NBA Playoffs: Cavaliers set to dominate, so enjoy the Bulls while you can

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What do the Chicago Bulls need to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers?

A miracle. Hijinx. Steroids. Food poisoning for LeBron. Flubber. Possession by a basketball-playing demon. Stink bombs in the Cavs’ locker room. A magic lamp.

Oh, and on top of all that, they need to play nearly perfect basketball from top to bottom.

Honestly, if the Bulls win a single game I’d be mildly impressed. If they take two games, it would be a serious accomplishment. If they win three games, some shenanigans must be involved. If they win the series, I will eat my own foot. This is the Cavs’ series to lose, but there’s just not even a remote chance they’ll actually lose it. I wouldn’t even count on them misplacing it for awhile.

LeBron James is just too good, and the team Danny Ferry has constructed is finally worthy of James’ talents. Not only is LeBron playing alongside more talented players than ever before (Antawn Jamison, Shaquille O’Neal, Mo Williams), but the pieces have fit together in particularly impressive fashion. It’ll be nice for the Cavs to have an additional first round adjustment period to work Shaq back into the mix, but Cleveland is entirely too good to even let Chicago smell a victory.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy Derrick Rose while you still can. Despite Derrick’s incredible athleticism, breathtaking style, and startlingly high ceiling, he’s a commodity that’s taken for granted in the NBA. He has a decent rep, but he still gets lost in the superstar shuffle. Rose may not be fully evolved just yet, but he’s still an fascinating player and an incredibly entertaining watch. You’ll have plenty of time to stargaze with LeBron, so don’t glaze over Rose’s performance in this series.

That’s what you should really be looking for from the Bulls: entertainment. This team plays hard, and the resolve they showed to force their way into the playoffs was certainly admirable Appreciate Joakim Noah’s coverage of the pick-and-roll, or his effort on the glass. Pay attention to Luol Deng’s defense, and try to find signs of a dependable scoring game. Laugh at Jannero Pargo. Watch Brad Miller be Brad Miller. Point at Vinny Del Negro’s hair. Nod in approval at Kirk Hinrich’s game. Try to figure out Taj Gibson’s future.

Just make sure you do all of that quickly, because the Cavs are already getting their brooms ready. If I was a betting man, I’m taking Cleveland in four.

Rumor: Nets testing trade waters for Bojan Bogdanovic

Bojan Bogdanovic, Otto Porter Jr.
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If you play for the Brooklyn Nets, and your name is not Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, expect you will come up in trade rumors this season.

First up on the block, Bojan Bogdanovic. The report comes from Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.

Bogdanovic is in the first year of a three-year, $11 million deal, which isn’t bad for a guy playing nearly 25 minutes a night and scoring 8.4 points per game. There is a lot of potential in his game, if developed in the right setting — he’s a good shooter out on the wing who works well off the ball. He seems to have regressed this season, but how much of that is due to the Nets and their guard play (and just generally struggling) is up for debate.

Is there going to be interest in him? Probably. As always, it is about the price, what the Nets will demand. Whether the Nets can get anything back they want is up for debate.

Right now a lot of GMs are testing the waters for players, judging the market. That is a long way from a trade happening. But don’t be shocked if the Nets make a deal or two before the February deadline.

Just a reminder that Joakim Noah would like some more run

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Joakim Noah is playing 20.6 minutes a night coming off the bench for Fred Hoiberg and the Chicago Bulls this season.

And he doesn’t like it. He wants more run. He was getting 10 minutes more a night last season under Tom Thibodeau, and Noah wants some of those minutes back. Nick Friedel of ESPN sent out a tweet that was a reminder of just that.

Three thoughts here.

1) Reducing minutes for guys who battle injuries every season by the time the playoffs roll around was one huge reason Fred Hoiberg was brought in to coach the Bulls and Tom Thibodeau was shown the door. This isn’t just Hoiberg, the minutes reduction comes from management. While it is possible Noah’s spot in the rotation shifts (he could start at some point) and he might get a little more run, the Thibodeau era is gone.

2) There are legit reasons for Noah to want to play. First, he is a competitor who doesn’t like sitting. Second, the Bulls’ defense is elite when he plays (allowing 95.5 points per 100 possessions) and the Bulls outscore opponents by 1.3 per 100 when he plays. Finally, Noah is in the final year of his contract and scoring just 3.1 points per game is not going to help him earn more cash in the next deal.

3) Barring injury to another big, don’t expect a change.

Jimmer Fredette scores 37 in D-League debut while Floyd Mayweather watches

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You can’t make this stuff up.

After being cut by the Spurs during training camp, Jimmer Fredette decided to stay stateside and play in the D-League, looking for a way back into and another chance in the NBA (the banged up Pelicans picked him up for four games but released him again). Fredette put up impressive numbers in his debut with the Westchester Knicks (the New York Knicks affiliate), scoring 37 points on 12-of-17 shooting, hitting a couple of threes and getting to the line a dozen times.

All while boxer Floyd Mayweather looked on from courtside (Mayweather was there to see buddy Jordan Crawford).

If Fredette keeps putting up numbers, maybe he gets a call up. But nothing is seriously going to change for Fredette unless his defense improves markedly — that has always been the big problem, and not always one exploited the same way in the D-League. He is on the low end of the athleticism scale for the NBA (not college) and that has led teams to just target him when he comes in games. There is no mercy in the NBA, and Fredette has been the gazelle outside the herd that becomes the clear target.

But he’s had a good D-League game, it’s a start on a road back.

Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans says he returns to lineup Tuesday

Tyreke Evans
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The Pelicans have needed this.

There is not one simple reason the Pelicans stumbled out of the gate this season and might as well be booking late April tee times now (they will not recover and make the playoffs). It’s a combination of issues. But at the top of any list needs to be injuries, and specifically the injury to Tyreke Evans, who had his knee scoped back in training camp.

Evans will suit up for the Pelicans Tuesday. This had been rumored for a while, but Evans himself confirmed it on Instagram.

Gm lets get it I'm not a hundred percent but happy to play today first game back #beastmode #takeflightshow

A photo posted by Tyreke Evans (@tyrekeevans) on

The Pelicans desperately need his shot creation. Anthony Davis is an unquestionable beast, but he’s not a guy you can just throw the rock to and watch him create for himself and others out on the wing. Jrue Holiday can’t really do that either. The Pelicans have looked better with Ish Smith at the point of late because he can create a little thanks to his quickness.

Evans is better at this than anyone else they have. Getting him back in the mix helps.

Norris Cole, who played fantastically for the Pelicans last season, also is expected to return to the rotation tonight.

With those two back and the team starting to find a groove, they can become respectable to dangerous. But I just can’t see them climbing out of the hole they are in and find a way into the playoffs.