Season Predictions and Analysis for the 2014-15 Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls will welcome back Derrick Rose this season, with high hopes of challenging for an NBA title. Can Pau Gasol help the Bulls take the next step?

Howard Beck and Ric Bucher join Adam Lefkoe to break down the upcoming season in Chicago in the video above.

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Coaches Poll analysis: Top 25 team breakdowns

The outlook for the 25 teams in the USA Today Sports preseason basketball poll.

      
 

 

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Season Predictions and Analysis for the 2014-15 Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics will look to rebound after a down season by returning to the playoffs under second-year head coach Brad Stevens. Can the return of Rajon Rondo help make that a reality?

Howard Beck and Ric Bucher join Adam Lefkoe to give their take on the upcoming season in Boston in the video above.

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Detroit Pistons vs. Washington Wizards Live Blog: Instant Reactions and Analysis

The 2-1 Washington Wizards will host the 2-0 Detroit Pistons in the Verizon Center at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

The Pistons are coming off of a win against the Milwaukee Bucks that featured a 20-point game from second-year player Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In just their third game under Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons still have a lot to prove and learn.

The Wizards were defeated by the Charlotte Hornets in their last preseason game, a game that saw Bradley Beal break his wrist. The talented guard will miss up to two months, adding to injury concerns that the Wizards already had.

Check back around 12:30 p.m. ET today for the beginning of coverage.

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New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics: Results, Reaction and Analysis

Derek Fisher got his first win with the New York Knicks Saturday night as they took down the Boston Celtics, 96-80, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Carmelo Anthony scored 16 points in 21 minutes of action to lead all players and the Knicks shot 52.6 percent as team while holding the Celtics to just 37.5 percent.

Fisher said prior to the game that he wanted to see less turnovers from his team after they committed 24 of them in the two sides’ first meeting on Wednesday. The Knicks coughed the ball up 19 times on Saturday night but also forced 20 from the Celtics’ end.

Jared Sullinger and Marcus Thornton scored 15 points each to lead Boston, but the rest of the Celtics’ offense was contained after the team averaged 104 points in their first three preseason games.

The Knicks will return home to Madison Square Garden on Monday when they host the Toronto Raptors to continue their preseason.

As for the Celtics, they will welcome the same Raptors when the two sides square off on Wednesday at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland, Maine.

Thanks again for following along this live blog.

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New York Knicks vs. Boston Celtics: Instant Reaction and Analysis

The 2014 NBA preseason continues for the New York Knicks as they look to avenge a 106-86 loss to the Boston Celtics from Wednesday when the two teams square off again on Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

The tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be aired on MSG2. Bleacher Report will have you covered with live updates, reactions and analysis throughout the contest.

The Knicks, who are experimenting with the triangle offense under new head coach Derek Fisher, turned the ball over 28 times in the last meeting against the Celtics. Fisher said he wants the team to cut down on that number this time around and show some progress, according to ESPN New York’s Ian Begley.

As for the Celtics, they will try to bounce back from their first preseason loss when they were defeated by the Toronto Raptors, 116-109, on Friday. Boston is playing in its fourth game in six days, so look for head coach Brad Stevens to utilize some more players with Jeff Green (calf), James Young (hamstring), Rajon Rondo (hand) and Vitor Faverani (knee) still out with their respective injuries.

Continue to follow this live blog for more updates and analysis as the game moves along.

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NBA 2K15: Round Up of Reviews and Analysis of Acclaimed Video Game

It’s rare when critical acclaim and fan anticipation for a video game line up perfectly. You can count on one hand the number of sports simulations that elicit—and warrant—a better reaction than the NBA 2K series. The release of NBA 2K15 has proved, once again, that this game is operating on another level. 

The things that 2K Sports continues to do to avoid its NBA series from getting stale continue to astound. Considering that this is the 15th year that developer Visual Concepts has been working on this game, it’s impressive how fresh this year’s version feels. 

Even though you have been immersed in all the goodness that NBA 2K15 has to offer, we want you to appreciate all the intricacies of your experience. Therefore, we have rounded up some of the reviews and analysis for the game to tell you what you’re getting. 

 

The One Big Criticism

When you scour the Internet for reviews of NBA 2K15, they are nearly unanimous in praise for the basic essentials.

Mike Mitchell of IGN praised so much of 2K15 that you would never know there was anything wrong with the game at launch:

It’s an absolutely beautiful game to look at, and its controls are as tight as they’ve ever been. Some features are vastly improved from last year, and fortunately most of those continue to work when the servers don’t. It’s a shame that the best game modes won’t always be accessible, because this could’ve been an amazing basketball game. It still could be, if 2K can fix it. But if you buy it right now, you can expect a great offline experience.

The last part of the review is where the concerns are coming from people buying the game. On Twitter, 2K Support did address some of the problems for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One:

It is nice to have your name back and a face that doesn’t look like something that was beaten with a hammer on The Walking Dead, but the fact that so much of the online experience remains an issue is concerning. 

While MyCareer and MyGM are great game modes that you don’t need to be online to use, that’s only a small part of the gaming experience in today’s world. Hopefully, 2K Sports is able to address all the problems soon because this is a game that deserves to be enjoyed without annoying bugs. 

 

Now, The Positives

With the negative out of the way, let’s examine what makes NBA 2K15 worth the time. As Mitchell noted on IGN, everything about the game still looks and feels great. There isn’t a better-looking sports video game on the market, which is quite impressive. 

As a fan of the genre for as long as I’ve played video games, one thing that’s always irritated me is how developers have so often struggled to capture the mood and feel of what it means to be at a sporting event. Anyone can put together a simulation of what happens on television, but the best games bring the experience to life. 

Not surprisingly, some of the best sports games have come along in the last 10 years (Madden 2005, MLB: The Show, NHL 09 and 10, NBA 2K series) as technology has allowed developers more freedom to bring more flair to the proceedings. 

Josiah Renaudin of GameSpot gave NBA 2K15 9/10 and highlighted how good and crisp 2K Sports has made the action on the court:

Where players stuck unrealistically close to one another in past games, 2K15 adds much more natural spacing between bodies both on and off the rock. Smart ball handling leads to more distance to take a shot, and that puts a greater onus on the defensive player to read and predict the direction of his matchup’s drive. 2K Sports took significant technical strides with last year’s NBA release, but it’s the reinvented movement system and improved physics that make 2K15 such a success.

All you want as a gamer is something that treats you like a smart fan. If a game doesn’t control well, with players moving spastically when you barely touch the analog stick, that’s insulting to what we know games should be like. 

Being able to handle the ball and actually pass the way LeBron James does, or fight for positioning under the basket like Dwight Howard does is what makes next-gen systems worth the price of admission. 

Bleacher Report’s resident video game expert Brian Mazique, whose video review is embedded above, also praised 2K Sports in a written review for building a game that takes the time to show players developing and regressing as they would in real life:

Once the season starts, there’s a whole new brand of fun in store. If you’re playing a franchise in MyLeague or MyGM, players will age and decline in skill level. Young players will peak and then regress.

This isn’t a new concept, but the manner in which it happens in NBA 2K15 is the most authentic I’ve ever seen in a basketball game. OnlyMLB The Show’s outstanding franchise mode even comes close.

Players not only see their numbered attributes drop, but they also see a decline in their skill badges.

Again, this is all about the minute details of real life that we tend to take for granted in a video game. There’s no logical way a player will be rated a 97 at age 26 and increase that rating to a 99 at age 35. The human body doesn’t work that way, so players must adapt to what they are physically capable of. 

Even though the bugs that prevent NBA 2K15 from being a complete transcendent video game experience are still being worked out, there are still enough great things working for the series that you should be happy right away until all the kinks are fixed. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Timberwolves vs. 76ers: Final Results, Reaction and Analysis

Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in this June’s draft, scored 11 points in his home debut on Friday night as the Minnesota Timberwolves took down the Philadelphia 76ers by the score of 116-110 at Target Center.

Wiggins was just a small part of the youth movement that propelled the T-Wolves in the win. Zach LaVine, the 13th overall pick this year, scored 15 points while Anthony Bennett, who was last year’s No. 1 overall selection, added 13 points and eight rebounds of his own.

Mo Williams came off the bench and led all scorers with 19 points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Minnesota’s starting point guard, Ricky Rubio, had eight points with nine assists in 26 minutes of action.

Henry Sims led the 76ers with 17 points and was one of the seven Philadelphia players to score in double figures. Minnesota had seven double-digit scorers in this contest as well.

The Timberwolves also won the battle on the boards, edging out the 76ers 43-38 in that category and 14-4 in offensive rebounds.

Nikola Pekovic and Gorgui Dieng led that effort with nine rebounds each for Minnesota.

The contest featured two of the three teams involved in the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers over the summer.

Wiggins, who was originally selected by the Cavs, was traded to the T-Wolves along with Bennett for Love. Minnesota also got Thaddeus Young from the 76ers in exchange for Alexey Shved and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

If this T-Wolves win showed anything, it’s that this can be a very entertaining team to watch with all the young talents on the roster. Rubio’s ability to distribute the ball along with the athleticism of Wiggins, LaVine and Bennett can make Minnesota a surprising team in the Western Conference this year if Flip Saunders can find a way to mesh all that together.

Minnesota will take a week of rest before returning to action next Friday against Milwaukee Bucks, while Philadelphia will travel to Syracuse, New York on Tuesday to take on the New York Knicks at the Carrier Dome.

Thanks again for following along to the live blog throughout the game.

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Kentucky Wildcats Scouting Combine 2014: Recap, Twitter Reaction and Analysis

Since Kentucky’s basketball program has been a de facto training ground for future NBA lottery picks since John Calipari took over as head coach in 2009, it’s surprising that it took this long for the team to hold a scouting combine for NBA teams and scouts. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported in September that Calipari organized the event, which kicked off on Friday at Kentucky’s practice facility in Lexington, and was using it as a way to give NBA teams an early look at players they will be scouting all year and a way to show future recruits what life as a Wildcat is like:

The event is a chance for Calipari to impress a throng of top high school recruits on campus visits and once again frame his program as college basketball’s best NBA feeder system. Kentucky is expected to be a consensus preseason No. 1 in the polls.

After the combine, Calipari plans to shut out NBA executives and scouts from his practices for several weeks – perhaps even months – into the season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Calipari said during the event, via Aaron Torres of Fox Sports Live, that he understands there will be criticisms of the event simply because he’s doing it:

Jay Bilas, who was calling the action on ESPNU, said on the broadcast just how unique this setting and event were, via David Scott of ESPN Public Relations:

Considering how highly regarded Kentucky is and will likely start the year as the top-ranked team in the country, this was a must-see event. We watched it and have a recap of the unique event, including analysis from around the Internet, coming right now. 

You can understand why there might be a few nerves in the gym, because Evan Daniels of Scout.com reported that more than 90 scouts from the NBA were in attendance:

Since it was televising the event, ESPNU was nice enough to tweet out a picture of what drills the Kentucky players would be going through:

One of the great freshman to watch at Kentucky this year is center Karl-Anthony Towns. He didn’t disappoint in the five-minute shooting drill, per Calipari’s official website on Twitter:

Towns, like so many freshman Calipari brings in, doesn’t seem long for Lexington. He’s already ranked third on Chad Ford’s Big Board for ESPN (Insider required). As long as the seven-footer develops like everyone expects, no one in Kentucky will be complaining if he’s one-and-done. 

One of the few Wildcats to return for his junior season, Willie Cauley-Stein is slowly moving up draft boards following his strong performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament. It also helps that he’s a strong defender who can block shots with ease. 

The one big question about Cauley-Stein moving up to the next level is whether his offensive game would develop. It’s just one practice in a controlled environment, but his jump shot did get noticed by Brett Dawson of Rivals:

There’s so much depth on Calipari’s roster that Cauley-Stein doesn’t get the minutes you would expect for a seven-foot player, so it’s imperative that he makes the most of his opportunities, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench. 

Arguably the biggest returning player this season is Aaron Harrison. The sophomore guard became a Kentucky legend last March when he hit three game-winning three-pointers in the NCAA Tournament but still has work to do refining his game for the next level. 

One thing that there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus about is how big Harrison is. He’s listed at 6’5″, 212 pounds on Kentucky’s official website, but Sean Deveney of The Sporting News talked to a scout who believes the 19-year-old is bigger and more explosive than we’re being told:

If Harrison really is bigger and more physical this year, this roster could be even more dangerous than it appears on paper. We know he has the touch from the outside and isn’t afraid to shoot the ball in a big spot, so there’s not a lot of work that his game needed anyway. 

The biggest takeaway from Kentucky’s showing on Friday, even more than being a nice showcase for NBA executives to look at what these players can do, is Calipari’s roster is stacked with very few weaknesses and as much depth as he’s ever had. 

There are nine players on the roster who were McDonald’s All-Americans coming out of high school, four players listed at 6’11″ or taller and more talented returnees than Kentucky usually gets back. Its still a young roster that will need to develop as the year goes on, much like last year, but the raw talent is incredible. 

 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter.

 

 

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Michael Beasley to Shanghai Sharks: Latest Contract Details, Reaction, Analysis

Michael Beasley has decided to continue his basketball career in China rather than pursue further stateside opportunities. The second overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft has reportedly signed a deal with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association.   

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports passed along the news from Beasley’s agent, Jared Karnes:

He also notes the team is led by former NBA star Yao Ming:

Along with spending training camp with the Memphis Grizzlies, Beasley also had offseason workouts with the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.

The 25-year-old forward was drafted by the Miami Heat. He made stops with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns before returning to South Beach last season. He played a limited role for the Eastern Conference champions.

Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel provided remarks from Heat general manager Pat Riley about letting Beasley leave:

Beasley has always flashed offensive upside, averaging 19 points per game during the 2010-11 campaign. However, his woes on the defensive end paired with some off-court issues likely caused many teams to shy away from giving him a chance.

So he’ll head to China, where he should feature more prominently for the Sharks. The league also features Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace, aka The Panda’s Friend). If he shines, there’s always a chance he could return to the NBA down the line.

 

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