We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Chicago Bulls.
Dwyane Wade’s homecoming was anything but a joyful experience this past season for the Bulls or the perennial All-Star, with the outlook even bleaker now that Jimmy Butler is gone, which is why Wade will reportedly work out a buyout prior to the season starting and take his talents elsewhere.
Even if Wade stays, the Bulls will still be among the worst teams in the NBA this season.
So, sending him on his way only quickens the rebuilding process which this team will likely be in for a few years (at least).
But that’s where it gets really scary for Bulls fans, because rebuilding a franchise means making smart moves through the draft and via trades – two areas the Bulls' brass has been striking out a lot in lately.
They traded Butler, one of the league’s top two-way players, to Minnesota for an athletic wing in Zach LaVine who is still recovering from an ACL injury, and Kris Dunn who had an underwhelming first year in the league.
Chicago also added rookie big man Lauri Markkanen who like most neophytes to the NBA, will need some time to adjust to the faster, stronger, quicker-paced game of the NBA.
That deal was preceded by a string of really bad deals that when you add up all the assets gained and lost, it shows that Chicago gave up two, first-round picks, four second-round picks and Taj Gibson, for a group of players with the “prize” pick-up being Cameron Payne; yes, the same Payne who last season was fifth on their point guard depth chart and if he’s lucky, he may be on the team’s active roster this season.
Bobby Portis and Paul Zipser both showed glimpses of being able to contribute, and will each get plenty of opportunities this season. And veteran big man Robin Lopez can still contribute as well.
But the Bulls don’t have the pieces in place to be a team that will challenge for anything other than the worst record in the NBA this season.
And that is in part why most believe this is going to be a rough, rough season for the Bulls.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Zach LaVine (Minnesota); Quincy Pondexter (New Orleans); Kris Dunn (Minnesota).
Key losses: Jimmy Butler (Minnesota); Rajon Rondo (New Orleans).
Rookies of note: Lauri Markkanen
Expectations: 20-62 (Fifth in the Central Division, 15th in the East)
CLEVELAND – For the Celtics, the preseason went about as well as expected.
No serious, long-term injuries.
They won every preseason game, even one in which the team’s second unit played the role of starters.
And the chemistry concerns with so many new players, while very real, didn’t seem to be that big an issue.
Still, as good as the Celtics may feel about where they stand, they know it means absolutely nothing unless they get it done against elite, NBA-caliber competition.
The Cleveland Cavaliers.
It doesn’t get much more challenging than that.
And for the Celtics, win or lose, this is going to be a game for them to build upon going forward this season.
“I’m just ready to get going,” said Gordon Hayward. “A lot of things have happened this summer, a lot of buildup. I’m ready to get to the game. It’s going to be a fun matchup, for sure.”
Among the summer happenings was Boston and Cleveland pulling off one of the biggest blockbuster deals of the offseason with the Cavs trading Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic while also conveying Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick and Miami’s 2020 second-round pick to complete the deal.
Having spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers, there’s a certain amount of corporate knowledge that the 25-year-old Irving brings to tonight’s matchup.
“I know a lot about them, they know a lot about me,” Irving said. “There’s plenty of film on all of us, but specifically going back and understanding the way we played last year when I played with them and now how they’re playing with the new guys, understanding how to implement themselves into their new system plus me implementing myself into this system...There’s definitely some benefits on our end, there are some benefits on their end. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Part of the challenge for the Celtics will be developing the kind of on-court cohesion to be successful, which is easier said than done when you’re talking about getting nearly a dozen players on the same page in just a few weeks.
“We have good chemistry as a group,” said Al Horford. “We still have a ways to go as far as keep getting comfortable with each other and keep figuring out our spots. But we feel good with what we have. Our young guys, it’s been remarkable how quickly they’ve been able to come along and be up to date with everything. And our new guys as well. They’re up to date, they know what we need to do. They understand the game plan. It’s been good.”
Players aren’t the only ones eager to get to tonight’s game.
“To have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc. is great,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It’s great to experience that in game one, a tremendous learning experience for our group, so we’re preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they’re really, really good. But this is..I’m looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”
Isaiah Thomas told Sports Illustrated last week that he "might never talk to Danny [Ainge] again." And he sounded pretty bitter about his trade from the Celtics to the Cavs.
Now, on the "Road Trippin" podcast with new teammate Channing Frye and ex-Cav Richard Jefferson, Thomas, who is out until at least January with a hip injury, said those comments were misunderstood.
“People took it the wrong way,” Thomas said. “I understand the business, I understand that we’re in position to get traded and sent to other teams and things like that. It’s just how it went down that I didn’t respect. As a man, I feel like if you respected me as much as you say you did, you would have at least informed me about what was going on before it happened. And that’s all I was talking about.
“I’m not tripping off the trade like I got traded to the Cavs and we’re going to win a championship. And at the end of the day, I’m going to be fine with that,” Thomas said. “[Ainge] sent me to an even better situation with a bigger platform. I’m blessed to be in the position, I’m grateful and I’m excited.”
The Cavs host the Celtics tonight in the season opener.
Jae Crowder, who came to Cleveland from Boston, was also on the podcast and when Frye talked with him about players deserving communication from the front office, Thomas could be heard in the background, saying, “That’s what I’m talking about.”
“I already said what I’m doing," Thomas told Crowder about what he'll do should he run into Ainge. "I’m going to keep it pushing like he kept pushing when he traded me, I’m not going to disrespect him. He’s a man and I’m a man, too. Like, I’m going to go my way. I play for the Cavaliers and that’s what it is.”