Thibodeau calls Team USA “perfect setting” for Derrick Rose to make return

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After two seasons of injury, there seems to be a lot people in Chicago that want to wrap Derrick Rose in bubble wrap until the season. Maybe until the playoffs. Just pack him away and keep him safe. (There’s also a group very down on Rose, but those people are too foolish to waste time on.)

But the only way Rose returns to anything near his MVP form is to get out and play.

Which is why Team USA always seemed a great setting to me — a high level of competition but with the talent around him (even after high profile injuries and defections) so the pressure to carry everyone is gone.

Bulls’ coach Tom Thibodeau said the same thing speaking to Sam Smith of Bulls.com.

“This is the perfect setting for him,” enthused Thibodeau. “I thought his first (USA team) experience in 2010 was the springboard to his MVP season. All summer long he’s gotten more comfortable. He went through the comeback last year and I think he learned a lot from it. I love the way he’s playing. He’s finding the rhythm of game and playing to his strengths and recognizing who’s on the floor with him and what their strengths are. He made several good plays, particularly against the zone in the fourth quarter. He’s shaking some rust off, but his explosiveness is back. He’s playing well on both sides of the ball. I think he’s in a really good place. It’s unfortunate what he’s gone through. But I think that adversity has made him a lot stronger. It was really seeds of growth for him. I love where he is mentally and physically right now.

“It’s something he really wanted to do,” Thibodeau said of the USA experience for Rose. “It’s a chance for him to measure where he really is. He’s not carrying the burden of the entire team. For Derrick, there are so many positives. I think this will be great preparation for the season. We have a baseline and we know there’s a long way up. His attitude and approach are terrific and I think that will serve him well. I’m very pleased where he is now.”

Thibs should be pleased, Rose has been a standout from when camp opened.

Nobody knew where he was physically or mentally, but he has looked great, with Coach Mike Mike Krzyzewski being the lead cheerleader (and moving Rose into the starting lineup).

What’s been most impressive is a more mature game from Rose, he’s not just relying on that explosiveness he’s beating teams with his mind. Put him on the court with a high IQ, great passing bigs like Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, and you have the makings of a very good offense.

The Cavaliers are landing Kevin Love and may be the betting favorite to win the East, but the Bulls are going to be right there with them.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.

LeBron James beautifully pass-fakes, makes layup in transition (video)

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LeBron James is a treasure.

Shaquille O’Neal’s big toe is seriously jacked up (PHOTO)

shaq o'neal
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Remember how we we all freaked out when we saw pictures of LeBron James‘ feet back in 2013?

You probably didn’t want to be reminded that it existed, but it does. Still. And apparently jacked up feet is the consequence of a lifetime of playing professional basketball. Once can only assume it has something to do with tight shoes and constant, hard changes of direction in said tight shoes.

We got yet another vision of what basketball shoes can do to feet on Thursday when TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal showed off his, er, little piggies.

Much to the horror of the Internet in general, it was Shaq’s right big toe that took social media by storm. Mostly because it’s not even close to pointing in the right direction.

I’m going to show you what it looks like. Be forewarned, it might just be NSFL.

Via Twitter:

Oh. Oh … why?

Social media reacted appropriately and proportionately:

Shaq did have issues with that toe during the course of his career, and at one point it was so bad that he had to have surgery to remove bone spurs from the toe in 2002.

That still doesn’t explain why it’s all over your TV and the Internet, but here we are. I am sorry.