Tell me you don’t think the Eastern Conference Finals are going to be fun… that felt like a rivalry game.
The Miami Heat’s 83-72 win over the Chicago Bulls is not an indication of how a playoff series between these teams plays out — not with Bulls MVP Derrick Rose and the Heat’s Chris Bosh in street clothes. Besides, by the time we get a month into the playoffs these teams will have evolved and be different.
But the Heat did send a message — not to the Bulls, but to themselves. One week ago the Bulls beat the Heat with ferocity and execution Miami could not match. Derrick Rose sat out the overtime and the Bulls outscored the Heat 8-2. This week the Heat matched that intensity and showed some execution of their own. The message was clear — we’re here and we’re not backing down
We did get a glimpse of what is to come in the playoffs… and these teams don’t like each other. It was intense, it was chippy, it felt like a playoff game. Dwyane Wade picked up a flagrant foul for throwing Rip Hamilton around like a rag doll. Hamilton spent all game trying to get under Wade’s skin. When those two line up against each other night after night for seven games it is going to be bloody good entertainment. Maybe literally.
The Heat came out and matched the physicality of the Bulls. They pushed back. At times a little too hard, like when James Jones cross-checked Joakim Noah and was ejected.
In the end the Heat won because LeBron James is playing very well right now — 27 points on 18 shots, plus 11 boards. They won because Udonis Haslem was attacking the rim and Mario Chalmers was in the middle of everything — they need their role players to step up. They won because Wade won the battle with Rip for a night.
Oh, the Eastern Conference finals are going to be fun. This intensity was only the tip of the iceberg.
DeAndre Ayton will go No. 1 to the Phoenix Suns Thursday night. Marvin Bagley III probably goes second to Sacramento (but that’s not a lock).
After that, things get wide open in the 2018 NBA Draft. Teams value different players at very different levels this year, and there are going to be a number of trades.
Which makes putting together a mock draft for this year more random than a roulette wheel. Not that it stopped me. Here is my final mock draft for the 14 lottery picks. I present it without much confidence, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.
The Hawks’ rebuild got going with big John Collins. Though they’re reportedly eying Luka Doncic with the No. 3 pick, they could easily draft another big – Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter.
And then there’s veteran center Dewayne Dedmon.
He no longer fits in Atlanta (never did, really). But he’s not bypassing a chance to earn $6.3 million.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
There just wasn’t going to be that much money for the 28-year-old Dedmon in a tight market this summer.
Dedmon is a good defender, and he developed his ball skills – as a 3-point shooter and passer – in Atlanta last season. The Hawks could look to trade him. Maybe, in a deal primarily about his expiring contract, he adds extra value to the other team due to his playing ability.
If Atlanta doesn’t move him, Dedmon will be a fine player on a likely tanking team. At least he’s not good enough to subvert the Hawks’ tank, especially with the new lottery format.
Nick Young will say and do nearly anything for attention.
Empowered by the Warriors’ championship, he swung for the fences when asked about Canada passing marijuana legalization.
Young, via TMZ:
“I want people to pass cocaine,” the NBA star told TMZ Sports outside 1 OAK on Tuesday night … “Everybody needs to do cocaine!”
Predictably, that caused a bit of an uproar. Then, Young backtracked:
Too late, Nick. People are already asking questions you don’t want asked.
The 76ers have too many 2018 draft picks – Nos. 10, 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60.
Philadelphia already has 11 players under contract for next season. Plus, the 76ers have the space to add premier players. There just isn’t room for everyone on the roster.
So, Philadelphia unloaded one of those selections.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
This is good return for the 76ers, who everyone knew had to trade a draft pick. The rebuilding Bulls could easily land a higher second-round pick than No. 39 next year.
Why do the Lakers want an extra second-rounder this year? Second-round picks don’t count against the cap until signed, and they can always slightly sweeten a trade offer. They’re helpful for a team with big plans and little wiggle room.