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J. Smalls
March 31

The Ultimate NBA Series


The NBA is not what it used to be. The rule changes and lack of defense has turned off some loyal NBA fans in the past fifteen years. Though the NBA still provides high TV numbers, they lack the intense rivalries that fueled the league back in the early eighties and nineties. I want to take a look into the past and the present to bring together the all-time rosters for some of the best NBA franchises. The players will all be considered in their prime and will be on the team that made their career most memorable. Some duplicates will exist in the case of a player like Dennis Rodman who was a main member on both championship Detroit Piston teams and three of the Chicago Bulls championships.

Today I will take a look at the super power match up of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Chicago Bulls. Here are the Rosters.

Lakers

PG – Magic Johnson – Jerry West - Gail Goodrich

SG – Kobe Bryant – Byron Scott – Michael Cooper

SF – James Worthy – Elgin Baylor - Robert Horry

PF – Shaquille O’Neal – Vlade Divac

C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – George Mikan

Bulls

PG – Derrick Rose – Ron Harper – Norm Van Lier

SG – Michael Jordan – Jimmy Butler -

SF – Scottie Pippen – Toni Kukoc

PF – Dennis Rodman – Horace Grant – Taj Gibson

C – Artis Gilmore – Joakim Noah

It is hard to bet against Michael Jordan in anything to do with basketball, but with such a storied history that is the Lakers will be a true test for the Bulls. The story-line match up of Kobe and Michael will be the main focus of this series, but many other parts go into the equation. I only see the Lakers winning due to the superb front line combination of Shaq and Kareem.

Now the simulation! The surprising x factor in this series ended up being Dennis Rodman due to his effect mentally on Shaq and taking him out of his game throughout the series. Controlling the rebounding battle allowed the Bulls to control the tempo offensively and defensively. The true essence of a brutal nineties series holds true in this match up.

With every team winning their home games the series ends up in Los Angeles for game seven. Though most of the series was dominated by low post play and stifling defense, game seven was different. Jordan went off on a tear to start the game hitting eight straight shots, but Kobe and Shaw followed suit and tied up the game heading into half time. Not many more adjustments could be made as both of these teams knew each other inside and out.

The decision by Bulls coach Phil Jackson to play Rodman at the center position and Pippen at the point really threw the Lakers for a loss in the second half. Still, the game would come down to both teams being tied with five seconds left. The Lakers had the ball with Magic Johnson in-bounding the ball to Kobe, but Scottie Pippen got a hand on the inbound and Dennis Rodman dove to catch the ball with 2.2 seconds left.

The play Jackson drew up was simple. Run Michael off of a back screen and hit him with a pass so he could catch and shoot in the corner. Lakers coach Pat Riley defended this by putting two players on Jordan, but unknowingly left Toni Kukoc open at the top of the key. Without hesitation Pippen threw the ball into Kukoc who hit the open jumper with time expiring.

Not a bad opening round series!

Next up for the Bulls are the all-time Houston Rockets. Here is the starting lineup for the Rockets.

PG – Sam Cassel

SG – Clyde Drexler

SF – Tracy McGrady

PF – Moses Malone

C = Hakeem Olajuwon

March 30

The Chicago Bulls Toxicity Report


The state of the Chicago Bulls has been pretty ugly in the past few years, with this year getting even uglier. Bulls new head coach Fred Hoiberg took over this year, but things have gone from bad to terrible in that time. With less than ten games left this year the Bulls sit two full games out of the eastern conference playoff picture. With the type of salary devoted to this team not making the playoffs would be an utter disaster. At some point the Bulls ownership need to hold management accountable for this sinking status that currently covers the organization like a dense fog.

The Bulls have lacked a consistency that has been clearly evident all year. Defensively the team has absolutely flat lined over the past year and a half continues to show no sign of life. Offensively, there is no chemistry in either the front or back court. The fact Hoiberg has still not found out how to play Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Pau Gasol together effectively blows my mind.

Sure, the Bulls have had a plethora of injuries throughout the season, but who hasn’t? This team was built with allot of depth and talent, but the philosophy seems to be skewed. When the Bulls did loose players like Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. They had significant production from Etwan Moore, Doug McDermott, and rookie Bobby Portis. But still the Bulls could not create any traction in the eastern conference and still continued to lose to horrible teams.

It is very frustrating for Bulls fans to have some great performances, but not being able to put them all together to produce a winning basketball team. This is clearly evident with the play of Derrick Rose who has missed some games this season sporadically, but overall has been a major contributor by playing at a very high level. No one thought Derrick would come back at the MVP level of a few years ago, but he has. Yet the Bulls can’t capitalize on most of these games and end up wasting another outstanding performance.

Ideally the Bulls need to improve the center position to set a better foundation going into the future. Also, regardless of Derrick Rose the Bulls need to invest in a top tier point guard to better help ensure better offensive flow and efficiency. Derrick might be an asset the Bulls trade this off season due to the fact his return value might be at its highest. The fact is everyone on this team should be available to better help bring some assets back here to Chicago.

Hopefully the Bulls front office management and ownership will make the tough decisions needed for the Bulls to take a step forward into the future instead of taking another step backwards.  


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March 29

The 16' Toronto Raptors Collapse

The Toronto Raptors have had an above average amount of success thus far for the NBA regular season this year. Trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers by only two games for the number one spot in the Eastern Conference is a huge step forward for head coach Dwayne Casey and team. The troubling fact is Raptors are falling apart at the seams at the absolute worst time.

The issues stem from the point guard of the Raptors Kyle Lowry who has been hampered the past few months since January with elbow issues, thus making his shooting abilities and efficiency struggle significantly. This has even resulted in Lowry having the have his elbow drained as early as this past weekend.

This team has been put forward by a strong defense, but nothing really spectacular on the offensive end of late. Efficiency wise they have out played themselves so far and are starting to come back to reality. The truth of the matter is the Raptors lack some desperately needed wing play to complement DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry in the back court.

Kevin Durant

Ideally the Raptors should get into the mix for a star player like Kevin Durant of the OKC Thunder who is a free agent this summer. Playing with a true point guard like Lowry could be a tremendous selling point for Durant who has played with the energetic shooting guard slash point guard in Russell Westbrook. Also, the fact Toronto has no income tax should be another point of emphasis for Durant heading into next year.

I just don’t see the Raptors having enough star power to beat teams like Cleveland, Miami, or even the Boston Celtics who are having a great year under head coach Brad Stevens. Unfortunately the Raptors do not have enough to get past the second round in the NBA playoffs this year. This will be a hard and bitter pill to swallow for Toronto fans, but they must use this as motivation for coming back next year that much better.

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May 9

D. Sizzle

The phenomenon that is Derrick Rose is someone unlike anyone else in today’s sporting world. Reports were released today from an interview in which Rose stated point blank that he believes that he is the “best overall player in the NBA.” And I completely agree. The NBA is a point guard league, and with Derrick’s desire to dominate his position, the Bulls are among the best. It is hard to judge a player who is a year removed from a serious knee injury and questions remain regarding the timeline of his return. Looking at the size, speed, strength, and heart that Derrick possesses, separates him from even the most elite players in the NBA. Derrick stands alone in his ability to finish around the rim like no one since the days of MJ. He has possesses a natural-given talent that you cannot train or teach. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, he is one of the few players who literally puts his city on his back.  

The Cavaliers will have some dominate drives in game 4, but the Bulls must continue to protect home-court advantage and continue to put pressure on the visiting Cavs.  Loosing Pau Gasol in any capacity will hurt offensively, but this should open up some more playing time for Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic who both played very well in game 3.  Continuing to defend LeBron James will forever be an issue.  If the Bulls contiue to make LBJ shoot as opposed to getting into the lane the Bulls should rein in some control.  

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April 14

The NBA MVP Race


The NBA season thus far has been quite interesting; especially the way things are shaping up for the playoffs. The western conference has clearly been the most dominate conference, but still the east hold top teams like Cleveland, Atlanta, and Chicago. We take a Cerebral look at the most important players of the 2014/15 NBA season and their impact.

MVP – Steph Curry, Golden State Warriors– Without a doubt Steph has been cooking some spicy Curry up all season long. Curry has been the main distributor on the Warriors thus leading them to the best record in the NBA. Steph Curry has also solidified himself as one of the top point guards in the entire world. The quick deadly shot, defensive tenacity, and overall court vision has put a separation between him and other point guards in the NBA. The upcoming 2015 playoffs are going to be crucial for Curry. Playing in such a tough western conference will really shorten up the court for the Warriors, especially against the Spurs.

Other candidates

Anthony Davis, New Orleans – He is right there with Curry. It should be a great first round match-up between the Pelicans and Warriors.

James Harden, Houston – Great season, but he does not play defense.

Russell Westbrook, OKC – Spectacular numbers this season, but no playoffs and too many turnovers.

LeBron James, Cleveland – He has had a very strong season even with some time off. It is hard to vote against LBJ as most valuable, but it is even harder to not vote for Chef Curry.  

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February 19

Rebuilding The Chicago Bears

It is no mystery that the Chicago Bears are in a world of misery. Currently the Bears rank 28th out of 32 NFL teams in salary cap space availability at $6,441,420. Major changes have been happening from the hiring of Ryan Pace and John Fox, but change must still continue. I truly believe that if the Bears can have an exceptional draft and hit on a few select free agents, competitiveness might not be that far away for Da Bears.

With the number 7 pick my advice would be to trade it and acquire a plethora of draft picks to help establish the new 3-4 defense being implanted by the new Fox regime.

With those draft picks the Bears also need to get a downhill “Beast Mode” type runner and then stock up the offensive line to dominate opposing defensive fronts. In today’s NFL the most dominate teams always have a great run and throwing mix. A good mix is something the Bears have been lacking for the past few decades.

Winning pieces still reside in Chicago, but now they need to be set up for success and coached correctly. Tough decisions need to be made concerning the ageing duo of Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte if the Bears are going to have any realistic financial flexibility. Here are my top key’s to the Bears being a competitive team in the 2015/16 NFL season.

1. Establish a pass rush.

2. Start building an elite defensive secondary. I think moving Kyle Fuller to safety could help immensely.

3. Return to a smash mouth run first football team, but will still defensively instill fear onto opposing NFL offenses.

4. Build a real offensive line for better protection and improving the ability to run the damn ball. Moving Kyle Long to tackle will better help control the line of scrimmage.

5. Bring back that smash mouth Chicago football attitude that we have lost since the 80’s.

6. Beat the Detroit Lions!

7. Destroy the Green Bay Packers! 

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December 22

Who's Better?


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December 22

Windy City Baseball

It has been an extremely exciting winter for Chicago baseball fans.  It’s so awesome to finally see both sides of town heavily investing in winning baseball.  Not just this year, but for many years to come. Here is a breakdown of what both teams have done thus far and how they will look heading into opening day.

White Sox 

No team has improved more this off-season than the Chicago White Sox, as they've added Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, Zach Duke and David Robertson to a roster that was already on the rise with a good core of young talent.

A rotation fronted by Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Samardzija should be as good as any trio in baseball, and with Avisail Garcia healthy and Jose Abreu now protected by LaRoche, the offense should be a strength too.

LEFT FIELD

• M. Cabrera• D. Viciedo• J. Danks

CENTER FIELD

• A. Eaton• L. Garcia

RIGHT FIELD

• A. Garcia• D. Viciedo• J. Danks

SHORTSTOP

• A. Ramirez• L. Garcia• C. Sanchez

2ND BASE

• C. Sanchez• L. Garcia

1ST BASE

• J. Abreu• A. LaRoche• C. Gillaspie• A. Wilkins

DH

• A. LaRoche• J. Abreu• D. Viciedo

• CATCHER

• T. Flowers• A. Nieto• R. Brantly

• 3RD BASE

• C. Gillaspie• L. Garcia• C. Sanchez

Starters

1. C. Sale

2. J. Samardzija

3. J. Quintana

4. J. Danks

5. H. Noesi

6. C. Rodon

• PEN

• D. Robertson (CL)• J. Petricka• N. Jones• D. Webb• Z. Putnam

• J. Guerra• M. Cleto• D. Jennings• E. Surkamp• Z. Duke

Cubs 

The Chicago Cubs won the Jon Lester lottery, and by also adding all-star catcher Miguel Montero, Jason Hammel and David Ross, they are undoubtedly the most improved team in the division.

However, expectations should be tempered, as there will no doubt be some significant growing pains with their young offense. They should have a ton of power, though, and with an improved pitching staff, it's not out of the question to think they could make a run at a playoff spot. The NL is a weaker league so the Cubs have a great shot at making a huge impact this year. Attention to the bullpen will also be huge to their success.

CENTER FIELD

• A. Alcantara• R. Sweeney• M. Szczur

RIGHT FIELD

• J. Soler• R. Sweeney

SHORTSTOP

• S. Castro• J. Baez

2ND BASE

• J. Baez• A. Alcantara• T. La Stella

1ST BASE

• A. Rizzo• M. Olt

CATCHER

• M. Montero• R. Lopez• R. Lavarnway

3RD BASE

• K Bryant• L. Valbuena• M. Olt

ROTATION

1. J. Lester

2. J. Arrieta

3. J. Hammel

4. K. Hendricks

5. T. Wood

6. T. Wada

7. J. Turner

8. F. Doubront

BULLPEN

• H. Rondon (CL)

• J. Motte• P. Strop• N. Ramirez• B. Parker

• J. Grimm• Z. Rosscup• D. Straily• B. Schlitter• E. Jackson

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December 22

Fire Everyone!

The Chicago Bears 2014 season has been absolutely abysmal. Problems start from horrible decision making and lack of clutch performances that have landed the Bears as one of the worst teams in the NFL.

Marc Trestman’s ever-adapting game plan and mental acuity has been something to see in the first few weeks of his tenure with the Bears starting in 2013, but everything since everything has been absolutely horrid. Starting quarterback Jay Cutler never having time in the pocket to pass the ball, we still have not been able to see his true potential. Jay gets the most hate of any quarterback in the NFL, and all because of a nonexistent defense, bad coaching decisions, and a horrible offensive line, all of which were out of his control. Cutler has been thrown around like a rag doll ever since his arrival here from Denver, but with the Chicago media we seem to only harp on Cutler’s negatives.

This year the offensive line is one of the biggest reasons the season has fallen apart. Outside of guard Kyle Long the whole unit absolutely sucks. Combined with the worst defense possibly ever assembled Joe Montana could not with a game with this team. Cutler may not be an absolute franchise quarterback, but he is still better than 80% of other current NFL quarterbacks.

Without reservation, I believe head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery will be fired in the off season. The Chicago Bears are a team that needs to start building a true defense and offensive line first and foremost. Leading the Bears in the right direction heading into their future the general manager and coaching selection will be crucial if we have any chance of beating Green Bay any time soon. 

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October 18

The 2014 World Series

It is insane that people are devaluing the upcoming World Series match-up of the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants because the fact they are both Wild Card winning teams. Truth is, this has the all the makings of an absolute great series and probably the best in over ten years. Both teams have great pitching, great defense, speed, and remarkably efficient timely hitting. Stealing a game in Kansas City will be crucial for the Giants to change the scope of the series.

Here are a few keys to success.

1. Buster Posey needs to effectively throw out base steal attempts.

2. Whose bullpen will be more dominate? My bet is the on the Giants.

3. The Royals must continue their hot hitting.

4. Lefty Madison Bumgarner who has been the hottest pitcher in baseball needs to win in Kansas City. 

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