Bulls' Robinson, Radmanovic excited about NBA's potential return to Seattle


Bulls' Robinson, Radmanovic excited about NBA's potential return to Seattle

With reports that the Sacramento Kings could sell their franchise to a Seattle-based ownership group in the near future, two Bulls in particular were especially pleased with the news.

Seattle native Nate Robinson and Vladimir Radmanovic, a member of the SuperSonics the name of Seattles franchise until its 2008 move to Oklahoma City for the first five seasons of his career, shared their enthusiasm about professional basketball returning to the city.

For our city, its big-time. Theyve been waiting for that for a few years now and the fans pretty much got their prayers answered, so for me, of course Im happy, just because my familys out there. My kids love to watch me play basketball, so going back home for me, Ill be ecstatic, said Robinson, who grew up in Seattle, is the son of a former Seattle Seahawks football player and attended the University of Washington, which is located in Seattle. I went to Gary Paytons basketball camps, Shawn Kemps basketball camps, Detlef Schrempf, I did it all, so I grew up a big Sonic fan and Im happy theyre back.

I was kind of ticked off when the Sonics moved, but it happens. But be patient and now look, were back, added the Bulls backup point guard, who admitted that while he rooted for the Sonics in the 1996 NBA Finals, he wasnt heartbroken when they lost to the Bulls, due to being a Michael Jordan fan. They have to give the franchise back its original name, which was ceded by Oklahoma Citys ownership. Thats a must. It wouldnt be the same. Seattle Kings? No way. The city wouldnt let that happen.

Radmanovic chimed in: Im excited. Im glad they got the team back. That town deserves to have a basketball team and Im sure theyll make the best out of it.

It was great. I was lucky enough to be there with some great players and we had some success. Not as good as we wanted to be, but we had a lot of support from the people in Seattle, continued the seldom-used reserve, who had perhaps the best years of his career with the Sonics, playing alongside the likes of Ray Allen on the organizations last playoff team in Seattle. That was a little disappointing, knowing that Seattle had a great fanbase already and to take away a team from them was a bad thing to do, in my opinion. But obviously, not many people from Sacramento are going to be happy about taking a team from Sacramento, so thats how it goes.

Even Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau seemed pleased about the potential move, saying before Wednesday nights game, Its a great basketball city and I dont want to speculate on teams being sold until it happens, but Seattle itself is a great city and I think it would be great for the league, so hopefully, at some point, there will be a team there again.

Taj Gibson starting for Bulls on Opening Night puts spotlight on shooting

Taj Gibson starting for Bulls on Opening Night puts spotlight on shooting

The Bulls’ starting five is set and healthy before Thursday’s season opener against the Boston Celtics, with Fred Hoiberg announcing that Taj Gibson will start at power forward after his strong preseason.

Or, if one chooses to be a little more realistic, Gibson won the competition in large part due to Nikola Mirotic’s underwhelming showing, as Mirotic came into camp as the favorite with his outside shooting making him a more natural fit offensively.

With Gibson’s insertion, the Bulls will be one of the worst 3-point shooting starting fives in the league, although Mirotic and Doug McDermott can balance things out when they’re on the floor.

“We feel like he has played excellent basketball throughout the preseason,” said Hoiberg of Gibson. “He’s been good in practices. We’ve talked to our guys about that. Niko has had a couple good practices in a row now. You try to get him in a good rhythm coming out of the gate. But that’s the way we’re going to start.”

Hoiberg has touted Mirotic’s practices as being stellar, but he struggled though most of the preseason. It seemed like Hoiberg was attempting to give Mirotic the benefit of the doubt before announcing what should’ve been obvious to those who’ve watched the Bulls in the preseason, that Gibson was the better performer.

“Taj is a fighter,” said Jimmy Butler, who wasn’t surprised with the outcome. “That’s one thing you know you’re going to get from him. He’s one of the toughest guys that we have, somebody that’s always working.”

One of Butler’s main concerns last season was that the Bulls lost their defensive identity, that their toughness left the building when Tom Thibodeau was fired and the offensive-minded Hoiberg was ushered in.

Presumably, Gibson’s nod can be taken as a return to the Bulls’ roots—although anyone in their right mind wouldn’t be wrong to think if Mirotic had been the least bit consistent, he would be a starter and Gibson would be a reserve.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“I think everybody is trying, man,” Butler said. “I’m not going to say that we’ve got the best defenders, that’s for sure, but as long as you’re putting in the effort. Sometimes good defense is just getting in the damn way. I’m telling you.”

The Bulls finished as a middle of the pack team in terms of defensive efficiency last season, but experienced a steep decline after the All-Star break, leading to their first lottery appearance since 2008.

“As long as guys are out there competing, we’ll take it if someone hits a tough shot over you or whatever,” Butler said. “When we think about the offensive end entirely too much that’s when we get down a lot.”

With Dwyane Wade, Butler and Rajon Rondo needing Mirotic to provide the necessary floor spacing to keep defenses honest, it means there’s more pressure on Hoiberg to stagger minutes and alter his rotations early in games.

Wade has shot the ball well in the preseason, but is a career 28-percent shooter from deep. Rondo shot 36.5 percent last season but like Wade, is at 28 percent for his career.

Butler is the best of the bunch, having shot 37.8 percent in 2014-15 but dipped to 31 percent last year, and is a 32.8 percent shooter for his career.

“We just have to step up, take them, shoot them with confidence like we do every day in practice,” Butler said. “I think we’ll be fine. As long as we’re guarding, the offense will take care of itself. We’re constantly in attack mode. There’s more than just shooting 3s.”

Which means a tough task just became all the more complicated. Hoiberg typically replaced Wade with McDermott midway through the first quarter and then brings Wade back to finish up in place of Butler.

More tinkering and some downright wizardry will have to be worked for things to go smoothly—but then again, it doesn’t have to be smooth to be effective.

“if we can things staggered it the right way---and we’ll continue to look at things---what you see on Thursday might not be what you see in the middle of the season,” Hoiberg said. “We have to start somewhere. We’re comfortable with the lineup and the rotation plan we have.”

CSN's Top 25 players in the NBA

CSN's Top 25 players in the NBA

No matter how much you rely on analytics and logarithms in determining who are the best players, ultimately it becomes about judgment.

Should win shares have a greater value than a player’s winning percentage in the playoffs? Is defensive rating a better barometer about a defender’s ability than say, defensive field goal percentage differential? And how much do you weigh how they fare versus playoff teams and non-playoff teams? A legitimate case can be made for all those numbers and many, many more, being used to rank the top 25 players.

Realizing such an endeavor should not be a one-person job, I enlisted the help of my fellow CSN Insiders, compiled our rankings and voila! We made a beautiful, bouncing list of more than two dozen players.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

The scoring for this is pretty simple: Each Insider picked 25 players, ranking them from No. 1 through 25. Their number one pick received 25 points, No. 2 got 24, No. 3 got 23 and … you get the picture.

Without any further delay, here is the first annual CSN Top 25 NBA Players list in addition to our "others receiving votes" group.