Kobe Bryant, Derrick Rose

5 Things to Watch, Bulls-Lakers: Where the Lakers look for the… upset?

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GAMES. There will be actual NBA games played today starting at noon. To get you pumped, ready, and primed for the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season, we give you five things to keep an eye on today in Heat-Mavericks.

To get you pumped:

 

Point of defense

Things which terrify Lakers fans: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Blake trying to guard Derrick Rose. Rose has had nothing to do but think about playing the Lakers for a month, and nothing to think about but making up for the ECF for six months. The Bulls surprised the Lakers last year (a lot of teams surprised the Lakers last year), but in reality, they just match up extremely well. In particular, Rose has the ability to blow by any defender. Byrant can’t carry the load offensively and try and lock down Rose. Ron Artest is likely the one who will be charged with checking the MVP, trying to take the same tactic that worked with LeBron in the ECF. If Artest can’t handle him or if he gets in foul trouble, this could get messy in a hurry.

Standing Tall And… well, Tall

Carlos Boozer is out-sized even without Andrew Bynum down low. Boozer struggles against players with considerable length, and Pau Gasol has miles of it. The Bulls need Boozer to score, but more importantly, he’s got to muscle Gasol which tends to minimalize his impact. The height advantage for L.A. has been a huge part of their strategy for years, but without Odom (traded) and Bynum (suspended), the Lakers will have to rely on Gasol to handle the job of being big. He’s got a tough matchup with both Boozer and Noah. Gasol has to come through in a big way.

Kung-Fu Wrist Action 

How good is the wrist? That’s going to be a huge part of this game. Kobe Bryant’s going to have to shoulder the offensive load without Bynum around, even if Gasol comes through. He’s practiced this week, but has taken it easy on shooting. Rip Hamilton will likely guard him for long stretches, and he knows how to make that wrist hurt more without being obvious about it. Bryant has to be high volume for the Lakers to win, but he also needs to rest the wrist. So that’s not a good combination. Bryant’s wrist may hurt more the more he shoots, but he’s going to shoot. Something to watch.

Bull Rush

The Bulls’ offense was an afterthought for Tom Thibodeau last season. While you want Derrick Rose to have autonomy and the ability to improvise, you also need some sort of structure, and too often last year the Bulls’ offense was overly simplistic. The Lakers will be coached well enough even with talent issues to cause them problems on defense.So the Bulls need to actually work a few sets with some cohesion. The Lakers will scheme to attack Rose on the edge and the drive. The kickout has to be clean, but all the scheming in the world won’t help if they don’ their shots.

Going Deep

The Lakers are crazy thin in the frontcourt, and Josh McRoberts has to have a huge game. On the other end, the Bulls have Omer Asik and Taj Gibson, and have a huge advantage in depth. The Lakers need long minutes from starters and for someone on the bench to surprise with a huge game. This might be a low-scoring game, but Kobe and Gasol can’t do it all.

Joakim Noah: Jerry Reinsdorf’s ‘frontline’ comment a ‘low blow’

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 10:  NBA player Joakim Noah looks on during a game between the Florida Gators and the Kentucky Wildcats at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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After watching Joakim Noah leave for the Knicks, Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf said, “We felt Joakim wasn’t going to be a frontline guy anymore.”

Ouch.

Noah, via Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“He’s entitled to his opinion,’’ Noah said. “I feel I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me that’s all that matters. I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, but at the end of the day I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter of my career.”

Reinsdorf was right. Noah, 31, is on the downside of his career. I wouldn’t want him for $72 million over the next four years.

But Noah is also right. He gave the Bulls everything he had.

Noah didn’t deserve that parting shot, even if it was correct.

I also wonder how much this has to do with Chicago correctly assessing Noah’s value vs. the Bulls losing a player whom they wanted to keep and lashing out about it.

Spurs waive Ryan Richards, open roster spot

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 12: Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs waits for the Oklahoma City Thunder to bring the ball down court during the second half of Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 12, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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The Spurs drafted Ryan Richards No. 49 in 2010, and he could’ve signed with San Antonio any year since. To maintain a second-rounder’s rights, a team must extend a required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum. If the player rejects the offer, those rights extend another year, and the team must then offer the tender again the following year.

Richards finally took the tender this year.

Just a couple days into training camp, the Spurs showed how much they value him.

Spurs release:

The San Antonio Spurs today announced that they have waived forward/center Ryan Richards.

San Antonio now has 19 players and one open roster spot. I know what you’re thinking.

Thunder PG Cameron Payne fractures foot. Again

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 08:  Cameron Payne #22 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 8, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Thunder defeated the Suns 122-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Just as he was getting back into the flow after fracturing his foot this summer, Thunder point guard Cameron Payne hurt himself all over again.

Thunder release:

The Oklahoma City Thunder announced today that guard Cameron Payne suffered an acute fracture to his fifth metatarsal in Tuesday night’s Blue-White Scrimmage.

This is a troubling setback for the 22-year-old Payne, whom Oklahoma City drafted No. 14 last year. The Thunder didn’t play him enough last season to maximize his development, and now, they won’t the chance to make amends for a while.

Russell Westbrook will obviously still handle the large majority of point guard minutes, and this sets up Ronnie Price to open the season as the primary backup. The 33-year-old Price can play tough defense in limited playing time, but asking him to run the second unit offensively will likely turn out poorly.

Oklahoma City could stagger Westbrook’s and Victor Oladipo‘s minutes, using Oladipo as the lead guard when Westbrook sits. But Oladipo didn’t take to that role in Orlando.

This could also open the door slightly for Semaj Christon to make the regular-season roster as the third healthy point guard. But the Thunder already have 16 players, one more than the regular-season roster limit, with guaranteed salaries – and that doesn’t count Christon. Oklahoma City would have to drop Mitch McGary and one other player to keep Christon, which seems unlikely.

The Thunder will probably just have to grind it out with Price behind Westbrook.

Paul George on MVP: ‘This is my year to go get it’

TORONTO, ON - MAY 01:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers reacts after sinking a basket in the first half of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 01, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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MVP feels wide open this year.

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James have accounted for the last five. But Curry and Durant are now sharing touches with the Warriors, and LeBron is 31 and has coasted in the last couple regular seasons in the midst of so many Finals runs.

That opens the door for new contenders like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard (my pick), Anthony Davis – and Paul George, the Pacers star who’s announcing his candidacy loud and clear.

George on SiriusXM NBA Radio:

I want to be MVP. I definitely want to be the MVP this year. It’s tough, as always. It would be a challenge, but with coach Nate and the guys that I got here, I’m in position to move into that spot as long as I remain being me, being a leader, being aggressive and wanting that. It’s not mine for the taking. I got to go get it. And this is my year to go get it.

The MVP usually goes to a player on a top-two seed, and that’ll be a tough nut for Indiana to crack with the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors standing in the way. But, again, this is an atypical year with most top teams so balanced.

If the Pacers hit the high end of their potential outcomes, George would be a strong candidate. He’s is the second-best player in the East, so most nights, he’ll be the best player on the court. That goes a long way for perception.

The best thing George can do for his case is help Indiana win big. If he does that, he’ll surely impress enough individually along the way to warrant major consideration.