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Injuries, a coaching change and loads of drama: The 10 worst moments from the Bulls’ 2018-19 season

How bad was this Bulls season? Depends on your criteria.

It probably felt like the worst ever from a fan’s perspective. Between the times the team was on the wrong side of the scoreboard, the messy coaching change and the string of injuries, it added up to months of misery.

Quantitatively, this season’s 22-60 record and .268 winning percentage were not dead last. The franchise’s most dreadful record in terms of winning percentage was in 2000-01, when the Bulls were 15-67 (.183). The 1998-99 squad managed a team-record-low 13 wins, but that season was only 50 games.

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The Bulls were 5-19 (.208) in December when they made a coaching change, ousting Fred Hoiberg for assistant coach Jim Boylen, who went 17-41 (.293). Call it incremental progress.

Much of team’s struggles could be blamed on a lack of health. The Bulls lost 276 player games to injury or illness, including Denzel Valentine’s zero games played.

This year’s Bulls spent 16 days in the basement of the Eastern Conference and five days in last place in the NBA. They finished with the fifth-worst record in franchise history by winning percentage.

Yet all those dour figures only begin to capture how headache-inducing this season was. Here’s how we rank their worst moments.

Bogdan Bogdanovic Finds His Groove in Second Season

At 26, Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic has the cool, laid-back vibe of a longstanding veteran who’s seen and done it all, gliding to his spots on the floor, taking control of a game in critical junctures and rarely making costly mistakes.

A professional basketball player since age 18, starter on the Serbian National Team in the Olympics and EuroLeague champion, he understands, as well as anyone, the importance of cohesion, trust and confidence for a winning team.

So, while many around the NBA were surprised when the Kings remained in the Playoff hunt into late March and exceeded their preseason expectation by a League-best 14 wins, Bogdanovic wasn’t one of them.

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The seeds were planted, he says, months earlier, while the team was beginning to find its footing and forging its current high-octane playing style.

“(Last season), we just started bad, and it was all about the start, I think,” he said. “From January or February, we started playing (well) and from that moment, we were making the small steps.”

“Bogi” wasn’t on the court for the first 10 games cheap nba jerseys
of the 2018-19 campaign while recovering from a surgical procedure on his knee, but once he returned, he settled into a crucial role as the first player off the bench in place of either point guard De’Aaron Fox or shooting guard Buddy Hield.

Bogdanovic, an All-Rookie Second Team selection last year, thrived while typically employed as the primary ball-handler and focal point in the second unit.

“I love it,” he said. “I think I can create a lot of open shots for others and for (myself).”

In nearly identical minutes as his first season (27.8 per game), he averaged more points (14.1), assists (3.8) and rebounds (3.5), and despite an uptick in usage (22.3 percent compared to 19.6), was even better at taking care of the ball. Among all wings, Bogdanovic ranked in the 94th percentile in assist rate, with a hand in 19.8 percent of his teammates’ shots, as well as in the 80th percentile in turnover rate (13.0), according to Cleaning the Glass.

Bogdanovic continued to be one of Sacramento’s biggest threats in the pick-and-roll (0.83 points per possession, via Synergy Sports), and with opponents forced to respect his perimeter jumper, drove to the rim more frequently (2.9 attempts inside five feet, versus 1.9 last season). His reliable mid-range shot was still a major part of his offense, but he reduced his attempts from that zone by nearly a quarter in favor of more threes and layups.

Bogdanovic, however, is the first to acknowledge that his sophomore season wasn’t flawless, and even a player as poised and experienced isn’t immune to periodic mishaps.

“It was a good season; a nice season, with a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “A lot of stuff to learn and do better.”

Those ups for No. 8?

Chief among them was his favorite moment of the season, the night he drilled a fadeaway three-pointer over Lakers center Tyson Chandler as the final buzzer sounded at Golden 1 Center on Dec. 27, 2018. The unforgettable shot, in a game he previously deemed a “must win,” lifted the Kings over their division rival in thrilling fashion, as his teammates mobbed him near the bench and the crowd exploded in jubilation.

Two nights later, he dropped 21 points in Los Angeles – his third outing with 20 or more in four games – capping off a terrific two-month stretch during which the Kings outscored opponents by 8.9 points per 100 possessions when the multifaceted reserve ran the offense without a traditional point guard on the court, according to NBA.com.

As the team’s most versatile weapon and highly effective floor-spacer, he thrived with or without the ball in different lineup combinations; a three-guard unit with Bogdanovic joining Fox and Hield generated a superb plus-12.7 net rating over his first 24 appearances.

But soon after, the heavier workload and a fluctuating role began to take their toll on the second-year standout.
While Bogdanovic averaged 15.4 points on 44.1 percent from the field and 37 percent from behind the arc through the end of December, his production dipped to 13.4 points on 38.8 from the floor and 31.5 percent from distance over the subsequent two months.

Looking back, he might’ve put too much pressure on himself, Bogdanovic acknowledges, while trying to build chemistry on the fly with newly-acquired teammates and shifting in and out of the starting lineup – all while simultaneously trying to rediscover his own missing rhythm and comfort zone.

“I had so many different roles at one time,” he said. “I was just trying to help the team.”

But shooters, as the saying goes, shoot. So Bogdanovic didn’t fidget with a routine he’s kept consistent throughout his career or become apprehensive about his trusty mechanics.

He replayed stretches of ineffective play in his head and poured through hours of game film to find a way to rectify the problem.

When the shot clock ticked toward zero, he noticed, the ball would often wind up in his hands, with no alternative but to hoist up a prayer while draped by his defender. Other times, he was uncharacteristically rushing plays, especially in transition, where his points per possession declined from 1.26 as a rookie to 0.96 this year.

“It was, sometimes, bad (shot) selection,” he said. “You get frustrated, which is normal. You want to score and then you take a bad shot. That’s another experience (to learn from).”

A player who’s fueled by confidence in his shot-making, Bogdanovic, naturally, broke out of the slump, posting his customarily efficient splits (47.4/49.1/81.0) over the final 10 games of the season. Among 51 players with at least 50 three-point attempts during that segment, only five were more accurate.

One of Sacramento’s best post-All-Star break units came once Bogdanovic returned to the bench and shared the floor with fellow reserves Marvin Bagley, Harry Giles, Corey Brewer and Yogi Ferrell. That five-man combination outscored opponents by 14 points in 30 minutes of playing time, while dishing 21 assists compared to only four turnovers.

His second season may not have come with as steep of a learning curve as his first, when he debuted in the fast-paced, physical NBA after spending six years in a European game that emphasized setting up the half-court offense and methodically moving the ball. But the challenges he encountered and found a way to overcome may prove to be even more impactful in the long run.

With his polished skill set and ability to influence the game in a multitude of ways – combined with that calm and composed demeanor – it’s easy to envision Bogdanovic blossoming into one of the most dynamic playmakers in the League.

“I’m ready to be even better,” he said. “(I’m) getting into my prime in my third season and (I’m going to) continue to play at the highest level.”

‘I don’t want to be Boogie’ — DeMarcus Cousins tries on something new for size

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers
DeMarcus Cousins of the Golden State Warriors during warm-ups before a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 12, 2018, at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. Robert Laberge/Getty Images
There are two stories of how Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins got his nickname. One is true, one is apocryphal. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth to that one as well.

One begins in Alabama, where there’s a proprietary way big black bodies get treated by the people who need them to win ballgames. As a 6-foot-9-inch 10th-grader, Wholesale nba jerseys Cousins was kicked off his Birmingham high school team after an altercation with a coach on the bus after a game. Soon, people were saying that Cousins had beaten up his coach — because with Cousins, the story always gets bigger — and that was the beginning of the Boogie Man.

Cousins’ mother, Monique, retells the real Boogie Cousins origin story: about how former NBA star Rod Strickland, then an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky, where Cousins was a one-and-done, became enchanted by the smoothness of the big man’s moves and chalked it all up to the “boogie” in him.

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More than a decade later, that story remains true. Cousins, 28, is a 6-foot-11-inch, 270-pound bruiser with this refined, almost feathery touch around the basket. Historically, it is the exact opposite of the touch he’s had with other people, which contributed to his reputation as volatile on the court and a challenge in the locker room. And explains why, to some NBA watchers, the Boogie Man is real.

The four-time NBA All-Star landed a modest one-year, $5.3 million contract with Golden State after rupturing his Achilles tendon in January 2018 while he was with the New Orleans Pelicans. After an injury-shortened season in Oakland, California, Cousins will appear in the playoffs for the first time this spring. Unlike his messy years in Sacramento or his brief time in New Orleans, the Warriors are replete with big names and outsize personalities, and Cousins doesn’t have to be the whole show. This past year, he’s gotten a chance to step back a little and consider which Boogie he’s going to bring to the court and into the future.

With a potential championship on the line and his career in the balance, this season is more than a comeback. This year, Boogie Cousins is trying on something new for size.

Shaquille Harrison working to bring his offense up to the level of his defense

Shaquille Harrison didn’t need to record a steal in his 11th straight game, as he did Wednesday night against the Wizards, to continue displaying his defensive prowess. After all, he recorded 20 of them in the previous 10 games and at one point led the NBA in steals per 36 minutes.

It’s his offense that the coaching staff has been working with him on, following one simple credo: Look at the rim. And he had the rim clearly in his sights when he made a nasty dunk over the Wizards’ Thomas Bryant on Wednesday night..

Harrison, who has perhaps taken greater advantage of his extended opportunity than any other Bull, entered the Wizards game shooting just 42.6 percent. That included a meager 24.7 percent from 3-point range.

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Harrison has demonstrated an ability to penetrate consistently. But with teams playing him as a driver and not a scorer, defenses have sagged off and played his kick-out pass.

“The coaches have been telling me to take what they give me,” Harrison said. “And slow down. When I’m going at a good pace and not 100 mph, I think things go well for me. But when I get sped up a little bit or get a little frenzied, things get out of hand. I feel from when I first got here to now, cheap nba jerseys from china
I’m miles ahead of where I was (offensively).”

Back setback: The sliver of hope Kris Dunn created Monday in New York about seeing value in playing even if for one game closed with news that Dunn’s sore back didn’t respond to his workout. Dunn didn’t even participate in the morning shootaround.

And while the team has not officially declared Dunn done for the season, that’s an extremely safe assumption.

“I would say it looks that way,” coach Jim Boylen said. “He just didn’t feel right while he was doing the workout. He didn’t feel like the workout got him loose or helped him.”

Dunn fielded a question about his offseason plans.

“You gotta take time to let the body heal and just get some rest,” he said. “And then once I get itching to pick up the basketball, I’ll do that.’’

Executive order: Otto Porter Jr. wouldn’t comment when asked for thoughts on the Wizards’ decision to fire Ernie Grunfeld, the franchise’s longtime top executive. Grunfeld, hired two months after the Bulls hired John Paxson in 2003, was one of the league’s longest-tenured executives along with Paxson, the Heat’s Pat Riley, the Mavericks’ Donnie Nelson, the Spurs’ R.C. Buford and the Celtics’ Danny Ainge.

Under Grunfeld, the Wizards amassed a 568-724 mark and qualified for eight playoffs with four first- and four second-round exits. The Bulls are 661-631 with 11 playoff appearances, one Eastern Conference finals appearance and seven first-round exits under Paxson.

Staff stuff: After originally committing to join Fred Hoiberg’s staff at Nebraska, Windy City Bulls coach Charlie Henry is now contemplating taking another college job or remaining with the G League, a source said.

Who Owns the Worst Playoff Meltdown? It Almost Has to Be the Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning were almost unstoppable this season, racing to 62 wins in 82 games and the best point total since the N.H.L.’s current system began in 2006.

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The Lightning scored 103 more goals than they surrendered, powered by Steven Stamkos’s 45. Other stars of the deep team were Nikita Kucherov, who led the league cheap nba jerseys
in points (128) and assists (87); and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was a rock in goal.

“It’s one of the best I’ve ever played with,” said Stamkos, an 11-year veteran, when asked to evaluate his team in January. “I have no concerns about us taking our foot off the gas.”

But that’s exactly what happened. The Lightning were swept in their best-of-seven series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and it was not even close. Tampa Bay was outscored by 19-8 over four games. Stamkos and Kucherov had been held pointless heading into Tuesday’s series finale, and a slight reawakening from the stars was not nearly enough to stave off a 7-3 defeat that ended their season.

Much hated-on LeBron James is living his ‘Kingdom Come’ season

Hours before the Los Angeles Lakers’ thrilling 129-128 road victory on Feb. 7 over the Boston Celtics, the last bright spot of the Lakers’ season, LeBron James brooded. Though title aspirations were faint, his team was then 27-27 and in playoff contention.

“There’s nothing I need to get in this league that I don’t already have,” James told Masslive.com after a shootaround at Boston’s TD Garden. “Everything else for me is just like icing on the cake. … Even though I love the process of everything I go through, to be able to compete every single night and put teams in position to come for championships … there’s nothing I’m chasing, or that I feel I need to end my career on.”

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The truth is James is a basketball anomaly who has always challenged basketball’s conventional wisdom.
James’ mood that night, and the Lakers’ season as a whole,cheap nba jerseys
brings to mind Jay-Z’s ninth album, and the idea that James is living through his Kingdom Come season. Grand hype met with mammoth disappointment, Kingdom was highly anticipated. Released in 2006, the project was Jay-Z’s post-retirement album, and his career’s worst.

“First game back,” Jay-Z said in 2013, ranking the project dead last in his discography. “Don’t shoot me.”

Jay-Z then, like James now, was already a legend with credentials for Hall of Fame status. But there were expectations that came with Jay-Z rhyming and painting pictures into mics. A standard of excellence that James is familiar with.

NIPSEY HUSSLE LOVED THE CULTURE — AND BASKETBALL WAS HIS FAVORITE

From celebrity basketball games to Los Angeles Lakers games with Young Jeezy and YG, Nipsey Hussle was an unabashed lover of basketball and a huge fan of his hometown team. Legendary Laker and current president of the franchise’s basketball operations, Magic Johnson, mourned Hussle yesterday. “I was so proud of Nipsey Hussle,” Johnson wrote on Instagram, “who became an astute businessman and created jobs for people who lived in South Central.”

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The relationship between the game and the Grammy Award-nominated Hussle was deep: He performed at halftime at the Staples Center; helped Russell Westbrook‘s foundation at Thanksgiving; partied with James Harden and Baron Davis (and Odell Beckham Jr.); and refurbished, with Puma, Wholesale nba jerseys
a basketball court in his own beloved Crenshaw neighborhood.

Most indelible, though, are the many images of Hussle and his longtime partner, Lauren London, sitting courtside at Lakers games. They seemed a kind of royalty, yes, but more like good people who made good with their creative work — people who’d created a family with each other. In these troubled times, the couple modeled for us a deep, fun and glamorous love. And then Hussle would stand to chop it up with Denzel Washington, or some other legend.

On Monday night, Hussle’s name was scrawled on the sneakers of NBA players across the league. In remembrance. The sadness and disbelief continue. As Johnson himself said: “Nipsey Hussle’s legacy will last forever.”

James Worthy sees similarities between Clippers’ and Lakers’ epic comebacks

Before the Clippers became kings of the epic postseason comebacks on Monday, the Lakers sat on the throne.

So when Hall of Famer James Worthy tuned back in late Monday night to the Clippers’ historic rally from 31 points down in the third quarter to snatch Game 2 of the Western Conference first-round series against the Golden State Warriors, the former Lakers forward smiled and reminisced about how such an amazing feat can be accomplished.

The Clippers’ 135-131 win over the Warriors pushed the Lakers’ 29-point comeback in a 97-95 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics in Game 4 of the 1989 conference semifinals to second best.

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Worthy explained how those types of phenomenons take place.

“Unlike golf when you’re down two strokes, you hardly ever are going to get that back. But in basketball, it’s a game of moments,” Worthy said. “And it’s funny cheap nba jerseys
how momentum can take you to another level. It only takes about five minutes really to get the job done if you’re zoning in, especially on the defensive end.

“Now you got to be getting points off of both ends. If I’m not mistaken, I think the Clippers may have done that. They hit some big threes. Back when we made our comeback against the SuperSonics, we were getting points off our offense. You had to double Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and I, and we had [Michael] Cooper and Byron [Scott] shooting the threes. We were getting the threes and we were getting steals and running. It was about the pace of the game with us.”

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Worthy saw many similarities between the Lakers’ and Clippers’ comeback wins.

He had 12 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter for the Lakers. Clippers guard Lou Williams had 29 of his 36 points in the second half.

Cooper was the tenacious, take-no-prisoners defender for the Lakers. Patrick Beverley is the in-your-face, unwavering defender and agitator for the Clippers.
“You could smell that blood,” Worthy said. “You know when you’re better than somebody. I’m not saying that the Clippers thought that they were better than Golden State, but they had the ‘Beverley Effect.’ When you have that kind of chemistry and cohesiveness, he’s the pulse. It was Coop for us. So when you feel that, sometimes you can act on it and they did.”

The Lakers scored only 12 points in the first quarter against Seattle, which relocated to become the Oklahoma City Thunder, and were down by 29 points twice early in the second quarter.

Which team will LeBron James head to after defeat in the NBA finals?

 

In some respects you should feel sorry for the Golden State Warriors. They’ve just won a second straight championship, their third in four years, and yet they’re nowhere near the biggest story in the league. Enjoy the parade, Warriors, just don’t be offended if our attentions are elsewhere: LeBron James may well be on the move.

After all, someone wins the NBA finals every year – and sometimes it’s not even the Warriors. But it’s a much rarer occasion that the Best Player In The Game (And Possibly Of All Time) is facing free agency.

James, understandably for a player of his talents, has always had an eye on his legacy so he places great importance on setting himself up to win further championships. How exactly he plans to do that is still unclear. Let’s explore his likely landing places.

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If James is looking for a team that can automatically challenge the ridiculously stacked Golden State Warriors, the Rockets are the obvious option. While it’s going to take some financial maneuvering that would boggle the mind of even the most devoted NBA capologist, there’s a possibility that the Rockets could add James to a core that contains James Harden, most likely the MVP of the 2017-18 regular season and Chris Paul, a Hall of Fame caliber point guard. Keep in mind that before Paul’s injury, the Rockets were in position to knock the Warriors out of the playoffs this year. Adding James would instantly make Houston the biggest threat to the Warriors’ reign, well, ever.

Pro: James’s best chance to win a championship immediately.
Con: A continued, never-ending discussion about how James only won by pairing up with already established superstars.

2) Philadelphia 76ers
While it’s fun to imagine James with the Rockets’ All-Star cast, there is an intriguing option that doesn’t effectively render the entire Eastern Conference irrelevant. The 76ers have spent the last few years building a young, talented team by ignoring the on-court product and building through the draft. James’s best long-term chances may be signing with a team that already has two potential superstars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Can you imagine this team growing under the wing of James? Celtics fans can, and are, cringing right now.

Pro: Points for doing it “the right way.”
Con: Those points won’t count against the Warriors in the 2019 NBA finals. Questions over whether James And Simmons’s games complement each other.

3) Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron has been flirting with the Lakers, cheap nba jerseys
the marquee franchise in the league, for a long time. Long enough, in fact, for the Lakers to have time to set up their payroll in advance to give them space to sign two max free-agents this summer. They’ve been pretty lousy recently, but if the Lakers add James and, say, Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George, they would be transformed. The Lakers hope that their place in basketball history, not to mention their status as the ultimate nexus of celebrity culture and sports, is enough to attract James, because after all that planning, no other player will seem worth it.

 

LeBron James hailed as hero on NBA return to Cleveland as Lakers beat Cavaliers

Eight years after he was treated like a villain in Cleveland, LeBron James was welcomed back properly.

Back on the court where he performed for 11 seasons, and under the title banner he helped raise, James returned to Cleveland and rallied the Los Angeles Lakers to a 109-105 win on Wednesday night over the Cavaliers, who played their best game of the season against their former teammate but couldn’t stop him when it mattered most. James finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. He also scored or assisted on 11 straight points as the Lakers overcame a 99-91 deficit in the fourth quarter.

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But basketball took a backseat to James’s homecoming, which was so different than his return in 2010, when Cleveland fans unleashed their fury on him after he had left the team to play for the Miami Heat. There were no profane chants this time. No derogatory signs. No venom. Only love, and James felt it.

“From the time we landed yesterday, it just felt cheap nba jerseys
a different way,” he said. “I’m a different person. We’re all different from eight years ago, both good and bad. But more importantly, this experience has been great. So it’s all about growth and we all have grown from that moment eight years ago. So I kind of leave the past in the past and always focus on the present and see what happens in the future.”

James was saluted by the Cavs with a video tribute during a timeout in the first quarter. James was touched by the presentation. He bit his lower lip while walking back onto court and pointed to all corners of the building in appreciation, his chance to reconnect with a fan base he’ll always share a special, if not complicated, relationship.

“I appreciate these fans, just as much as they appreciate me,” he said. “Every single night we stepped on the floor, they always showed their appreciation to not only myself but to my teammates over these 11 years, especially the last four years those championship runs that we were making. So that was just my salute to them for them appreciating what I was able to accomplish with my teammates and coaches along those four years.”

Elsewhere, two of the teams expected to challenge for the title in the postseason continue to struggle. The Warriors lost their fourth game in a row and their sixth in the last 10 while the Celtics lost to one of the worst teams in the league, the New York Knicks. The Warriors’ played without Draymond Green and Stephen Curry in their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder but are expected to find their form again once Curry returns in the coming weeks.