For the first time since the playoffs last year, the Chicago Bulls come into Miami to take on the Heat Sunday afternoon (3:30 ET on ABC). A battle of the two best teams in the East, two of the league’s true contenders, it’s a fun early season showdown and chance to measure each other right now.
Here are five things to watch… well, really four things to watch and a question.
1. Tempo. With Dwyane Wade back in the lineup, the Heat want to use their pressure defense to force mistakes, create turnovers then get out in transition fast. Which is smart because with Wade and LeBron James they have two of the best finishers in the world on their team. Chicago wants to grind it out more in the half court to rely on their defense to win them games. Well, their defense and Derrick Rose. If the game is up-and-down and the Heat get a lot of easy buckets in transition they will win.
2. Can Derrick Rose be efficient? Derrick Rose was the MVP with reason last year, he shouldered most of the Bulls offensive load and shot a respectable 44.5 percent (an eFG% of 48.5 percent, which counts his threes) on his way to 25 points a game. Then he ran into the Heat, and while he scored 23.4 points per game he shot just 35 percent (39.6 percent eFG%) as defenders including LeBron made it tougher on him. With Rip Hamilton in the lineup will he find more space and be able to shoot a higher percentage?
3. How do the offseason additions change the dynamic? The Bulls needed another perimeter scoring option, they went out and got one of the hardest workers off the ball and best midrange shooters in the game in Richard Hamilton this summer. How do the Heat adjust and account for that? The Heat added Shane Battier and drafted Norris Cole, the later of whom is playing well at the point and provides depth. Combine that with Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller being healthy and the Heat are a much deeper team now, can the Bulls bench match them?
4. Can Ronnie Brewer contain LeBron James? LeBron has given up a lot of his threes and replaced them with touches in the post this year. Combine that with some more good looks in transition and he is putting up monster numbers this season. MVP numbers. The primary job of slowing him and making him work for his points will fall to Brewer (and Luol Deng if he is back). Brewer is a quality defender, but containing LeBron is a team effort. However, if Brewer is beaten consistently it’s going to be rough for the Bulls.
5. Does it really matter who wins? No. This is a measuring stick of where the teams are now, not where they will be in late May when everyone expects them to meet again in the Eastern Conference Finals. (And by the end of the season we expect them to be 1-2 in the East, as they are Sunday morning. Upstarts like Atlanta and Philly will battle for third and below.) But the Bulls can use a win — it can build some confidence in a Bulls team that was easily dispatched in five games when they met last playoffs.
Last year, James Harden organized a pre-camp workout where Rockets players could get in shape and develop some chemistry. Then the Rockets started the season slowly with Harden not being in good enough shape and the team having chemistry issues.
Hopefully, for Rockets’ fan this year is different — once again Harden is organizing a camp, reports, Fox 26 in Houston. And Harden is working to show what a great teammate he is.
For the second consecutive year Houston Rockets guard James Harden has organized a players-only minicamp scheduled for next week.
“James is doing everything,” said Corey Brewer, Rockets guard/forward. “He is showing he wants to be a leader. He’s the franchise player. He signed the extension. So it’s his team, and he’s doing all the right things to do what we need to do to have a chance to win championships.”
Harden’s plan is to hold the minicamp in Miami. However, the potential of bad weather hitting South Florida may cause the Rockets players to work in a different city.
Nearly every team does one of these, and how much good they do depends on who you ask. Teams that go deep in the playoffs have these camps, teams that disappoint and never make the playoffs have these camps. It certainly never hurts to get some voluntary team workouts in before the coaches take over at the end of September, and good on Harden for organizing it.
Just don’t read too much into any team doing this.
Which position – point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward or center – produced the best highlights last season?
Watch this video to find out and be glad the positional revolution didn’t reduce it fewer highlights.
Could you find your way out of LeBron James‘ head?
Now, you can find out.
An Ohio farm has created three corn mazes – one featuring LeBron’s head, one that says Believeland and one with a Larry O’Brien Trophy – to commemorate the Cavaliers 2016 NBA title:
Kevin Ollie made himself one of the NBA’s hottest coaching prospects by leading UConn to the 2014 NCAA title.
He has since resisted NBA overtures, including from the Lakers in 2014 and Thunder last year.
But his peers don’t expect Ollie’s hesitance to last.
Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander of CBSSPorts.com asked more than 110 college coaches, “Which active college coach is best suited and most likely to next jump to the NBA?” The results:
Coach, college Percentage
Kevin Ollie, UConn 20 percent
Bill Self, Kansas 17 percent
John Calipari, Kentucky 16 percent
Jay Wright, Villanova 16 percent
Shaka Smart, Texas 9 percent
Tony Bennett, Virginia 8 percent
Note: Other coaches who received at least three or more votes: Sean Miller (Arizona), Larry Krystkowiak (Utah) and Avery Johnson (Alabama).
Keep in mind 80% of responds didn’t answer Ollie. But he’s still makes sense atop the leaderboard.
Ollie isn’t the typical college-to-NBA coach, and Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan – and maybe eventually Fred Hoiberg – are changing that perception, anyway. Not is Ollie showing his basketball acumen at Connecticut, his 13-year NBA career suggests he can translate his style to the next level.
Of course, Calipari always comes up on these lists. He coaches more future NBA stars than anyone, and he loves the attention that comes with the perception NBA teams are chasing him. But he has the best job in college basketball at Kentucky, so luring him will be difficult.
Self and Wright, the other coaches who got at least 10% of the vote, come up from time to time in NBA rumors. But it never seems to be anything that goes anywhere.