Who will be the NBA's surprise team in 2010-11?

Who will be the NBA's surprise team in 2010-11?

Friday, Sept. 24, 2010
10:35 PM

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

A historic summer for the NBA has passed and for the Bulls, while they didn't acquire quite the star power many expected andor hoped for, optimism runs high, both within the organization and throughout the team's fan base. With the offseason coming to an end, the time to fully delve into the upcoming NBA season is here. Instead of a traditional season preview, issues both throughout the league and in Chicago will be probed daily here on CSNChicago.com up until the squad officially convenes for training camp toward the end of September.

16. Who will be the league's surprise team and which team will be the most disappointing?

The Sacramento Kings aren't the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tyreke Evans isn't Kevin Durant. And while it's improbable the Kings make the drastic leap their fellow young-gun Thunder did last season, it shouldn't be completely unexpected that they are a much improved squad in the 2010-11.

There are some other choices to make some positive headway in comparison to their dismal 2009-10 campaigns--Washington, if Gilbert Arenas resembles his old self and meshes with top pick John Wall and the rest of the Wizards' young talent; New Orleans, with a healthy Chris Paul, new coaching staff, front office and some underrated offseason additions; Philadelphia, with veteran head coach Doug Collins, a new regime calling the shots and a versatile and youthful Sixers roster; New Jersey or whatever team ends up with Carmelo Anthony--but Sacramento is more of a sure bet.

Evans, the reigning Rookie of the Year, has a chance to eventually become a superstar in the league. His powerful 6-foot-6 frame, the versatility to play all three perimeter positions (although he's best with the ball in his hands), incredible scoring instincts and a lot of room for improvement all indicate stardom. Most impressive, however, is how he injected a semblance of hope to a team that had been floundering since their halcyon days last decade, when Chris Webber and company had them in contention on an annual basis.

It's far from a one-man gang in "Sac-Town," as Evans is only the centerpiece of the organization's youth movement. Power forwards Jason Thompson and Carl Landry (the latter was acquired last season in a deal that sent former Kings leading scorer to Houston) have complementary games, as Thompson is a more of a face-up, finesse player with size and length, while the undersized Landry possesses a physical mentality. Young wings Donte Greene and Omri Casspi are both long, athletic and active types. Greene has displayed flashes of potential with his shooting range and athleticism, but has lacked consistency, and Casspi, a native of Israel, was one of the better rookies in the first half of last season before struggling a bit down the stretch.

Paired with Evans in the backcourt is the solid and underrated Beno Udrih, who offers a safety net similar to what former Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich provided Derrick Rose early in his career. Oft-injured swingman Francisco Garcia provides long-range shooting, while free-agent acquisition Antoine Wright adds some experience and toughness on the defensive end.

One of the more overlooked offseason moves was Sacramento's swap with Philadelphia, in which the Kings swapped big man Spencer Hawes and former Bull Andres Nocioni for shot-blocking center Samuel Dalembert. Hawes simply wasn't panning out as expected and "Noce" appears to be in the twilight of his career, and Dalembert--whose contract expires after this season, giving Sacramento some flexibility going into next summer--fills a real need for his new team with his defense and rebounding.

But perhaps the biggest stride Sacramento took this offseason occurred back in June, when they selected Kentucky big man DeMarcus Cousins with the fifth overall pick and Marshall big man Hassan Whiteside in the second round. Both players were considered steals, but their pre-draft stock dropped for reasons that concerned some observers.

Cousins teamed up with the aforementioned Wall during their lone college season, but was hardly in his shadow. However, unfounded doubts about his character and work ethic plagued him, and his perceived adversarial stance toward the media didn't help. Regardless, Cousins' combination of size, strength, shooting touch, footwork, rebounding and passing ability--he's viewed as having Derrick Coleman-like qualities, in both a positive and negative sense--made his selection a no-brainer, something confirmed by a strong summer-league performance in Las Vegas, at which fellow youngsters Evans, Thompson and Landry were in attendance to provide encouragement and build camaraderie. It wouldn't be a shock to see the Alabama native contend for Rookie of the Year.

Whiteside, on the other hand, is considered much more of a project. Unlike Cousins, he didn't play in the spotlight in college (or even high school, for that matter) and although he put up gaudy stats during his freshman campaign, his maturity was questioned to the point that he went from being a potential late-lottery pick all the way to the second round. While he needs to add weight and adjust to the level of competition, his long-term potential as an athletic shot-blocking phenom with uncanny quickness and range on offense (he's been compared to a young Marcus Camby) is worth the gamble.

Sacramento's collection of young talent--the 29-year-old Dalembert is their oldest projected rotation player; Wright, Garcia and Udrih are the only other players who have played at least five seasons in the league--make it unlikely that they'll make the postseason in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. This is a team, however, that jumped out to a hot start last season--Bulls fans may remember their 35-point comeback win last December at the United Center--before being beset by injuries and the inconsistency of youth. But with a such a talented young core (hopefully any immaturity issues will be mitigated by being in sleepy Sacramento), Kings coach Paul Westphal's up-tempo approach and the example of the Durant-led Thunder as inspiration, the potential is there to be a spoiler--not just in the future, but right now.

In terms of disappointments, a handful of teams stick out as obvious candidates. In the wake of Amar'e Stoudemire's departure, Phoenix could struggle. Speaking of Stoudemire, the Knicks might not be as formidable as some think, even with players better suited for Mike D'Antoni's run-and-gun style. Memphis, after a better-than-expected 2009-10 season, re-signed swingman Rudy Gay to a huge extension, but otherwise didn't make many significant offseason upgrades.

The Charlotte Bobcats, though, are a team on the verge of a true letdown. Following the franchise's first-ever postseason appearance, starting center Tyson Chandler was dealt to Dallas and starting point guard Raymond Felton signed with New York. Not exactly the recipe for success.

Forward Gerald Wallace, the face of the franchise, made his first All-Star appearance, but "Crash" isn't regarded as a true go-to guy. Stephen Jackson enjoyed a renaissance of sorts after being traded from Golden State early last season, but it's a well-known fact that Jackson doesn't necessarily deal with losing situations well. That pair, however, should be the least of Larry Brown's concerns.

Young backup point guard D.J. Augustin will have the first opportunity to replace Felton as the starter--unless rumors of New Jersey's Devin Harris being shipped to Charlotte as part of a proposed four-team deal for Carmelo Anthony, turn out to be substantiated; Augustin could be traded to the Nets in that scenario--while former Illinois prep star Shaun Livingston parlayed a solid comeback season in Washington into a free-agent deal in Charlotte. Erick Dampier, who came to Charlotte in return for Chandler, was recently waived by the Bobcats (Dampier is currently sifting between potential offers from Miami and Houston, among other teams), leaving Chicago native Nazr Mohammed as the likely starter at center, with free-agent acquisition Kwame Brown--in an ironic reunion with Bobcats owner and Bulls legend Michael Jordan, who selected Brown with the first overall pick for Washington back in 2001--as the primary backup. Boris Diaw--also rumored to be in the potential Anthony deal; the Frenchman would be shipped to Utah--has been somewhat underwhelming as Charlotte's starting power forward, where he shares time with former Bull Tyrus Thomas, the recipient of an extension this summer.

Even if Charlotte's starters are considered serviceable (the addition of Harris would certainly be an upgrade), the bench is full of question marks. Youngsters like Gerald Henderson, Derrick Brown and Chicago native Sherron Collins are basically unproven, while the likes of shooter Matt Carroll, forward Dominic McGuire, center DeSagana Diop and veteran Eduardo Najera don't strike fear into the hearts of the opposition.

Last year's Bobcats team was successful because of a focus on defense, sharing the ball and buying into Brown's coaching philosophy. But the NBA is a game where talent often prevails and Charlotte simply doesn't have enough of it. Not only will the Bobcats struggle to meet raised expectations, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if the mercurial Brown decides not to ride out the storm.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

CSN announces its 2016-17 Bulls season coverage details

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CSN announces its 2016-17 Bulls season coverage details

Pre-Season Action begins Oct. 3, First Regular Season game on Oct. 29, Plus – Live Pre/Post-Game Shows all season long and comprehensive nightly coverage on ‘SportsNet Central,’ Highlight 2016-17 Schedule Live streaming coverage of EVERY Pre-Season and Regular Season Bulls telecast – including all Pre/Post-Game Shows – to be made available to authenticated subscribers on CSNChicago.com and via the NBC Sports app

CSNChicago.com to feature 24/7 reporting from Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill; website to also feature live video of Post-Game Press Conferences

“Bulls Pulse” Social Media Center, Daily Player/Coaches Interviews, Game Highlights, plus In-Game Twitter updates from CSN talent and much more!

Chicago, IL (September 28, 2016) – Comcast SportsNet, the television home for the most games and most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Bulls, is once again ready to deliver another thrill-packed season of NBA excitement with 42 live regular season Bulls games (21 home, 21 away), including in-depth pre-game and post-game shows, and the most thorough 24/7 online Bulls coverage to date on CSNChicago.com!

In addition -- EVERY pre-season and regular season Bulls telecast on Comcast SportsNet, including surrounding Bulls Pre/Postgame Live coverage, will once again be streamed live on CSNChicago.com and will be made available via the NBC Sports app on tablets and smart phones.  The live stream of CSN’s Bulls telecasts is presented by Xfinity.  Authenticated Comcast SportsNet Chicago subscribers can watch live Bulls action from anywhere in the United States.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  For a full list of carriers and more information about CSN Chicago’s live streaming service of Bulls games, viewers are urged to visit the following link: http://www.csnchicago.com/live-faq .  

The 2016-17 Chicago Bulls regular season on Comcast SportsNet/CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app gets underway on Saturday, October 29, as three-time NBA Champion/12-time NBA All-Star/Chicago native Dwyane Wade & NBA Champion/four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo join two-time NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler, along with Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic, Doug McDermott, Bobby Portis, Tony Snell, newcomer Robin Lopez, and rookie Denzel Valentine among others, as the Bulls host the Central Division rival Indiana Pacers at 7:00 PM CT, featuring the always-entertaining announcing tandem of Neil Funk and Stacey King (NOTE: Coverage gets underway with an expanded, one-hour edition of Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light at 6:00 PM LIVE from the United Center with hosts Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue).  Kia Bulls Postgame Live immediately follows the game featuring Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg’s post-game press conference, along with live locker room player interviews and complete post-game analysis.  Plus – CSNChicago.com Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill will make regular on-air appearances throughout the season on Bulls Pre/Postgame Live and during home game telecasts.

In addition to the 42 regular season games, Comcast SportsNet/CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app will also televise six Bulls pre-season games starting on Monday, October 3 at 7:00 PM, when the Bulls face the Milwaukee Bucks live at the United Center.  Additional pre-season match-ups will air on Oct. 6 at Indiana, Oct. 14 vs. Cleveland, Oct. 15 at Milwaukee, Oct. 17 vs. Charlotte, and Oct. 20 vs. Atlanta (in Omaha, NB). 

Highlights from this season’s Bulls regular season schedule on Comcast SportsNet/CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app features 27 big games against Eastern Conference foes, ten of which are against Central Division opponents.  Among the key highlights on this season’s Bulls telecast schedule features a huge United Center battle against LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers (Dec. 2), a return home for former Bulls C/F Pau Gasol as the San Antonio Spurs invade the UC (Dec. 8), a home match-up against Dwyane Wade’s former club, the Miami Heat (Jan. 27), a road battle against back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry & the 73-9 regular season/Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors (Jan. 8), a road match-up against former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and his Minnesota Timberwolves (Feb. 12), along with a late season visit to Madison Square Garden when the Bulls take on former team All-Stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and the New York Knicks (Apr. 4). (NOTE: Comcast SportsNet/CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app’s complete 2016-17 pre-season and regular season Bulls schedule appears at the end of this release).

For the ninth-straight season, veteran Bulls play-by-play announcer Neil Funk will be teamed up with former Bulls standout center Stacey King, who will handle color analysis all season long.  SportsNet Central’s Bulls beat reporter Chuck Garfien will also be the primary courtside reporter for Bulls home game telecasts this season. 

Bulls Pregame Live presented by Coors Light (featuring hosts Mark Schanowski, former NBA/Bulls/Fighting Illini standout Kendall Gill, and four-time NBA champion center, including three titles with the Bulls, Will Perdue) is a half-hour pre-game show featuring a breakdown of the evening’s match-up, interviews with coaches and players and a look at the other games around the NBA.  Bulls Pregame Live will air prior to every Bulls game this season with additional weeknight Bulls pre-game discussion airing on SportsTalk Live presented by The Chevy Silverado.  Featuring host David Kaplan, SportsTalk Live will also be the place to hear from numerous Bulls/NBA experts all season long.

Immediately following every game this season, viewers can look forward to the most comprehensive post-game wrap-up show on Kia Bulls Postgame Live.  Kia Bulls Postgame Live (hosted by Schanowski/Gill/Perdue) will also feature live coverage of Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg’s post-game press conference and live locker room interviews with Bulls players.  Following the majority of evening Kia Bulls Postgame Live airings, viewers can catch GMC SportsNet Central at 10:00 & 10:30 PM and SportsNet Central presented by CLR at 12 Midnight with the most complete recap of the day’s top local and national sports news. 

One pre-season and one regular season Bulls game is currently scheduled to be telecast on Comcast SportsNet Plus (see attached schedule).  Comcast SportsNet Plus (CSN+) telecasts are provided to Comcast SportsNet affiliates and distributed to viewers when two live events are scheduled simultaneously.  CSN+ is available in high-definition on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area/South Bend, IN & on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 285 in the Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets, along with being made available in DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, RCN, and WOW! homes among others; viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details). Comcast Cable and RCN subscribers can also watch all CSN+ games in standard definition on CLTV. 

In addition to its live stream of every Bulls pre-season/regular season/playoff telecast, Comcast SportsNet’s website, CSNChicago.com, delivers comprehensive 24/7 Bulls coverage all season long, including the following highlights: 

  • Live stream of Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg's post-game press conferences following EVERY home game telecast.
  • Video highlights from every Bulls game, including in-game highlights at halftime.  Pre-game interviews from team practices will also be provided, as well as extensive post-game reaction from the locker room and analysis from the “Kia Bulls Postgame Live” team.
  • “Bulls Pulse,” a one-stop social media and behind-the-scenes destination that reveals the latest real time trending topics, player buzz and expert insight from Twitter and Instagram.  Plus, “Bulls Pulse” aggregates all Bulls player tweets, along with fan tweets that utilize the hashtag #BullsTalk.
  • “Bulls In-Game Live,” – featuring STATS Inc.’s enhanced Game Zone real-time tracking system – is a second screen platform for PCs, tablets and mobile devices that combine state-of-the-art infographics, data visualization of real-time statistics and game info with rich social interactivity tied to CSN Chicago’s live game broadcasts.
  • Push Alerts: CSN Chicago will deliver Bulls push notifications for breaking team and player news, “Insider” reports, plus game reminder alerts via CSN Chicago’s SportsTalk app for iOS and Android devices.
  • BullsTalk, CSNChicago.com’s high-velocity, real-time, comprehensive Bulls news and opinion section featuring original commentary, reporting and aggregation. BullsTalk contains interactive content with continually updated insights from the network’s talent, which includes the new #BullsTalk podcast.
  • CSNChicago.com Bulls “Insider” Vincent Goodwill enters his second full season on the Bulls beat. Follow him on Twitter @vgoodwill for the latest team/player news and inside access 24/7.  Bulls digital reporter and producer Mark Strotman (@markstrot) will also provide Bulls and NBA reports/features on the beat with Goodwill. 
  • @CSNBulls on Twitter provides 24/7 full team coverage, giveaways, fan photos and game day news straight from the United Center and across the country.
  • Expanded coverage from Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, Will Perdue and Chuck Garfien, CSN Chicago’s Bulls reporting team will provide pre-game and post-game coverage throughout the playoffs, along with digital content contribution and videos for CSNChicago.com throughout the season.  Follow them on Twitter @MarkSchanowski, @KendallG13, @Will_Perdue32, and @ChuckGarfien.
  • Bulls coverage on CSNChicago.com/Bulls is presented by Toyota.

COMCAST SPORTSNET CHICAGO

CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports app

 

2016 - 2017 Chicago Bulls Schedule

 

Pre-season:

  1. Mon, Oct 3           vs Milwaukee                            7:00 pm  
  2. Thu, Oct 6            @ Indiana                                7:00 pm
  3. Fri, Oct 14            vs Cleveland                             7:00pm         CSN+
  4. Sat, Oct 15           @ Milwaukee                            7:30 pm
  5. Mon, Oct 17         vs Charlotte                              7:00 pm
  6. Thu, Oct 20          @ Atlanta (Omaha)                   7:00 pm

Regular Season:

  1. Sat, Oct 29           vs Indiana                                7:00 pm
  2. Mon, Oct 31         @ Brooklyn                              6:30 pm
  3. Sat, Nov 5            @ Indiana                                6:00 pm
  4. Wed, Nov 9          @ Atlanta                                 6:30 pm        
  5. Thu, Nov 17         @ Utah                                    9:30 pm        
  6. Sun, Nov 20         @ Los Angeles Lakers              8:30 pm
  7. Tue, Nov 22         @ Denver                                 8:00 pm
  8. Wed, Nov 30        vs Los Angeles Lakers              7:00 pm
  9. Fri, Dec 2             vs Cleveland                             7:00 pm        
  10. Mon, Dec 5          vs Portland                               7:00 pm
  11. Tue, Dec 6           @ Detroit                                 6:30 pm
  12. Thu, Dec 8           vs San Antonio                         8:30 pm        
  13. Fri, Dec 16           vs Milwaukee                            7:00 pm
  14. Mon, Dec 19         vs Detroit                                 7:00 pm
  15. Wed, Dec 21        vs Washington                          7:00 pm
  16. Mon, Dec 26         vs Indiana                                7:00 pm
  17. Wed, Dec 28        vs Brooklyn                              7:00 pm
  18. Fri, Dec 30           @ Indiana                                3:00 pm
  19. Mon, Jan 2           vs Charlotte                              7:00 pm
  20. Mon, Jan 9           vs Oklahoma City                     7:00 pm
  21. Tue, Jan 10          @ Washington                          6:00 pm
  22. Sat, Jan 14           vs New Orleans                        4:00 pm
  23. Tue, Jan 17          vs Dallas                                  7:00 pm         CSN+
  24. Wed, Jan 25         vs Atlanta                                 7:00 pm
  25. Fri, Jan 27            vs Miami                                  7:00 pm        
  26. Sun, Jan 29          vs Philadelphia                          6:00 pm
  27. Fri, Feb 3             @ Houston                               7:00 pm
  28. Wed, Feb 8          @ Golden State                        9:30 pm        
  29. Sun, Feb 12         @ Minnesota                            2:30 pm
  30. Tue, Feb 14          vs Toronto                                7:00 pm
  31. Tue, Feb 28          vs Denver                                 7:00 pm
  32. Mon, Mar 6          @ Detroit                                 6:30 pm
  33. Wed, Mar 8          @ Orlando                               6:00 pm
  34. Mon, Mar 13         @ Charlotte                              6:00 pm
  35. Wed, Mar 15        vs Memphis                              7:00 pm
  36. Fri, Mar 17           @ Washington                          6:00 pm
  37. Tue, Mar 21         @ Toronto                                6:00 pm        
  38. Sun, Mar 26         @ Milwaukee                            2:30 pm
  39. Sun, Apr 2            @ New Orleans                        5:00 pm
  40. Tue, Apr 4            @ New York                             7:00 pm        
  41. Thu, April 6           @ Philadelphia                          6:00 pm
  42. Mon, April 10        vs Orlando                               7:00 pm                                             

6 pre-season, 42 regular season (21 Home, 21 Road regular season)

Total 48 Games

 

All Times Central Time/Schedule Subject to Change

 

Fred Hoiberg, Jimmy Butler rave about Rajon Rondo's voice, basketball IQ

Fred Hoiberg, Jimmy Butler rave about Rajon Rondo's voice, basketball IQ

With one Bulls practice in the books and one more to go in the night session, it was evident from the primary parties that Rajon Rondo has earned instant trust and credibility with his play.

Or more pointedly, his brain and his mouth.

“He’s got the best voice on the team,” head coach Fred Hoiberg said. “When you have point guard out there who can get you into something and talk the way he does, that sets the tone for everybody.”

Apparently the ultra-intelligent point guard has been a galvanizing force since the team starting convening last month for informal workouts, as Hoiberg believes Rondo has grasped his system instantly and brought some of the younger teammates along.

“The biggest thing that I’ve been most impressed with with Rajon is the minute he stepped on this floor when he got back here in August is he pulled everybody together,” Hoiberg said. “If you have a guy not only offensively getting you into something but defensively making sure guys are pointing and talking and making sure guys are pointing and talking and getting back and matched up in transition, that’s where it starts. He’s been here. He’s been great. He’s a guy who you can watch film with in September before we got rolling here in camp. He got us off to a great start.”

Needing Rondo to be vocal will be a plus for Hoiberg considering the coach’s soft-spoken approach, and those two being on one accord will be a key considering Rondo’s history with coaches over time.

Rondo’s intelligence, which most consider to be genius-like, has already come in handy and will help with the perimeter adjustment of fitting himself, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade together.

“Like I always say, when you put good basketball players out there on the floor you just go,” Butler said. “Everything just falls into place, falls into line. You don’t have to worry about too much of anything. And with him he’s an incredible leader. He just wants everybody to be successful. He’s going to put you in position to be just that.”

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Rondo has led the league in assists three times and his career 8.7 assists-per-game average is third among active players behind Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers) and John Wall (Washington Wizards).

“He has been around the league a long time,” Hoiberg said. “He studies the league. If he sees a small guy guarding Jimmy, he’s going to find a way to get him the ball on the block. The more you can have those guys recognizing things on the floor---if Robin Lopez is coming down and I have to yell, ‘Get the ball to Robin’ then we have issues -- and Rondo obviously will be a big help with that.”

So yeah, he’ll have the ball in his hands plenty.

“He’s super-smart. He really sees things before they even develop out there on the basketball floor, so it makes everybody’s job a lot easier," Butler said. "And not only is he leading the team on offense, but he’s constantly talking on defense, so he’s letting everybody know where they have to be. Wade’s the same way, so he makes everybody’s job easier as well, and you learn from that, so you just follow suit for the most part.’’

Butler joked that there will often be times where a Rondo pass zigs while he’ll be zagging early in camp while chemistry is developing, saying “I’m sorry, Rajon, because you’re going to definitely get a turnover from me one game,” and that he won’t be opposed to Rondo getting on him or anybody else in the meantime.

“I’m good with that,” Butler said. “I’ll challenge him right back if I see something that he’s not doing correctly. I want him to hold me accountable, me hold him accountable, everybody holding everybody accountable, because then everybody is going to learn from their mistakes and not to it again.”