Late last night, after Florida State bested Auburn in a thrilling BCS National Championship Game, and as the temperature plummeted across the northeast to intensely cold levels, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls reached a major deal. Chicago exchanged Luol Deng for Andrew Bynum and a trio of draft picks. Now, the assumption here is that the Bulls will waive Bynum, giving them substantial financial flexibility going forward. For the Bulls, I love the deal. While the trade makes it clear that the rest of season is going to be tank city in Chicago, it should set them up very nicely to make a title run next year when Derrick Rose returns from injury. It will be interesting to see how they put together that team in the off-season, although the deal gives them plenty of options. As for Cleveland, I’m conflicted. Owner Dan Gilbert clearly has a win-now mentality, but the Cavs haven’t been winning. Despite relatively high pre-season expectations, the Cavs have been largely a disaster this year; their offense has been stagnant and coach Mike Brown has been unable to get the Cavs’ defense up to par. The result is their 11-23 record. Deng is a fantastic, team-oriented player and he will help certainly help things in the Q. And, with so many teams tanking, you’d think that the Cavs should be able to make the postseason if they get it together at all. What the trade doesn’t do for Cleveland, however, is turn them into anything resembling a contender. It just puts them in a better position to get to that elusive, albeit for many fans unappealing, 8th playoff seed.
And now for some other mostly-NBA related thoughts:
- The Bulls haven’t played a single game without Deng, but it is fair to say that they’re on track to tank. SO, that’s at least four teams in the Eastern Conference that seem to be trying to trot out out non-competitive teams (the others being Milwaukee, Orlando, and Philly). The Celtics, now on a four game losing streak, also are walking the line. Now, mind you, all of these teams (except for the miserable Bucks) are still very much in the playoff picture…two months into the season. The East is soo wacky.
- Turning our attention to a team that actually wants to make the playoffs, the Brooklyn Nets might just be figuring things out. They’ve won three straight, and they haven’t even been crappy wins. Well…one was against the Cavs, but the other two were legit: they beat the Thunder IN OKC on January 2nd and knocked off Atlanta last night without Deron Williams. Paul Pierce has moved to the 4 for the Nets, and the undersized look seems to be working. A win over a hot Golden State Warriors team on Wednesday would be real progress.
- Also streaking: the Toronto Raptors. Toronto has gotten to the .500 mark to give the East (wait for it)… four teams that don’t have losing records.
- Out west, Kevin Durant is putting on shows for the Thunder. He dropped 48 on Minnesota the other night. Another guy who is playing well for OKC: 39 year old Derek Fisher. Go figure.
- The Phoenix Suns are still rolling and sit at 20-12. Which leads me to a couple of questions. What sorcery is first year coach Jeff Hornacek using? And who’d have thought Miles Plumlee would be this good? Plumlee is averaging almost a double double.
- The Thursday night games this week (Heat-Knicks and Thunder-Nuggets) are surprisingly uninteresting.
- My final thought: It’s really cold in Boston. Almost as cold as Anthony Bennett.