Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers

West now 44-17 vs. East so far this season

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Remember before the season there were some pundits saying the Eastern Conference was finally catching up with the West in terms of depth of talent?

Um, not so much.

So far this young season, the West is 44-17 against the East (numbers updated from Jeff Caplan’s story at NBA.com). Or, look at it this way — on Monday afternoon there are 13 teams in the West that are .500 or better, in the East there are six. The East has an entire division — the Atlantic — that is under .500. Once again this season it is very possible the 8 seed in the East will be a below .500 team.

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While the elite of the East — Miami and Indiana — are certainly on the NBA’s top tier, the depth is not the same. Not even close.

A few more notes via Caplan:

* The West’s top three teams — Spurs (5-0), Trail Blazers (6-0) and Thunder (3-0) — are a combined 14-0 against the East (The Warriors, Nuggets and Lakers are a combined 6-0)
* The West’s bottom seven teams are 14-11 against the East and that includes Utah’s 0-4 mark.
* The Mavericks are 5-1 against the East and 9-5 overall
* The Timberwolves are 5-2 against the East and 8-7 overall.
* The 76ers are 6-9 overall and 1-4 against the West
* The Pistons are 4-8 overall and 1-5 against the West

We could go on and on here, but you get the point.

It makes it hard on teams like Memphis and Golden State, who lost key players (Andre Iguodala and Marc Gasol) indefinitely to injury. Those are likely still playoff teams, but in a packed West if those injuries cost them 4 or 5 wins they could quickly fall from a top 4 seed in the playoffs to the 7 seed, and suddenly the path through the postseason is much more difficult. Meanwhile out East the Bulls without Derrick Rose can realistically still be a top 4 seed.

Jimmy Butler: I didn’t move Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah from Bulls

PHOENIX, AZ - JANUARY 30:  Joakim Noah #13, Derrick Rose #1 and Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls react during the second half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on January 30, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Bulls 99-93. 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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Jimmy Butler said of the Derrick Rose trade, “It had to be one of us.”

Butler also says not blame him for the Bulls losing Rose — or Joakim Noah, who’s also headed to the Knicks.

Jimmy Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”

I can believe Butler didn’t directly urge Chicago to trade Rose, but Butler’s presence matters.

Rose and Butler clearly didn’t ideally mesh on the court, and there might have been off-court issues, too. If it weren’t for Butler, the Bulls might have kept Rose.

Noah is a little different, because it seems he, more than the team, was ready for a breakup. Still, that might have also had to do with Butler.

Butler is trying to grow into a leader, a natural progression for someone who became his team’s best player. But that was awkward with the Bulls’ previous leaders — Rose and Noah — still in the locker room. There’s no simple solution, though moving on without Rose and Noah will clear that cloud.

So — without other information — it’s too much to “blame” Butler for Rose’s and Noah’s departures. But Rose and Noah moving from Chicago to New York can still be ascribed to Butler.

It might not have been something asked for directly. It’s just the reality of the situation.

Dwyane Wade: “It’s Jimmy Butler’s team”

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Dwyane Wade is back in sweet home, Chicago.

Wade met with the media for the first time and talked about the pairing of himself and Rajon Rondo with the Bulls’ existing star in Jimmy Butler — Wade used the term “three alphas” more than once. But he also was clear about whose team this was going to be on the court.

“We’re not going to go through this all year. It’s Jimmy Butler’s team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes.”

Wade added that he would not be a Bull if Jimmy Butler had not personally called him and asked him to come.

Wade took that cue from Shaquille O’Neal when he joined Wade’s Heat team — which eventually led to the Heat’s first title in 2006. The Bulls would love for that kind of result here, although it’s much tougher to see this Chicago roster having anywhere near that kind of impact.

 

LeBron James talked Justin Bieber out of performing at Donald Trump’s nominating convention

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 29: Justin Bieber drinks champagne at the podium during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 29, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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With the Republican National Convention being held in Cleveland, you knew there was going to be a LeBron James influence.

It apparently kept Justin Bieber away from Donald Trump and Co.

TMZ

Justin Bieber got a $5 million offer to perform at a Republican event during the GOP Convention, but turned it down after his manager considered quitting and LeBron James urged him to reject it … sources tell TMZ.

That’s a lot of money for a single gig. This either speaks to the power of LeBron’s words — or the embellishment of Bieber’s value.

Watch Bulls’ Dwyane Wade press conference live (video)

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Dwyane Wade playing for a team other than the Heat will be strange.

You can get your first glimpse of that weirdness today, when the Bulls introduce Wade at 3 p.m. Eastern.

If the above video doesn’t load, click here to watch the press conference.