Tag Archives: Nikola Mirotic

Last Nite in the NBA: Trade breaks Twitter; Bulls, Warriors impress

The NBA is a fun follow almost every night but last night… last night stood out.

It all started away from the court as the three players above were all in the same 3-way trade… a trade that LITERALLY BROKE TWITTER!

It’s 2015 now. The “_________ just broke Twitter” tweet reaction to a pop-culture event felt old back in 2013. The “just broke Twitter” reaction should have been retired in November when Kim Kardashian’s PAPER cover was titled “Break The Internet”, and the internet, Twitter, and Photoshop’s rep all withstood it.

In fact, to my knowledge, there are only two events that literally broke Twitter from functioning: Ellen’s A-List Oscar selfie locked out users for a time before it recovered for 3.3 million retweets.

And now, the J.R. Smith / Dion Waiters trade.

The timeline of events (no pun intended):

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Wait, former Syracuse player Scoop Jardine got the scoop before Woj?

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By now, I was mashing the refresh button on my browser. The details of the trade began to be reported, in suspenseful, one-by-one manner.

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Legit LOLs at this point. Dion Waiters and J.R. Smith are both getting traded!?!

My first coherent thought was: wait, I don’t want these me-first volume shooters to go anywhere! How can they be more fun than where they are now? I’ll miss Dion waving his hands in Cleveland. I’ll miss any J.R. Smith going out in New York story.

But then I immediately realized… Wait! Dion will be waving his hands at Russell Westbrook now and J.R. Smith is in the playoffs, potentially doing this to LeBron. I’m in! That was quick.

Then, Reggie Jackson was originally reported in the deal, going to New York as critics started lauding New York for getting a real piece out of this, and winning a trade for once, and simultaneously scoffing at OKC’s penny-pinching again. Fortunately for the latter, OKC did not include Reggie Jackson and we can collectively smh at the below “sources”.

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Finally, shortly after, Twitter broke.

Your timeline wasn’t refreshing tweets after the 6:50/6:55 CT range for about 45 minutes, but tweets were still going through. I knew I was addicted when I sat at my computer refreshing Woj, Zach Lowe, Marc Stein, and netw3rk‘s feeds (the former for more news, the latter for comedy.)

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(I can totally picture this.)

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***

Twitter broke at the news of a trade involving both J.R. Smith and Dion Waiters. I’d like to believe that this was no coincidence and the previous statement will guarantee a laugh 5 months from now when I watch them both in the playoffs.

So where does that leave us from a basketball standpoint, looking ahead to said playoffs?

Well, to me, it’s generally a low risk-high reward move for the contenders and a cleaning of the slate for the Knickerbockers. Quick aside: the Knicks could have moved Iman Shumpert much earlier than this season for more, but that was before Phil Jackson was in charge. We can assess this trade for the Knicks next summer when they actually use the increase in cap space because right now, everything is just pure speculation.

For OKC, they get Dion Waiters for a protected future 1st-round pick and Lance Thomas. Very marginal losses, especially given their full roster going forward. Waiters’ knack for scoring in bunches while taking a lot of other things off the table (like ball movement and man-to-man defense) are well documented. This season, he has shown flashes of both what makes him a commodity and a perceived cancer with his 10.5 PPG average on 40% shooting reflecting that.

Now, he joins an OKC culture with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the clear alpha dogs and Durant already saying they’re going to make him feel welcolmed. If Waiters can find a role akin to Reggie Jackson, then perhaps he can have a moment like Jackson’s in last year’s playoffs when KD & Westbrook are off. If not, then Brooks won’t play him in crunch time. Simple as that, and Waiters then won’t really detract from OKC’s other options. Waiters is also still on his rookie contract for this season and next and serves as a dynamic guard insurance policy should Reggie Jackson bolt for a starting job elsewhere at season’s end. Understanding Sam Presti’s track record, he’s no doubt looking at that for the future.

So all that said, assessing the returns for both OKC and the Cavs, Waiters feels like the lower risk of the two.

(Odd seeing “Waiters” and “lower risk” in the same sentence, huh?)

For Cleveland, they get the OG Dion Waiters in J.R. Smith, whose per-game averages are nearly identical to Waiters this season, with a better 35% mark from 3-point land (to Waiters’ 26%). This is also on 3.8 3-point attempts per game, compared to Waiters’ 2.6. The two players may be similar, but given that Coach Blatt is looking for more of a spot-up shooter, I think J.R. fits that bill slightly better since he can score more aversely on the catch and shoot. (The second part of this tweet is also great.)

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On paper as well, Iman Shumpert should help the Cavaliers as another perimeter defender and lessen the per-minute burden in which LeBron James may have to guard the team’s best perimeter threat in the playoffs. I think back to a couple games where Shumpert disrupted Derrick Rose, and then speculate that this scenario may be in play again, just on a bigger stage come May.

Shumpert’s addition comes with the caveat he hasn’t really been healthy this season and dating back to last. Plus, this advanced stat indicates uncertainty about Shumpert as a surefire defensive stopper (albeit the Knicks have a horrendous team defense too.)

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So again, the higher risk is for the Cavs. They now have to acclimate Smith and Shumpert into the rotation and see how they respond to their new roles within a roster that’s still trying to figure it out for themselves in the wake of Varejao’s season-ending injury, LeBron possibly missing double-digit games, and the general inexperience of playing with each other and under a first-time NBA coach. All these elements combine to extend the process of the Cavs realizing their full potential even more than I think we all expected.

As a Bulls fan, this point looms larger to me. Can the Cavs really figure out all of these things and perform at a championship level by April? Plus, they just traded their best asset and didn’t address their big man/rim protector issue (albeit Zach Lowe suggests the extra 1st round pick they picked up in this deal will be used for that.) Right now, I’m confident that this trade doesn’t nudge the needle forward, but January to April is still a lot of time.

***

Another reason why I’m confident has nothing to do with the Cavs and everything to do with the Bulls. Last night was probably their most complete team win.

The Bulls matched the Rockets’ west-coast style pace and flexed its offensive depth for a 114-105 win that was in doubt through the last minute.

They fielded big contributions from damn near everyone. Pau Gasol dominated the first half especially, ending with a game-high 27 points. Joakim Noah added 10 rebounds and 6 blocks with a +13 net rating for the night. Derrick Rose added 19 points, looked aggressive going to the hoop (including 3 straight layups in the 2nd quarter to bring them back to even) and 9 assists overall. 3 of those assists led to 9 points in the closing minutes.

The two things that stood out even more though were the early success of the Nikola Mirotic Experience at the 3 and Jimmy Butler’s hounding defense of James Harden in the 2nd half, holding him to 0 FGs, and then Butler hitting the 2 biggest shots of the night.

Mirotic played 27 minutes, all at the 3 (UPDATE: John Schuhmann with the lineup breakdown), and scored 17 points (9 in the 4th), chipped in with 8 boards, and had a game-high +15 net rating. He had a couple of key blocks (one on Harden in transition) and played stout enough defense against Rockets forwards who couldn’t take advantage of the perceived mismatch.

Though it will also be dictated by the opposing matchup in future games, if Mirotic can provide good enough defense at the 3, he has proven he can contribute mightily on offense with more minutes and touches. Perhaps this is how Mirotic can meaningfully crack the rotation when the Bulls’ 3 bigs are healthy. Something fun to watch going forward as the early returns look promising.

As for Butler, Coach Thibodeau began the game with Kirk Hinrich guarding James Harden and he scored 17 in the first half. Maybe it was to save Butler’s energy so he could also contribute on the scoring end? Or maybe it was so Butler could have enough to limit Harden to, again, zero field goals in the 2nd half when he guarded him full time. The full highlights below do Butler’s individual defensive performance justice as he handcuffed Harden into dead ends and prevented him from getting to the line (3 FTs total for the league’s leader, and one was on a technical foul.)

Butler also had a quarter-ending stuff of Harden that tied his twisting alley-oop as the coolest, *flip shades down* moments of the game. Press play for those, and the aforementioned 2 biggest shots of the game that tied and gave the Bulls the lead in the waning minutes.

Jimmy Butler is legit. And these Bulls are good. More dissection on Mirotic, Butler, and more on a quality new episode of The Bulls Show earlier today + if you’re on the Jimmy Butler high, watch his post-game interview appropriately titled “Why Jimmy Butler is So Loved by Chicago”.

***

Elsewhere in the league, the Warriors blew out the Thunder 117-91 with Steph Curry putting on a dribbling display that’s still as surprising and awe-inspiring today as when it happened.

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The full wizardry:

The Warriors held the Thunder to the league’s second-worst team shooting night this season at 30.6% from the field. Off nights by a non-explosive Durant and Westbrook feels more like an aberration than telling of how a playoff series between these two teams may play out. But the Warriors’ dominance drove the fact home that they haven’t lost that much of a step without Andrew Bogut. Look, since he went down, the Warriors are still the league’s top defense. I’m not saying the Warriors should be punching their ticket for June right now. They’ll still need Bogut to go that far, but last night is surely a confidence boost for the Dubs and anyone picking them that far irregardless of their relative playoff inexperience.

***

Milestones also happened last night. Dirk Nowitzki passed Moses Malone for 7th on the all-time NBA scoring list — an accomplishment that doubled as a vintage Dirk dagger, over Brooklyn in overtime.

Those aforementioned Cavs lost to the Sixers last night. That’s never a good look, especially considering it’s the Sixers first home win of the year (not just 2015, but the 2014-15 season.) I suppose Cleveland gets a pass since LeBron and Kyrie were both out and the Waiters trade literally happened a minute and a half before the game. If I was a Cavs fan, I wouldn’t be that upset at the loss because then we would have never gotten this tweet.

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The 2014 NBA Twitter Champ is on track to repeat.

Lastly, let’s close it out on the west coast as A.) the Hawks kept rolling and beat another quality opponent in the Clippers, and B.) Damian Lillard put up 39 points in a Blazers victory that also saw the Swaggiest 3 from Swaggy P this season. The buzzer beater only begins last night’s top 10 plays below (and even worse, Steph’s layup up above was only #9. I know it’s a subjective list, but c’mon, NBA. That same ole Tyson Chandler alley-oop went about 1.2% as viral as Steph’s layup.)

TL;DR:
– The J.R. Smith / Dion Waiters trade literally broke Twitter.
– The Bulls are good.
– The Warriors are too.
– Joel Embiid needs to get back to tweeting more.

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Bulls Show 114: Happy Holidays

Nillz & Ricky analyze/celebrate the Bulls recent success during the toughest stretch of this early season. After 3 straight wins against some of the top teams in the league, listen to us rave about Derrick Rose closing games, Jimmy Butler’s continued improvement, and Nikola Mirotic’s rookie of the year candidacy. We also prepare ourselves for the return of Carlos Boozer to Chicago on Christmas.

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Damian Lillard career-high vs. Spurs

In the association tonite, Damian Lillard notched a career-high 43 points in the 2nd 3rd Overtime thriller in San Antonio in as many games. Lillard was reason #1 why the Spurs got the loss again as he hit every clutch shot to tie the game, and even block a potential game-winner. The step-back was on point and a thrill to watch (these last 2 shots man…)

The full highlights above do the performance justice. Note that Lillard pours in 26 of the 43 points in only 22 minutes.

If you’re pressed for time, here’s a Damian Lillard dunk that inspired a fantastic reaction from Hubie Brown:

If you’re not pressed for time, also proceed to some highlights of our hometown team getting a road win against the Memphis Grizzlies, without D. Rose or Taj Gibson, and on the second night of a back to back.

Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 31 points (his 2nd 30+ point game in a row) and rookie Nikola Mirotic added a career-high 27 points going 6-6 from beyond the arc. The future is bright, Chicago!

Bulls 1st Preseason Game Observations

We all know the adage… “It’s only preseason.” So I know my observations from the Bulls first preseason game last night may seem too excited and may ultimately look overblown as early as tonight when the Bulls play again at Detroit, but whatever… basketball is back! I knew it was a great last-minute decision to head to the UC in person when longtime foe Paul Pierce and Joakim Noah almost came to blows within the first 4 minutes of the game. After all, the near-fight invalidates the adage just a little bit, right?

As you continue reading… listen to the new Bulls Show as Nillz & Ricky discuss last night’s game too.

Derrick Rose looked great. And controlled.

The big asterisk before any Rose pre-season thoughts was how unstoppable Rose looked in last year’s preseason. Seriously, the stats were other worldly. Once the regular season started, however, Derrick Rose looked like Derrick Rust as he ended up with 15.9 PPG and 35% shooting in the 10 games before his season-ending knee injury. With 2013 still fresh in mind, I have no expectations about Rose’s stats or efficiency for the first one or two months of the season. I think I speak for many Bulls fans when I say that I’d take a healthy, explosive Rose that plays every game in that stretch and improves as he goes along, even if he’s not filling up the box score at 2011 MVP levels.

In last night’s game, so far, so good. Rose scored 11 points on 4-7 shooting in 14 minutes, looking agile and never once having to press the NoS button. Not even while navigating to the hoop on his one fast-break drive that finished with a breathtaking layup after his signature running back cradle.

So, a nice first game from Rose, which further instilled confidence from his teammates, per Bulls ESPN beat writer Nick Friedell. There is not too much else to dwell on after the first game for Rose. Let’s just huff on our collective magnifying glass for the rest of the preseason to see how he continues. After all, the former MVP’s health and performance is more key than anything to these new-look Bulls, even given all of the exciting new additions…

The “2014 Plan” looked impressive.

Much was speculated about the famed “2014 Plan” in Bulls Nation since 2012, when our season came to an abrupt halt after Derrick Rose’s torn ACL. Two full years of predicting what the roster would look like for the future when the Bulls would reach maximum financial flexibility after marginal contracts expired and the Boozer amnesty levied. It felt like a 24/7 discussion during the season after Luol Deng was traded in, essentially, a salary dump, and of course again during the first 10 days of July when the city was on pins and needles about Carmelo Anthony fulfilling photoshopped dreams at the United Center.

Plan B ended up being the signing of former all-star and NBA Champion Pau Gasol, bringing over 2011 draftee and “best player not in the NBA” Nikola Mirotic, trading multiple draft picks for record-setting college scorer, rookie Doug McDermott, and fulfilling the small shoes of undersized Bulls point guards of Thibs Era past (John Lucas III, Nate Robinson, and D.J. Augustin) with the addition of Aaron Brooks.

All four of these players started off the preseason strong. I first had to rub my eyes to make sure that was indeed a 7 foot post-up threat with a Bulls uniform on, trying jump hooks over Wizards center Marcin Gortat. Though Gasol was largely unsuccessful at post-ups last night, the mere motion of it was exciting. One thing to look out for this season is if Gasol’s low-post game will be an effective, go-to option for an offense that desperately needs another one. Sure, it wasn’t last night, but the weapon could add a nice dynamic to our half-court offense, especially come playoff time. At the very least, Gasol showed again he can sink the face-up jumper with range, knocking his last basket of the night from a couple feet in front of the 3-point arc.

Defensively, though Gasol may lack the foot speed to stay with quick guards on a pick-and-roll, you can’t teach length. Gasol’s long frame will naturally yield a few blocks now and then, as it did last night with 3, and those few blocks are more than the zero that his incumbent Carlos Boozer ever really attained. Perhaps a sign that Gasol has already embraced Coach Thibs’ defense-first mentality was the way he was fired up when he forced Marcin Gortat off the dribble and into a 24 second shot clock violation. I’m just as fired up, in general, and we weren’t even treated to a Gasol-to-Noah high-post pinball pass sequence just yet. That’s surely remained to be seen too.

***

The star of the game for the Bulls was, surprisingly, rookie Nikola Mirotic. I say surprisingly because for most Bulls fans, this was our first experience to see Mirotic in a live game, let alone in person. We’ve heard all the reports and comparisons from everything to Toni Kukoc and Dirk-lite and after one game seeing him in person… these at least can’t be immediately dismissed.

Here’s what Mirotic did last night… led the team with 17 points (all in the second half, all off the dribble or at the foul line), hit 3 3s including a pull-up like he was a point guard, attempt a Dirk-style pump fake/jump into the defender 3-pointer (photographed above), and nail 2 intense post-3 celebrations towards the Bulls bench. I’m a fan. See: The texts I sent to a fellow Bulls fan.

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Smooth start for Nikola as we continue to watch him grow and hopefully earn some playing time during the season. I was surprised at how spry and skilled Mirotic moved for a big guy, especially off the dribble and with his first step. One aspect of his game to watch going forward: his rebounding. A few attainable boards didn’t go his way last night and this, plus the learning curve of NBA team defense, may keep Mirotic on the pine.

As for our other rookie, Doug McDermott, the first game revealed he has the Kyle Korver playbook on offense. This surely brought back warm memories to the time our second-string offense was stagnated around Korver juking on the baseline and eventually up towards the arc after a down screen. Dougie got his fair share of down screens and though he missed or passed up a shot or two off a curl, he also hit a couple of jumpers with a hand over his eyes. I’m just happy we can have the feeling again that a shot is going in every time a player releases it, and Dougie and his quick trigger ignites that joyous emotion for these 2014-15 Bulls (I honestly tried a few times to reword this, but gave up. I know how this sounds, but you know what I mean.) Now let’s see how Dougie & Mirotic mesh with some of the starting 5, namely Rose. I’m sure we’ll get more glimpses than last night as October progresses.

And finally, Aaron Brooks. An NBA die-hard already knows his game over his last handful of years in the league, but it was also great to see a contested, irrational confidence 3 hit nothing but the bottom of the net from our small point guard. He had no minutes alongside Rose last night as that’s a combo I also hope to see this preseason.

Jimmy Butler was Jimmy Butler last night — do we extend him?

Another storyline of October is the eligible extension starting 2 guard Jimmy Butler can receive by October 31st. Last night’s effort embodied Jimmy Butler’s season last year. He only shot 1-7 from the field but compounded it with 8 attempts at the free throw line. His low marksmanship was contrasted by his superb on-ball defense, exemplified with the defensive play of the night — a block on Bradley Beal that got me out of my seat like I was Joakim Noah on the bench here.

Butler’s energy on the defensive end was a 100 emoji last night as the 2nd-team All Defensive Team swingman showed why he earned that title last season. I predict a better year from Jimmy both offensively and, why not, defensively too. With another full-time starter year upcoming, and an increasing rep around the league as an elite perimeter defender, why couldn’t Jimmy make All-Defensive 1st team? The Bulls will have plenty of national stages this year for Butler to lock down and limit a superstar *side-eyes LeBron* and above all, this standout skill warrants a contract extension.

Offensively, I can’t imagine his shooting being as bad as last year with a healthy Rose and better offensive balance creating him more looks (and less shot-clock dwindling forced shots that Zach Lowe pointed out last month). Hopefully somewhere between the 40%/28 3P% of last season and the 46%/38 3P% of the season prior. I’d bet on a young, hard-working Butler to keep improving and given the latest NBA TV deal, his contract, even if it’s north of $11 million a year, won’t harp on the salary cap in later years as relative to next year.

TL;DR: Extend him, we need someone to guard LeBron!

If you made it this far…

You can see how excited I am as a Bulls fan for this upcoming season and experiencing last night’s game at the UC showed some on-court examples why and hinted at the overall potential of the team come spring, 2015. This lengthy read should also hint at future long-form NBA articles to come, but for now, I must say being back at the United Center with the NBA (pre)season underway is an exciting feeling in and of itself. Seeing the beautiful new LED screens on the United Center exterior, and the newly completed Advocate Practice Facility across the street, only adds to these new-look Bulls. It’s only remained to be seen how far the Bulls can travel on the road to June, and as I always get excited about the idea, I just as much remind myself to do as the team does: take it one game at a time.

In conclusion, last night was only 1 of 90 before the Playoffs, I know, but isn’t it a good sign that I won the season’s first Dunkin Donuts race?! Who’s with me for midday bagels?? Let me know if you’re down (um, seriously?) or drop a comment with any of your Bulls ’15 thoughts here.

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Bulls Show 105: First Impressions

Ricky & Nillz highlight the positives from the Bulls’ first preseason game, including the debuts of the team’s offseason additions. We also react to the NBA’s new TV deal and the possible implications.

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Follow us @TheBullsShow and subscribe to the show on iTunes!