I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Not because Luol Deng was traded after, oh, four years of seeing his name in rumors.
I was shocked because he’s only 29 years old.
Luol entered this league the same player he is today: tough defender, secondary-to-tertiary scoring option, and above all else, an anchor. Somebody Bulls fans could love unconditionally, because there was nothing to dislike. From the get-go, his numbers were what they are now: double-digit points, 5+ rebounds, probably too many minutes. You could describe a lot of players, particularly forwards, with those vague numbers, but how many get those numbers when nothing else is expected of them?
Deng was never the star of this team, and everybody was fine with that. We had Ben Gordon, or Kirk Hinrich, or Derrick Rose, or Joakim Noah. Even Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson grabbed more headlines than Deng last season. He’s a high-level constant, a very, very good player who functions best as part of a three-headed monster. Was he important to the Bulls? Some would say so. I would say the fact that he’s getting replaced by Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, and/or whoever the tanking Bulls draft as a prime example that he wasn’t important. He was a nice asset, a very good player. A two-time All-Star, after having to play 40 minutes per game two seasons in a row. But not important, because noobody is going to look back on the past 9 years as the “Luol Deng” era. There were so many eras Luol played a part in, and that he was a contributor for. But that’s all he was, just a part. A very good supporting actor.
Make no mistake, Luol Deng could’ve been the star of the Bulls. There’s no box on the form he couldn’t check off. Scoring, rebounding, defense, charisma, toughness, etc., they can all be brought to the table by Luol. But he wasn’t that guy, on or off the court. He was quiet, sometimes expressionless, but still warm. He didn’t attract media personalities that derided him, nor vigorously defended him. Well, unless you count what happened last summer. Last summer, the lines were drawn.
To get you caught up, here’s mah dude @SBN_Ricky on what went down:

Deng was issued a spinal tap when doctors suspected meningitis during last season’s playoff run, an injection that had severe repercussions on Deng’s body and glued him to a hospital bed. Once he was there, the Bulls showed little concern for him. Deng didn’t even have a private hospital room, much less visits from team personnel. Tom Thibodeau had the gall to say Deng had “flu-like symptoms, whatever" when asked about Deng’s illness. It set the stage for another contentious negotiation process.

Read the whole article (please) and you’ll learn this was not the first mistreatment of Luol by the increasingly-hated Bulls front office, but it was certainly the death knell, particularly after the cash-strapped team offered the “hometown discount” extension. I knew from the second the news came out about that lowball contract that Deng wasn’t going to come back, and I’m glad. Not in a “good riddance” way, but in a “so long, and thanks for all the fish” way. He was a very good player who did a lot of things for the community, but with his injuries and likely diminishing returns, what was there left for him to do here? All parties involved, including many fans, were ready to turn the page, papercuts be damned. 
Good luck Lu. Nothing but love.

I was shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Not because Luol Deng was traded after, oh, four years of seeing his name in rumors.

I was shocked because he’s only 29 years old.

Luol entered this league the same player he is today: tough defender, secondary-to-tertiary scoring option, and above all else, an anchor. Somebody Bulls fans could love unconditionally, because there was nothing to dislike. From the get-go, his numbers were what they are now: double-digit points, 5+ rebounds, probably too many minutes. You could describe a lot of players, particularly forwards, with those vague numbers, but how many get those numbers when nothing else is expected of them?

Deng was never the star of this team, and everybody was fine with that. We had Ben Gordon, or Kirk Hinrich, or Derrick Rose, or Joakim Noah. Even Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson grabbed more headlines than Deng last season. He’s a high-level constant, a very, very good player who functions best as part of a three-headed monster. Was he important to the Bulls? Some would say so. I would say the fact that he’s getting replaced by Jimmy Butler, Nikola Mirotic, and/or whoever the tanking Bulls draft as a prime example that he wasn’t important. He was a nice asset, a very good player. A two-time All-Star, after having to play 40 minutes per game two seasons in a row. But not important, because noobody is going to look back on the past 9 years as the “Luol Deng” era. There were so many eras Luol played a part in, and that he was a contributor for. But that’s all he was, just a part. A very good supporting actor.

Make no mistake, Luol Deng could’ve been the star of the Bulls. There’s no box on the form he couldn’t check off. Scoring, rebounding, defense, charisma, toughness, etc., they can all be brought to the table by Luol. But he wasn’t that guy, on or off the court. He was quiet, sometimes expressionless, but still warm. He didn’t attract media personalities that derided him, nor vigorously defended him. Well, unless you count what happened last summer. Last summer, the lines were drawn.

To get you caught up, here’s mah dude @SBN_Ricky on what went down:

Deng was issued a spinal tap when doctors suspected meningitis during last season’s playoff run, an injection that had severe repercussions on Deng’s body and glued him to a hospital bed. Once he was there, the Bulls showed little concern for him. Deng didn’t even have a private hospital room, much less visits from team personnel. Tom Thibodeau had the gall to say Deng had “flu-like symptoms, whatever" when asked about Deng’s illness. It set the stage for another contentious negotiation process.

Read the whole article (please) and you’ll learn this was not the first mistreatment of Luol by the increasingly-hated Bulls front office, but it was certainly the death knell, particularly after the cash-strapped team offered the “hometown discount” extension. I knew from the second the news came out about that lowball contract that Deng wasn’t going to come back, and I’m glad. Not in a “good riddance” way, but in a “so long, and thanks for all the fish” way. He was a very good player who did a lot of things for the community, but with his injuries and likely diminishing returns, what was there left for him to do here? All parties involved, including many fans, were ready to turn the page, papercuts be damned. 

Good luck Lu. Nothing but love.

I forgot about the Magic and Pacers because I’m a big dumb baby idiot.

What both of these teams have in common is a need to take a leap, and to strike hard this season. For the Pacers, it means becoming a legit top-3 team in the East, and top-5 in the league. Before, the words used to describe them were “pesky” and “tough,” and teams were warned not to underestimate them. This year? They have the players, the staff, and (just as important) the front office to make a major impact, and perhaps appear in the Finals, if not win it. No more chasing the Bulls or Heat, the Pacers have their own mark to make, and expect it to be made with authority by Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, and (finally) some bench depth.

The only player who MIGHT be a cause for concern is Danny Granger (well, and maybe David West’s health). A lot of experts seem to believe Granger will fill a slot as an athletic shooter, but it’s hard to picture him in a starting position, and that may cause friction in the locker room. Granger definitely seemed to be in a “gotta get mine” mode in the brief test run the Pacers ran with him, only for his health to fail him again. Now with him being out the first month of the regular season, who knows where his head will be when he has to get put back in the rotation. For how much they’re paying him, Danny Granger might find himself on the block.

As for the Magic, they need to move on from stage one of the rebuilding process, and start putting their future into motion. The problem is, do they want that future to be built on the backs of Tobias Harris, Arron Afflalo, Victor Oladipo, Andrew Nicholson, and Nikola Vucevic? That’s a real tough sell, especially when they have veterans who might start making a stink if they don’t get their minutes. The Magic are made up of guys who would make for a great-to-capable 6th or 7th man (Glen Davis, Jameer Nelson, Al Harrington, Hedo Turkoglu, Mo Harkless), but there doesn’t seem to be any leader on this team. Oladipo could become that player, but he needs to prove he can play to begin with. Look for the Magic to try and move nickels and dimes for a half-dollar, as they slide into a top-7 lottery pick.

The Baller Shots Way-Too-Brief Nightly Preview

I’m currently writing this while sick as a dog, surrounded by glasses of OJ and snot-filled tissues, so forgive me for any errors. I just had to put something down on this blog, because tonight… tonight is BALL NIGHT!

Finally, the association’s hot-n-fresh season has been brought to our table, and we’re almost positive that the waitress is flirting with us. That is to say, nothing could go wrong with this season. There’s too many entertaining teams, and too many juicy storylines, and tonight is a prime example of both.

Between the quest for a third straight championship and the return of Derrick Rose, the Heat and the Bulls have been pegged as two of the top contenders for the NBA championship, yet neither fan base is sitting comfortably. The national media has overlooked just how frequently Bulls players get hurt. Rose, Deng, Noah, and Boozer have all spent MONTHS out of the lineup at least once in the past three years. The Bulls training and medical staff is one of the most maligned in the NBA, and the way Coach Thibodeau distributes minutes leads me to believe we will see 10+ starts for Dunleavy, Mohammed, Gibson, and/or Kirk Hinrich (presuming he stays healthy himself). The lack of an “off switch” on this Bulls team makes them one of the most admirable and respected teams in the league, but it don’t mean shit if you can’t put your best team on the court for the most important games: the playoffs. I love Jimmy Butler, but the poor kid has already played way too many 48-minute games. Depth is an issue here, folks.

One of the teams the Bulls will likely encounter in the playoffs will be the Heat, whose on-off switch problem doesn’t lie with the team, rather the individual players. Wade and Bosh’s consistency issues were apparent through all last season, including the playoffs. There are rumors, however, that Wade has bulked up quite a bit, and Bosh is finally adapting to his role as a center. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if we saw Bosh be able to play the PF spot more frequently, now that he’s flanked by Birdman and Oden. Throw in the fact that EVERY PLAYER except Andersen and Cole are playing on either an expiring contract or a player option, it’s not hard to see this Miami team actually somehow playing better than last year. KEEP GETTIN’ DEM CHECKS, RASHARD!

The other matchup tonight is for my fellow morbidly curious NBA fans. We’re the kinds of fans that enjoy seeing a late-season Bobcats-Raptors game, just to see who gets put out on the floor. We enjoy seeing a first round matchup between the Heat and whatever poor souls are in the 8-seed. The Lakers looks like they’ll be able to provide such disgusting basketball all season long, Kobe or not. With holdovers like Steve Blake and Jordan Hill mixed with signings like Nick Young and Chris Kaman, this team would be on a path for middle-of-the-road mediocrity. But I got a good feeling about Pau Gasol, you guys (famous last words). If it weren’t for the existence of Mike D’Antoni, I’d say these guys could threaten to grab an 8 or 7-seed. Except Mike D’Antoni does exist, and he is a horrible, system-stuck coach. Why is he coaching this team? I’ve never seen a coach want to coach less than Mike D’Antoni. Ya Pringles-lookin motherfucker.

Anyways, the Clippers are officially the kings of LA now, with a bonafide great coach in Doc Rivers, and pretty good talent. I say pretty good, because if you look at the peak talent level overall, they are pretty good. Full-on good, really. They have really impressive depth at their guard and forward spots, though if they’re going to look to Hollins and Mullens as their backup centers, they could get themselves in trouble defending the paint.

Of course, the real issue will be whether or not Rivers can get Paul and Griffin/Jordan on the same page. Griffin has gotten tagged as a bit of a sensitive (read: whiny) player by the media, and the word is Paul is getting a bit title-obsessed. Rivers’ timetable for success may be shorter than it seems, but considering his presence will upgrade a team that won 56 games last year, he won’t need much time at all.

Alright, I’m going to try to do these on a daily basis, but if I end up, uh, not doing that, well… there ya go. I am trying to make more frequent, original contributions to this blog, so if there’s anything you’d like to hear my words on, just let me know!