The Indiana Pacers came out of Game 1 — where they led until the final minute and almost pulled the upset — thinking that they can play with the Chicago Bulls.
But can they? The Bulls can play much better than they did in game one — look for them to focus on tightening the pick-and-roll defense (especially when Tyler Hansbrough is setting the pick) and for Derrick Rose to be in attack mode early.
The Bulls took the Pacers best shot — literally, the Pacers shot lights out all game (10-of-17 from three, for example) and put up 113.7 points per 100 possessions, 13 more than the Bulls gave up on average — and one has to wonder if the Pacers can play any better. And if that was their best and they lost, what hope do they have?
The Pacers hinted they are going to start aggressively doing what the Bulls will see from here on out in the playoffs — trapping and doubling Derrick Rose to get the ball out of his hands.
We’ll see what kind of success they have — it’s easier said than done to trap Rose. But if they do the Bulls are going to need other players to step up in a way they did not in Game 1. Carlos Boozer had a quiet 12 points and he has to step up, as does Luol Deng who had a couple big baskets late but not much else. The Bulls bench also needs to contribute more.
Put simply, the Derrick Rose show is one of the best going in the NBA, but ask Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant — or just about anyone else — if you can do it all on your own or if you need a real team effort.
Another key will be how this game is called — both teams want to be physical on defense, but Rose’s ability to attack and draw contact and get to the line could swing this game. Like it did the first one, where Rose alone got to the line more than the entire Pacers team.
The Bulls are going to defend hard
The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.
Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.
He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.
“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”
All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.
New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.
Rudy Gay expressed displeasure with how the Kings were handling trade rumors. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac retorted that Gay had his phone number.
Apparently, Gay found it.
Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:
Following those comments, Gay told ABC10 on Thursday afternoon that he had since spoken with Divac.
“I have talked to Vlade,” Gay said from his Nike Skills Academy at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. “I can’t say since Monday stuff has changed, but I just feel like we have a little bit of time to start changing things.”
Gay, who will be entering his 11th NBA season, has insisted he hasn’t demanded a trade and should he remain a member of the Kings by the time training camp opens in October, he says he’ll report and be ready to go.
“At this point in my career I just want to be happy,” said Gay. “I talked to Vlade and we’re trying to make that happen.”
Even if he hasn’t demanded a trade, it sure sounds like Gay would welcome one. I doubt the Kings would mind moving on, either.
But it takes another team to trade for Gay, and so far, one hasn’t emerged.
In the meantime, tensions appear to be eased. Open communication usually helps.