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NBA season ending with uncertainty
by Sam Smith
Posted on Apr 16
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 last night of the NBA season may not be the most exciting, but it may be the most intriguing.
Because it may be more like a John le Carre novel, something of the Season that Came in from the Cold, and not just because it’s finally becoming warmer outside.
The Nets supposedly are easing off with the speculation that they wouldn’t mind falling to sixth to avoid a first round matchup with the Bulls. Ironically, the Nets reportedly wouldn’t mind that second round against Miami, whom they swept this season. Kevin Garnett likes to scare Chris Bosh. He can’t scare Joakim Noah.
The Bulls currently are in the No. 4 spot before Wednesday’s final game against Charlotte.
But the Bulls still could move up to No. 3 if the Bulls win and the Raptors lose. So that would disrupt the Nets’ alleged plans as they were blown out by the Knicks Tuesday and were supposed to be taking it easy against the Cavs Wednesday.
The Bulls’ game in Charlotte starts one hour before the Nets in Cleveland and the Wizards in Boston. So the Bulls will finish the season without knowing the first round opponent for about an hour.
“At the end of the day it’s going to be Brooklyn or Washington,” Taj Gibson said after the morning shootaround in Charlotte. “They both are similar, both have a lot of veterans. It’s just whoever is going to scout better, understand the play calls, understand how hard it is to compete every single play. That’s what playoffs are about. Either way they are both great teams; we have to play a great team to wherever we want to go.”
That’s been the Bulls attitude all along: Just bring it on.
“I feel like we approach every game the same way,” said Jimmy Butler. “We want to win as many games as possible and get a rhythm going into the playoffs. So this game is just as important as the first game of the year. I don’t pay attention to it (seeding and what other teams are doing). We can only control what we can control, and that’s the Chicago Bulls. If we win, whatever else happens between everyone else that’s out of our control. It doesn’t matter who we play; we think we can beat anybody. Whoever we match up against we’re going to take that matchup and get through them.
“I think (some teams try to manipulate their matchups),” Butler acknowledged. “But that’s not what we’re going to try to do. So we will control what we can.”
It’s the Tom Thibodeau mantra, and everyone chants it regularly.
But there will be plenty to watch Wednesday night.
The ideal for the Bulls, in theory, is to get the No. 4 seed against Washington, even though the Bulls have lost two of three to the Wizards, thus having an inexperienced Washington team to open against with home court advantage and then the Pacers in the second round. Currently the Pacers/Hawks at No. 1 vs No. 8 is the only matchup that is set.
Though Brooklyn is generally more feared as a first round opponent because of their veteran experience and big guards for the Bulls, they are the East playoff’s poorest road team other than Atlanta.
So if Brooklyn is trying to avoid the Bulls, they could end up with them, anyway, if the Raptors lose and the Bulls win. Then the Bulls move to No. 3 against Brooklyn if Brooklyn were to lose and fall to No. 6. Trying to avoid a team and then getting them won’t be good for confidence. So, really, as Thibodeau suggests, you maybe just take care of your own business because you never quite know what you’ll get.
“I think it’s good for the league with so many things up for grabs. It makes it interesting,” said Thibodeau. “It’s a lot of wasted energy if you start thinking about the position. There are so many variables that go into it. And then in the end, you end up in this type of situation. That’s why I think it’s so important to focus on us. What do we have to do? Don’t change.”
Of course, Thibodeau being more partial to NBA coaches than NBA media, tends to believe more in the purity of coaches than reporters.
“Usually it’s rumors started by the media (about tanking for matchups),” said Thibodeau. “Every coach has to do what he thinks is best for his team in terms of rest versus rhythm. Where are you in terms of your injuries and the age of your players? To me, that’s probably the biggest thing that every team does. Whatever Brooklyn is doing, that’s what they think is best for their team. If you’re in the playoffs now, you’re a good team. You don’t sneak around people.”
The Raptors have had an edge over Washington this season in head to head games compared with against the Nets.
Those teams, in theory, will have some edge if they thought like reporters as opposed to the pure NBA coaches, a sort of the Tess of the d’Urbervilles in sweatpants. That’s because the Bulls’ game will be concluded before they are finished. So if they wanted to try to manipulate…
But the Raptors wouldn’t know the Nets and Wizards’ situation unless it were a blowout early as they play the same times.
This may be getting confusing by now. So maybe the Thibodeau/Bulls way is best: Just play and the league will call us and tell us who’s next.
Given Toronto hasn’t been in the playoffs for some time and it wasn’t until midseason that they became convinced not to lose for a draft pick, you’d assume they’re not much looking ahead to that second round.
The Bobcats haven’t beaten the Bulls, but they’d still probably like to get to No. 6 to avoid Miami in the first round.
Charlotte needs to win and have Washington lose to move up to No. 6, where they’d play the Bulls or Raptors. Actually, the Bobcats have swept the Raptors this season and have won 11 of their last 14 over Toronto, which has to be some record for futility by Toronto against one of the poorest teams in NBA history the last few years. So the Bobcats have extra motivation to win Wednesday as they’d knock the Bulls to No. 4 and have a chance to get to No. 6 and play the Raptors.
But the Wizards obviously would like to stay out of seventh as well to avoid that first round series with defending champion Miami. The Wizards could finish Nos. 5, 6 or 7. They are 2-1 against the Bulls and 1-3 against the Raptors. But they’d obviously most want to avoid the Heat in round one. They get to No. 5 and avoid potentially the Heat in round two with a win and the Nets losing.
It all does get fairly convoluted.
So perhaps best to just play it out, find out later as the scores come in and enjoy the day with the new dad, D.J. Augustin.
“Everything went great,” said Augustin, who welcomed his second child Monday, a boy, Darryl III.
“I thought about Thibs (for the name),” joked Augustin with the smile of a proud dad. “I thought about Gar. Jimmy’s been asking me to name him Jimmy. I gave them all consideration, but I had to go with Darryl. He’s going to be Trey. I never went by Darryl growing up. I always went with D.J., so he’s going to be Trey.
“They’re actually headed home right now,” Augustin said after rejoining the team following missing Monday’s game. “She (wife Brandy) had to stay in the hospital for two days, so I stayed the night before last with them. She was induced Monday and we got there like four in the morning and she had him at like 12:30, 1 o’clock, and everything went fine. He was seven pounds, two ounces and he was 18 inches, so that was pretty big for 37 weeks.
“I don’t know how tall he’s going to be,” laughed Augustin, who’s a bit short on the NBA scale, “but that’s all right. We can work on his floater.”
(From the NBA)
Toronto will be seeded:
— No. 3 if Raptors win OR Bulls lose
— No. 4 if Raptors lose and Bulls win
Chicago will be seeded:
— No. 3 if Bulls win and Raptors lose
— No. 4 if Bulls lose OR Raptors win
Brooklyn will be seeded:
— No. 5 if Nets win OR Wizards lose
— No. 6 if Nets lose and Wizards win
Washington will be seeded:
— No. 5 if Wizards win and Nets lose
— No. 6 if Nets win and Wizards win OR Wizards lose and Bobcats lose
— No. 7 if Wizards lose and Bobcats win
Charlotte will be seeded:
— No. 6 if Bobcats win and Wizards lose
— No. 7 if Bobcats lose OR Wizards win
Oklahoma City will be seeded:
— No. 2 if Thunder wins OR Clippers lose
— No. 3 if Clippers win and Thunder loses
LA Clippers will be seeded:
— No. 2 if Clippers win and Thunder loses
— No. 3 if Thunder wins OR Clippers lose
Dallas will be seeded:
— No. 7 if Mavericks win
— No. 8 if Grizzlies win
Memphis will be seeded:
— No. 7 if Grizzlies win
— No. 8 if Mavericks win