Kobe's coming. So are the Bulls.


Mar 21

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It’s a big one for the Bulls Saturday at the United Center,
the last really good team the Bulls will face in the regular season.


And one not playing so well with Kobe Bryant seemingly
tiring, the Lakers depth betraying them with a series of blown leads in the
last few weeks and a porous defense that the Bulls should be able to exploit,
especially at home.


Bryant is averaging 20.8 points on 42 percent shooting the
last four games. The Lakers have blown big leads in all four, though lost only
on a last second shot to the 76ers. It’s worried coach Phil Jackson. I talk and
email with Jackson from time to time and he liked the word “discombobulated”
regarding his reserves. Jackson told L.A. media he doubts Andrew Bynum will be
ready to play until the playoffs, which suggests the Lakers won’t be able to
count on Bynum for some time.


So it all suggests, with the Lakers having little to really
play for with a nine game lead over the Spurs in the Western Conference, the
Lakers are vulnerable and it’s a game the Bulls could win.


It’s also a game the Bulls should win. Not because they are
better than the Lakers. They’re not. The Bulls should win because they need to


It’s because that race for the last playoff spot in the
East—-and perhaps seventh as well with the Detroit Pistons slipping—is going to
become very interesting and very competitive.


The Nets won Friday, though, more significantly, the Bobcats
won their third straight. Charlotte is coming hard. They’ve won nine of 12 and
are playing the best of the teams competing for the last spot.


And they have one big edge in coach Larry Brown, far more
accomplished and experienced than the other challengers’ in Vinny Del Negro,
Michael Curry and Lawrence Frank. I’d put Scott Skiles the closest with Brown,
though it’s difficult to see how the Bucks can hang in with the many
significant injuries they’ve had.


Most weeks on major basketball internet sites and in various
publications, there is a so called “power rankings” of all the teams in the
NBA. This truly makes no sense anymore to keep listing the Lakers, Cavs,
Celtics and Magic and some mixture of others.


They’re all in the playoffs, obviously, and just jockeying
for position and, in effect, one extra home game. Teams like the Bulls are
playing for an entire season.


So here’s the only power rankings that matter now, the one
that will determine who gets into the playoffs.


Eastern Conference.


Bobcats. They’ve won eight of 11 and have been
the best defensive team of the group and with the best coach. Some even are
saying Brown should be coach of the year, though it won’t happen with a likely
losing record. They have the tiebreaker with the Bulls, though in theory a
tougher closing schedule with five of their last 12 against teams with losing
record and eight on the road.


Bulls. I’ve had several minor wagers down of it
taking 37 wins to get in. Now it’s looking like 40. They’ve won three straight,
including over Boston and New Orleans, top teams. They can’t stop anyone, but
can’t be stopped easily, as well. Their closing schedule is the softest with
only three against winning teams. Two more with Detroit, the first Tuesday,
could be crutical (my new word). Phil approves.


Pistons. The playoffs aren’t promised, and the
end comes shockingly. They’ve lost five of seven and it seems like Allen
Iverson and Rasheed Wallace, both expected to be let go after the season, have
checked out. They’re at .500 and with three and four losses fewer. But with the
Heat, Bulls and Lakers coming up next week, they could begin a fall. They’ve
got eight of the last 13 on the road.


Bucks. They’re doing a heck of a job hanging in thanks
to Skiles refusing to accept they are shorthanded. They’ve got a four-game road
trip next week, which could decide their gate.


Nets. They stole one over Miami Friday with
Chris Douglas-Roberts having a second straight big game. Though it will be too
hard to overcome Devin Harris being out a week or two.


Knicks. Blown out again, this time at home by
the Kings Friday. Wow. They’re done. Turning Nate Robinson into the face of the
franchise with a Times Square billboard and David Letterman appearance Friday
suggests they still have no idea where they are going.


Pacers. Tough one Friday as Dirk beats them with
a second left. They’ve lost five straight and are about done as well.


Raptors. Just kidding. They gave up a long time


Western Conference


Mavericks. It has been getting close and we know
no team is better at choking at the end of the season. Keep watching.


Suns. Some still believe in conspiracies and
there has to be Shaq and Kobe one more time. I doubt it.








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