Bulls

Is Rip the Heat stopper?

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Is Rip the Heat stopper?

I must admit, initially, I wasnt overly excited about the Bulls decision to sign Richard Hamilton as their new starting shooting guard.

Sure, hes a huge upgrade over Keith Bogans, but my biggest concern was over how much gas he had left in the tank after 12 NBA seasons, and multiple lengthy playoff runs in Detroit. And, oh yeah, his well-publicized feud with Pistons coach John Kuester last season that resulted in Hamilton being exiled from the team for a few weeks.

We all knew Rip was a great player in Detroit: three All-Star selections, six-straight conference finals and an NBA championship in 2004. But could he still play at that high level now, especially considering hell turn 34 in February?

Judging by what we saw in his Bulls debut, the answer is yes. It looked like Hamilton had been with the Bulls for years, operating smoothly and efficiently in the half-court offense, hitting open jumpers and finding the open man when he was double teamed coming off screens. Having Rip in the lineup should be a big help to Carlos Boozer, who figures to get several easy baskets when the defense jumps out on Hamilton.

Rip might be starting his 13th NBA season, but hes in phenomenal shape, and was able to get out on the fastbreak and run on the wing with one of the fastest players in the league, Derrick Rose.

The challenge for Tom Thibodeau and his staff will be not burning Hamilton out during the condensed 66-game regular season. Sure, landing one of the top seeds for the Eastern Conference playoffs is important, but it seems almost inevitable the Bulls will be looking at a best-of-seven series against the Heat somewhere down the line. If Thibodeau can limit Hamilton to 25-28 minutes a game during the regular season, then Rip should be fresh for a battle with Dwyane Wade and company come playoff time.

Hamilton is no stranger to playoff series with Wade, LeBron James, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce over the last 8 years, and hes more than held his own. Rip is one of only a handful of players to average over 20 points in more than 100 career playoff games. And, writers in Miami will tell you hes given Wade fits with his tireless running around screens on the offensive end, and 6-7 length on the defensive end.

So, is Hamilton the missing ingredient to get the Bulls past Miami and into the NBA Finals? Only time will tell, but judging on past performance he certainly gives the Bulls a better chance to match up with Miamis perimeter stars. When the Heat send double teams at Rose, Hamilton will be on the wing waiting to make them pay. Hes also not afraid to take the big shot with a playoff series on the line.

Long term, the Bulls might have been better off pursuing younger shooting guard options like O.J. Mayo, Arron Afflalo, Marcus Thornton or Nick Young, but none of those players has any meaningful playoff experience.

Lets face it, the Bulls title window is open right now. Given the uncertainties of a shortened season, why not add another proven veteran and go all in for an NBA title? The Bulls have some future assets like Charlottes No. 1 draft pick and the rights to European star Nikola Mirotic that might allow them to make a big-time trade, and reload in a couple years.

So for now the motto is: "Lets Rip and Run to an NBA title."

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

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USA TODAY

2018-19 NBA Power Rankings: Opening Week edition

The theme of the 2018-19 NBA season will be: “old faces in new places”. Like a season-long game of the NBA on TNT crew’s “Who he play for?” game, this year will be about fans trying to get used to the idea of LeBron James in purple (I won’t call it ‘Forum Blue’)-and-gold, DeMarcus Cousins being on a championship-contending franchise and Kawhi Leonard being the new face of Toronto.

The Warriors are still the easy favorite to make it four NBA championships in five years, but they will be tested perhaps more than any year before in a loaded Western Conference, where even the lowliest of teams (here’s to you Phoenix and Memphis!) made solid offseason moves geared towards winning games.

Over in the now-LeBron-less East, there is hope amongst at least four-to-five teams that they could actually have a shot to win the conference. The Pacers still have budding superstar Victor Oladipo, the Sixers still have Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and the Raptors and Bucks made head coaching changes that could lead to deep playoff runs. But with the rest of the Eastern conference being stuck between lottery contention and middle of the pack, expect the half-experienced, half-youthful Celtics to takeover as East juggernaut.

But whether or not your favorite franchise is aiming for a high draft pick or a postseason berth, there is tons to be excited in a 2018-19 NBA season that will surely be an intriguing one. Check out Week 1 of our NBA Power Rankings right here.

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

Deadline passes as Bulls, Bobby Portis fail to reach agreement on contract extension

The Bulls and Bobby Portis were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension by today’s deadline, which will make the power forward a restricted free agent next offseason.

According to The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson, Portis’ agent Mark Bartelstein and Gar Forman had “lengthy face-to-face negotiations” on Monday prior to the deadline. The two sides weren’t able to come to an agreement.

The negotiations – and lack of a deal – come after a summer and training camp in which Portis continued to show progression. After beginning the preseason coming off the bench Portis quickly played his way into the starting lineup alongside rookie Wendell Carter Jr. Portis finished five preseason games averaging 17.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals in just 22.4 minutes.

Portis, the 22nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, has seen his role increase each of his three seasons. He made a jump last season in Year 3, averaging 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. He was one of three players, including DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, to average 21 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 3-pointers per 36 minutes.

Though the Bulls certainly had the room to sign Portis to an extension, there were obvious reasons on both sides to wait on a deal. For starters, the Bulls will still be able to match any deal Portis receives in free agency next July, much like what happened with Zach LaVine and the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls maintain their abundance of cap space for the 2019 offseason, when they’ll be able to offer a max contract to the top-tier free agents, and they get to see if Portis makes another jump.

For Portis, it’s a case of him betting on himself. If the Bulls came in with a number he wasn’t satisfied with – to help keep their max cap space – he now finds himself on a contract year playing for his next contract. Still only 23 years old, Portis should cash in in July.

Two players from Portis’ draft class were able to cash in. Pacers center Myles Turner signed a reported four-year, $80 million extension and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed to a four-year, $45 million deal. Portis likely would have fallen somewhere in between those two deals had an agreement occurred.

The Bulls are hardly in an easy situation with Portis. Though they value the versatile power forward, Lauri Markkanen is entrenched at the position for the foreseeable future and the team just spent last year’s No. 7 overall pick on center Wendell Carter Jr. Portis realistically is stuck behind both those players, though he certainly has starting level NBA talent.