With what happened to Derrick in Game 1, it would be easy to hang your heads right now. You could lose sight of the ultimate goal and give up before the rest of the games have even been played. But I know that’s not even a consideration for this group. And that’s exactly why you’ll make me, Derrick, the organization, and the city of Chicago so proud.
To a man, it’s time for each of you to take a look in the mirror. Decide who you really are and what you represent as a basketball player. Reflect on what you have brought to the table for your team all season long and why you’re a valuable member of the Bulls. Because all of you have contributed to this team’s incredible success. Ask yourself what you can do for the team moving forward. Whether it’s through your verbal leadership or diving on the floor after a loose ball, it’s going to be all about grinding it out moving forward. If there is one piece of advice I can offer you, it’s to put every last ounce of effort you have out there to make everyone proud—Derrick, the fans, and first and foremost, yourself….
Just go out there and play hard. Play your best. Leave everything you’ve got on the floor. Yes, you lost one of your brothers—a warrior in every sense of the word—but I know and you know you’ve still got a lot of fight left. You’re still the best team in the NBA until an opponent proves otherwise. So go out there and play like it. You’ve earned that much with Derrick along the way, but you also won a lot of games without him. It’s time to meet the challenge.
Nice words. Beating the Sixers is one thing. Getting past the Celtics or Hawks because you still have an advantage along the front line and good defense is possible. But when it comes to the Heat…
But cross that bridge when you come to it. For now, Pippen has your back, Bulls.
Joel Embiid whacks Jaylen Brown in face while celebrating basket (video)
Remember Mindaugas Kuzminskas? The Knicks waived him early in the season and more than a month before All-Star voting even began.
He still received four fan votes – the most meager total of anyone the NBA counted.
By comparison, LeBron James received a league-high 2,638,294 fan votes (which made him a captain for the new draft), all 99 media votes and 220 player votes (curiously, fewer than Giannis Antetokounmpo).
You can dig through totals in each category for LeBron, Kuzminskas and everyone in between.
Each player’s rank in fan, player and media voting is given. Exact totals are in parenthesis. Players are sorted by their “score” – (fan rank * two + player rank + media rank)/four).
Marv Albert (Turner)
David Aldridge (Turner)
Sam Amick (USA Today)
Kevin Arnovitz (ESPN.com)
Steve Aschburner (NBA.com)
Brent Barry (Turner)
Jon Barry (ESPN Radio)
Michelle Beadle (ABC/ESPN)
Howard Beck (Bleacher Report)
Sherrod Blakeley (CSNNE.com)
Stefan Bondy (New York Daily News)
Scott Bordow (Arizona Republic)
Mike Breen (ABC/ESPN)
Chris Broussard (Fox Sports)
Clifton Brown (Indianapolis Star)
Hubie Brown (ABC/ESPN)
Ric Bucher (Bleacher Report)
Doris Burke (ABC/ESPN)
PJ Carlesimo (ESPN Radio)
Davide Chinellato (LaGazetta Dello Sport)
Joe Cowley (Chicago Sun-Times)
Brett Dawson (The Oklahoman)
Sean Deveney (The Sporting News)
Amin Elhassan (ESPN.com)
Vince Ellis (Detroit Free Press)
Paul Flannery (SB Nation)
Mike Ganter (The Toronto Sun)
Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (Turner)
Ben Golliver (Sports Illustrated)
Vince Goodwill (CSNChicago.com)
Michael Grange (Rogers Sportsnet)
Jared Greenberg (Turner)
Will Guillory (New Orleans Times Picayune)
Kevin Harlan (Turner)
Chris Haynes (ESPN.com)
Kurt Helin (NBCSports.com)
Chase Hughes (NBCSportsWashington.com)
Frank Isola (Sirius Radio/New York Daily News)
Mark Jackson (ABC/ESPN)
Lee Jenkins (Sports Illustrated)
Ernie Johnson (Turner)
Jason Jones (Sacramento Bee)
Tony Jones (Salt Lake Tribune)
Mark Kestecher (ESPN Radio)
Nira Kihurana (Excelsior)
Jon Krawczynski (The Athletic)
Kristen Ledlow (Turner)
Connor Letourneau (San Francisco Chronicle)
Jason Lloyd (The Athletic)
Greg Logan (Newsday)
Jackie MacMullan (ESPN.com)
Brian Mahoney (Associated Press)
Rob Mahoney (SI.com)
Chris Mannix (Yahoo!)
TJ Manotoc (ABC-CBN)
Diego Martínez (Periódico Reforma)
Jeff McDonald (San Antonio Express-News)
Dave McMenamin (ESPN.com)
Reggie Miller (Turner)
Yoko Miyaji (Sports Graphic Number)
Gina Mizell (Denver Post)
Manny Navaro (Miami Herald)
Rachel Nichols (ABC/ESPN)
Kevin O’Connor (The Ringer)
Bill Oram (Orange County Register)
Kevin Pelton (ESPN.com)
Keith Pompey (Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News)
Jason Quick (NBC Sports Northwest)
Tim Reynolds (Associated Press)
Jalen Rose (ABC/ESPN)
John Schuhmann (NBA.com)
Dennis Scott (Turner)
Eddie Sefko (Dallas Morning News)
Andrew Sharp (Sports Illustrated)
Ramona Shelburne (ESPN.com)
Lisa Shen (Tencent)
Bill Simmons (The Ringer)
Doug Smith (The Toronto Star)
Sekou Smith (NBA.com)
Steve Smith (Turner)
Thales Soares (Globoesporte.com)
Marc Spears (The Undefeated)
Elliott Teaford (Southern California News Group)
Justin Termine (Sirius Radio)
Ron Tillery (Memphis Commercial-Appeal)
Flavio Tranquillo (Sky Italia)
Xavier Vaution (BeIn Sport)
Matt Velazquez (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Ailene Voisin (Sacramento Bee)
Richard Walker (Gaston Gazette)
Gary Washburn (Boston Globe)
Chris Webber (Turner)
Michael Wilbon (ABC/ESPN)
Brian Windhorst (ESPN.com)
Matt Winer (Turner)
Royce Young (ESPN.com)
Jerry Zgoda (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
Weiping Zhang (CCTV)
Jeff Zillgitt (USA Today)
“I’ve gotten frustrated just for the fact that it feels like I always got to be the fall guy and every other guy has been deserving,” Lillard tells ESPN. “In the past, the thing has been, ‘All right, my team has been 10 games under .500 or not in the playoffs,’ but every year we’ve found a way to be in the postseason, and this year I think we’re in much better position than we have been in the past two seasons that I didn’t make it. I think I’ve gotten over the emotional part of it the last few times that I didn’t make it. Now I’m kind of like expecting it to go that way, but I feel like I should be there.”
Lillard was not going to be a starter, and if you want to blame someone for that blame the fans who had him eighth (worse than players or media) — behind Lonzo Ball and Manu Ginobili.
“(Ball) plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, one of the most, if not the most, storied franchises in that big of a market,” Lillard explained to ESPN. “So, so many people are going to support him throughout that, and also with his dad and all the attention that’s been surrounding him since college. There’s a lot of people that follow him, so, that’s not really a surprise to me. The market size and what’s going on with his family, it’s no surprise really to me.”
Lillard deserves to be an All-Star — he’s averaging 25 points per game, plus he’s dishing out 6.5 assists per night, and his defense has improved.
Whether he makes it is another story. The Western Conference is STACKED. When the coaches pick the seven West reserves, they have to take two guards, three frontcourt players, then two wild-cards. Westbrook and Jimmy Butler are locks to get selected as All-Star Game reserves at the West. That leaves one or two of the wild-card slots for guards, and both Klay Thompson and Lou Williams have legitimate cases to make the team, too.
Lillard would be a snub. So will whichever one of those guards gets left off. There is just too much talent in the West.
Three Things to Know: All-Star starters named, who should be in reserve?
Still, it was mostly the usual suspects and there were no surprises as the NBA All-Star Game starters were announced. They were picked by a vote of the fans (50 percent), players (25 percent), and selected media members (25 percent). Here’s the list.
Remember it is not East vs. West this year. LeBron and Curry, as the top vote-getters, will be the captains and select teammates in a playground-style draft, first from the starters listed above, then from a pool of reserves selected by the coaches to be announced next Tuesday. LeBron chooses first and what is Curry going to do when LeBron goes with Durant?
Picking those reserves is where someone will get snubbed — there is no way to pick just seven players per conference and not leave out deserving guys. Damian Lillard didn’t deserve to be an All-Star starter no matter what he thinks, but is he even an All-Star this year in the loaded West? There must be two backcourt, three frontcourt, and two wild-card selections for each conference. Here’s who I would pick:
2) The Cleveland Cavaliers win… over the Orlando Magic. By one point. After blowing a 22-point lead. “Right now we’re in Strugglesville,” is how LeBron put the Cavaliers right now. He’s right. Cleveland had lost four in a row and was 2-8 in their last 10 coming into this one, but Thursday night they were facing one of the flat-out worst teams in the NBA in Orlando, so easy win? Nope. It took a couple Isaiah Thomas free throws with 11 seconds left — then Elfrid Payton missing a contested layup with a couple of seconds left — to give the Cavaliers a 104-103 win.
Cleveland was up 22 in this one, but once again their defense isn’t good and when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders they can be beaten by anyone. The Cavs shot 1-of-17 from three in the second half and were outscored by 16 in the third quarter, blowing another good first half effort.
There were bright spots for the Cavs. Derrick Rose returned to the lineup and after missing two months due to a sprained ankle, and he had nine points in 13 minutes on the court. And Isaiah Thomas had a strong night.
However, the play of the night — and maybe the assist of the season — went to LeBron.
3) James Harden returns, Rockets pick up win over Timberwolves. The Houston Rockets picked up a quality win at home over a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that is playing good basketball — and that’s not really the big news out of this one.
James Harden was back and starting for the Rockets. He missed seven games with a strained hamstring and the Rockets went 4-3 without him, which is not bad but they were not the same dominant team. Harden had 10 points and seven assists in limited minutes, and he understandably showed a little rust. His return this fast is a boost for his MVP chances if he can return to form — he and LeBron have been neck-and-neck as the frontrunners for the award this season, and the injury gave LeBron the chance to take charge of the race, but instead the Cavaliers have stumbled badly of late. Harden has a chance to take hold of this race, something that does matter to him.
Finally having Harden and Chris Paul healthy moved Eric Gordon back to his sixth man role and he thrived, dropping 30.
Gordon would be the frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year, but he started too many games due to injury (half of them, coming into this game). If Paul and Harden can stay on the court, Gordon could repeat as Sixth Man winner.