Bulls Beat Trail Blazers, Just like the ’92 Finals (Sort of)

By Paul M. Banks

The Chicago Bulls welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to the United Center tonight. Sure, it’s not the 1992 NBA Finals, but it is an important contest with playoff implications on both sides.

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Turkoglu Bringing More Euro to Toronto


By: David Kay

In recent years, Toronto has become the “Euro” team of the NBA.  That transformation began in 2006 when the club hired former Benetton Treviso general manager Maurizi Gherardini as the first European to hold a senior management position in the league.  With his knowledge of overseas basketball, the Raptors began to stock their roster with unfamiliar names like Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, Jorge Garbajosa, Carlos Delfino, and Roko Ukic.  Now, Hedo Turkoglu is continuing that trend by bringing his Turkish roots to the Raptors.

After he opted out of the final year of his contract with the Magic that would have paid him about $7.3 million, everybody expected Turkoglu to join the on-the-rise Portland Trailblazers this off-season since Orlando already moved on by trading for Vince Carter.  Once the free agency period began, Blazers head coach Nate McMillan wasted no time in courting the Turkish star and a deal between the two sides seemed imminent.  Instead, Turkoglu spurned an all but done deal with the Blazers and agreed to a five-year, $53 million with the Raptors.  This decision was reportedly made because Turkoglu and his wife preferred living in Toronto where there is a larger Turkish population.

This is a huge get for the Raptors who were desperate to land an impact wing player.  Turkoglu proved to be a go-to scorer with the Magic this past season, especially during their run to the NBA Finals.  His size and shooting ability make him a difficult match-up for opposing teams.  Combine his versatility with Bargnani’s capability to step out and knock down the three-pointer and Calderon’s three-point range, and Toronto should be one of the most dangerous outside teams in the league.

hedo-and-wife1His signing is even more crucial with the likely departure of Chris Bosh, who is entering the final year of his contract.  If the Raptors decide to trade Bosh during the season (which they are likely to do as to ensure they don’t lose him to free agency and get nothing in return), Turkoglu can help fill the massive void he would leave.  If somehow Bosh ends up staying in Toronto past this season, the Raptors suddenly have an effective one-two punch of Bosh and Turkoglu with productive players like Bargnani, Calderon, and first-round pick Demar DeRozan who is loaded with potential.

The one major down-size that results from this signing is how thin Toronto will be on their bench.  Assuming they trot out a starting five of Bargnani, Bosh, Turkoglu, DeRozan, and Calderon, their bench will consist of Reggie Evans, Patrick O’Bryant, Kris Humphries, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Nathan Jawai, Quincy Douby, Roko Ukic, and Marcus Banks.  None of those eight projected bench players averaged more than 6 points per game last season.  And by signing Turkoglu, Toronto’s cap space shrinks making it more difficult to land any other free agents to strengthen their depth.

By the way, if you are a Blazers fan, you mind as well start referring to Hedo’s wife, Banu, as Yoko Ono for breaking up what could have been the missing piece in launching Portland to contender status in the Western Conference.

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Alley-OOP & the SCOOP on what’s going on Around the NBA Hoop:

2009 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Special Edition

By: Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson

1 Los Angeles Lakers (65-17) vs. 8 Utah Jazz (48-34):
Didn’t we just see them play earlier this week?  Yeah we did. The Lakers’ manhandled them like they stole their snack money before school with a 125-112 win on Tuesday.  This Lakers team has been built to win and the time is now. Andrew Bynum is back and healed from his knee injury, Lamar Odom is playing well, not to mention Pau Gasol is consistent every year.

Oh yeah, almost forgot the Lower Merion stud, Kobe Bryant. Bryant is averaging 26.8 points per game, 5.2 rebounds per game and a gratuitous 4.9 assists per game. Bryant is simply balling and has a supporting cast to help as well.

Although the Jazz are a great team, it will be difficult to stop a Lakers squad that is focused and determined. The keys for the Jazz to win are point guard Deron Williams, and company to win their games at home at Energy Solutions Arena, where they play extremely well and for Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer to play efficient in the paint. Kyle Korver and Paul Millsap will also need to play stellar complementary roles in the pick and roll offense. A lot of ball screens and outside shooting will help the Jazz spread out their offense. Not sure that will be enough.
Prediction: Lakers in 6
2 Denver Nuggets (54-28) vs. 7 New Orleans Hornets (49-33):
On one hand, you want the Hornets to do well, just because Chris Paul has been dominating all year. On the other hand, you want the Nuggets do well because Chauncey Billups is playing like Chauncey Billups: A beast. Billups is averaging 17.7 points per game and 6.4 assists per game. But it’s not just Billups that is impressive. It’s his play that is making everyone around him better. Carmelo Anthony, has been playing well since the summer Olympics, and hasn’t stopped, averaging 22.8 points per game and a little under 6 rebounds per game. Kenyon Martin has also had a resurgent year of sorts averaging 11.7 points per game and 6 rebounds per game. He hasn’t been this consistent since his days catching lobs with former New Jersey Nets teammate Jason Kidd.
The Hornets have been the complete opposite. Injuries have killed this team. Tyson Chandler has been hurt and so have the spirits of this team. This team does not resemble the same team that went toe to toe with the San Antonio Spurs last year. In order for the Hornets to have similar success like last year, David West needs to play well in the middle. He has lamented this season about having to play the center position. He needs to do whatever needs to be done to make things happen for this team. The Nuggets can be beat but it is up to the Hornets to be mentally touch and execute.  What the Hornets have, however, is not enough to defeat the Denver Nuggets.


3 San Antonio Spurs (54-28) vs. 6 Dallas Mavericks (50-32):

The Spurs are hurting. Manu Ginobili is out for the year, and Roger Mason Jr. will be counted on to be the 3rd wheel to compliment Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and it will be done. The Dallas Mavericks, led by the veteran leadership of Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki, exceeded expectations under first year Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. The team still lacks in one area and that is interior toughness. Although Tim Duncan is not at 100% he can still bang down low with Erik Dampier. The Spurs also have Drew Gooden.
The Spurs always find a way to win and they will do that against this Mavericks team.

Prediction: Spurs in 6


4 Portland Trail Blazers (54-28) vs. 5. Houston Rockets (53-29):

I’m impressed with this Portland Trailblazer team. They have played as a cohesive unit and possess a bond on and off the court very similar to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge are a great combo. Owner, Paul Allen has constructed a great group of guys that have proved a lot of people wrong this year.
However, winners and will-to-win don’t necessarily equate winning a series. This Rockets team, on paper has a Roster full of overachievers and they have not lived up to their potential for years. Ron Artest is hungry and Yao Ming is playing extremely well, without Tracy McGrady mind you. Luis Scola has been playing well since he played in the summer team in the Olympics with his Argentine team. The Rockets have the advantage in skill and experience.
Prediction: Rockets in 5
There you have it: The Scoop! Catch you on the rebound for Round 2!