Tag Archives: Eastern Conference

“Kurt Thomas and the genius behind his longevity in the NBA”

Can journeyman Kurt Thomas (pictured above) fill the void in the middle for the Bulls with Joakim Noah out for the next 8 to 10 weeks?

Our Chicago hot shot is at it again with a continuation to his recent post regarding the injured Joakim Noah.  Lets here what the man has got to say in another Runzelism.

Will Runzel is an  entrepreneur and sports guru out of Chicago.  Follow him on Twitter @willrunzel

The Bulls recently lost Joakim Noah for 8-10 weeks due to a thumb surgery. One of his key replacements will be 38 year old Kurt Thomas. Thomas is currently earning 1.8 million, but only signed a one year deal good through the 2010-2011 season. In his career he has amassed 62.1 million dollars in 17 seasons, while never averaging over 14 points a game. So far this year Thomas has appeared in five games, and scored a total of two points in 12 minutes played. Don’t let this fool you; Thomas can play. He’s not an elite big man in this league by any means, but was an integral part in helping the Milwaukee Bucks push the Atlanta Hawks to seven games in the 2010 NBA Playoffs after Andrew Bogut went down with a broken hand. The Hawks were the clear favorites especially after losing Bogut. Thomas played great defense, averaged 28 minutes per game (compared to 15 minutes per game during the regular season), nabbed nearly 8 rebounds a game, while shooting 48% from the field.

Thomas has always been an asset to teams because of his locker room presence. As much as we love the Allen Iverson’s and Derrick Rose’s for throwing their body around without regard, something has to be said for a player that can still contribute on a playoff team at 37 years old (his age last playoffs). Year after year he has quietly accepted his paycheck and contributed when called upon. Professional basketball is a rough sport. Thomas will be an asset the Bulls are in dire need of and I expect he will perform well as the first or second big man off the bench.

Few NBA players sit quietly on the bench, perform well when necessary, and are a valuable asset to any team – Kurt Thomas is one of those guys. 18 years in any business is an accomplishment, especially one that is as taxing on the body as playing in the NBA. Don’t be surprised if Kurt Thomas finds another team to pay him another quiet 2 million next season at age 39.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Noah Injury, A Blessing in Disguise”

Chicago Bulls starting Center, Joakim Noah (pictured above), is suffering from a major thumb injury. What effects will this have on the Bull's playoff/title chances?

Our Chicago sports expert is back at it again folks.  See his thoughts below on the Joakim Noah “thumb situation.”

Will Runzel is an  entrepreneur and sports guru out of Chicago.  Follow Will on Twitter @WillRunzel

Joakim Noah will undergo surgery on his right (shooting hand) thumb. More information will be released at an 11 am CST press conference. Noah’s injury will knock him out 8-10 weeks or roughly 30 games. Battling through the injury for nearly ten games dating back to the Sacramento Kings match on November 27, Noah has posted nine points or better in nine of 10 games and has had double digits rebounds in six of those games. Analysts and fans alike are worried about how this will affect the Bulls this season, and I see it as a blessing in disguise. Here are some pro’s and con’s to Joakim’s injury

Cons:

-The Bulls are losing a double-double machine and the best defensive post presence for 30 or so games, more than 1/3 of their season

-Noah is the heart and soul of the team, the Scottie to Rose’s Jordan

-The Bulls will definitely win less games and could hurt their playoff seeding

-This stretch includes games against top tier teams with dominant big men, including (dare I say it) the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, and San Antonio Spurs

-This lowers the chances of the Bulls trading for a scoring two guard

Keep in mind the Bulls already went through the toughest stretch of the season sans Carlos Boozer.

Pros:

-The development of Omer Asik is crucial to the Bulls success this season and for the next five seasons. He has played well this season and will get another shot to develop

-Taj Gibson is already a fantastic 6th man/reserve big man and will continue his growth. This should give him so more time to polish his offensive skill set

-Noah will be rested for the playoffs and the Bulls should still finish fourth or better in the East maintaining home court advantage in the first round.

-Joakim may provide a similar boost to what Boozer just supplied upon his return; the Bulls will learn to compete with top teams without Jo, and when he returns they suddenly have an inside defensive presence

Will Runzel out of Chicago will continue to come out with his thoughts and incites regarding the Chicago sporting scene.  If you want information on the Bears or the Bulls, you want a Runzelism.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“Weekly Nickel”

One of the NBA's All Time Greatest Coaches, Jerry Sloan (pictured above), has the Jazz at the top of the West. Are the Jazz a real deal contender?

The College Football regular season is all but finished.  People got their dream BCS National Championship which will pit Auburn versus Oregon.  Also, people got to see the Steelers go to work last evening and they once again showed America that all they do is “Win, Win, Win, Win.”  So I will admit, this week will be a little weird without a full slate of College Football games.  It is the first time since early September actually.

But here is a look into the excitement in store for this upcoming week.

5.  In the NHL, the season is slightly past the quarter marker, and the League’s two best players seem to be leading their teams to an epic Eastern Conference Finals Showdown.  Tune in this week and watch Pittsburgh and Washington continue to ride their stars toward deep playoff runs.

4.  Jayson Werth has signed with the Nationals.  Lance Berkman will return to the NL Central, but this time as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Captain will remain in the Pinstripes for at least 3 more years.  And the Red Sox are on the cusp of a major deal.  Could Adrian Gonzalez land in Boston?  This will be a huge pickup for the Bo Sox and really aid in picking up their offensive production.  The million dollar question still remains though.  Where is Cliff Lee, Mr. October himself, going to end up?  Also there is a guy named Carl Crawford that can run a little bit who is available out of Tampa.

3.  College Basketball is starting to heat up as teams continue to prep for big time conference play.  There are a good few major non conference matchups.  Here is a closer look.

Tuesday:

Memphis at Kansas:  This duel between top 20 foes should be very exciting.  In this rematch of the National Title Game of a few years ago, each squad looks to make a major statement and pick up a big time non conference win.  It is a shame that Kansas Freshman phenom Josh Selby will not be eligible for this one.

Michigan State at Syracuse:  A matchup between two of College Basketball perennial forces.  Two programs that have really been at the forefront of the game for the past decade.  Also, these are two programs led by two of the best coaches in America.  Which squad will come out victorious as each not only fights for a big non conference win and to maintain their top ten ranking, but each are looking to make a statement about their conference.  This game should help in the debate about which conference is the best in America, the Big Ten, or the Big East.

Wednesday:

Notre Dame vs Kentucky:  What a game this should be.  Notre Dame has been a pleasant surprise so far and looks to maintain their undefeated record vs their first ranked opponent of the season.  Sadly for the Fighting Irish, they get to take on a Kentucky team that is coming off a heartbreaking loss at the hands of the Tar Heels.  This should be a very high scoring affair between two teams that can really put the ball in the basket.

Thursday:

Butler at Xavier:  A matchup between the two top “Mid Major” programs in America.  So what if both teams are off to a slower start out of the gates than most expected.  Both teams always find a way to sneak into March, and I expect nothing different this year.  Also last year, Butler beat the Musketeers on one of the most controversial calls I have ever witnessed in my life.  Will the Muskies have lady luck on their side this time and pick up a much-needed non conference victory over a solid opponent?  The home court advantage could really help XU in this one.

Saturday:

Tennessee at Pittsburgh:  A game that pits two top 20, undefeated squads.  The Vols have looked awesome thus far and already have knocked off a top 10 Big East foe this year.  Freshman, Tobias Harris, and seasoned vet Scotty Hopson have been simply awesome in the early going.  Can Pittsburgh continue to ride their very experienced group and amazing rebounding ability to another big time non conference victory?  This game should be close from start to finish.

2.  The NBA Bus rolls on.  The Knicks are over 500 and have won 4 straight games.  Plus the team that was “too old,” San Antonio, sports the League’s best record.  It is the NBA and you got to love it.

Some of the marquee matchups for the week.

Monday:

Oklahoma City at Chicago:  Two of the League’s best teams go to war in the Windy City.  Who is a better young point guard, Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose?  Take your pick because both guys are capable of taking over a ball game at any time.

Wednesday:

Miami at Utah:  The South Beach Show travels to Utah to take on a surprise Utah team that is really showing the power of team basketball.  Jerry Sloan is one of the League’s all time great coaches, and this year, he is putting on one of his best performances. 

Thursday:

Orlando at Portland:  Yes, I realize that Portland is under 500, but they are always dangerous.  The year is still young, and Portland could really gain some confidence in knocking off the team sporting the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference.

Friday:

Los Angeles Lakers at Chicago:  It is always fun to watch two first place teams get together.  Neither of these teams are off to as stellar of a start as expected, but both are definite contenders in their respective conferences.  Look for Kobe to provide some fireworks in this one.

Atlanta at San Antonio:  Can the talented boys out of ATL show the “old men” of San Antonio a lesson?  San Antonio has been outstanding all season and are really a remarkable story.

Orlando at Utah:  Two of the League’s best go to battle in Salt Lake City.  This is a definite game that I would love to tune in and watch.  Could this be a possible preview of the Finals?

Saturday:

Utah at Dallas:  Both of these mainstays in the West continue to win each and every  year.  It never gets old watching two of the best and most consistent franchises in basketball go head to head.

1.  We enter Week 14 of the NFL Season.  Real football weather is here.  And all teams are getting ready for the stretch run.  Next week’s lineup features two great matchups. 

New England at Chicago:  Two of the best teams meet at Soldier Field.  I will tell you that I would much rather watch this one from the couch.  It will be bitterly cold.

Kansas City at San Diego:  The amazing AFC West race continues.  Can the Chargers rebound and pick up a must win vs KC?

So there you have events to look for regarding the sporting stratosphere for this week.  Make sure to take it all in.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“NBA Preview 2010-2011”

Expect to see Kobe Bryant (pictured above) holding up a championship trophy for a 6th time come June.

The NBA is back folks.  Hard to believe, but after an epic NBA Finals in May, the “Decision” in July, the World FIBA Championships, and preseason basketball, it feels like it never ended.  Well either way, the action gets going tonight with a big time matchup in the East.

Main Storylines:

-What affect will the “Decision” have on the overall scope of the League?

-Can Miami’s stellar trifecta bring Lebron his first championship in South Beach?

-Can Phil Jackson capture his 4th version of the 3-Peat?  And going with this, will Kobe tie Jordan with his 6th title?

-Are the Magic ready to finally take that final step and win a title?

-Can Boston finish the job this year in what looks to be the last year with this amazing group in tact?

-Has the Eastern Conference finally caught up to the West (it would be for the first time since the Jordan era with the Bulls)?

-Do the Thunder or Bulls have what it takes to shock the world?

Divisional Winners:

East:

AtlanticCeltics:    In what may be the NBA’s weakest overall division, I got the Celtics bringing home their 4th consecutive divisional title without much difficulty.  This team is extremely tough, and if they remain healthy, could put up the best record in the entire League.

SoutheastMagic:  Shocking I know.  But I do think contrary to popular belief, that the Heat will have some growing pains.  They have an amazingly talented group.  But the Magic have been good for some time now and look ready to take the next step.   Not to mention they have won the division 3 consecutive years already.

CentralBulls:  Chicago is a team that is kind of hiding behind the mighty Celtics, Magic, and Heat.  And believe me, they are fine with this.  This is an extremely talented team that will quietly go about their business all year, and be there come playoff time.  They had arguably the best offseason, outside of Miami, picking up Carlos Boozer and sharpshooter, Kyle Korver.  Look for Derrick Rose to continue to play exceptional and really utilize the talent that management has put around him.

West:

Southwest: Mavericks:  This may be the most up for grabs division in the entire NBA.  They have a few very talented teams in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.  Though I do not see a title frontrunner in the group, teams like Dallas and San Antonio have been very solid for over a decade now.  Do not sleep on the teams out of this division come playoff time regardless if they are beginning to age.  I am taking Dallas here though, due to their amazing owner (Mark Cuban), and their outstanding consistency over the past decade.

NorthwestThunder:  This will be another hotly contested division at the top.  I see the Thunder and Trailblazers having a great battle down the stretch for the division title.  But Kevin Durant is arguably the best scorer in the entire game now.  And though I wish Oklahoma City could have made a move to bring in a major interior presence such as a Carlos Boozer, this team is extremely exciting and young.  Honestly, if you are looking for a fun team to watch, look no further than the Thunder.  Durant, Westbrook, Cook, Harden, and Green are some of the best young players in the League.  And they all happen to be on the same team.  Not to mention this team now has some playoff experience.  With a major midseason move, this team could be a title contender.

PacificLakers:  As if I was going to pick somebody other than LA.  This team has been to 3 consecutive NBA Finals and look to be the frontrunner to come out of the West for the 4th consecutive year.  This team has great chemistry, a phenomenal coach, and great length at every position.  Not to mention they have the best closer in the game, Kobe Bryant.  Expect the Lake Show to be around and right in the thick of things come May.

Sleeper Teams:

I am going to pick one sleeper team out of each conference.  Now in the East, the Bulls are my team that could shock the world.  Now I realize I am picking them to win the division title, but they also are a team that is really known as the 4th or 5th fiddle in the East due to teams like the Celtics, Magic, and Heat.  Another team to keep an eye on though is the Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee Bucks.  This team is young and talented.  But my sleeper pick in the East is the Chicago Bulls.

Out of the West, my sleeper pick has to be Portland Trailblazers.  Now I would have said the Oklahoma City Thunder, but they are really no sleeper team to anybody anymore.  Many analysts have them as the 2nd best team in the West, after the Lakers.  But the Trailblazers are a team that has had the talent for years now.  Injuries and poor execution down the stretch has been a thorn in this franchise’s side for some time.  With a healthy roster, this team is big, fast, and athletic.  Not to mention they have great length.  Length is a key in this league today, and the Trailblazers have it.  The question is can guys like Greg Oden, Lamarcus Aldridge, and Brandon Roy stay healthy?  If this team stays healthy, do not be surprised to see them play their way into the Western Conference Finals or dare I say the NBA Finals?!

Eastern Conference Finals:

Celtics over Magic in 7:  I know many of you are thinking, how could you not have Miami at least going to the conference finals?  And I will admit, they could easily ride their 3 stars all the way to the title, but I do not see it happening yet.  Miami is a year away in my eyes.  Team chemistry cannot be bought.  It has to be formed through going to battle together.  The Celtics and Magic are two very deep teams, that if they remain healthy, could each easily win the East.  But I got the Celtics, heading to the Finals for the 3rd time in 4 years.

Western Conference Finals:

Lakers over Thunder in 6:  You better believe I got the Lake Show heading to their 4th consecutive NBA Finals.  This team is just so deep, so well coached, and full of star power.  Now I will state that the Thunder could easily be a major bust though, but I am expecting them to pick up a big man at some point during the season , that will provide the final piece to the puzzle.  Sadly for the Thunder, Kobe Bryant is still Kobe Bryant.  He has a greater will to win than any player in the game today.  If you look up the term “Refuse to Lose,” Kobe Bryant’s picture will show up next to it.  Expect to see Phil smiling in June (again).

NBA Finals:

Lakers over Celtics in 7:  I am making the same call I made last year.  And it is a safe bet in my eyes.  Both of these teams return basically their entire rosters from last year and look poised to go to battle for the rubber match.  Sadly for Boston, I see the Lakers ending up on top.  Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant are just too good of a combination.  But it will be an epic series that will provide the NBA with possibly its highest ever television ratings.  Kobe will be even with Michael Jordan come June.

So there you have it.  What a year it is going to be after the most tumultuous and action packed offseason of all time.  “The Decision” will have no affect on the NBA Champion in my eyes though.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“The Real Terrific Trifecta”

Could these two bitter rivals on the court and good friends off the court land in New York City next season?

Just when we thought the aftershock of “The Decision” was over. Today started murmurs about the possible departures of Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony from their current teams, to the Big Apple. New York would truly be the city that never slept if this happened. The Knicks have been craving a winner for the better part of a decade. A once proud franchise has really been at a standstill or a steady tread downward for 10 plus years now. Well that could all end in the very near future if the General Manager for the New York Knickerbockers (Donnie Walsh) puts on a David Blaine act. And a guy can dream right? I mean how far-fetched did most think it would be to see Lebron James and Chris Bosh join Wade in Miami?

In the words of the famous Disney Movie, “Angel’s In the Outfield,” “It could happen.”  So without even looking at the actual logistics and possibility of this momentous move, today, lets just dream big and look into if this actually happened. First of all the effect it would have would be amazing. Because these 3 players actually would have the pieces to gel. They are not just 3 random superstars. You take the best point guard in the game in CP3. Put him with the best small forward in the game outside of “King” James, Carmelo Anthony, and add in the highlight reel that is power forward Amare Stoudemire? You better believe that you have a great mix of guys that could really play together.

Amare was acquired by New York to bring other big names with him.  Stoudemire failed in a big way in July at helping acquire big name talent with him.  Well July is over and it is August now. Carmelo is an East Coast guy who thrived at Syracuse. And CP3 wants to play on a winner and even hinted at this trifecta heading to NYC at Melo’s wedding. The consequences for the East would be mind-blowing. The old Knicks vs Heat rivalry would be renewed. And probably more exciting than ever.

This would probably even lead to the power shifting in the NBA from the West to the East. In the East, you would now have the Celtics, the Magic, the Knicks, and the Heat as 4 very strong teams.  Not to mention a 5th very solid team in Chicago. The West would be left with the Lakers, the Mavericks, and the very young Oklahoma City Thunder. The Nuggets would never be the same without Melo. The Hornets were not a contender anyways. The Jazz loss of Boozer hurts.  The Trailblazers are always a major question mark due to injuries. The Spurs are becoming old and decrepit. This move would honestly lead to many believing in the East as the superior conference for the first time since the days of his “Airness.”

And I will say this. On paper, Lebron, Wade, and Bosh are the more skilled trio according to most.  Not to mention that Pat Riley is surrounding them with a decent supporting cast considering his lack of funds. But I will state that the New York trio would have a far better chemistry and would have a better shot at bringing home the title in my eyes.

The NBA game has had a reawakening at the point guard position.  Look at the contending teams from last year.  The  Celtics, the Magic, the Lakers, the Nuggets, the Mavericks, and the Suns and I could go on.  Want to know what they all had in common?  A big time point guard with playoff experience.  I mean think about it.  These teams had Rajon Rondo, Jameer Nelson, Derek Fisher, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, and Steve Nash.  Do the Miami Heat have a real legitimate point guard next year?  I guess Wade could do it.  But I would rather have Chris Paul running my offense.

So could this second terrific trio be formed, and would it be the “Real Terrific Trifecta?”

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

-TheSportsKraze

“My Super Early Top 5 in the East”

For my super early NBA predictions, the Orlando Magic are the team to beat in the East.

With all the action going on this offseason in the NBA, I feel like it is time to start making predictions for the 2011 season.  Many have said that this free agency period will heavily affect the League for the next decade.  And they are right.

So I figure it is never too early to start predicting what is going to happen next year.  Most of the big moves this summer have occurred in the East.  Here is my super early 2011 Eastern Conference top five:

1.  Orlando Magic

2.  Boston Celtics

3.  Miami Heat

4.  Chicago Bulls

5.  Atlanta Hawks

So I am sure you are asking, how can’t you rank the Heat number 1?  I will state that the Heat definitely have the potential to be the top team in the East next year.  And the pick up of Mike Miller was definitely a good start on adding to the star trifecta.  But I am very curious to see who else gets filled in on this roster.  They need to grab a physical center and some role guys off the bench.  It remains to be seen if this will happen.  We will learn a lot more in the next few weeks.  Can guys like Da’Sean Butler and Dexter Pittman make an immediate impact?  The way things are looking they will get a chance to.

Then you got the Magic.  They have been to the Conference Finals 2 consecutive years.  They are determined to grab a title.  This team won 59 games last year.  They look pretty much the same.  Dwight Howard is the most dominant physical presence in the League.  Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis are great coming off the wings.  Then you have the steady play of Jameer Nelson.  This team has been through the fire, and will be determined to get back to the NBA Finals.  Though letting Redick go to the Bulls would be a big mistake in my eyes.

At number 2 I have the Boston Celtics.  Now I did not think Doc Rivers was going to return for another year.  But with his return to the sideline, the team will be kept together.  A team that arguably could have won the title last year had Kendrick Perkins been healthy in the Finals.  Though the trio is getting older, they still can play, not to mention Rajon Rondo has emerged as the best all around player on the team.  Rondo fills up the stat sheet better than any player in the League and is definitely one of the game’s elite point guards.  Lastly, the quite pickup of Jermaine O’Neal will pay dividends.  Though O’Neal is not as good as he once was, he is only 31 and could really get re-energized playing alongside Kevin Garnett.  These two could be a very dangerous threat up front.  So do not sleep on this team.

Then as I mentioned before, the Heat are my number 3.  And this is definitely subject to change.  It remains to be seen how they fill out the remainder of their roster.  It has been highly publicized the past couple of days that they have been having talks with 5 time NBA Champion Derek Fisher.  This would be a huge pickup and definitely leapfrog them into my top 2.  But I feel like the Lakers in the end will cough up the cash and keep their clutch, veteran performer.

At number 4, I have the Chicago Bulls.  This is a team that many are overlooking entirely.  So what if they did not get Lebron.  I mean with Lebron, they probably would have been my number 1 team, but they have Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, and possibly the up and coming J.J. Redick.  This team is well-rounded, young, and hungry.  I feel this is a definite team of the future.  But will be in the upper echelon of the East still.  They do not have a player over the age of 30 and are extremely talented.  The ability of Derrick Rose to drive and kick will pay huge dividends with Korver and possibly Reddick camping out on the perimeter.  Not to mention they will be very tough on the boards with the bash brothers, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.  They will be fun to watch.

Finally at number 5, I have the Atlanta Hawks.  This has been the team of the “future” for over 3 years now.  They are very talented and fun to watch.  Unfortunately, they did not really improve this offseason and will not be able to leapfrog the East’s elite in my eyes.  They also spent entirely too much money on Joe Johnson.  Joe should have taken less money and given the Hawks an opportunity to get a Carlos Boozer type player.  Joe is a great player, but the team gave him money as if he was one of the League’s top 3 players.  Still the Hawks will be tough in 2011.

So that is my Super Early top 5 for the Eastern Conference next year.  Much of this could change depending on where a couple of players end up over the next few weeks.

I know I am already excited for next season with this new look Eastern Conference.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.

-Kraze