Bulls

Random News of the Day: Cleveland, rocked?

Random News of the Day: Cleveland, rocked?

Thursday, July 8, 2010
12:31 PM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

You have to feel for the city of Cleveland. Have to. First, their river catches fire--thanks to an assist from industrial waste. Then the movie "Howard The Duck" came along (I mean, what could go wrong about an anthropomorphic duck crashing into Cleveland?) You had "The Drive," "The Fumble," and "The Shot." The "Mistake By The Lake" moniker was full speed ahead by this point. The Cleveland Browns were yanked from the city in 1995 and replaced four years later with, ugh, the Browns. You had the gut-wrenching '95 and '97 World Series'. And how's this for painful irony: Mimi Bobeck stuck around the city while everyone of importance left. Rocky Colavito got traded. Jim Thome left. Manny Ramirez left. Carlos Boozer left. In fact, from the 1950s to 2010, the city of Cleveland lost more than half its population, going from over 900,000 to the mid 400,000s.

And Thursday night, they could lose one more.

Granted, LeBron didn't reside within Cleveland's city limits, so I hope you'll just accept that metaphor. Multiple reports have surfaced over the last 12 hours that LeBron James will join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat. His official announcement will come later tonight in a nationally televised, hour-long special that already reeks of staged cheesiness. Will LeBron pick from a series of hats like a high school footballer picks a college? Will he tell representatives from New York, New Jersey and Chicago "You're Fired?" Will he walk up to Bosh and Wade and say, "Do you accept this rose?" Even if he settles back into Cleveland, you have to feel for the people of C-Town.

LeBron James is treating Cleveland like a college freshman treats his longtime high school soulmate right around, say, September. After years of loyal courtship, he has broken free from all contractual agreements and is starting to look for other places to have fun. Or at least, there's a sizable buffer zone where it's safe to look around, you know? But since there are so many other fish in the sea, where do you even start looking places to meet people? There's quite a kegger going on right now in New York and New Jersey. Wade and Bosh are throwing a frat party down in Miami. And don't forget the party scene in Chicago--where the pieces are in place to make a serious run at a flip cup championship in no time. It's a tough choice--and maybe you party too much, make a ton of mistakes and you end up regretting everything in the near future. Such is life.

But Cleveland? That's the girl you marry. The one who has supported with you and stuck with you through thick and thin. Isn't there something to be said about loyalty?

If LeBron picks Miami, New York or even Chicago, the sports scene in Cleveland could suffer a groin-kick that is tantamount to what Pittsburgh felt on December 8, 1992. If you recall, the Pirates were a team on the rise and had just lost a riveting NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. Barry Bonds became a free agent after the season and signed with the San Francisco Giants on that fateful December day. Look what's happened to the Pirates ever since: 17 consecutive losing seasons, shoddy attendance numbers and a bitter, frustrated fan base.

At least the city of Pittsburgh had a few Super Bowl champions and the Stanley Cup-winning Penguins to fall back on. But Cleveland? Pssh: a woeful NFL franchise that has lost an average of 11 games per season since '99, a last-place baseball team and no hockey team...period. And now, potentially, a basketball team without one of the biggest drawing cards since Michael Jordan. Chicagoans: every time you see a Cubs or Sox player strike out with the bases loaded in the 9th, or a Bull not play defense, or a Bear fumble on the two-yard line, remember...it could be worse. You could live in Cleveland.

8:00pm could just as well be midnight for the sports scene in The Cleve. If there's ever a time when that city needed Jake Taylor, Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano and Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, now is the time. Cleveland needs some "Major League" inspiration to pull out of this one.

What else does it have left?

Howard The Duck 2, maybe.

Or something like that.

Joe Collins is an assignment desk editor for Comcast SportsNet and contributor to CSNChicago.com.

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

SI names Lauri Markkanen a top-five candidate for a breakout season

Lauri Markkanen has been making headlines this offseason, mostly for bulking up considerably, and making appearances around Chicago at Nike camps and Jabari Parker’s camp, but as the season nears, his on-the-court exploits are starting to come up as well. On Thursday, Sports Illustrated put Lauri Markkanen on their list of five breakout candidates for the 2018-19 season

SI writer Michael Shapiro had this to say about Markkanen:


Markkanen has all the tools to be a future All-Star, and it looks as though he has the mindset, too. He seemed to take his matchup with Porzingis personally in early January, demanding the ball down the stretch en route to a career-high 33 points in a road victory. The Bulls enter 2018-19 on the outside of the East playoff picture, but Chicago is now home to the NBA’s newest unicorn.

High praise indeed for Markkanen, and well-deserved praise considering that he finished with a usage rate lower with the Bulls than his college stint at Arizona, yet still was able to have an impact on the Bulls. Shapiro mentioned Markkanen’s burgeoning off-the-dribble game as the skill that most stood out, and speaks to the Finnish big man’s All-Star potential. 

While the 21-year-old’s threes lived up to the hype, it was his prowess of the bounce that made the biggest impression. Markkanen showed a deft handle and array of canny fakes in the post, adding a mean streak to boot. The Finnisher lived up to his nickname, unafraid of contact and eager to fight for position in the post. The stereotype of the soft European big man doesn’t apply here.

The numbers back this up. 

Among the Bulls top 10 players in drives per game last season, Markkanen finished second in field percentage (on drives) at 46.1 percent. If that numbers rises, or more likely, Markkanen drives to the basket more, his scoring total will increase. And when it came to finishing around the paint in general, he shot  67.6 percent on shots from zero-to-three feet, making him the third best in that range out of the Bulls top nine rotation players last season. Yet among the same group of players, Markkanen ranked sixth in shot attempts from zero-to-three feet. With the presence of Wendell Carter Jr., and another year of internal growth from Bobby Portis- bigs that can stretch the floor -Markkanen should be the recipient of more plays putting him in a position to score around the basket.

On a roster that will surely give big minutes to Parker, Kris Dunn, Carter, Chandler Hutchison and a working-his-way-back to form Zach LaVine, Markkanen may be surest 3-point shooter on the floor. This means defenses will key in on his outside shot. If players are routinely closing out hard on Markkanen- as they should -this will open up more driving opportunities for the nimble seven-footer. 

The third or fourth season is usually when young players take the leap from good to great, but Markkanen will be playing with the most talented group of teammates he has ever been surrounded with. How he handles playing with this group will go a long way towards establishing what kind of player he will be in the future, specifically if he is an All-Star caliber talent. On the 2018-19 Bulls, someone will have to hover around a 20 percent usage rate, making them a clear third-option, whoever that player is, his last name should not be Markkanen. 
 

Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?

zach-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the league?

Mark Schanowski talks all things hoops with Indianapolis Star Pacers beat writer J.Michael. Is Victor Oladipo ready to take the next step as a legitimate MVP candidate? Can the Pacers challenge the top three teams in the East? Is Zach LaVine really one of the most over-hyped players in the NBA? And, will the signing of Dwight Howard mean disaster in the nation’s capital? Plus, the guys make their predictions for the upcoming season.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: