Somewhere along the way, the Oklahoma City Thunder became every NBA fan’s mistress. We have and hold our respective teams in injury and in health, in good times and bad, until death do us part, but even the truest of die-hards have been known to flirt with League Pass now and again. It’s nothing major. Just to see what else is out there. Just to pass the time when our teams are away on business. It doesn’t mean anything, we tell ourselves.
But it means everything. NBA fans have wandering eyes, and the Thunder ooze sex appeal. We can try our best to explain away the Thunder’s allure, but there is genuine meaning in it.
Kevin Durant is the obvious draw. Not only is he a phenomenal All-World scorer with a rapidly improving all-around game, but his on-court demeanor and obsessive hunger for all things basketball blend together beautifully. His feet are planted firmly on the ground, even as he reaches higher and higher with his trademarked, absurdly long arms. The man simply loves what he does and works hard to improve himself, and that’s endearing. That he happens to already be an incredible player while maintaining that hunger is what elevates him to cult favorite and Wheaties box role model.
Of course, Durant is but one reason why the Thunder have captivated NBA audiences. They’re young and new, and like it or not, hip. They’re athletic and dynamic, from Russell Westbrook’s jams to Serge Ibaka’s swats. Their success is somehow bizarre, improbable, and yet all part of the plan. They’re 50-win underdogs, tightly knit with an old-school, one-goal fabric, but envisioned with modern basketball sensibilities. There is, really and truly, nothing quite like the Thunder.
There’s also nothing quite like Kevin Durant’s other team. The one that won’t make your steadfast commitment as an NBA fan the least bit confusing. The one that’s playing right now, in the stretch of the off-season that’s most barren.
They’re young. They’re athletic. They’re hungry and humble. They’re incredibly talented even if they’re in a bit over their heads. They are wholly committed to playing great defense, and above all, they have Durant to lead them. There is, really and truly, nothing quite like Team USA either, and if one were forced to conjure the most natural team comparison? It just might be Oklahoma City.
Ranking the centers, 11 through 1
7. Joakim Noah(notes), Chicago Bulls (last year: 15th)
Though his fiery personality and, um, unconventional offseason habits are the Houston forward's polar opposite, Noah almost reminds of a 7-foot version of Shane Battier(notes). The ultimate teammate, Noah is constantly barking out the opposing team's play, his position on the help defense side, and he's the first to meet a teammate when things go perfectly, terribly awry, or somewhere in the middle.
He also put together a double-double last season while playing just 30 minutes per game, a fantastic accomplishment, and he's made huge strides in his rebounding since entering the league as a rookie in 2007, topping out with a rebound rate that flew past the 20 percent mark last season.
Derrick Rose: "I'd hate to play against Boozer and Noah"
You must be really excited about next season, right?
Derrick Rose: Oh yeah. We got a new team, great young players. I think now we have a chance to go out there and try to win every game.
Guess you’ve already talked with new coach Tom Thibodeau.
DR: He’s cool. He’s really a basketball coach – always studying, always in the office looking at film, making sure everybody is doing things right, making calls to every player before the season… That’s a good thing.
What does he want from you?
DR: Leadership, playing defense. That’s the main thing, to be really agressive. The city of Chicago will love him, because as long as you’re playing hard and playing agressive, they love that kind of play.
How’s the city after getting Carlos Boozer on board?
DR: It’s a frenzy, man. Everybody just can’t wait for the season to start. Everybody is there kind of bragging a little bit already, that we should have a chance to compete for the title.
NBA Rumors: Carmelo Anthony Can Rival Miami Heat With the Chicago Bulls
With the summer of 2010 winding down and all the big name free agents already finding their homes, NBA fans haven’t been this excited for a season in quite some time.
Sorry, Allen Iverson, you left the title of “big name” back in Denver.
Speaking of things left in Denver, the Mile High City is currently stuck with Carmelo Anthony. While being “stuck” with an All-Star who scores like Don Draper isn’t normally bad, in this case, Anthony has put the Nuggets in quite the bind.
To trade, or not to trade. That, is the question.
Shakespeare was wrong.
Lots of talk around the NBA has been about whether Carmelo Anthony will stay in Denver. According to today’s Denver Post, new vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri will do everything in his power to keep him around.
Will that even matter?
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported yesterday that Anthony and his people informed the franchise of his intent to leave and that the team would be better off sending him elsewhere in order to get some value back.
Sadly, the odds of getting equal value for ‘Melo make the odds of the Clippers winning the title seem likely.
Yet the rumors are certainly swirling. The New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, and New Jersey Nets have had their names tied with Carmelo plenty, but considering the 26-year-old forward is likely to leave in a trade, the possibilities are endless.
So let’s propose something that would rock the basketball world.
Carmelo Anthony in Chicago. The return of The Madhouse On Madison.
White Sox toast with a four pack
The Yankees aren’t an easy bunch to intimidate, but the White Sox gave a shot during pregame ceremonies Friday, with a little help from their friends.
Championship trophies from the 1985 Bears, the '90s Bulls, the 2009-10 Blackhawks and the White Sox’s own 2005 hardware, were all on display during a “Gathering of Champions” ceremony. Richard Dent represented the Bears, Mark Buehrle was there for the White Sox and Joel Quenneville was on hand for the Blackhawks.
Scottie Pippen was supposed to be the Bulls’ representative, but he was late leaving those duties to chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Pippen was later spotted on the suite level just as the game was starting.
The Yankees might have their 27 World Series trophies, including their most recent in 2009, but no city can stake a claim to a title in each of the four major sports in the past 25 years.
Why The 2010 Chicago Bulls Should Trade Luol Deng
In their pursuit of Lebron James Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, much talk was going around about Luol Deng going to Portland. Well, Deng's still a Bull, and the Bulls struck out on the big three in free agency.
Though, it's not too late to dump Deng and his bloated contract on some other team. Division rival Indiana comes to mind with shooter Danny Granger. This would be an ideal trade for the Bulls, but I'm not comfortable sending him to a division rival.
Enter Portland, if Deng would go to Portland as reported before the free agent bonanza, the Bulls could take Rudy Fernandez in a trade, but would have to add $10M or so, or else get a third team like the 76ers with Andre Igoudala. Hopefully all the pieces get together to get an unhappy Rudy out of Portland.Rudy Fernandez would likely get the starting job he's looking for in Chicago.
If Igoudala comes to town, he would compete as well for the starting role. He is a local product from Springfield, IL. He has two years completed on a 6 yr./$80M deal. He is more durable than Deng and has a greater upside.
No matter if the Bulls make moves in the off season, or before February, the most important thing after re-signing Joakim Noah is trading Luol Deng.
Joakim Noah work hard, improving jumper, and other random notes
I was talking to a source inside the Bulls organization, and I was told Joakim Noah is living at the Berto Center this summer. He's had an outstanding off-season, and we can expect him to come out really strong this year.
He's still throwing up the sidewinder, but he's knocking it down at an excellent rate, and it may be more of a weapon this year than in the past. We had started to see Noah knock down this mid range jumpers last year, and if he can take one more step forward with it this season then he'll become much more deadly on the court.
Overall, the mood around the team is very positive and everyone is excited for the season. There's no doubt the team is better, and they know it and are ready to prove it on the court.
There's a much better vibe around Thibodeau as head coach than there was around Del Negro. Ever dating back to the initial hire, Del Negro never had the players on his side the way Thibodeau appears to already. Sources had told me even early on in his first season the veterans on the team thought Del Negro was a boob.
Thibodeau commands much more respect, he's simply a much greater basketball mind. I think of all the players on the team right now, Luol Deng stands the most to benefit from the switch and is probably the player most happy to see Del Negro leave (though the departed Gordon/Hinrich also disliked Del Negro).
This season marks the beginning of a new era for the Bulls. New head coach, significant roster turnover in terms of role players, and a new star player added to the team. The talent on the roster now exceeds anything the Bulls have thrown out there since #23 suited up. They bring a post offense, a slashing offense, defensive intensity, and balance to the table.