First Round Playoff Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards | SportsDivas, Inc.

chicago-bulls-vs-washington-wizards_zps36d6b91fWell, hello there Chicago Bulls, the playoffs look so good on you.

After another whirlwind of a season, the ever resilient fourth seeded Bulls are preparing to take on the fifth seeded Washington Wizards in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

You may be thinking this all feels vaguely familiar; a Rose-less Bulls team attempting to claim the East and finally make it to the NBA finals. What’s different this time around? Should we even get our hopes up? The answer is, YES.

For the first time in forever Chicago is heading into the post season completely healthy – say WHAT? Yep, the Bulls have had the same starting rotation for the last 40 games of the regular season. Considering the past few injury prone seasons, this is remarkable and a healthy roster has allowed continuity for our favorite guys. We’re not sure if it’s just luck or different team strategies, but we’re happy with the outcome.

This first round match-up with the Wizards is about as ideal as a first round series can get. Chicago avoided another first round showdown with the Brooklyn Nets and if successful, are hypothetically lined up to take on a struggling Indiana Pacers ballclub in round two. The Bulls have the advantage on paper, but never underestimate a team come playoffs when the intensity sky rockets. Here are all the essential details to cheer on our men in red through the first round.

PLayoff preview

What You Need to Know:

Two Totally Different Mindsets: The Bulls are a team who’s roots are embedded in defense. They smother their opponents and refuse open shooting opportunities. Despite their stifling defense, they can struggle to produce points. On the opposite end of the court the Wizards are young, aggressive on offense and showy. If Chicago can control the tempo the series is theirs. If our guys get sloppy and struggle to get the ball to the hoop, Washington will thrive in transition and snag the advantage.

Post Season Primed: The Bulls are experienced in the post season. They’ve made it to the playoffs the last five seasons and advanced to further rounds in 2013 and 2011. Their opponent hasn’t won a playoff series since they beat the Bulls in the first round in 2005 and their guys are baby ballers.

Regular Season Recap: The Wizards were 2-1 against the Bulls this season. However, both of their wins were back in January when the Bulls’ roster was in shambles, they’d just lost Derrick Rose and Luol Deng was traded to Cleveland. Later in the season the Bulls gave the Wizards a a beatdown in Washington, so don’t let the record fool you.

Key Players to Watch on the Wizards:

beal_wallPoint Guard, John Wall is a 23 year-old stud. The PG made his first All-Star appearance this season and averaged 19.4 points and 8.8 assists per game. His offensive tenacity poses a threat to the Bulls who will be challenged with guarding the quick and talented Wall.

Shooting Guard, Bradley Beal is in his second NBA season and shined as one of the Wizards top dogs. The up and coming star averaged 17 points a game and is ready to demonstrate his talents on a bigger stage.

Key Players to Watch on the Bulls:

Noah and ButlerCenter, Joakim Noah IS Chicago Bulls basketball this year. He humbly begs to differ, but this two-time All-Star’s play generally determines if his team sinks or swims. He’s had the best season of his career collecting an insane amount of triple doubles all while averaging 12.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.4 assist and 1.5 blocks per game.  JoNo has had an unbelievable season and there’s no doubt his talent and intensity won’t shine in this playoff series.

Shooting Guard, Jimmy Butler needs to shine in this series. Butler will be tasked with defending Beal all while producing offensively. He got off to a slow start this season, but we know the Butler has it in him. He averaged 13.1 points per game during the year, but more importantly played the most minutes per game. His defense is clutch to the Bulls success in this series. If he can trap and frustrate the Wizards’ rising star guards Chicago gains the upper hand.

First Round Schedule:

Game 1: Sunday, April 20 at Chicago, 6 p.m., TNT and CSN

Game 2: Tuesday, April 22 at Chicago, 8:30 p.m., TNT and CSN

Game 3: Friday, April 25 at Washington, 7 p.m., ESPN and CSN

Game 4: Sunday, April 27 at Washington, 12 p.m., ABC

Game 5*: Tuesday, April 29 at Chicago, TBD

Game 6*: Thursday, May 1 at Washington, TBD

Game 7*: Saturday, May 3 at Chicago, TBD, TNT and CSN

* if necessary

What’s Next:

milwaukee_022212_172Where you at Bulls-bandwagon? If you fell off throughout the season it’s time to climb back on because things are about to get real. The playoff party begins Sunday at the UC and will only continue to rage on throughout next week.

The Wizards are young and talented, but if Chicago can consistently find their offensive rhythm, their relentless defense will prove too overwhelming for the young studs and force them to crumble under pressure. Prediction: Bulls in 5.

via First Round Playoff Preview: Chicago Bulls vs. Washington Wizards | SportsDivas, Inc..

Bulls or Bust: 10 Things to Know Before the Playoffs

Calling all Bulls babes: the NBA playoffs are right under our noses! If you took a backseat after Derrick Rose went out for the season or Luol Deng was shipped off to Cleveland – we don’t blame you, but it’s time to brush up on your Bulls basics because we’re gearing up for a playoff party.

The league is wrapping up their regular season tonight and our Bulls have secured the role of “most dangerous underdog” in the post season this year. No one expected much out of Chicago after Derrick rose went down with the doom and gloom of a second knee injury. Many suggested the team tank the season and collect themselves a nice lottery pick in the draft. Instead, the Bulls are prepping for the 2014 post season and are easily one of the biggest threats to the top seeded dogs in the East.

What You Need to Know:

1. The Perfect Playoff Positioning? They’re either playing the Brooklyn Nets or the Washington Wizards in a first round show down. It all depends on the outcome of the final games tonight (The Bulls snag a four seed and Indy’s bracket with a loss or a Raptors win. They take the three seed with a win and a Raptors loss). Rumor has it the Nets don’t want to meet the Bulls in the first round after we knocked them out last year. The Pacers clinched the top seed in the East so technically we want the 4th seed to avoid the Miami Heat’s half of the bracket. Let’s not face BronBron and his title contending friends until the Eastern finals por favor.

2. It’s all about the messy bun swagger and the heart hustle and muscle of Joakim Noah this post season. His energy propels the emotional stability of the entire roster. JoNo has been absolutely stunning this season racking up career high stats. Triple-double is basically his middle name. He leads the team in rebounds, blocks, and assists (yea our center is the best passer on the team, deal with it). Noah’s health and consistent performance is essential for the Bulls to advance to the second round.

3. Crazy Cool Coach: Thibs may look like a Disney evil villain or maybe you get the used car salesman vibe from his fashion sense, but one thing proves true; Tom Thibodeau knows how to coach an NBA team. It doesn’t matter who’s on his bench, NBA players ride or die with their boy Thibs.

4. Defensive Titans: By now we are all aware of the Bulls defensive mindset. Tom Thibodeau has his teams eat and breathe defense and the Bulls are peaking (minus the loss to the lowly Knicks) at the right time. We’re looking your way Jimmy ButlerThey’ve been ranked in the top 5 defenses all season and are about to take the physicality up a notch.

butler and gibson5. X-Factors: Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler. Gibson is in the running for Sixth man of the year and there is no time like the present for him to whip out all the stops. I want ego-smothering dunks and I want dirty defense. Jimmy Buckets had a slow start on the year, but has picked things up since the All-Star break. We need a big burst from Butler to solidify some offense and defense for the Bulls.

6. Down and Dirty Delivery: The Bulls are primitive in their strategic play and do not possess the same finesse as power houses like the Heat and Pacers. Sometimes they barely have much offense at all; it can get ugly. However, the Bulls find other ways to beat you. They’ll physically and emotionally wear their opponents down.

Jimmer7. Jimmer Fever: From the second Jimmer Fredette stepped foot onto a Bull’s bball court, the media and the fans went into their usual Jimmer Fever frenzy. Think Brian Scalabrine White Mamba style, but not a super old NBA veteran. Jimmer is a bench mobber who may not see heavy minutes, but can make an impact emotionally – plus he’s got a nice mid-range shot. #jimmerfeverforever

8. D.J. Augustin is the best pick-up the Bulls could have hoped for. Chicago snatched Augustin after the Raptors put him up on waivers (the NBA equivalent to being homeless on the street). The Bulls were a team who needed a backup point guard, they took Augustin under their wing and he instantly made an impact off the bench. He’s currently the Bulls’ leading scorer.

Brewers-back9. Roster Updates: Ronnie “brew-ha-ha” Brewer is back on the Bulls. We were sad to see him go a few years back, but his return to the bench mob is a happy one. Brewer knows Thib’s intense defensive ways. He plays tough and can give the Bulls a pick-me-up when they need one.

10. No DRose: Derrick rose isn’t making a superhero return to whisk his team off into NBA happily ever after. Let it go, Let it go. (Yes, I went there, Frozen style)

Per usual any playoff advancing is going to take an entire Bulls team effort. Kirk, Boozer, Butler, Dunleavy and the whole gang are going to have to play their hearts out and maybe, just maybe, our Bulls may upset the entire conference. It’s time to #BULLieve.

Be sure to check out all my post season pieces at SportsDivasinc.com via Bulls or Bust: 10 Things to Know Before the Playoffs | SportsDivas, Inc..

Bittersweet Business: Luol Deng Traded to Cavaliers

NBA: Playoffs-Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets

via Bittersweet Business: Luol Deng Traded to Cavaliers | SportsDivas Inc..

After months of trade rumors, the Chicago Bulls ended an era when they wheeled and dealed their two-time All-Star small forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers late Monday night.

Initially, you might be thinking the Bulls front office has lost their marbles. Deng has been the most consistent offensive player on the Bulls the past few years, he’s led the entire league playing a ridiculous amount of minutes, he’s a stifling defender and he has a heart of gold.It wasn’t always pretty, but Lou gave Chicago his all throughout his 10 year journey and embodied the Bulls gritty defense-minded approach. Unfortunately, our love for Luol Deng is not enough to keep him in Chicago. There are plenty of reasons why the Deng-er-ang was sent off to hang with Kyrie Irving and the Cavs. It’s business, baby.

To give the Bulls’ organization some credit, they did try to keep Deng in Chicago by offering him a 3-year, $30 million extension last week. However, Deng declined the offer which then led to plan B – the trade.Deng is 28, leading the team in points scored, but he’s also be ailed by quite a few injuries this season and in past years. The game takes a lot of wear and tear on the body. John Paxson, Chicago’s VP of Basketball Operations, addressed the media immediately Tuesday morning to discuss the big move. He explained just how hard of a decision it was to trade Luol and the amount of respect the organization has for the NBA player.

Chicago has been through the ups and downs with Deng and he has always proven the toughest of soldiers, playing through sprains, muscle tears and spinal taps. The city is forever grateful for his time here and we wish him nothing but greatness in Cleveland unless he’s playing the Bulls of course.

What the Bulls got in Return:

I know what you’re thinking, “ditching Deng better have been worth it,” or maybe that’s just what I was thinking. The Bulls picked up center Andrew Bynum, three future draft picks and the right to swap 2015 first round picks with the Cavs. Los Bulls already have a solid center in Joakim Noah, so they will release Bynum before the Jan. 7 deadline tonight. This will clear up about $12.3 million to go with the $14.3 million they saved by trading Deng.

The draft picks are what really sweetened the deal. The Bulls now have a boatload of draft picks coming their way in the next few years. This is great news because the 2014 draft is deep with talented players and the Bulls could really get some quality guys.

What This Means for the Bulls:

The fun has only just begun for the Chicago Bulls’ front office. This trade absolutely signifies a new era in Chicago basketball and a time for rebuilding, but it’s not going to be a complete overhaul. They still have serious talent in Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. Yes, trading Deng means the Bulls won’t be doing much winning this season, but the goal is to develop the young players we do have like Tony Snell and find the the guys who can truly take the Bulls to a championship upon Derrick Rose’s return.

DRose is still the center of Chicago’s universe. The organization’s goal is to find the best players to compliment Rose. We need a team who no longer plays under Derrick, but rather a team who plays well WITH Derrick.

Expect the Bulls to amnesty Carlos Boozer this summer, this will cut another $16.8 million for the Bulls spending, which would hopefully allow enough salary cap room for the signing of an elite caliber free agent. All these deals give the Bulls quite a bit more wiggle room when it comes to the limitations of players they can sign.These are absolutely long shots, but players like Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Greg Monroe and even LeBron James could potentially be attainable. The Bulls have cap space and with some tempting rookies, Chicago may be able to conjure up some sign-and-trade deals.

Losing Deng is no easy feat. It’s going to take the team some time to bounce back after their silent leader was traded away, but I bet Joakim Noah is even more upset that the poor guy has to live in Cleveland.

Farewell Luol, we’ll miss you and your Dengerous wingspan.

 

Bulls November Report Card: C-

The Bulls’ season has been underway for a little over a month and the game has already taken a toll on our emotions. As fans we’re exhausted, I can’t imagine what the players must be going through. If you’ve missed Coach Thibodeau’s recent emotional sideline displays, the Bulls are in a full fledged identity crisis after losing Derrick Rose for the season and sitting 2nd in the Central Division at 7-9.

It’s tough times Bulls fans. November started with the highest hopes, Rose was finally finding his rhythm after a year off the floor and the team was starting to gel again. Then BAM in the blink of an eye everything plummeted into a devastating black hole. This is the kind of season where you either pride yourself on being a die-hard Bulls fan and stick it out, or perhaps just pack it up until next season.

The Good: 

Jimmy Butler finally got a haircut.

Other than the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat the Bulls are competing in a weak Eastern Conference. It’s a blessing and a burden. The Bulls won’t be terrible enough in the conference to “tank” the season and get a top draft pick, but they don’t have enough without Rose to

The Bad: Well gosh, where do I even begin.

It was just a normal game during the yearly Circus Trip where the biggest challenge was Jimmy Butler sitting out with a case of turf toe. Then suddenly Derrick Rose’s right knee buckled in the third quarter and he limped off the TrailBlazer’s court. Next thing we know he needs season ending surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus. And in an instant all the Bulls’ hopes and dreams of an NBA Championship were immediately stripped away.Losing your franchise player to a knee injury for the second time in less than two years is a bit traumatizing. It’s one thing to go into the season knowing you’ll be without your star player, however losing DRose 11 games into the season after believing he was 100% healthy is near impossible to bounce back from. DRose seems to be on a year-to-year status with the Bulls.

Overall: It’s going to take the Bulls a hot second to shake off the loss of their superstar point guard, regain their composure and buckle up to do what they do best – get back to playing defense. It’s always been about heart hustle and muscle in Chicago.

Read my whole piece via Bulls November Report Card: C- | SportsDivas Inc..

Weekend Roundup: Bulls are Back in Business with Two Blowout Wins

Weekend roundup

It was a win-win kind of weekend for the Chicago Bulls who got back to their streak-snapping roots and pulled off two big blowout wins against the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers.

Despite their healthy roster, it has been a rough start overall for Chicago who is still working through the kinks and rust of Derrick Rose’s return to the court. This weekend put the haters to rest and gave Bulls fans a gust of hope with some breakout performances and team defense.

Friday Bulls at Raptors

Bulls were cruising in the 96-80 win over the Raptors Friday night. With Rose on the bench resting his sore hamstring the Bulls played stingy defense and a well rounded offense. Luol Deng led the way with 19 points, but every Bulls’ starter was in double digits.

Joakim Noah finally found his offensive swagger and had his first big offensive game with 18 points. Jo-No missed the majority of the pre-season with a groin injury and needed a few games to find his rhythm again.

Raptors’ swingman DeMar DeRozan had a career high of 37 points. He dominated the fourth quarter making some outlandish jumpshots, but Toronto had dug themselves too deep of a hole to come back from.

Jimmy Butler showed off his new haircut. The handsome young stud changed up his fro to a more clean-cut style.

Saturday Bulls vs Pacers

STREAK SNAPPED: Going into Saturday’s matchup the Indiana Pacers were the only remaining undefeated team in the NBA. The Bulls, who had already lost to the Pacers earlier this season, said “not in our house.” Chicago not only ended Indy’s nine game winning streak, but they did so in a 110-94 blowout fashion.

Derrick Rosehad his first break-out game of the season with 20 points and four assists and against a tough opponent too (feel free to let out your sigh of relief).

It was a battle between two All-Star small forwards, but Luol Deng (23 pts) took advantage of Indy’s counterpart Paul George (12 pts) who has had a solid start to his season. Overall, the Bulls starters dominated the Pacers big guys.

Carlos Boozer did some pushin-and-shovin against Chris Copeland. They were both ejected with 21.9 seconds on the clock.

The Bulls and Pacers claim there is no longer a team rivalry between the two divisional opponents, but we beg to differ. Things got taken up a notch at the UC and things will continue to get more heated between these two teams as the season goes on.

Your Take Away Piece:

“We witnessed three things this weekend: the Bulls showed off their feisty team defense, they had a resurgence of balanced offense (they surpassed the 100 point hurdle) and DRose got his MVP groove back. I think things are finally coming together for our Chicago Bulls and there’s a lot of great basketball in store for us all.”

What’s Next:

Chicago is 5-3 as they prepare to host the 5-5 Charlotte Bobcats tonight at the UC. Tune in to Comcast Sportsnet at 7 PM to see if our main men can keep their offensive mojo going and continue their four game winning streak. Always BULLieve.

Check out all my Bulls posts via  SportsDivas Inc..

Cheat Sheet: Bulls Open 2013 Season Against Champion Miami Heat | SportsDivas Inc.

Banners will be raised, rings will be handed out and the Chicago Bulls hope to dent the egos of the two-time defending Champion Miami Heat on Tuesday night. The Bulls are hungry to prove themselves this year and what better way to get things going than to take on King James and company in South Beach in the first game of the season?

The rivalry between these Eastern Conference foes continues to grow each year and the Bulls have become more eager to put a stop on the Heat’s dominance within the East. The Heat’s confidence will be on high after receiving their lavish Championship display, the intensity of American Airlines Arena will heighten filled with ecstatic Heat fans, but the Bulls players feel they have the talent to beat the Heat.

What You Need to Know:

Reigning MVP Lebron James made it clear, these two teams do not like one another (last year’s brawls during the semi-finals of the NBA Playoffs can prove that). Expect a big game out of King James who’s looking to maintain his “Top NBA Player” status. James’ supporting cast is still in tact with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier, and Udonis Haslem returning this season.

Derrick Rose will play in his first regular season game in over a year. Our excitement to see the star take the court in an official game can barely be contained. Rose sat on the sidelines while his team battled Miami in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. He’s ready to take his game to the next level and get this 82 game season started with a win.

Jimmy Butler came up big in the games against Miami with his tough defense and crazy offense. Why not start the 2013 season with a standout performance against the Heat?

Joakim Noah is questionable for the opening game with a groin injury. This puts the Bulls in a tough spot since Noah is so dominant under the basket and can provide a boost on offense as well. The Bulls have done it before when Noah was sidelined with plantar fasciitis – we’d just prefer our All-Star always be on the court.

The Bulls and Heat split the 2012-2013 season 2-2. No matter who’s healthy and on the floor, the Bulls always give the Heat a tough game. Defense will play a huge factor in the Bulls’ success. Keeping James under control is always your best bet when playing the Heat. The Heat have not forgotten that it was the Bulls who ended their 27-game winning streak last season. They will be looking for redemption tonight and this season.

murseMan-pri & Murse: If nothing else, you can expect some crazy post-game press conference ensembles from the fashionistas of Miami otherwise known as Lebron James and Dwyane Wade. Man-pris and murses galore!

Your Take Away Piece:

“Things may get ugly with all the hype of the ring ceremony and the historic intensity between these two teams. The Bulls and Heat are two of the most competitive teams in the league and they just happen to be each other’s biggest rivals. Hopefully the brawls from last season will be contained and a clean game of basketball will be played. It’s a new year – clean slate right?”

What’s Next:

Be sure to tune in at 7 PM on TNT to catch the conference battle between the Bulls and Heat. You may want to tune in a bit late to miss the ring ceremony theatrics for the diva-licious Heat. It might be the first game of the season, but expect both teams to pull out all the stops in this rivaled match-up.

Check out my whole post via Cheat Sheet: Bulls Open 2013 Season Against Champion Miami Heat | SportsDivas Inc..

Your 2013 Chicago Bulls: Must Know Players and Positions

With the reemergence of our main-man Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls are once again considered a top threat in the Eastern Conference and NBA Championship title contenders. After getting down and dirty with an 8-0 preseason record, we can tell our Bulls are hungrier than ever.

Over the past three years the Bulls have established themselves as an elite NBA team coached by Tom Thibodeau. After last season, the Bulls have also proven that no matter who is on the court, Thibs will find a way to make them competitors. With Rose’s explosiveness leading the pack, this Bulls team has lofty expectations.

The countdown for the 2013 NBA season is less than 24 hours away and that means it’s time for your Chicago Bulls-Brush-Up. Know who’s rocking the red, black and white jerseys for the Bulls this season. Check out the Starters, supporting cast and coach info via Your 2013 Chicago Bulls: Must Know Players and Positions | SportsDivas Inc..