Bulls

Why you should root for the Bulls to land the second pick in the 2019 NBA Draft

Why you should root for the Bulls to land the second pick in the 2019 NBA Draft

Zion Williamson is from Wakanda. Like Khalil Mack, he is a direct descendant of the Jabari Tribe (No not Jabari Parker. Please watch the movie)  He's a specimen — 6-foot-8, 285 pounds. He's built like Larry Johnson (Google him), can shoot and has a good basketball IQ. He can jump through the roof, he runs the floor like a jacked up cheetah.

Williamson blocks shots, is unselfish and from what it looks like is a solid young man. He's a clear No. 1 pick. There is no way the Bulls, or any team for that matter should pass on Zion. So am I rooting for the Bulls to get the first pick? Nope; I’m rooting for them to get the second. Why? Simple: I want Ja Morant.

Contrary to what my ex-girlfriends have stated, I’m not a complete idiot. If the Bulls get the first pick, draft T’Challa’s cousin. No question about it. That's a no brainer. But in my head that is not happening, which makes it even simpler for my brain and heart to want Ja. He lacks the size of Shuri’s kinfolk but makes up for it in a myriad of other ways. Morant is an all-around player. He’s explosive, unselfish and a great ball handler. He'll rise up and drain a three in your eye just as fast as he would jump over you and dunk on your entire life.

Morant has amazing court vision and led the nation in assists. The nation, at Murray State. He averaged 24 points per game, shot 50 percent from the field, 36 percent from the three point line and averaged two steals a game. Again, at Murray State. Since they started keeping assists as a stat in 1983, do you know how many college players have averaged 20 points per game and 10 assists per game? One: Ja Morant.

Morant lives to have the ball during pressure situations. When the game is on the line, he wants the ball. When the team needs a boost in the second half because they are down by 15, he wants the ball. When they are up by 20, he wants the ball. However, it’s not just him wanting it. Its wanting it and coming through. In a win against Austin Peay (where John Paxson was in attendance), Morant's team needed his scoring and leadership.

So, of course, Morant went out and scored 18 in the second half and ended up with 32 points six rebounds and seven assists. He has a desire and a will to be great that can't be measured. He was not recruited heavily in high school. He was part of the best AAU team in the country. One of his teammates? Killmonger’s nephew. The next year, Zion was gone and Ja was left with the responsibility of leading his team. So what did he do? He balled out, averaging 41 points per game on the best AAU team in the country. He is special.

In a loss against Alabama, a game in which he threw down a dunk so gross you would spit it out, Ja dropped 38.

“We saw him on film and nine times out of 10 when we see guys on film and they come in the building, they aren’t the same," Alabama guard John Petty said when asked about what it was like to play against Morant. "But he was exactly the same. Tremendous player. He’s a great player. I can’t describe him.”

Not enough for you? How about the words of then head coach of Alabama Avery Johnson:

“I saw flashbacks of a lot of guys I played against,” Johnson said. “Whether it’s the old Isaiah Thomas — the Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Thomas — that craftiness and cleverness. John Stockton’s passing ability. Russell Westbrook’s athletic ability. My God. When I saw him on film…to watch him play in person… it was better than on film.”

Whenever I hear people compare Zion to NBA players, I get Shawn Kemp and Larry Johnson. Both were incredible specimens and excellent players. When I hear comparisons for Ja, I get Thomas, Westbrook and Stockton—Hall of Famers and MVPs.

As far as where he fits with the Bulls, that's pretty obvious. The first glaring hole has been plugged with the addition of Ottomatic. He's been great since coming over and a steadying force on both ends. Point guard is the last hole to fill in the starting five. My goal with all of this is to build around the one true King of the North. If it doesn't fit Lauri, then I'm not really checking for it (with a few obvious exceptions of course).

I need a player that's unselfish. One that's not worried about getting his but CAN get his undoubtedly. One that can run a fast break and recognize mismatches. Understands where teammates want the ball, when and where they need it. One that can feel the pressure and bathe in it. One that will lead the Bulls. The point god from South Carolina can do all of that and then some. I want Ja Morant on the Chicago Bulls. And you should too. Wakanda Forever.

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Picking All-Stars reserves depends on what you're looking for

Picking All-Stars reserves depends on what you're looking for

The NBA will announce the reserves for next month’s All-Star game at the United Center during a one hour special on TNT Thursday night.

My colleague Rob Schaefer did an excellent job of breaking down the numbers yesterday, and it’s hard to argue with any of his conclusions.

Here’s the way I see the coaches' picks shaking out on Thursday.

East Guards: Ben Simmons, Kyle Lowry. East Frontcourt: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, Khris Middleton. East Wild Cards: Domantas Sabonis, Bradley Beal.

West guards: Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell. West Frontcourt: Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Brandon Ingram. West Wild Cards: Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul.

All worthy selections without a doubt. But for me, the All-Star game is about athleticism and exciting open court plays. So, I would focus on players who could brings the fans to their feet with slam dunks, 3-point shooting and creative passing.

With that in mind, I would have Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine and Celtics’ forward Jayson Tatum on the squad instead of big men Adebayo and Sabonis. Let’s face it, LaVine was born to showcase his talents in an All-Star game. Zach is a two-time slam dunk champion and he’s shooting the 3-pointer more effectively than at any point in his career. Plus, the fact that the game is being played at the United Center would create even more motivation for LaVine to put on a show.

Tatum is another high-flying wing player who can make spectacular plays in the open court. He’s only shooting 43.5% from the field, but who cares? It’s an exhibition game!

And even though Kyle Lowry is having another good season in Toronto, he’s currently third in the league in average minutes played. So, why not give the 14 year veteran a little extra rest during All-Star weekend to gear up for the stretch run?

Let’s replace Lowry with former Bull and Chicago native Derrick Rose. How much fun would it be to watch Derrick flashing his end to end speed in front of the hometown crowd! Rose is having a terrific season with the Pistons, and you can only imagine what it would be like for him to cap off his basketball re-birth by playing in the All-Star game in Chicago.

Over in the West, I’ve got to get one of my personal favorites, Memphis rookie point guard Ja Morant into the game. Morant has been a nightly staple on the national highlight shows with his spectacular dunks, spectacular ball-handling and twisting finishes between defenders. Morant can take Chris Paul’s spot.

I would keep Jokic in the game because of his passing wizardry and 3 point shooting ability. He’s painfully slow changing ends, but he can still help create highlight plays with his impressive passing. On the other hand, defensive specialist Rudy Gobert has to go. I mean, who plays defense in an All-Star game?

Give me Paul George instead. George has been limited to just 26 games because of shoulder and hamstring injuries, but he’s still averaging 23.5 points and has the perfect skill-set for an All-Star game with the ability to bomb in 3-pointers (39.5% this season) and sky above the rim for alley-oop finishes.

My last change? Give Phoenix guard Devin Booker a chance to showcase his scoring talent at the All-Star game, and let Russell Westbrook leave his scowl at home. Booker once scored 70 points in a single game, and is a threat to score the minute he crosses half-court. He’s averaging 27 points a game, shooting an incredible 50.8% from the field and 36.5% from 3-point range.

No matter which players eventually wind up in the All-Star showcase, it promises to be an exciting night for everyone involved. But as the league gets ready to honor the memory of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, why not put on the most high-scoring, exciting All-Star game the world has ever seen?

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Bucks owner Marc Lasry received some sound advice from Michael Jordan

marc_lasry-bucks_owner.jpg
USA TODAY

Bucks owner Marc Lasry received some sound advice from Michael Jordan

The Milwaukee Bucks, led by reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, are on quite a tear this year. Per NBA.com, the Bucks are No. 2 in the league offensive rating, No. 1 in defensive rating—and by the way, they are a full 2.7 points ahead of the second-best defense—and No. 1 by a very wide margin (5.1 points) in net rating. Any way you slice it, the 2019-20 Bucks have been one of the most dominant regular season teams in NBA history. So with all of that being said, it is no shock that Bucks owner Marc Lasry has lofty goals for his team, including matching the incredible 72-win season of the 1996 Bulls. 

According to a report from Eric Woodyard of ESPN, Lasry spoke with the leader of the '96 Bulls (guess who?) at Friday's Bucks-Charlotte Hornets matchup at AccorHotels Arena in France. Michael Jordan offered up some sound advice for Nasry, who told MJ that he wanted his 2019-20 Bucks to try to be like the '96 Bulls in becoming a part of the illustrious group of teams in NBA history to have won 70+ regular season games. All-time only two teams have won 70+ regular season NBA games, the MJ-Scottie Pippen led '96 Bulls and of course, the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors, who went on to break the Bulls' record by winning 73 games. 

That memorable '16 Warriors season ultimately ended in heartbreak for the Dubs as they lost the NBA Finals in seven games to the LeBron James-Kyrie Irving-Kevin Love-led Cleveland Cavaliers. A prevailing thought was that the amount of energy the Warriors expended in going for the regular season record came back to haunt them in the playoffs, a similar sentiment shared by Jordan in his advice to Nasry. 

Look, my advice to you is don't focus on beating our record, focus on winning a championship.

-Michael Jordan's advice to Bucks owner Marc Lasry on how to handle this season

Nasry maintained that he wants the Bucks to "do everything," including winning 70+ games and collecting the second NBA title in franchise history. Milwaukee has 35 games left in the regular season and they don't look they have any intention of taking their foot off the gas anytime soon. Entering Wednesday morning, the Bucks are on a nine-game winning streak. Their latest win (on Tuesday night) came without Antetokounmpo playing, but guard Khris Middleton poured in a career-high 51 points in a game in which Milwaukee won by 20 and scored a whopping 151 points.

Head coach Mike Budenholzer has managed the Bucks minutes well enough to go all out and even try to break the Warriors' 73-win mark but as Jordan advised, NBA Championships should always be the primary focus. But Nasry is also aware of the place in NBA lore the 2019-20 Bucks would hold when we look back on it IF they can accomplish all of his lofty goals. As Nasry himself stated, "we're going to focus on beating your [the 1996 Bulls] record and winning a championship.' I think we should do everything, but that's me."

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