The Cleveland Cavaliers kicked off their 5-game home stand with a disappointing loss to the Dallas Mavericks. If they are ever going to figure it out this year, it needs to start like...now-ish. The Bulls are somehow still playing relatively decent basketball, despite their front office's best efforts. Tom Thibodeau will never tank.
Who? Chicago Bulls (20-20) at Cleveland Cavaliers (15-26)
When? 7:00 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, OH
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
Luol Deng has been great for the Cavs since joining the team. He's putting up really solid numbers and there have been plenty of reporters talking about how he's already having a positive influence on the locker room. Tonight will surely be a weird night for Deng as he goes up against the Bulls for the first time ever. He was a valuable part of that team for many years and it's not hard to see why. I don't expect emotions or anything to get in the way of Luol Deng's performance tonight. He'll go out there and do what he always does: play hard, play defense, and make the right plays. He's a professional. He's the Wayne Jarvis of NBA players.
Classic Deng here, to Cleveland media: "I don't want this to be Luol Deng playing his old team. I just want to win."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) January 21, 2014
Once Derrick Rose went down with an injury that will keep him out for the rest of the season, it seemed clear that the Chicago Bulls would be trying to tank and start their quick rebuild. Trading Deng was a huge part of that. Carlos Boozer is almost certainly on his way out this offseason and there will be a new core around Rose when he comes back. Despite the inevitable changes coming to the Bulls roster, they continue to play the same brand of basketball. They play fantastic defense (currently 2nd in the NBA) and have won 8 of their last 10 games. Much of the credit goes to Tom Thibodeau for being a tremendous coach, but it also has a lot to do with the culture that they've built over there. You hardly ever see the Bulls mail in a game like we've seen the Cavs do on numerous occasions. Everybody is held accountable and they work very well as a team.
That's what the Cavs are trying to build...but they aren't nearly there yet. It's going to take a lot more time, but I think we could see it start to form over the second half of this season. Maybe I'm crazy and trading for Luol Deng is too little, too late -- but I think it's a start. When you have a somewhat immature 21-year old phenom as the "leader" of your team, that's a problem. Kyrie Irving is an excellent basketball player, but he has a ton of room to grow both on the court and off it. We hear Kyrie saying all of the right things in interviews, but is he actually doing them behind the scenes? Is he putting in maximum effort to establish a team culture focused on accountability, determination, and team work? I'm not there behind the scenes everyday, but I somehow doubt that Kyrie is doing all of those things. Having Deng around should help, but it won't happen overnight.
The Bulls are shorthanded which is weird because Bulls don't have hands.
The Bulls don't have Carlos Boozer or Kirk Hinrich tonight. If the Cavs can't win this game then...man, I don't know.
Hinrich (right hamstring) is not with the team, while Boozer (left calf) is out tonight. vs. Cavaliers. #CHIvsCLE
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 22, 2014
Of course, we know that Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy will go off against the Cavs because that's what they do. It will be important for the Cavs to just give the necessary effort on defense because this Bulls team really shouldn't be able to score that much. Luol Deng knows all of Chicago's plays. The Cavs should be able to stop them. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson need to dominate the boards and prevent Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson from getting easy points off of offensive rebounds.
It's WWE Night at Quicken Loans Arena
There will be appearances by Dolph Ziggler and The Miz. I have absolutely no idea what that means, but I hope this happens.
Fear the Sword's Fearless Prediction
Dare I predict the Cavs to win a game comfortably? I dare! Cavs win 97-86.
- Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson play well after Andrew Bynum's departure
- Should Luol Deng make the All Star team?
- Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Dallas Mavericks Final Score: Huge nights from Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson wasted in 102-97 loss
- Cavaliers' veteran starting lineup is helping fix offensive woes
- Cleveland Cavaliers getting on track since trading for Luol Deng