Date: Wednesday Jan. 17, 2018
Time: 5:00 p.m. PST
Location: United Center—Chicago, IL
Radio: 95.7 The Game
Buddy Blog/Enemy Blog: Blog a Bull
Injury Report (subject to change, as always)
Golden State: Andre Iguodala (questionable, left calf), Draymond Green (questionable, shoulder)
Chicago: Cameron Payne (out, foot)
This is a weird game
Wednesday’s game is an odd sandwich between the juicy Cleveland Cavaliers game on Monday and the ready-to-fight Houston Rockets game this coming weekend. It’s a game casual fans will skip over like it’s nothing.
It means something to me though.
I grew up in Chicago. My friends and family are Bulls fans. They talk about Michael Jordan like he’s Steph Curry (lol), and fall victim to nightmares of Derrick Rose’s ACLs dangling in the United Center rafters (much love to D-Rose). My Chicago kin accuse me of abandoning the Bulls, a team I never really loved. That said, I can’t shake the Bulls from forever being by my casual NBA side boo. I have to admit, Chicago’s rebuild is one of the more eyebrow-raising, less-publicized stories in the NBA.
I did not expect Lauri Markkanen to be a good NBA player and definitely didn’t think he would ever beat Stephen Curry on a record list. On Monday, the 20-year-old Finn became the fastest player to hit 100 three pointers in NBA history. It took Markkanen 41 games. Curry needed 58 games. Somehow, someway, Markkanen has turned last June’s Jimmy Butler trade from a “mind-bogglingly horrid” deal to a “just a kind-of stupid” trade.
Also in the 2017 Draft: For all of you keeping score at home, the Bulls traded Jordan Bell to the Warriors for my hourly salary (which I assure you, leaves much to be desired).
Not only is Markkanen outperforming expectations, but so are the Bulls. If the Bulls keep this up, they’ll play themselves out of a top-five draft pick (which would be stupid, right?). Since Dec. 8, the Bulls are an astonishing 14-7.
As my dad says, “Life is a series of tradeoffs.” Maybe by sacrificing a prime draft pick, the Bulls have discovered a core of players who fit in Coach Fred Hoiberg’s system. Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Denzel Valentine, David Nwaba, and Bobby Portis are all possible long-term ingredients for the team moving forward. Conversely, Chicago’s leading-scorer, Nikola Mirotic, and veteran Robin Lopez should be traded within the next month.
In terms of matching up with the Warriors, Dunn, LaVine, and Markkanen are the guys to watch. Wednesday night will be LaVine’s third game of the season and he’ll likely be on a minutes restriction. Every Warriors player should be on high alert re: getting dunked on by LaVine.
Plan to watch a team with four All-Stars against a team who likely won’t have an All-Star until 2021. This is not a trap game — the Warriors should destroy the Bulls.
After dispatching the Cavaliers on Monday, the Warriors should be feeling good about themselves. The four stars played big minutes for a regular season game (Durant, Green and Thompson all finished at 35 minutes or more). Given Green’s ongoing shoulder soreness, I’d be surprised if he laced up in Chicago.
On a long road trip, against a weak team, Kerr should find a few opportunities to rest the big four. Patrick McCaw only only played seven minutes in Cleveland. JaVale McGee didn’t play, Zaza Pachulia was inactive, and Omri Casspi should be return from his injury. Against Chicago, I see no reason to not let the bench find a rhythm.
Since returning from his injury, Steph Curry has hit 50.6% (39/77) of his threes with a cumulative +60 when he’s in the game. He’s unbelievable. Period.