NBA AM: Championship Or Bust For The Bulls?
The Chicago Bulls have returned to their familiar perch as perennial playoff participants, missing the postseason only once since the 2005 campaign. Last season the club took the NBA by storm behind league MVP Derrick Rose, winning a league-best 62 contests and reaching the Eastern Conference Finals.
The continued success of the club’s core has naturally increased expectations and pressure from fans and media to not only compete for Eastern Conference supremacy, but to win a championship and hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. The Bulls are definitely feeling the pressure of winning a title this season, but are they ready to declare the 2012 campaign as championship or bust?
“Well, that’s definitely the goal,” shooting guard Kyle Korver told HOOPSWORLD. “We have a lot of pieces that have been together for a couple of years. I don’t know if it’s ‘or bust’ yet, but we’re really locked in on it and we really feel like we have a chance to do that.”
It’s clear all throughout the Bulls’ locker room that the disappointing end to last season, losing to the Miami HEAT in the Eastern Conference Finals, left a long lingering sour taste and is serving as an underlying motivation for the team to keep improving.
“The way the regular season ended last year, I mean that’s a lot of motivation for us,” Korver said. “This is a team that’s not satisfied at all by just having a good record last year.”
While the team was a feel good story last season rising up the ladder and was possibly able to sneak up on a few teams, the Bulls now find themselves in the role of the hunted as one of the league’s true elite squads – taking opposing team’s “A” games on a nightly basis.
“It’s a good thing when other teams are kind of gunning for you,” Korver said. “It means you’ve done a little something. Also in the crowds you see a lot more love for the Bulls for sure. We have a lot more fans who travel with us now which is exciting. I think we’re doing a good job so far just taking it one game at a time and that leads us to where we are now.”
Where Chicago is after eleven games (9-2) would put the club on pace for a 67 victory campaign (provided the standard 82 game season was still applicable).
Gerald Wallace Set To Test Free Agency Market Next Summer: Representatives for Portland Trail Blazers small forward Gerald Wallace have informed the team he will not seek a contract extension with the team this season.
According to Jason Quick of The Oregonian, limitations in the newly ratified Collective Bargaining Agreement is the primary reason for Wallace’s decision but his representatives have maintained the former All-Star would still be open to signing an extension with the team next summer.
Wallace remains under contract for the 2013 season for $11.4 million but he can also opt out of the last year of the deal which would make him an unrestricted free agent.
With teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, New Jersey Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Washington Wizards all set to have substantial cap room next summer Portland may find themselves in the midst of a bidding war for Wallace’s services.
It is important to note the Blazers possess Wallace’s bird rights so the team is in a more favorable position to offer more years than any other team, which ultimately means more money for a player seeking a long term deal as his career winds down.
According to Quick’s report, Blazer officials had entered this season hoping to avoid the prospect of Wallace entering the free agency market by proactively beginning preliminary discussions on a contract extension back in December.
“There is a genuine interest on both ends,” Blazers interim general manager Chad Buchanan said. “We value Gerald and what he brings to this team. We are open to discussing something long term if it makes sense financially.”
A Jeff Green Return To Boston Still Possible? On Monday unrestricted free agent forward Jeff Green underwent successful surgery to correct an aortic aneurysm. The medical setback will sideline him for the entire 2012 campaign.
At the start of the offseason, the Boston Celtics originally offered the then restricted free agent Green a one-year $9 million qualifying offer.
After Green was diagnosed with the heart ailment, the Celtics subsequently rescinded the offer making the swingman an unrestricted free agent.
Despite Boston’s business decision to rescind Green’s offer his agent David Falk hasn’t ruled out a return to the Celtics for his client once healthy.
“Now that he’s unrestricted and he has the legal right to talk to every team, Boston is obviously a team he is very interested in,” Falk told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “We’re going to continue our discussions with an appropriate time with Boston. I don’t think his status is going to change their need for him or his interest in talking with them.”
Green was acquired by Boston from the Oklahoma City Thunder last February for center Kendrick Perkins, who was a key member of the Celtics’ 2008 title team.
Based on Boston’s initial investment to acquire Green, Falk believes his client still is an important building block over the long term for the Celtics organization.
“I think Jeff has an important future value to the Celtics,” Falk said. “He has a very positive feeling about Boston. I think that it will be one of a short list of teams that he will talk to when the time comes.”
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