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Bulls in Toronto; it's been cold for both teams
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 13
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
The Bulls are in Toronto Wednesday, and if you think this season has been a disappointment in Chicago, their weather and their basketball team are worse.
The weather is expected. The basketball was not.
The Raptors were supposed to be one of the young teams on the rise in the East with a star in Chris Bosh, consecutive playoff appearances and the addition of former All-Star Jermaine O'Neal.
Yes, who now is pretty much their Larry Hughes.
O'Neal has been a major disappointment, injured again, rarely practicing, pretty much a ground based perimeter shooter now who is said to be very available, especially with former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani playing well in O'Neal's absence. The Raptors had been trying to play Bargnani at small forward with O'Neal and Bosh, which was a disaster and helped get coach Sam Mitchell fired when they were 8-9.
They're now 16-23, a half game behind the Bulls and two and a half games behind Milwaukee for eighth in the East.
With O'Neal now out and Bargnani playing a more natural power forward position, he's been averaging 21.3 per game the last eight games.
Bargnani had been mentioned prominently in trade rumors as the Raptors were said around the NBA to be most anxious to make a deal. That has seemed to have cooled now and it seems unlikely they'll move Bargnani. Which limits what they can do since point guard Jose Calderon is a keeper. Of course, the biggest keeper is Bosh, but he's one of those prominent 2010 free agents and said to be the target of several teams clearing salary cap space, like the Knicks and Pistons.
Thus the Raptors are under tremendous pressure to make a move this season to help persuade Bosh to resign. Thus all the trade talk. They're not going to get a lot for Anthony Parker or Jamario Moon as they're unusually weak on the wings.
Yes, I know what you're thinking. Especially since I get a lot of email suggestions about this: Hughes for O'Neal, though the Bulls would have to make up more than $8 million in salaries.
As far as I know it hasn't been discussed by the teams, and I cannot see the Bulls interested at all. Though I think Toronto might jump at it. They'd get another player or two at that amount of money, and Hughes might actually help them.
But don't think of O'Neal as he was when he was a five-time All Star with the Pacers. His career pretty much has declined with the brawl in Auburn Hills. He threw one of the most famous punches at a man running on the floor, though was hardly an instigator like Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson.
He's broken down physically since then and generally seems to deflate teams when he is around. He rarely if ever practices, which isn't good for morale. He's mostly a jump shooter these days and not particularly mobile. He's hurt a lot, so you cannot count on him, and he is on the salary cap for more than $23 million next season. We saw how badly the Bulls reacted when Ben Wallace wasn't doing much and he was making just $15 million.
You don't get rid of one problem to take on another that could be worse.
Though this is an intriguing game because it is two teams desperate for wins—and not far out of a playoff spot—who see the other as vulnerable. Bosh should have a big game inside against the Bulls, though the Raptors perimeter game is weak and the Bulls should have an edge on their no name wing players if the Bulls decide to be active and move without the ball. I know, I know. It is asking a lot.
Also, though he won't say it himself, the biggest story may be the return of Bulls radio broadcaster Chuck Swirsky. Swirsky had become something of a local Toronto broadcasting legend with his enthusiastic style and may be the only member of the Bulls the customs guys know. I guess he'll have to carry back all the Cuban cigars. Just kidding. Chuck's the most upright guy in the group. No, I'm not kiddin' you.
You had to see this incredible law suit filed Tuesday against Eddy Curry accusing him of all sorts of unspeakable behavior, and I can only say, "That's crazy."
Actually, that's what Eddy probably said as it's his favorite response to just about everything.
I am not commenting on these allegations because one thing I have learned is you don't know anything about anybody. You think you know your friends and your family, but you usually don't unless you live with them. And then you probably are not sure. So you can be sure you have no idea what the people you read about and see play sports really are like.
One of the allegations about Curry is that he is a racist, which is thrown around all too often these days and which there is no real defense. Supposedly, he was an anti-Semite as well. So let me say that if Eddy were a racist or anti-Semite, I think I'd have gotten some sense of that since perhaps no one was tougher on him during his stay in Chicago. I never was personally mean or wrote about his family or private life. But barely a week went by when I didn't come up with some new destination for Curry.
Never—not once—did Curry say anything unkind to me or even refuse to talk. When he went to the Knicks and I'd come around to talk, he still was always friendly and joking. He'd inquire about what was going in Chicago and respond that it was "crazy." And he'd have a good laugh. Even during sensitive times around the Knicks like when they sent Stephon Marbury home, Eddy never had any problem telling me what was going on. Though hardly just me. If you asked Eddy a question, he'd always respond politely and cooperatively. You never felt uncomfortable around Eddy. He was a guy you rooted for, even if you didn't always want him on your team. I hope things work out for him. Because this stuff is just crazy.