Bulls

Undefeated postseason gone, Warriors now in familiar position

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AP

Undefeated postseason gone, Warriors now in familiar position

CLEVELAND — A long, long time ago Indiana Jones was always griping about snakes.

Snakes. Why did it always have to be snakes?

After Friday night’s loss in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Warriors fans know the same feeling all too well after missing out on a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As in, 3-1, why did it have to be a 3-1 series lead?

On the verge of being spared from reliving the torment that was the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors failed to close out the annual showdown with LeBron James in tidy fashion. Instead, they had their doors blown off as the Cavaliers rolled to a 137-116 victory in front of a raucous crowd.

The Warriors still have three more chances to complete their championship quest against the Cavaliers, including two at Oracle Arena.

But make no mistake — Warriors fans wanted this one over and they wanted it now.

They wanted to avoid what comes with this loss, the nonstop razzing associated with the possibility of blowing yet another 3-1 series lead.

Instead, they’ll be subjected to three days’ worth of internet memes, jokes and GIFs about how the 2016 team collapsed and blew a 3-1 lead despite the presence of unanimous MVP Steph Curry.

Oh, the horror. 

Look, this isn’t the same scenario as last June.

It’s not even close.

Curry clearly wasn’t himself last postseason after he suffered an MCL sprain in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. After a four-game absence, Curry returned to the court. But he never appeared to have the same explosiveness the rest of the way and it was never more evident than in the final minutes of their back-breaking Game 7 loss to the Cavs. Curry is the antithesis of that guy this postseason as he’s slicing and dicing his way across the court once again, leaving opponents in his wake.

Then there’s the little matter of Kevin Durant playing in the same role previously held by Harrison Barnes. This is the very reason Durant spurned Oklahoma City last offseason and joined the Warriors, to offer an-already outstanding offense yet another unstoppable force and putting the final piece for a dynasty in place.

Durant has already proven to be the kind of difference-maker in the series that Barnes wasn’t ready to be in 2016. The 2013-14 MVP did irreparable damage to the Cavaliers’ chances in the final two minutes of the Warriors’ stunning Game 3 comeback victory on Wednesday night. Unlike Barnes, who was allowed to shoot from the outside at will during the 2016 NBA Finals, Durant requires a minimum of one defender in his face at all times. He gives the Warriors an overwhelming additional boost they need and they’ve responded so far with one of the most dominant postseason performances of all time. The Warriors have looked unstoppable throughout the playoffs aside from being dominated by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard in the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

But that’s where this all bogs down.

Until Friday, the Warriors were on the verge of becoming the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in the postseason. Fans had yet to experience any emotion except for the joyful bliss of victory.

Adversity has been scarce.

And now it has come hissing back in the worst possible way.

The Cavs brought an intensity unlike any they’d put forth in the series so far but eerily reminiscent of last year’s comeback. They made an NBA Finals-record 24 3-pointers and got 71 combined points from Kyrie Irving (40 points) and James.

If that weren’t enough, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green looked out of sorts in a disjointed game marred by foul calls.

The trio combined for 43 points on 14-of-40 shooting.

Sure, no NBA team that has ever faced a 3-0 deficit in the Finals has come back to win the series. But this is almost exactly the same Cavs team that slithered its way back from a 3-1 deficit last year to stun everyone and send the Warriors home empty-handed.

Then came the clever memes. And the GIFs. And every terrible joke in the book.

Your friends reminded you every step of the way, kind of like falling into a snake pit. 

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

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AP

Making of a Chicago legend: A look back at Jabari Parker's decorated Simeon career

From the moment Jabari Parker started his local basketball career, he's been a special talent who has produced at every level. Parker's signing with the Chicago Bulls this offseason brings back a lot of memories of his decorated four-year high school career at Simeon.

For Bulls fans who didn't follow Parker before Duke or the NBA, here's some of the notable moments from four years in the Public League.

As a freshman with the Wolverines, Parker was seen as one of three big incoming freshman in the area for the Class of 2013, along with forward Alex Foster and center Tommy Hamilton. Although all three players had the size and skill level to be varsity contributors, it was Parker who was special from his debut game.

Coming off the bench for a top-5 Simeon team against a top-10 Thornton team at Chicago State, Parker had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting with two 3-pointers as the Wolverines went on to win in his first game in high school. Eventually becoming the first Wolverine freshman to start on varsity, Parker piled up high-major scholarship offers and national acclaim, as he was the team's second-leading scorer behind Brandon Spearman.

But Parker was hurt on the eve of the IHSA Class 4A state championship weekend and was on the bench injured as Simeon went on to surprisingly win the state title after some late-season slip-ups. Parker contributed heavily to Simeon winning the state title during his first season, however, as he was leading scorer in six games during that season.

During his sophomore season, Parker blossomed from a prospect into a full-blown star as Simeon once again captured a state title. By this point in his career, Parker was a consensus top-5 national high school prospect in his class as he regularly led a loaded Simeon team in scoring. Parker eventually averaged 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as he won ESPN High School 2011 Sophomore of the Year national honors, while also Simeon won a title at the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament.

The summer of 2011 saw Parker become a contender for No. 1 in his class -- and regardless of class at the high school level -- as he dominated the summer circuit against his peers and older players.

Making the 2011 USA Basketball U16 team, Parker won MVP honors at the FIBA Americas U16 Tournament as the USA team captured a gold medal. Parker also had big performances at the Kevin Durant and LeBron James Skill Academies before winning the MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in August against mostly older players.

Before entering his junior season at Simeon, some national scouts believed Parker was the best prospect in either the junior or senior national classes. With Parker garnering so many accomplishments as an underclassman, he had a huge reputation already as Simeon was an established national powerhouse.

Parker helped the Wolverines capture a third straight state title, a city title and another title at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, as they went 33-1. Simeon didn't lose to an Illinois opponent Parker's junior year (they only lost to nationally ranked Findlay Prep) with Parker setting a school record of 40 points in only 21 minutes against Perspectives on Dec. 19. For his junior season, Parker put up 19.5 points, 8.9 rebounds per game as he became the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors.

Gatorade also declared Parker the national boys basketball Player of the Year for that high school season as he became only the fourth non-senior to win that award. Sports Illustrated put Parker on its cover and proclaimed him as the best high school basketball player since LeBron James.

Facing an enormous amount of pressure during his senior year, Simeon played a national schedule and went 30-3, winning a fourth consecutive IHSA state title with Parker as he put up 18.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.

Becoming the only player besides Sergio McClain to start on four straight IHSA state title teams, Parker secured back-to-back Mr. Basketball in Illinois honors while also making the McDonald's All-American Game, Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit. Parker played all over the country during his senior season, with nationally-televised games and packed crowds filled with fans.

Reclassifications and the emergence of other contenders, coupled with Parker's foot injury before his senior season, dropped Parker below the No. 1 ranking to end his high school career. But he still finished as a consensus top-5 prospect in the class who eventually rose to the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft in 2014.

Now that Parker has signed with the Bulls, he has a chance to resurrect his career in Chicago, the place where he had his most basketball success.

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

Would Wendell Carter Jr. be picked higher if the NBA Draft was today?

According to Bleacher Report, Wendell Carter Jr. would be taken fourth overall by the Memphis Grizzlies if the NBA were to redraft this year’s class based off of Summer League performances.

It may sound like a crazy concept (and it is), but Carter Jr. averaged the second most points, 14.6, through five July games in Las Vegas. He also averaged 9.4 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field while averaging 28.8 minutes in his glamorous first-stint with Chicago. Those numbers are even more striking if you consider Carter Jr.’s 42.9 percent shooting from behind the three-point line.

Carter Jr., the real seventh overall pick of this year’s NBA Draft, looked like the all-around player the Bulls were hoping to get this offseason. He made his blocking abilities as a center known from the moment he stepped on the court in Summer League.

In their re-draft, Bleacher Report had Chicago using the No. 7 pick on the New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson, who was actually taken 36th overall in last month’s Draft.

Robinson, a center, averaged 13 points and 24.8 minutes per game over five Summer League contests. He was the best rebounder on his team with an average of 10.2 in the five games that the Knicks played.

The 20-year-old took the second most shots on the Knicks and had the highest field goal percentage at 67 percent, but Robinson did not have any three-point attempts.  What made his recent production seem even more surprising was the fact that the 7'1'' big man did not play a single minute of college basketball.

But would Robinson fit in the Bulls’ system?

Chicago has taken on an offense-first mentality, so Robinson would not be as great of a fit in the Bulls lineup as Carter Jr., but he would still be an impact player. He can be compared to the Bulls’ current center Robin Lopez, who averaged a similar amount of points per game (11.8 points in 26.4 minutes) last season as Robinson’s Summer League average (13 points in 24.8 minutes). And like Lopez, Robinson will likely be most effective around the basket and in the pick-and-roll.

Robinson would also have to learn the defensive concepts that a veteran like Lopez has mastered over his 10-year career.

Next season, the Bulls will have an exciting scoring trio of Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and Carter Jr. in the frontcourt. And the fact that Carter Jr. is getting so much love in the national spotlight is yet another reason for Bulls fans to be excited about this upcoming season.