Jimmy Butler and the Chicago Bulls halted their five-game losing streak by defeating Charlotte Monday night (Jacob Gaertner/Creative Commons).
A particularly tumultuous period sees the Warriors and Cavaliers dropping to their lowest positions of the season. Meanwhile, every other team has moved up or down at least one spot except for the Clippers and Hawks, who remained at No. 8 and 12, respectively. A handful of sub-.500 squads are recognized for their strong recent play, as the Grizzlies and Bulls are punished for their sluggish performances over the past two weeks. One final fun fact: Last edition, Chicago came in at No. 15, a full 10 spots ahead of the Hornets. This time around, Chicago clings to a single-spot lead over Charlotte after edging the Hornets Monday night.
Biggest Jumps: Milwaukee Bucks (+6), Minnesota Timberwolves (+5), Washington Wizards (+4)
Biggest Falls: Chicago Bulls (-6), Memphis Grizzlies (-5), Dallas Mavericks (-4), Indiana Pacers (-4), Toronto Raptors, (-4) Continue reading
Jimmy Butler has firmly established himself as an MVP candidate and the leader of the Chicago Bulls. (Jsteperry/Wikimedia Commons)
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Following dramatic offseason changes, the Chicago Bulls have jumped out to a 10-6 start. At 34, future Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade has returned to his hometown. Chicago also brought in former NBA champion Rajon Rondo, among others. Our guest, Ashish Mathur of the Outside Pitch Sports Network, details how Wade and Rondo have added a sense of accountability, what’s behind Jimmy Butler’s routine offensive outbursts and how the Bulls’ lack of depth could ultimately derail their high hopes. Plus, much more is discussed with Mathur, who is cautiously optimistic about 2016-17 given how early it is in the season and the team’s new-look quality. At times, he’s even bullish, but let’s get to the excerpts before any more questionable puns are employed:
1:48-3:04: Mathur begins by pointing out the necessity for the Bulls to trot out a completely different team this season and detailing what key additions Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo have brought: “The roster turnover was needed in every facet. Derrick [Rose] and Joakim [Noah] did a lot for this organization and city, but with Jimmy [Butler] establishing himself as the new alpha on the team, it was time for those two to go. Gar Forman and John Paxson did a pretty good job. Getting Rondo and Wade here was huge, just for the locker room. It was toxic and full of turmoil last year…not able to handle any adversity…it was time for a change. The biggest thing Wade and Rondo add to the team is accountability…First day of training camp, Rondo and Wade were stopping practices telling guys to knock it off and to stop the chit-chat, [because they’re] here to practice.”
3:57-4:58: Next, Mathur gushes about Butler’s transformation from defensive specialist to bona fide all-around superstar: “This guy came into the league as a defensive stopper, averaged 2 points per game his first year. He’s got to be one of the hardest working players, especially in the offseason…He got up at 4 in the morning every day and trained. He’s having fun this year. Last year, there was so much dysfunction…Last year was the first [time] Jimmy dealt with adversity in the NBA…He looks so much different. He’s smiling, loves having Wade on the team, and is putting up MVP-type numbers.”
Rajon Rondo’s bounce-back season with the Kings has sadly been obscured by the enigmatic point guard’s poor handling of the unfortunate Bill Kennedy ordeal (Sacramento Kings’ Instagram).
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Last week, longtime NBA referee Bill Kennedy publicly announced that he was gay three days after Rajon Rondo was suspended for twice directing a homophobic slur at Kennedy. Before closing out with some Wizards discussion, this episode primarily focuses on how the Kings point guard badly mishandled the Kennedy incident. The hosts contend that, although the incident was ugly and regrettable, once Rondo used the derogatory term, he had a chance to make things right but instead took on a series of disappointing missteps: 1.) On at least a few occasions, the 29-year-old veteran denied to investigators that he even used the term, which was later confirmed by independent audiologists hired by the NBA. 2.) One day before releasing an apology statement on Dec. 16, Rondo fired off two ill-conceived tweets that were effectively non-apologies 3.) According to reports, as of press time, Rondo has yet to personally apologize to Kennedy outside of the statement he released.
Articles on Rondo-Kennedy referenced in the discussion:
Sam Amick’s column for USA Today
Ben Golliver’s Sports Illustrated piece
Dave Zirin’s column for The Nation
Music: “Who Likes to Party?” by Kevin MacLeod
This season, Kawhi Leonard has shouldered much of the Spurs’ scoring load in addition to playing tenacious defense (Mark Runyon/BasketballSchedule.net)
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In this action-packed episode, the guys reflect on the state of the Oklahoma City Thunder, particularly given Kevin Durant’s hamstring strain. Later, the trio celebrates the emergence of 24-year-old Kawhi Leonard as a bona fide offensive star and explores what in the hell is going on in Sacramento these days. Should George Karl lose his job this early in the season? Can the damage be undone? The OTNB boys are on the case.
Music: “Who Likes To Party” by Kevin MacLeod
(Mike Tipton/Creative Commons)
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In the J Spot, the panel continues the Kings discussion from earlier in the week, touching upon the Kings’ playoff hopes, Ben McLemore’s changing role given the improved guard depth, Rudy Gay’s seemingly newfound efficiency and how much it matters to have winning veterans on an up-and-coming team.
Next, on the A-A-Ron Block, the league’s seven new head coaches are analyzed. What can we expect from their respective squads, and who has the most pressure in their new role? Which coaches are taking over the best and worst teams?
Finally, with the NBA GM survey being released earlier this week, LLC Incorporated poses three original questions that should have been included on the actual survey. Well, maybe not, but they sure are fun ones.
Which NBA player or personality would YOU want to be your personal stylist? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter: @OnTheNBABeat
Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod
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The Sacramento Kings are mired in a nine-year playoff drought. But James Ham, Kings Insider for Comcast SportsNet, brings preseason cheer in the form of his optimistic outlook. He believes there is a bigger-than-expected opening for a team like the Kings to sneak into one of the West’s final three playoff spots. He acknowledges the potential for combustibility, while praising the team’s myriad offseason acquisitions around DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Particularly, James shares his enthusiasm for rookie big man Willie Cauley-Stein and what he can do to improve a previously miserable defensive squad. Also, the Rondo enigma is further explored.
(Jose Garcia/Creative Commons)
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On the debut of OTNB’s three banter segments (the A-A-Ron Block, LLC Incorporated and the J-Spot), the co-hosts react to the Warriors-Clippers media beef and opine on Jamal Crawford’s fit with the Clippers’ retooled roster. Later, the panel praises Elfrid Payton’s dynamic young game, as it includes Orlando as a potential surprise team this season. The Stifle Tower, Rudy Gobert, gets some serious love on the show, and the merits of Sam Hinkie’s radical approach to team-building are debated. Finally, if you were going to cheat on your favorite NBA team, with which squad would it be? Loren and Aaron provide interesting answers.
Introduction by Jonathan Santiago