Bulls

Wild playoff weekend just the tip of the iceberg

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Wild playoff weekend just the tip of the iceberg

Monday, April 25, 2011Posted: 6:01 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

The top-seeded Bulls narrow loss Saturday was an omen. Just like the opening weekend of the NBA playoffs, the tight finish in Game 4 of the Chicago-Indiana series was a harbinger for postseason slate full of upsets and close calls over Easter weekend.

Following the Pacers surprising win was an exhilarating ending in Portland, in which Trail Blazers guard Brandon Royafter sinking to the verge of tears previously in the seriesscored 18 fourth-quarter points to bring his team back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit to tie the series at two games apiece. For Rou, the performance was doubly sweet, as the former All-Star struggled in his new reserve role this season in the aftermath of having surgery on both knees.

The next game was equally dramatic, as the Grizzlies managed to hold off the Spurs for the franchises first home win in its history. An improbable Zach Randolph three-pointer sealed the triumph for Memphis, which now leads No. 1 seed San Antonio in the series, 2-1.

Saturdays final matchup featured Oklahoma City and Denver, a game that featured several runs by each potent offensive team. After the Nuggets stormed back at the end of the third quarter to make the game close, the Thunderled by All-Star duo Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but also receiving a breakout outing from fellow youngster Serge Ibakaseemed to have the game in hand, but had to stave off a near-miraculous late individual spurt from J.R. Smith (who missed a contested potentially game-tying shot from long range) to take a 3-0 lead in the series.

Not to be outdone, Sunday was just as loaded with thrilling matchups, starting with an afternoon matinee close-out game between Philadelphia and Miami. Instead of eliminating the young 76ers, the Heat got off to a slow start and though they made one of their patented dominant runs to get back into the contest, the always-exuberant coaching of Doug Collins and clutch play of youthful trio Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Lou Williams (who hit the eventual game-winner)combined with LeBron James failing on yet another opportunity to be the heroprevented the sweep.

Perhaps the least-unpredictable game was in the matchup observers were most intrigued by heading into the postseason, Boston and New York. Behind Rajon Rondos 21-point, 12-assist afternoon (coming off the heels of his Game 3 triple-double, which included 20 assists), the Celtics cruised to the win at Madison Square Gardenensuring a 7:00 p.m. local start time for Tuesdays Bulls-Pacers Game 5 at the United Centersweeping the new-look, injury-riddled Knicks, despite 32 points from Carmelo Anthony.

Atlanta continued to surprise its doubters in the following contest, holding off Orlando behind yet another big game from sixth-man extraordinaire Jamal Crawford, as well as a solid outing from fellow former Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich. With its strategy of bodying up Dwight Howard one-on-oneliterally, as the one-game suspension of Hawks center Zaza Pachulia for head-butting Magic swingman Jason Richardson, who also sat out Sundays game for slapping the backup big manthe Hawks lived with Howards inside dominance and again concentrated on shutting down Orlandos perimeter shooters.

The weekends final game, however, might have been the biggest shocker, as New Orleans repeated its Game 1 upset of the defending champions, taking down the Lakers on its home court to even the series at 2-2. Chris Paul appears to be back to his pre-injury form, posting a triple-double27 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists; superstar counterpart Kobe Bryant was held scoreless in the first half, but a bigger issue might be his ankle and foot injuriesand despite not having power forward David West, the Hornets are surviving against the Lakers behemoth frontline, with All-Star Pau Gasol close to invisible for much of the series.

When the dust settled, the top two seeds in each conference fell (with the West's No. 1 team, San Antonio, actually trailing against an eighth seed) and outside of two teams--Boston, which advanced to the second round, and Oklahoma City, which still hasn't lost--no team has proved invulnerable. Who knows whats in store this week with the playoffs, but its clear that thus far its shaping up to be one of the most exciting postseasons in years.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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.