could have, we’d have a [playoff] space secured.’”
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “The Bulls are battling for a playoff spot. The defending NBA champion Celtics are chasing greatness. The drama that unfolded at the United Center Tuesday night belied the disparity between those goals. When the Bulls’ 127-121 victory ended, their seventh straight home triumph pushed them one-half game ahead of the Bucks for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. And a victory over the defending NBA champions certainly can boost confidence down the stretch. ‘It definitely can,’ John Salmons said, when asked if such gut-check victories can have carry-over effects. ‘At home, we’ve had games like this where we beat teams people didn’t think we could beat. We just have to keep it going on the road.’ On one of those rare nights where everybody contributed, Salmons’ effort stood out. His career-high-tying 38 points included a reverse slam with 2 minutes 28 seconds left that gave the Bulls the lead for good in a nip-and-tuck fourth quarter that featured seven lead changes and five ties.”
Nick Hut of the Northwest Herald: “In a playoff-type atmosphere, the Bulls looked right at home. They certainly looked worthy of at least qualifying for the postseason, matching and ultimately surpassing the defending NBA champions Tuesday night at the United Center. The 127-121 victory against the Boston Celtics featured a starring performance from forward John Salmons. A trade-deadline acquisition, and one of the NBA’s most improved players this season, Salmons was every bit the equal of Celtics forward Paul Pierce. Salmons scored 38 points, tying a career-high, to Pierce’s 37. ‘That’s what you sometimes see in the playoffs, two guys going toe to toe and neither one backing down,’ Bulls center Brad Miller said. ‘Everyone knows Paul Pierce is a great player, and John was right there with him tonight.’ The game certainly did not feature playoff-caliber defense, which might have been expected with Celtics forward Kevin Garnett missing his 12th consecutive game. Garnett (knee) is among the league’s best defenders. But it featured plenty of intensity, with the Bulls rallying from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter and setting the stage for a back-and-forth final period. In the end, the Bulls (31-37) won at home for the seventh consecutive game and moved a half-game ahead of Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.”
Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “So even though the Celtics still had four of five starters on the floor, they were down to two big men and one of them, Mikki Moore, fouled out less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Boston was forced to play with Paul Pierce, center Kendrick Perkins and three guards. The Bulls used this to their advantage very well in the fourth quarter, spreading the floor so Derrick Rose could get to the basket. Then with Perkins committing to help on Rose, Brad Miller cleaned up the garbage. Miller’s veteran savvy paid off in this game. On two straight possessions of a closely contested fourth quarter, Perkins blocked shots, only to have Miller read the play perfectly, catch the ball out of the air and lay it in. Miller also made a nice steal by predicting that Rajon Rondo would float a pass to Perkins. Miller simply backed up and made the interception. I also liked how coach Vinny Del Negro turned to Tyrus Thomas for defensive help late in the game. Even though it didn’t really work, throwing Thomas against Pierce for a couple of possessions may have been an effective change of pace.”
Mark J. Spears of the Boston Globe: “Pierce scored a team-high 37 points while Rondo, despite being hurt, added 26 points, a game-high 10 assists, and 5 rebounds. But the Bulls, wearing green for St. Patrick’s Day, got 38 points from John Salmons (tying his career high), shot 53 percent from the field, and scored 58 points in the paint. The Celtics fell to 9-6 without Kevin Garnett this season and are now 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland for first place in the Eastern Conference. Celtics coach Doc Rivers was proud of the fight his beaten-up team showed. ‘We look like a team with not enough players,’ Rivers said. ‘That happens. I was really happy with our guys.’ The Celtics were already without Garnett (knee), Glen Davis (ankle), Brian Scalabrine (concussion), and Tony Allen (finger surgery). Eddie House returned to action despite a left ankle injury he suffered in Sunday’s loss to Milwaukee and scored 13 points in 28 minutes. But things got worse when Powe was lost in the first quarter to a sprained right knee. Powe, who banged knees with Chicago’s Ben Gordon, will be evaluated in Boston today but doesn’t expect to play tonight.”
Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: “In the end, not even St. Patrick could save the team that wears a shamrock on its uniform all year long. The Celtics and Bulls engaged in a basketball party that certainly didn’t lack for gusto, but there wasn’t enough green gas in the Boston tank. Chicago scored on eight straight possessions down the stretch to take a 127-121 victory and hand the ever-shrinking Celts their fourth loss in five games. By game’s end, the Celtics looked much like the revelers staggering out of the many fine establishments all over town. Leon Powe was out with a bruised right knee, and when Mikki Moore fouled out with 11:10 to go in the game, that left 6-foot-6 rookie Bill Walker as the power forward and, at times, Paul Pierce as your center.”