Bulls

Once again, LeBron James is all alone but it could be enough

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Once again, LeBron James is all alone but it could be enough

Fitting that David Blatt is exposing himself as a less-than-stellar option for an NBA coach, leaving assistants to prevent him from calling timeouts he didn’t have or drawing up plays that has the best player as an inbounds pass.

It’s fitting LeBron James is having to trudge through the Eastern Conference playoffs with one co-star severely hobbled and another out for the entire run with a bad shoulder.

“It’s huge. We didn’t have any timeouts and we didn’t want to get a T,” James said. “That’s why we’re a unit, that’s why we’re a team. Players make mistakes and coaches make mistakes. And we have to cover for one another. (Assistant coach Tyronn) Lue did that by covering for Blatt and I just tried to cover for my guys on the floor.”

Because for all his work to orchestrate which teammates would join him in his return to Cleveland and which guys would be jettisoned out, James again finds himself in a similar position — staring down the barrel of a team with multiple weapons, a re-emerging star of its own and a player determined to make every step for him as grimy and difficult as possible — alone.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

That feeling where the life leaves your body — where muscles turn to mush, where fans’ screams of joy turn to open-mouthed gasps of anguish? James transferred those emotions to the Bulls players and their fans with the stroke of one fadeaway jumper, a game-winner that probably was more debilitating to the Bulls than Friday’s Derrick Rose shot energized the city and franchise.

“I wanted to get a good look. I faked like I wanted to go for the lob and bounced back to the left corner and took a shot I was comfortable taking,” James said. “It’s a huge win for our group, it means more than just a win for our young group. For us to come into a hostile environment was huge.”

If not for the officials review and extra time to draw a play James made sure to scrap from the jump, the player-coach was blunt and truthful about what would’ve happened anyways.

“We would’ve been prepared. I would’ve made sure our guys were in the right position to get a good look,” James said. “In that situation I can get loose and get a good look no matter who’s on me.”

“To be honest the play that was drawn up, I scratched and told coach just give me the ball. And we’re either gonna go into overtime or I’m gonna win it for us.  It’s that simple.”

[MORE: LeBron's own buzzer beater sends series to 2-2 tie]

In the words of in-game performer and Chicago native Kanye West, “no one man should have all that power.”

Of course, James’ talent is unmatched, but the task of trying to get through the East to the Finals for a fifth straight time is starting to wear on him. Larry Bird’s body broke down. Magic Johnson couldn’t do it. Michael Jordan retired (twice) before his body and spirit had a chance to betray him.

James, looking at the supporting cast in Miami compared to what he could put together as de-facto general manager back in Cleveland, made the calculated decision to head back north, seeing a budding all-star in Kyrie Irving, a No. 1 pick in Andrew Wiggins who could be used as leverage, and plenty other pieces that could be used on the floor or as trade bait as opposed to an aging core in Miami led by his buddy Dwyane Wade.

With Irving’s effectiveness a serious question mark and James being unaware if Irving could muster Wade-like performances while playing through pain, he’s right back to where he started—only this time he’s being forced to depend on the likes of the combustible J.R. Smith, who actually helped save James in the fourth quarter with 11 points.

While James is finding out the toughness his teammates possess, an inexperienced team is learning and growing on the job, quite rapidly.

[RELATED: Cavaliers stand behind ailing Kyrie Irving]

“The kid is a warrior,” said James of Irving. “What he’s gone through right now nobody can relate. He’s played 48 minutes on a sore foot the last two games. Just his presence on the floor, no matter if he’s playing on one foot, you have to account for him because he can make shots. It goes a long way, it’s not just about basketball what this kid is doing for our team right now. He’s giving us everything he’s got and that’s all we can ask for.”

The James explosion hasn’t happened, which should give Bulls that same sinking feeling that was in the pit of their stomachs leaving Game 4.  With Jimmy Butler hounding him, he’s shooting just 37.7 percent from the field, which would qualify as his lowest since the 2007 NBA Finals, a four-game sweep from the San Antonio Spurs and the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals, a seven-game loss to the Boston Celtics, a team whose defense was engineered by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.

“If I get one game where we shoot 50 percent, we might be able to do some things,” James said. “For seven straight years I’e raised it and I take that seriously. I also know that some challenges present different ways of winning. I know my point guard is hobbled and other all-star is out for the season. Shot attempts, efficiency, I want to be efficient but it’s not happening in this series now. I want to do the other things.”

He’s going to the glass, with 11.2 rebounds, and dishing it out to the tune nine assists per game.  So much of the Cavaliers’ fortunes rely in his capable hands and despite his turnovers, offensive fouls and moments where he looks more human than bionic—he’s still the most impactful player in this series.

And if you didn’t, you probably had your mouth wide open, gasping at that fadeaway, because even all alone, you’d still better fear him.

Our first look at the full NBA 2K20 roster models for the 2019-20 Bulls

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USA TODAY

Our first look at the full NBA 2K20 roster models for the 2019-20 Bulls

The release date of NBA 2K20 is near and as the September 6 release date gets closer, Bulls fans are finally getting a look at the full roster in video game form. 

Among the things that stand out in the video from Sports & Gaming Journalist Brian Mazique, the things that stood out the most was the new Zenni patch on the Bulls uniforms, which now has a light blue background to make the patch stand out a bit more. 

We had already seen how 2019 rookies Coby White and Daniel Gafford look but Thursday represented our first look at players like new Bulls Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky and the longest-tenured Bull, Brazilian big man Cristiano Felicio.

Young currently sports a short-haircut after having more an afro in the 2019 season, so only time will tell if 2K will update his look before the season kicks off on October 22. 

Also fully visible in the video are the overall 2K ratings of all players on the team including Satoransky (75), Young (79), Wendell Carter Jr. (78), Otto Porter (80), Lauri Markkanen (83) and Zach LaVine (85).

Based off of what we see in the video, NBA fans can expect to see the Bulls simulate pretty well in NBA 2K20 as the roster's veteran talent will provide some balance as the young core develops, much like what the Bulls front office is hoping for in real life. 

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Lauri Markkanen makes the top 35 NBCsport's 50 best players in 5 years

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USA TODAY

Lauri Markkanen makes the top 35 NBCsport's 50 best players in 5 years

Over the summer the NBA team over at NBC Sports undertook a fun project in which they ranked the top 50 talents in the NBA in 2024. 

NBCSports.com's 50 best players in 5 years list is an interesting snapshot into the future of the league. Writers included Dan FeldmanTom HaberstrohRob DausterTommy BeerSteve Alexander, and Kurt Helin

While it is was fun to see where aging versions of Steph Curry (36 in 2024) and Klay Thomspon (34 in 2024) rank, the most interesting names on the list were the young talents who are projected to stars in the near future. Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen made the top 35, coming in at No. 34 on the list.

In the 2024 season, Markkanen will be 27 years old and theoretically, smack dab in the middle of his prime.

Coming into the 2019-20 season, 'The Finnisher' is on quite a roll. In his age-21 season, he averaged 20.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per 36 minutes and posted a career-best 55.3 true shooting percentage. 

The Bulls will need to Markkanen to step up his effort in terms of defense and rebounding, with the absence of Robin Lopez putting more stress on the frontcourt to pick up the slack in that department. Kurt Hellin acknowledged that if he can focus on consistency and commitment to D, the sky is truly the limit for Markkanen. 

The question is, can he [Markkanen] reach that ceiling consistently? He’s only 22, but he has yet to come anywhere near that.....If Markkanen can become a more consistent offensive force and better on the defensive end — he’s not a bad defender, he’s okay, but with his length and athleticism he should be a better rim protector — he can take over the role as the alpha on the Bulls

See the rest of NBCSports.com's 50 best players in 5 years list below:

Players 50-46

Players 45-41

Players 40-36

Players 35-31