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The Clippers And Grizzlies Traded Bad For Inconsistent

The trade deadline has not been kind to fans of the Memphis Grizzlies. They saw their best shooter get traded to the Charlotte Hornets and all they got in return was forward PJ Hairston (who has been inconsistent at best), veteran center Chris “Birdman” Andersen (he has been missing in action all season) and four second-round picks that probably will not amount to much. But just when you thought it could not get any worse for the Grizzlies, they made another trade that makes you scratch your head. The Grizzlies traded forward Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers for the services of guard Lance Stephenson and a 2019 protected pick. And with that, the Grizzlies now have lost yet another offensive weapon while taking on another player that is still trying to find himself. All while the Clippers will get to see what they can do with Jeff Green more than likely being their starting small forward eventually. But in reality, what both really did is swap inconsistent (Green) for bad (Stephenson). And in the end, both could end up not being a factor for their respective teams.

In Memphis, the main ballhandler has always been Mike Conley Jr., The dynamic point guard has been the best perimeter player for the Grizzlies for a while now. What the Grizzlies have always lacked is that scoring ability and consistency from the small forward position. They honestly have not had great production from that position since they had the services of Rudy Gay. In Green, they had someone that was at least giving them a pulse at that position. But with him gone, the pulse again goes to a flatline as they try to audition people for that position. And in Courtney Lee’s spot, they will now audition Lance Stephenson potentially. In Stephenson, the Grizzlies get a guy that can play tough defense. But for the Grizzlies, they already have a tough defender in Tony Allen. Offensively, Lance will make them even worse. He has not learned how to play without the basketball yet and the only way he can help this team on the offensive end is if he gets the ball in his hands. If Coach Dave Joerger can allow Stephenson to control the ball some, then maybe they will get some more out of him offensively. If not, then you are looking at another guy on the Grizzlies that cannot knock down an open shot and looks lost off the ball on the offensive end. That will make the Grizzlies even uglier offensively, especially without big man Marc Gasol for a while.

The Clippers are essentially being hailed as the winners in this trade. With what they were getting at the small forward position with Paul Pierce, Stephenson and whoever they threw out there, is nothing compared to what they could potentially get from Green. The veteran forward is averaging 12.5 points per game this season. He can hit the open jump shot, take the ball to the basket and he can play solid defense. And to add to that, he has played for Doc Rivers before (played for Doc in Boston) and he can play the power forward position and you have a player that could help this team. You would think that this would be a move to solidify what they have going on this year. But if you have taken a look at the career of Jeff Green, it can be summed up in one word: inconsistency. Green can come out and have a great game where he scores 20 points and then come out the next week and score two points. And it is that kind of inconsistency that has driven the fans of teams he has played for crazy. With the Clippers, he will be counted on to shoulder some of the offensive load, especially with Blake out for an undisclosed amount of time. It will be interesting to see if he can find some kind of consistency with the Clippers, but he more than likely will not. And that kind of inconsistent play will make Clippers fans loathe him. But fortunate for him, he can hide a little come playoff time because of Blake Griffin being back.

Both Stephenson and Green have not exactly got the best feelings out of fans of the teams they have played for. Stephenson was banished from Charlotte after his play was awful and he has not been the same since he left the Indiana Pacers in free agency. And he more than likely will have Grizzlies’ fans throwing things at their television sets. As for Green, he has been a tease for his entire career. And he will definitely be one for the Clippers. It is only a matter of “when” and not “if”. The trade has being spoken of as a win for the Clippers, but they just traded bad for inconsistent. And there is no telling how that will turn out.

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The Clippers And Mavericks Drama Over DeAndre Jordan Had A Professional Wrestling Flair To It

DeAndre Jordan was the centerpiece of one of the best NBA offseason dramas this summer. (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

DeAndre Jordan was the centerpiece of one of the best NBA offseason dramas this summer. (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Almost a week ago, we all thought that Lob City was over. DeAndre Jordan had then decided that he was going to sign with the Dallas Mavericks after spurning the much richer five-year, $109 million offer from the Los Angeles Clippers. DeAndre would get the opportunity to be a more featured player offensively and would also be the glue to that team along with newly-courted Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews. But as time went on, it was apparent that DeAndre was not sure how the signing would work out. He reportedly talked to Clippers head coach Doc Rivers and his best friend on the Clippers, Blake Griffin, about his indecision in joining the Mavericks. At that point, it seemed like he was wavering on the verbal agreement he had with the Mavericks. And after the craziness today, the Clippers swooped in and took back their center. Rivers, Griffin, along with Chris Paul, JJ Reddick, owner Steve Balmer and new Clipper Paul Pierce all converged on Houston and DeAndre Jordan’s house bent on getting him to stay with the Clippers. And to their relief, he decided to stay and has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $88 million contract with the fourth year being a player option. The whirlwind is now over, as Jordan never left the Clippers. But the drama in this situation is enough to make you craving for more. And if you really think about this one, it reminds you of one of the most memorable moments in WCW wrestling.

In the WCW, there was always some good names that were active wrestling. Who can forget the Harlem Heat and Lex Lugar. But it seemed like business picked up when Hulk Hogan jumped into WCW wrestling. The iconic WWE wrestler let his contract expire from WWE and then joined the WCW in 1994. Hogan was exciting and brought in more people to view the show. But in 1996, the love affair with him stopped. In a six-man tag team match that had The Outsiders (Scott Hall and Kevin Nash) pitted against some WCW loyalists, Hogan interfered and then combined with Hall and Nash to form the New World Order. This flip to a bad guy proved to be the first time Hogan has done that in his fifteen-year career. They would go on to terrorize and take over WCW, as they were the most dominant thing in professional wrestling. Hulk Hogan then became Hollywood Hogan and Hall and Nash were his right hand men. The NWO would get bigger and bigger. But there was one person the NWO wanted more than anyone to join their team: Sting. The veteran wrestler has been very entertaining in his career and had a following of folks that loved wrestling. He was viewed as the person that would take the crew over the top. But as things went on, there was some unrest in the NWO. The constant interference and distraction between the group members caused some issues between Randy Savage, Kevin Nash and Hogan. Savage and Hogan began to get into it with each other and Nash sided with Savage. Eventually Hogan turned on both men and those two, along with other NOW members, formed their faction of the NOW called the NWO Wolfpac. When both factions split, there began a battle over who would be the first to land one of the most popular wrestlers in WCW, Sting. Many had loved Sting because of him dropping in from the rafters and his appearance, which looked like Brandon Lee’s The Crow character. Hogan and Nash both went after Sting and recruited his services. And eventually, Sting finally made a decision which side he would join and sided with the Wolfpac. Now we all know that wrestling is scripted to this day (well most of us do), but the way the drama played out between the Clippers and the Mavericks, you would have thought they borrowed the writers from the old WCW for the battle they had over the services of DeAndre Jordan.

In this battle, it seemed like DeAndre was ready to join the Mavericks. The Mavericks represented Hulk Hogan’s faction of the NWO. Of course Mark Cuban was the essentially Hulk Hogan in this instance. When Cuban first took over the Mavericks, he tried any and everything to make them a winner and he would spare any expense to do so. Fans loved him for doing that and many fans began to wish he was there owner. He began to have a popularity like a player with some of the things he was trying to do with the Mavericks. But along with that, he liked to make his NBA ownership of his team more about him than his team. He was always on the television making comments and he was always out there in front of the camera. But as time went on, he toned it down and began to be more of just an owner. He still has his seats near the bench of his team, but he isn’t as bad as he once was. Eventually he was able to bring what he wanted all along for his team, a championship. But that was not before he alienated some fans with his thoughts on the Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers that was blocked by the NBA. Reportedly, he was one of the owners that disagreed with the trade and convinced the commissioner that it was not best for the league. At that point, he began to turn face and some fans (including Lakers fans) have never forgotten it. Even though he has done some good things for the Mavericks, he still has not been able to shake that reputation. Hogan was once a beloved figure among fans, but when he created the NWO, it made some of his fans leave him because he had never been a heel, or bad guy before. And even though he had all that success, it was blinded by one decision. But of course, the decisions both made ended up biting them in the end. Both thought they had secured a commitment from a difference-maker and both ended up getting fooled in the end. Hogan thought he had Sting as a member of the NWO and he quickly fooled Hogan and joined the NWO Wolfpac. As for Cuban, he had a verbal commitment from DeAndre Jordan and that ended up being thwarted in the end by the Clippers and their desire to change DeAndre Jordan’s mind.

The Clippers are an upstart organization. Over their many years of being an NBA franchise, they are not used to having any success. With the Clippers benefitting from the failed trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers, the team has had consistent success in making it to the playoffs consistently. But that is not enough for them. They want more. Head coach, general manager and president Doc Rivers wants to bring the city a championship. In order to do that, the Clippers felt they needed the services of DeAndre Jordan. He had been one of the most important members of the team over the years and the Clippers wanted to continue that relationship. But DeAndre made a commitment elsewhere. Rivers, doing his best Kevin Nash impression, made his play for Jordan again once he had verbally committed to the Mavs once he received a call from Jordan voicing his indecision with joining the Mavericks. And as soon as he sensed that, then he knew he had him. Nash, like Rivers, was looking for some success in an organization in the NWO Wolfpac. The original NWO had all the accolades and the strength and power. But Hall felt he had something else to offer to rival what they had. And in the end, he was able to convince Sting of that. Rivers and the rest of the Clippers crew that paid a visit to him on Wednesday night in Houston, Texas convinced Jordan even more that he needed to stay with the Clippers and not leave for the Mavericks. Dallas had had more success than the Clippers as a franchise, but the Clippers are a franchise that Rivers believes can make some things happen provided they have the right pieces there. Jordan chose to stay with them seeing the vision that Doc had for the team and seeing that his teammates wanted him there as well, especially Chris Paul. And the Wolfpac, I mean the Clippers, were made stronger by Jordan staying with them instead of bolting for the original NWO aka the Mavericks.

The drama had all you needed for a scripted event. But the end result is Cuban is looking for a new center while the Clippers keep their core intact. Of course the story of the Mavericks and the Clippers is not exactly like the Sting story, but the drama this verbal commitment and flip caused was definitely worth the watch as the Sting story was back in the 1990’s. Well, the Wolfpac is together and they won the power struggle. And it will be interesting to see if they can capitalize on the big signing and ride that energy to the next level for that organization. Sting aka DeAndre Jordan has made his decision (again). And now he is ready to rock as the starting center of the Los Angeles Clippers.

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Paul Pierce Has A Decision To Make Regarding Next Season In The NBA

Paul Pierce takes Toronto's Amir Johnson off the dribble. (Photo courtesy of

Paul Pierce takes Toronto’s Amir Johnson off the dribble. (Photo courtesy of

Paul Pierce has had an excellent career in the NBA. He has played for the Celtics and won a title along with playing for the Brooklyn Nets and the Washington Wizards. Going into this offseason, there was a question as to whether he would come back or not. He was clutch for the Wizards in the playoffs, hitting big basket after big basket for them. But he also was an older player in the NBA (37 years of age). As a result of his age, the Wizards seemingly paced him all year long to keep him fresh for the playoffs. He played a career-low 26 minutes a game and scored his lowest point total of his career. But the good thing about him playing for the Wizards is they did not need him to put up 18-20 points per game. The show belonged to guards John Wall and Bradley Beal as they were the main focus on the team. All Pierce was brought in to do was bring leadership and hit big shots. He definitely made an impact there, but the team did not succeed as much as they expected. The Wizards lost to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and went home earlier than they envisioned. And with that loss, Pierce was not sure he wanted to come back. There were stories out that Pierce had thought about hanging up the sneakers instead of taking his player option to return to Washington in the 2015-2016 season. But those rumors were quickly put to bed as it has been confirmed that Pierce will be playing next season. That announcement was good news for a team, but that team may not be the Wizards. It is said that he could come back to Washington. But there is also a chance that Piece could be heading to the West.

The Los Angeles Clippers have had a void at small forward for a while now. Last season, Doc Rivers used veteran journeyman Matt Barnes as his starting small forward. And even though Barnes was a tough defender and had a solid season scoring (10.1 points per game), he was nowhere to be found in the playoffs and capped that disappearing act off with an underwhelming performance against the Houston Rockets where he disappeared in the biggest game, Game 7. It was obvious to anyone that watched the Clippers play that Barnes was not the answer for them at small forward and they needed to upgrade that position this offseason. When the Clippers traded him to the Charlotte Hornets in a package deal for the services of Lance Stephenson, it was apparent the team wanted to make some changes at the small forward position. Paul Pierce has had his most success in the NBA under coach Doc Rivers and currently Doc is the head coach and team president of the Clippers organization. There have been rumors out there for a while that Pierce would love to play for Doc again and this seems like the perfect opportunity. If he is able to come to terms with the Clippers on a cap-friendly deal, he would definitely be a huge upgrade over the now-departed Barnes. The veteran small forward has been known for his veteran leadership for some time now. And that leadership could be something that could help the Clippers even though Chris Paul is a veteran in his own right. Another thing he could bring to Los Angeles is his clutch shooting. Pierce has hit many clutch shots over his lifetime and we all know he isn’t shying away from any shot that could help the team win. The biggest thing that Pierce could bring to this team is his championship experience. Pierce won his lone NBA championship under the leadership of Doc Rivers in Boston. And if you look at the Clippers roster as it stands, Pierce has gone the furthest in the playoffs. The championship experience he brings as a player would prove invaluable in getting the Clippers over the hump.

The Clippers option looks excellent for Pierce, especially since he would be coming back to an area in which he grew up. But playing for the Clippers and Doc Rivers aren’t the only option out there. Paul Pierce still has an option that has to be decided upon pretty soon. In that option, Pierce would be receiving $5.5 million if he were to pick up the option with the Wizards. It has been rumored that he has declined the option with the Wizards next season, but that has yet to be confirmed. Even with him potentially declining the money, it could still be possible for him to come back there. He has a good opportunity to win if he comes back to Washington. Some can argue that if John Wall does not injure his wrist, the Wizards would have beat the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semifinals. If he were to stay with the Wizards, the team would probably continue to play him less minutes while building on their progress from the 2014-2015 campaign. That would allow for him to be fresh during the playoffs and would also allow the Wizards to continue the development of young swingman Otto Porter, Jr. But along with him playing the same minutes, the team would have great continuity heading into next season. Pierce seemed to have a positive effect on Wall and Beal. Both would continue to grow under the leadership of Pierce. Eventually, the Wizards hope his leadership will be something that allows Wall and Beal to make consistent big plays down the stretch of big games without having to depend on Pierce to bail the team out. It would also give them a consistent shooter from the three-point range that could be counted on when they need him. That is essential when you have a playmaker with the ability of Wall and Beal. In fact, playing with Wall and Beal provides Pierce wide-open shots should they penetrate ore often. But the biggest thing, like what he would bring the Clippers, is championship experience. When some team has never won anything, it can be really tough for the opponent to handle the pressures that come from winning. And Pierce would help them check those emotions while focusing on the task at hand. Besides LeBron James’ Cavaliers, the Wizards have just as much hope as anyone next season to win the East. And quite frankly, the East would be an easier path for Pierce to go back to the NBA Finals.

Over the next few weeks, Pierce has to make some decisions. Does he leave for the Los Angeles Clippers or stay with the Wizards for his remaining time? It all depends on what Pierce wants to do. But in the meantime, it is down to the Wizards or the Clippers in this one. If he stays where he is, he could help the Wizards go to the next level. But if he goes home, the road to success could be more difficult.

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Kyle Lowry’s disappearing act

Kyle Lowry walks back to the locker room dejected after a loss (photo courtesy of

Kyle Lowry walks back to the locker room dejected after a loss (photo courtesy of

The Toronto Raptors made a surge last season into the playoffs. A team that many were not sure about before the 2013-2014 season was led back by a small but strong guard that was working on his third team in his career, Kyle Lowry. It seemed like when he was traded there from Houston that he found a fit for what he does. He was the lead guard in a good system that allowed him to facilitate and also to be a scorer as well. It seemed like everything clicked for him. Lowry averaged 17.9 points per game and also dished out 7.4 assists leading the Raptors to the playoffs last season. Unfortunately the Raptors lost in seven games to the Brooklyn Nets, but the season last year was a success. And along with the success, the expectations for this season rose. Plenty begin to think about the Raptors and what they would be in the 2014-2015 season. And more importantly, the questions surrounded Lowry as to whether he would return to Toronto because he was a free agent. Well, despite the pulls of free agency and signing with another contender, Lowry decided to stay in Toronto. The Raptors and Lowry agreed to a four-year, $48 million deal to stay above the border and continue to build. The expectations were definitely that this team would be able to make a more serious push this season. And with Lowry at the helm, he was expected to be the main reason they made their push.

Lowry was good during the regular season this year. He averaged around the same amount of points and assists he did last season although he was shooting the basketball just a little bit more than he did the previous season. One thing that was an issue with Lowry this year was injuries, but the team still was able to right the ship enough to make it into the playoffs, especially since they are in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. But the Raptors did not just sign Lowry for the regular season. He was signed back to take the Raptors further into the playoffs than they have gone since Vince Carter donned a Raptors jersey. But unfortunately, it seems like an old nemesis has arrived in a new city to disrupt that vision. Veteran forward Paul Pierce, who eliminated the Raptors last season while playing for the Brooklyn Nets, is on the verge of doing so again with the Washington Wizards. The Raptors have yet to get on the board against the Wizards in the playoffs and after the loss last night versus Washington, all hope seems lost with the Raptors. The team has not progressed as some thought they might. Shooting guard DeMar DeRozan has shown up for the Raptors. Although his shooting percentages have been pretty bad, he is playing hard and making an effort to make things happen while averaging 22.3 points in the playoffs. But the man that many pinned the Raptors’ playoff hopes on has been non-existent this playoffs. And ironically the guy that was the man for the Raptors last season has become just a guy on the team in the playoffs.

Kyle Lowry averaged 21.1 points in the playoffs last season for the Raptors and carried them in the playoffs last season in the first round. But that seems like a distant memory when it comes to Lowry in this postseason. Lowry has gone from the face of the team to a man that some forget is on the court this postseason. His average has dropped from the 21.1 points last postseason to a paltry 9.3 points per game this postseason. This is a far cry from what was expected from him this postseason and has no doubt been disappointing to see. Each and every game it seems like John Wall gets the best of him, while he just cannot make things happen to offset what he is doing to him. Lowry’s assist-to-turnover rate is great, but he is shooting an anemic 23.8% from the field and an awful 18.8% from the three-point line. We know that he has battled injuries, but that is no excuse for what we have been seeing from Lowry this postseason. He is supposed to be the star guard alongside DeRozan on this team and he has been anything but for them when it has mattered the most. It is improbable that the Raptors will come back and win this series and much of the blame should be shouldered by one of the Raptors’ marquee players. He has pulled a disappearing act when it matters the most and as a result, the Raptors will be going home earlier than it was expected for them. The hot start they got off to at the beginning of the season is all but forgotten as they play out the string in the last games of their season.

As for Kyle Lowry, the feelings of being the guy to bring the Raptors back will soon be replaced with the thoughts of potentially being overpaid. Of course the Raptors had to try and keep him there for the continuity of the team. And he isn’t the only one that has not shown up in the postseason for the Raptors. But he got paid to bring more success to the Raptors this season when it mattered. And as it currently stands, the Raptors will have the same results they had last season but in five games instead of seven like last postseason.

Kevin Garnett’s sequel in Minnesota could be longer than expected

KG is back in Minnesota, where it all began. (photo courtesy of

KG is back in Minnesota, where it all began. (photo courtesy of

In 1995, the Minnesota Timberwolves had no face of their franchise. They were a franchise that had no semblance of success and no one could see anything happening in their future. A decision had to be made. What were the Timberwolves to do? Who would lead them forward in their quest to become more relevant? The Timberwolves had plenty of talents to choose from, but they went with probably the most unproven player in the NBA Draft. Coming out of high school, Kevin Garnett was a monster. He was very slight of build, but he could run the court like a guard and he could finish at the rim. He just oozed talent from his pores. Garnett would take advantage of the early entry rule where he could leave out of high school and enter the draft. And his talent caught the eye of the Timberwolves as the one to lead them into the future. The Timberwolves selected Garnett with their fifth pick in the draft and the franchise then was changed. Although some were not sure of what Kevin would be, he came in and showed them what he could be. Garnett would go on to make Minnesota a perennial playoff for a stretch of time (from the 1996-1997 season to the 2003-2004 season). But towards the end of his time in Minnesota, it seemed as if the Timberwolves were struggling to put anything around him and they were not winning basketball games. And as they struggled to win games, it seemed that Garnett became frustrated with his situation in Minnesota. Although never confirmed, it was rumored behind the scenes that Garnett was not happy and wanted to leave. And after missing the playoffs for three years in Minnesota, it finally happened. He was traded to Minnesota in offseason before the 2007 season and the Garnett era was over just like that. And along with the trade of Garnett, so also left the chances of Minnesota ever having a chance to make the playoffs anytime soon.

As of right now, the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs since Garnett was traded in the 2007 season. Although the Timberwolves have tried to make it happen with players like Kevin Love, Al Jefferson, Kevin Martin and countless others over the past eight years, they just have never seemed to make it happen. Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett has had some success in his career after Minnesota. Garnett won a title in his first season in Boston and Doc Rivers always had his team, which consisted of Garnett being teamed with two other Hall Of Famers, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, consistently in the thick of things in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Eventually the Celtics broke up the team and Garnett was traded with Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. And as time went on in Brooklyn, it was evident that age was catching up to Garnett. The Nets began to cut his minutes last season and this season as well. The young players like big man Mason Plumlee were the ones taking the majority of the time on the court while Garnett was getting token starts and sitting most of the game. The Nets were in contention to make the playoffs potentially in the East this season, but Garnett and the Nets got wind of a trade that could send him back to Minnesota. And of course Garnett accepted the trade. The deal sent Garnett back to Minnesota and sent Minnesota forward Thaddeus Young to the Nets. Garnett was back home and it was thought that he would retire after this season and end his great career. But Garnett, despite only playing five games for the Timberwolves after the trade, has other plans.

It is being reported that Garnett is leaning towards being active for the 2015-2016 season, making it 21 years he has been in the NBA. That is an incredible achievement and should be applauded. But looking at Garnett, you have to wonder what he even has left in the tank. He was out with injuries most of this season with the Nets and Timberwolves and even when he did play he was not playing that many minutes. The veteran forward should go out the way he wants to go out, but there has to be concern as to him playing another season in Minnesota. Although he is a free agent after this season, it is assumed that he will be in Minnesota next season. The Timberwolves need a veteran presence, but not one that will be counterproductive to helping their current big men grow. As it looks in their rotation, you have big men like Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett and Adreian Payne along with veteran Nikola Pekovic there. Adding Garnett to that rotation would mean a crowded frontcourt and that’s not even factoring in the Timberwolves adding another big man potentially if they get the 1st or 2nd pick in this draft. It’s nice that Garnett is coming back, but that will create more issues for this team if Garnett is starting and takes minutes from the youngsters developing. This Minnesota team needs more developing and there are young. That means that no winning will be happening anytime soon and that is what Garnett must get used to. He has been a great player over his career, but now he can look forward to ending his career in obscurity and with a losing team at that.

The best ending for Garnett would have been to retire after this season and potentially become an assistant coach or take a front office job with the Timberwolves. His head coach currently, Flip Saunders, is also a member of the front office and almost assuredly would give the franchise’s greatest player a job with the team. And besides a job with the front office, he could be the guy that helps get these young Timberwolves ready and work with them everyday in practice. That would go a long way in helping the team get back to the playoffs or at least in contention. But instead, Garnett is going to play again and further damage his legacy. He is worn down and the tread on his tires is thin. The end has come for Garnett and he has earned the right to go out on his own terms. But he also has to be mindful that his skills are diminished and he is not the same as he used to be. The Big Ticket is no more and maybe the The Big Mentor should be his nickname because that will be his best contribution for this team next season.

Joakim Noah: The Soul Of Chicago

Joakim Noah At the beginning of the season, the Chicago Bulls were expected to challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. They returned a strong defensive team, Derrick Rose was on the mend and of course they had one of the best coaches in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau. Everything was in place for them to succeed. In the preseason and the beginning of the regular season, it looked like Rose was still shaking the rust off. He was starting to gain some steam after the team played the Denver Nuggets, but early in the season when the Bulls were playing the Trailblazer in Portland, this confident Bulls team was shook to the core by Rose going down again:

Rose was later diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his knee and was lost for the season. After the injury, the Bulls looked like a defeated team the next few games. They eventually got out of the short slump, but then management dealt them another body blow.

Chicago forward Luol Deng was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers after he had rejected a three-year, $30 million dollar extension from Chicago. In return, the Bulls landed Andrew Bynum, who they quickly released to save money against their salary cap. This team was left for dead after that trade. All hope anyone may have had for them to at least make the playoffs dissipated. And some thought the team was getting ready to tank. But one man had other ideas. He refused to quit and give into those thoughts. After all, he did not quit when the chips were down in his career.

Joakim Noah was selected with the 9th pick of the 2007 draft. He was the center of the two-time defending National Champion Florida Gators and had declared after his junior season. But unlike his collegiate teammates Corey Brewer and Al Horford, Noah was a mystery to people as to what he would be. He could rebound and pass, but he could not shoot and was not a smooth operator out of the post. In the first couple of years of his career, the doubts about Noah were validated by his play. He was only averaging around six points and six and he really seemed like just another player. But it was not until the 2009 Eastern Conference 1st round series that Noah then showed he had arrived. Noah played with heart, desire and fought to the bitter end as the Bulls fought the veteran Celtics. Who can forget this memorable play during Game six of the Bulls 128-127 triple overtime win that series:

The Celtics would go on to win the Game seven, but Noah definitely made his presence felt. Gone was the guy that no one knew about and present was the guy that would become the emotional barometer of the team.

Noah would continue to improve every season from that playoff battle. And over the years, his skill and his grit have become the backbone of this team. And because of that grit, he would not let this team quit when all had given up on them this season. Instead of letting his team tank, Noah has taken the reins and become the leader not only by his emotion but by his play. He is again averaging a double-double and he is making the game easy for his teammates with his excellent passing skills (leads all centers in assists per game with 4.3 a game). And after their big win versus the Brooklyn Nets Thursday, the Bulls have gone from the bottom to near the top of the NBA’s Eastern Conference. They now are hot on the Toronto Raptors trail for the third spot in the East and they are only gaining momentum. The unselfishness, emotion and grit of Noah has been permeated throughout the whole team. His effect cannot be measured by mere stats because he is now the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls. And as long as he is there, the Bulls will always be a tough out for anyone.

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With The New Additions, Can The Pacers And Nets Knock The Miami Heat Off Their Throne?

(Photo via Getty Images)

(Photo via Getty Images)

The Miami Heat are the reigning champions. They escaped sure defeat in Game 6 on the heroics of LeBron James and Ray Allen to come up with another championship. The veteran Spurs just could not muster enough to win in Game 7 as the Heat pulled away in the end. But going into next year, the Heat will not only have competition from the West but from teams in their own conference. Looking at the Heat as the barometer, the Indiana Pacers and the Brooklyn Nets made some interesting changes to bolster their team. But is it enough for them to beat the Heat come playoff time?

The Pacers pushed the Heat to the brink last season in the Eastern Conference Finals. But in Game 7, their youth showed up as point guard George Hill and wing player Paul George disappeared at the wrong time. The one thing the Pacers had that damaged the Heat a lot last postseason was their post game. Big men Roy Hibbert and David West were hitting the Heat with body blow after body blow and the Heat could not do anything with them. But the one thing that hurt the Pacers inside was they did not have that third big man to give the Heat problems. Well, the Pacers think they have resolved that issue. According to Yahoo! Sports, the Pacers have acquired veteran forward Luis Scola and sent forward Miles Plumblee, guard Gerald Green and a protected 2014 1st round draft pick to Phoenix. This move, along with the re-insertion of sharpshooter Danny Granger and swing forward Chris Copeland, makes the Pacers a stronger offensive team while still retaining the toughness that they are known for. Imagine if they would have had Scola, Copeland, Lance Stephenson and veteran point guard CJ Watson coming off the bench. They would have been even tougher last year.

But with the additions, the Pacers are still missing a lead guard to initiate the offense. George Hill is good, but he is not a point guard. And we all saw what happened with him at point guard when the pressure picked up against Miami. His uneven play cost them big time. They don’t necessarily need a star point guard, but a guard that won’t turn the ball over in crucial times. And other than Hill, the only other guy that can initiate that offense is the newly acquired Watson. If the Pacers could rely on a guy like Granger or Paul George to initiate the offense, then maybe they would be fine with Hill (who is really an undersized shooting guard) playing the point. But because of no solid addition at the point guard spot, the reservations are still there about the championship aspirations of this team. For the Pacers’ sake, they better hope Hill has learned from last year and will be better when the pressure comes his way.

In Brooklyn, the thirst of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov for a championship is real. And to quench his thirst to make the Nets a serious contender, he has thrown money and caution to the wind. The Nets made a trade that brought them veterans Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics. Immediately the expectations of the team went through the roof as some touted them as the biggest contender to the Heat. The starting lineup they now boast will be Garnett and Pierce at the forwards, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams at the guard spots and Brook Lopez at center. But not only will they have those guys starting for them, the Nets re-signed backup big Andray Blatche, signed forward Andrei Kirlenko to backup Paul Pierce, brought in guard/forward Allan Anderson to backup Joe Johnson along with having the aforementioned Jason Terry to backup Deron Williams. This team has all the tools to make a run.

But one thing that has to be looked at is the age of their key additions. Paul Pierce has been an incredible player for Boston his whole career, but over that time he has broken down. Injuries have taken away some of his explosiveness and with that, some of his effectiveness as a player. Signing Kirlenko was a good thing, but if he is playing more than Pierce when it really counts, then the Nets basically wasted money to bring him in. Another thing that may be an issue with Pierce is how he fits in Brooklyn. After being in Boston so long and becoming a legend there, how will playing in a new city for a new team for the first time in his career affect him? It could be excellent, but it could also be something that goes like Joe Namath when he played for the Los Angeles Rams. Kevin Garnett has been very durable during his entire career, but last year he started to show signs of breaking down. He ended up missing 14 games last season and he also had the lowest rebound and point totals of his career last postseason. Garnett brings intensity and passion when he plays, but what happens when your body is telling you that it cannot produce like it used to? It seems like in the case of Garnett and Pierce they are battling two enemies: the Heat (as the defending champions) and Father Time. The Nets will need these two to be at their best to win the East. We shall see if they can get it going when the time is right.

Both squads made perceived improvements. But in the end, it is still in question whether it is enough to defeat the Heat.

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