Bulls

NBA player carousel may finally be over

842175.png

NBA player carousel may finally be over

From the fan who despises him the most to the player himself, it's safe to say that anybody who was still paying attention is relieved that the Dwight Howard trade saga is over. But while many have focused on the current culture of the NBA, in which players can demand to go to their preferred destination, either via trade or as free agents, a cursory look at the landscape shows that there simply aren't many more moves to be made when it comes to the league's top talent.
Over the past few years, we've seen Howard, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Deron Williams all force their way out of town to major markets, while the likes of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire departed in free agency. That doesn't even include Dwyane Wade helping Pat Riley put together the "Big Three" in Miami, max contract extensions for Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or Joe Johnson signing a massive extension in Atlanta, then getting traded to Brooklyn to pair up with Williams.
The list goes on -- Dirk Nowitzki's extension in Dallas, Blake Griffin's max deal from the Clippers, Kevin Garnett postponing retirement to take another shot at a title in Boston, Ray Allen leaving the Celtics for the Heat, Steve Nash leaving the Suns for his former rival Lakers and, of course, Derrick Rose's five-year pact to stay in his hometown -- but you get the point: NBA superstars, for the most part, likely won't be changing uniforms for a while.
Barring impatient front-office types getting antsy -- imagine if the Lakers are somehow a bust or the Knicks still can't find a way to get Anthony and Stoudemire to co-exist harmoniously on the court -- don't anticipate the same whirlwind of player movement, not from top-tier stars, in the near future.
After the league's more free-spending franchises went all-in on marquee players, they have no choice but to see how things play out this season, lest tacitly admitting to fans that they made major mistakes, and that the rosters they assembled aren't truly equipped to get to the promised land. Whether it's the old guard of the Lakers, Celtics and Knicks or upstarts like the Heat, Mavericks and Nets -- the Spurs are exceptions to that rule, as an upper-echelon team that's competitive while exhibiting fiscal responsibility; it remains to be seen what route the Thunder, their management-style descendants, will ultimately choose -- a win-now mentality has mostly superseded building through the draft or developing young players around the NBA, meaning that the future is treated as some distant thing that may or may not be around for organizations to enjoy with their current stars.
Now that Howard's saga has been temporarily resolved, there aren't many impact players presently on the block, according to league scuttlebutt, and middling free-agent class next summer (the aforementioned Paul, Atlanta's Josh Smith and potentially Oklahoma City's restricted free-agent duo of James Harden and Serge Ibaka, underrated veteran Al Jefferson and recently-jettisoned dominant centers Howard and Andrew Bynum top the list) doesn't allow most teams to drastically improve instantaneously, placing even more significance on how things shake out this season.
Trades can always be made, but without the drama of a star demanding out of his current locale, the upcoming NBA campaign, barring major in-season injuries, could be somewhat of a throwback year, as what happens on the court, not off of it, is the main focus.

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

adam_amin.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls announce substitute broadcasters for first five Neil Funk-less games

If you haven't heard, Neil Funk is cutting 20 road games from his 2018-19 Bulls' play-by-play schedule.

Friday, the Bulls announced that Adam Amin, Andy Demetra and Kyle Draper will fill in for Funk for the first five of those games.

Amin, a play-by-play commentator for ESPN, will games on Oct. 22 against the Mavericks and Nov. 14 against the Celtics. He grew up in Addison, resides in Chicago and also does play-by-play for Bears preseason games.

Demetra is from Oak Brook and currently is the play-by-play broadcaster for Georgia Tech basketball and football. He will call games on Oct. 26 against the Hornets and Oct. 27 against the Hawks. He has previous play-by-play experience with the SEC Network, Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports South.

Draper will call the Bulls' Nov. 7 game against the Pelicans. He is the Celtics' pregame and postgame host for NBC Sports Boston and an occasional play-by-play annoucer and sideline reporter for the Celtics.

The Bulls said they will continue providing updates on substitute broadcasters as they are scheduled.

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

schanowski_article_bulls_pistons.jpg
USA TODAY

Pistons have the look of a playoff team in wide open East

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference last season cost Stan Van Gundy his job as Pistons head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy was replaced on the bench by 2017-18 Coach of the Year Dwane Casey, who was fired after the Raptors were swept by Cleveland in the conference semi-finals.

Casey’s job in Detroit is to find a way to develop the young players on the roster while getting the team to the playoffs. He has a pair of All-Star caliber players in the front court, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, along with highly-paid, erratic point guard Reggie Jackson.

Griffin has battled injuries in recent seasons, but Van Gundy decided to roll the dice at mid-season a year ago by trading Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley AND a 1st round pick to the Clippers for the former slam dunk champion in a desperate bid to save his job. The trade didn’t work out for Van Gundy, but it’s possible Griffin could enjoy a resurgence in Detroit this season.

The 29-year-old power forward scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists in the Pistons’ 103-100 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Drummond had a monster game with 24 points and 20 rebounds. As Bulls fans know all too well, Drummond has made the 20 rebound game commonplace when facing Fred Hoiberg’s squad in recent years.

As for Jackson, a severely sprained right ankle limited him to just 45 games last season, probably costing Detroit a chance to make the playoffs. The 8th year pro is lightning quick, with the ability to disrupt defenses by getting into the paint and challenging bigger defenders at the rim. Jackson scored 19 points in the season opener against Brooklyn, and he’ll be a problem for the Bulls Saturday night, especially if Kris Dunn is unavailable.

Casey is still trying to figure out how to use the rest of the roster Van Gundy built, with recent 1st round pick Henry Ellenson and former rotation player Jon Leuer getting DNP-CD’s against the Nets. Meanwhile, two other expected rotation players, small forward Stanley Johnson and swingman Reggie Bullock missed the opener because of injuries.

That left second year guard Luke Kennard and 2018 2nd round draft pick Bruce Brown as the other starters in game one, something that’s unlikely to continue once everyone’s healthy.

So, how do the Bulls even their record at 1-1 on Saturday? Here are my three keys:

1. Keep Drummond and Griffin off the offensive boards. This is much easier said than done. Drummond in particular is relentless going after missed shots, and his bulk will cause problems for 19 year old rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Hoiberg hinted at possible line-up changes on Friday morning, which could include starting veteran Robin Lopez at center to battle Drummond inside. Griffin has turned into more of a jump shooter now and doesn’t have the multiple jump capability that characterized his early seasons in the NBA, but he’s still a threat to create 2nd shot opportunities.

2. Close out on three-point shooters. Of all the defensive issues for the Bulls in Philadelphia on Thursday, losing touch with shooters in transition was probably the most troublesome. Robert Covington seemed to be open at the three-point line throughout the game, and Bulls players struggled to handle cross-match situations. Kennard had one of the best games of his rookie season against the Bulls, and Jackson, Ish Smith and Langston Galloway are all capable of heating up from long distance.

3. Attack Detroit’s interior defense. The Bulls were at their best offensively in the first quarter against Philadelphia when they drove to the basket to set up easy scoring chances. Zach LaVine was getting to the rim at will in scoring 15 of his 30 points in the opening 12 minutes, and his penetration also set up Bobby Portis for open looks from the three-point line. Hopefully, Dunn will return to stabilize the point guard position and give the Bulls' first unit another shot creator so they can sustain their pace and scoring potential over four quarters.

Saturday’s home opener is definitely winnable against a Detroit team still finding its way under a new coaching staff. Better effort and attention to detail on the defensive end along with a fast-paced, drive and kick offensive attack should make for an exciting opening night at the United Center.

Make sure to join Kendall Gill, Will Perdue, Kelly Crull and me for a special one hour edition of Bulls Pre-Game Live at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago and the new My Teams app, followed by the play by play call with Neil Funk and Stacey King at 7 p.m. And, stay tuned after the final buzzer for reaction and analysis on an expanded edition of Bulls Postgame Live.