Two proud franchises with a lot of misery and some great moments at the hands of pretty much one player. Quite a bit of Cavs misery at the hands of Michael Jordan. Quite a bit of Bulls misery at the hands of LeBron James. The Bulls, you know, have a few more titles, but the Cavs have one and that’s pretty good for Cleveland.
Nowadays, these teams do misery just fine on their own. Neither team went into the season looking to be anything more than fringe playoff contenders, and high lottery appearances feel likely. Each is ravaged by injuries, so it’s hard to bury or beat up on them too much. But in a league where most front offices are run in smart ways that value information, these two feel like a throwback. It’s not that the team’s don’t employ smart people; they do. You just never know who is empowered.
Who: Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls
Where: United Center — Chicago, Illinois
When: 8:00 p.m
How to watch: Fox Sports Ohio, League Pass
Cavs injuries: Sit down, it’ll be awhile. Kevin Love, George Hill, Cedi Osman, and perhaps Sam Dekker.
Bulls injuries: Sit down, it’ll be awhile. Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine.
There’s one player with bona fide star potential in this game, and it’s 23 year old Zach LaVine. He’s flashed potential for years and dealt with difficult injury. He has yet to put it all together, but he’s unquestionably the man right now in Chicago. He’s getting big minutes, and he’s scoring the basketball in big numbers. He’s been fairly efficient too. 27 points a game on 58% true shooting isn’t a bad place to be at that age, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can sustain that without much help. Markkanen is hurt, but you hope the two of them can grow together for a long time.
On the other hand, the Bulls placed a bet on Jabari Parker that hasn’t yet paid dividends. He’s not defending, which he basically admits, but he’s also not scoring. Look for him to torch the Cavs because of course. In a way I feel bad for Bulls fans because it does seem like they have a nice collections of young players. Dunn, Markkanen, and LaVine aren’t nothing, but two of the three are hurt. Even Denzel Valentine isn’t out there to grow at the moment.
Of course, the Cavs know all about that. With George Hill out, Collin Sexton is starting once again. This will force the Cavs to stagger his minutes somewhat with Jordan Clarkson, and that’s a good thing. You wish Sexton had Kevin Love or Hill out there with him as he learns about the NBA. Either way, it’s a chance to evaluate the Cavs 8th pick and see where he’s at and throw darts at the board in terms of where he can end up.
I can’t even pretend to know who is going to win this game, I just wish the teams were a little more healthy to really see the young players go. LaVine and/or Parker feel like a lock to go off for big points, and that’ll be frustrating. The tank rolls on.