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That One Hurt…And Other Round 3 Thoughts

May 25, 2011

Watch out for the punching kitty known as LeBron. (Photo credit: sodahead.com)

Apologies for the mini-hiatus – it’s been a rough couple of days for Bulls’ fans, topped off by a stomach-punch of an overtime game last night down in South bleepin’ Beach.  As soon as LeBron switched over to guard D.Rose, the game was over.  Derrick may be able to get by 99% of the athletes in this league but against a lightening-quick athlete who weighs 80 lbs more and towers 6 inches above him, no jumping ability was going to be able to overcome the obstacle known as LeBron.

Last night’s overtime felt different than the multitude of overtimes in the epic Boston 2009 series – that series was missing Kevin Garnett and it was during the first round, when the expectations for those Bulls and rookie Derrick Rose were low.  No one dreamed that they would even push the series to 7 games.  This year, it’s different, there are expectations and lofty ones at that.  This summer is going to feel like forever and if a lockout happens, it’ll feel like forever^bajillion.  So while Bulls fans wait for the axe to fall, here are some thoughts on the 3rd round so far:

  • Looks like the young’uns might have to wait another year.  So much for the hope of a Thunder-Bulls Finals series.  The Thunder had their own stomach punch of an overtime loss on Monday night when they squandered a 15 point lead with five minutes left to go in regulation.  Not sure which method of losing is worse – to lose after a meltdown like that or to see your MVP get smothered by another MVP on the biggest possession of the year in the waning moments of the game.
  • Gar Forman has his work cut out for him but he’s also got a great foundation in place.  Bulls’ fans, let’s be honest with ourselves – we knew that other teams were going to figure out the “Derrick Rose offense”, right?  So yes, it’s brutal now with the agony of defeat but there’s lots of room for the Bulls to grow.
    • An upgrade at the shooting guard will make D.Rose’s life easier.  Duh.
    • If Joakim is able to play an entire season, he’ll have room to get comfortable with the ball again – even bumping his scoring average up by 3-5 points would have a huge impact because his defender wouldn’t be able to slack off and double Derrick as easily.  Additionally, I think Joakim’s development will help Boozer too – it took them a while to figure out who was supposed to be where on defense (and yes, I’m well aware that Boozer still looks lost on defense) which leads me to believe that they’re still trying to figure it out on the offensive end as well.
    • Which leads me to the fact that Thibs is still a rookie head coach.  Yes, he’s set in certain ways and yes, he will still do things that drive Bulls’ fans nuts but you know what?  As long as he dedicates his time to making the fans of other teams nuts, I’m ok with accompanying him as he ascends the learning curve.  When I say that there is room to grow, that includes the coach and this experience of matching up against the Heat, who have two automatic Hall of Famers on the roster in their prime, will only make his coaching stronger.
    • Derrick Rose is 22.  People need to take a hit of valium and relax.
  • Yeah, yeah, the Heat “can only get better”.  I’m not convinced that the Heat will go leaps and bounds past the league in the upcoming years.  A few things to remember:
    • The Heat are in their prime right now.  They have to win now – there’s no luxury of “wait until next year”.
    • The Heat also didn’t have any major injuries this year – these guys are young but in particular, D.Wade and LeBron have logged a lot of miles in their career thus far.  (Something that Thibs should notice – Luol and Derrick are too valuable to consistently play them 40+ minutes every night during the regular season.)
    • It’s unclear what the next CBA will look like but even though Pat Riley netted the Big Three, he also signed some crummy contracts for players who will only get older, not more desirable.  Unless the next CBA includes another mid-level exception, I’m not sure that the Heat will be able to sign a young gun at the point guard or center position unless they dupe someone into agreeing to a trade.
  • Which veterans will retire if there is a lockout?  This might be the last that we see of some wily vets like Jason Kidd, Juwan Howard, etc. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if the season doesn’t start until 2012.
  • Stars in the NBA win because they’re more talented AND because they’ll get the benefit of the whistle.  I normally try to give refs the benefit of the doubt – they have an extraordinarily tough job and have to keep a phonebook’s worth of rules in their head to make split second decisions under high pressure situations.  However, last night was a perfect example of how frustrating it is when you have a team primarily made up of non-stars: the Bulls outscored the Heat 44-24 in the paint and yet the Heat shot 38 free throws to the Bulls 22.  If you’re playing in a game where both teams are putting up an offensive clinic (i.e. the yearly Western Conference Finals), then this is less of an issue but when points are supremely scarce and every shot matters so much, ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!   After Game 2, Omer Asik had to get 5 stitches on his chin and he still struggled to get a foul call.  Come on, refs, I don’t think Omer was using his chin to guard Dwyane Wade’s elbow.
  • Speaking of refs…yes, JoNo was a distraction with his loose lips, which were apparently captured on national television.  The whole incident was unfortunate and here’s hoping that it leads to some real dialogue – unlike Kobe, I think Joakim would jump at a chance to lead the way in opening up discussions about hurtful language.  He had a good start by sitting down with Kevin Arnovitz, who is probably the game’s biggest “out” blogger.  (By the way, the Los Angeles press needs to stop complaining about Kobe’s heftier fine – no one believed his “apology” and he was using the slur against someone who was just trying to do his job, not antagonize anyone.  The public will forgive most mistakes if the offender seems earnest and honest in trying to rectify the error.  Kobe was neither.)

Ultimately, Henry Abbott is right – there has been some phenomenol basketball played thus far in this round. Too bad it has to end soon.

-Jocelyn

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