How to watch
Date: Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Time: 7:30pm PST
Location: Oracle Arena — Oakland, CA
TV: CSN Bay Area, ESPN
Radio: 95.7 THE GAME
Despite a middling 26-26 record, the Chicago Bulls are in prime contention for the distinction of being the Association’s most dysfunctional team. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks are giving them a challenge, but it appears to be Chicago’s competition to lose.
Over the past two weeks, stars Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade have publicly criticized teammates for failing to put in work; Rajon Rondo hilariously clapped back on Instagram about going to the media; and don’t forget that ESPN’s Ryen Russillo just reported that ownership strong armed Jimmy Butler into signing a 2014 extension by threatening to cut his minutes for Tony Snell. All of this is to say: there’s a mean-spirited Kanye West joke to be made here, somewhere.
Controversies aside, there is a competitive team to be found behind their TMZ-worthy news page. The Bulls, as usual, boast an above average defense that prefers a slow pace. They’re utterly elite at crashing the offensive boards, and they prevent free throws better than anyone in the NBA. They get to the charity stripe quite a bit on offense to supplement their average offense, which is held way down by the worst cadre of three point shooters this side of the Big Ten (a league-worst .319 from deep!).
But hey! Here’s our first chance to see the new and improved Jimmy Butler, who has taken the leap from all-star to MVP candidate this season. The 27 year old is averaging almost 25 points per game, with six-and-a-half rebounds and five assists. And don’t forget his quality play on the defensive end as well. Unfortunately for Chi-Town, Butler has missed two games straight and is not guaranteed to play in Oakland, Wednesday.
If Butler is limited or inactive, it could be a long night for the Bulls. But then again, with Klay Thompson out for bereavement, maybe rookie Denzel Valentine will erupt for 32 points and a game-winner? It wouldn’t be the strangest thing to happen this season, would it? Okay, maybe it would be. Whatever.
- Klay Thompson is out due to the passing of a family member (he currently has no expected return date). Zaza Pachulia is out with a shoulder injury. David West, however, practiced Tuesday and could return to action after a brief absence (he is doubtful).
- Rajon Rondo had the right message, but he’s the wrong messenger. He famously couldn’t name most of his teammates while in Sacramento, he butted heads with Rick Carslisle in Dallas and helped to sink the franchise by quitting in the middle of a playoff series, and then there was the time when he went on a homophobic rant at referee Bill Kennedy, a man who is gay. Dude’s the definition of a team cancer, and I do not use that term lightly.
- The Bulls are openly shopping the trade market, and their preferred target appears to be Jahlil Okafor. I personally have no idea if they actually (wrongly) think Okafor will help them, or if they know they’re trading for one of the NBA’s least valuable players, in a sly attempt to tank. I’m leaning towards the former. Want to know how bad Okafor has been this season? Look up the NBA’s Real Plus-Minus for centers. Sort from worst to best. There you go. Okafor has been so ineffective this season, taking him off the floor provides the Philadelphia 76ers a greater per 100-possessions benefit (-13.6 points, per basketball-reference.com) than the Golden State Warriors get from putting Draymond Green on the court (+11.5 points).
- There are literally zero approved Bulls-Warriors photos that are relevant. Every single image features Pau Gasol, Harrison Barnes, Derrick Rose and Harrison Barnes. So enjoy Steve Kerr’s handsome mug, instead, even though he’s like, not even a part of this preview.