2015-16 NBA Season Predictions

Tuesday night, a new NBA season tips off with 3 games featuring the league’s biggest stars. TNT will feature a doubleheader with the Cavaliers and. Bulls in Chicago (7 PM CT), then the Pelicans visiting Golden State for the Warriors’ banner raising ceremony (9:30 PM CT). Also facing off will be the Pistons and the social media savvy Atlanta Hawks. Sure it will all be going on before the World Series, but that’s what sports bars are for with multiple monitor setups.

A new season means new storylines and intrigue that only the NBA can produce. The defending champion Warriors are very much the same team, built to score plenty and defend as well as anyone. The Spurs Big-3 (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker) have one last ride (at least) in them with rising superstar Kawhi Leonard and newly added LaMarcus Aldridge. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving still rule the Eastern conference, but the Bulls are playing the Star Wars “rebel” role with a healthier Derrick Rose and new head coach Fred Hoiberg. Don’t forget Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have a new coach too…

There’s plenty of drama I could go on about and plan to cover for each team, but for now we’ll just make some predictions for who will be making the playoffs and who will be taking home hardware by the end of the 2015-16 season.

Eastern Conference Playoffs

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Chicago Bulls
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Toronto Raptors
  6. Boston Celtics
  7. Indiana Pacers
  8. Milwaukee Bucks

Eastern Conference Finals

Bulls vs Cavs

1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs 2. Chicago Bulls

Western Conference

  1. San Antonio Spurs
  2. Golden State Warriors
  3. Memphis Grizzlies
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. Los Angeles Clippers
  6. Houston Rockets
  7. New Orleans Pelicans
  8. Minnesota Timberwolves

Western Conference Finals

Spurs vs Grizz

1. San Antonio Spurs vs. 3. Memphis Grizzlies

NBA Finals

BASKET-BKN-BKO-NBA FINALS-GAME 5-SPURS HEAT

Spurs vs. Bulls (Spurs in 6)

Most Valuable Player

AD MVP

Anthony Davis (NO)

Defensive Player of the Year

Tony Allen DMVP

Tony Allen (MEM)

Rookie of the Year

Jahlil

Jahlil Okafor (PHI)

Coach of the Year

Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan (OKC)

Sixth Man of the Year

Taj

Taj Gibson (CHI)

Most Improved Player of the Year

NBA: OCT 23 Jazz at Clippers

Rudy Gobert (UTA)

ALL-NBA First Team

Stephen Curry (GS)

James Harden (HOU)

LeBron James (CLE) 

Anthony Davis (NO)

Marc Gasol (MEM)

Marc Gasol

All-NBA Second Team

Russell Westbrook (OKC)

Kevin Durant (OKC)

Kawhi Leonard (SA)

Blake Griffin (LAC)

Pau Gasol (CHI)

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls

How do your predictions look? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter

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Regular Season Can’t Start Soon Enough for Jimmy Butler, Bulls

In a recent interview with Chicago Magazine, Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler spoke to staff writer Bryan Smith about his new $95 million contract, celebrity friends, Nerf guns, and his difficult past. Smith describes just how tough it is for Butler to discuss it.

“…he loathes reliving the past—so much so that he has removed the rearview mirror on his car (yes, really) as a symbolic reminder to never look back. His coach at Marquette University, Buzz Williams, says Butler was so sensitive about his upbringing that he swore Williams to secrecy while playing for him.”

Of course sports media, the internet, and even I had a field day with that detail about the rearview mirror.

He cut his brakes because he CAN’T STOP, WON’T STOP….but seriously, Jimmy, put the rearview mirror back. Otherwise, get someone else to drive you while you’re in Chicago. I don’t need to get in anymore silly accidents downtown and neither does anyone else. There’s also A LOT OF MONEY INVESTED IN YOU. So safety matters. – End mini rant.

Kidding/judging aside, I get the symbolism. Butler had an unbelievably tough upbringing. His father wasn’t around and mother kicked him out of the house as a 13 year-old before he was taken in by a high school teammate’s family. Butler doesn’t want his past to define who he is now. Since being drafted at the end of the first round of the 2011 draft, 30th overall, Butler worked his way to where he is today.

Butler’s points per game have increased every season. During his rookie campaign, Butler averaged 2.6 points over 42 games coming off the bench. In 2014-15, Butler started 65 games and averaged 20 points per. Then after being named to his first All-Star game, his second All-NBA Defensive Team, and leading the league in minutes per game (38.7), Butler led the Bulls in playoff scoring but was ousted by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6 of the conference semis.

The last meaningful game the Bulls played, fans saw a team that had given up on their coach, Tom Thibodeau, in an elimination game against the best basketball player in the league. Even after keeping pace with the Cavs in a high scoring first (33-31 Cavs), Butler and his teammates stopped looking for easy baskets and settled for lazy jump shots. After leading all scorers in the first quarter with 10 points, Derrick Rose looked disinterested and so were fans by the 3rd quarter. The result of Game 6 left the worst taste in your mouth if you were at all invested with a Bulls team that was surrounded by drama between the coach and the front office, Butler’s contract situation, and Rose’s health.

While the Bulls’ roster is virtually the same as it was a year ago, there’s a new head coach and a new philosophy in 2015-16. Fred Hoiberg is the anti-Thibodeau and he brings a strong emphasis on scoring. If you haven’t already, get the defensive oriented try-hard Bulls teams of the past 6 years out of your system and get used to multiple 100+ free Big Mac games at the United Center. Hoiberg is also a “players coach” and Butler further expressed his appreciation for that in a revealing Q&A with NBA.com’s David Aldridge at the start of October…

“I think Fred is a bigger person, where he’s going to come in, he’s going to check on you. Over the summer, he came and visited everybody. I think every coach is different. Thibs wasn’t like that. Thibs was a guy that, he was going to be in that office studying ways to win a championship…Fred is trying to teach me that you’ve got to be a people person, too. Because you’ve got to balance both. You really do.”

As I noted earlier, Butler did get paid and he was paid very well. After betting on himself during the season last year and proving he’s worth more than the original extension the Bulls offered him, the restricted free agent and the team that drafted him agreed on a 5-year $95 million deal with a gradual rise in salary per year. It seems Butler understands that the new paper means more responsibility for him…

“I hired my trainer full-time. I have my own weight, strength and nutritional guys, full-time. I’m investing money into my body and into my craft, which is a wise investment…help my team win, I’ve got to be healthy. To help my team win, I’ve got to be able to score the ball. To help my team win, I’ve got to be able to guard. This whole summer was all about that — playing all 82 games, and the playoffs.”

There also seems to be a general agreement throughout the organization that the team isn’t built around Rose anymore, and Butler wants to take the mantle as the leader on the floor. If you were paying attention to the Rose-less Bulls for the past few seasons, the leaders were certainly Joakim Noah and Luol Deng on both ends of the floor. That’s where Aldridge’s interview with Butler gets interesting…

“I have to be a leader. I think I can lead vocally, and obviously with my actions on the court. I can’t tell anybody to do something if I’m not doing it. I can’t ask one of these rookies to dive on the floor if I’m not diving on the floor, take a charge if I’m not taking a charge. Leadership is one of the only things that this team has really been lacking. We’ve had a little here and there, but I think you’ve got to have that guy to come in and get it done in the leadership role.”

Dude…Noah’s still on your team. You know that right? I’ll be the first to admit Noah’s presence on the offensive end of the floor last season was more of a hindrance than helpful, but you can’t deny how he put the team on his back and carried them into the playoffs in 2013-14. Noah finished 4th in MVP voting that season, with all the chest pumping glory you could ask for. You also have Pau Gasol on your roster with two NBA Finals rings on his hand.

I appreciate a lot of what Butler has had to say since committing to the Bulls for the next five seasons. I like that he’s talking like a superstar, now that he’s being paid like one. I hope Butler improved on his long-range shooting and ball handling though, so the other four guys on the floor can play off him in space. If he wants to take the reigns as the “face of the franchise” and leader, Butler also has to continue playing like the two-way player that his teammates, fans, and piers around the league have come to respect. Most importantly, win basketball games and win them in the playoffs. At the end of the day, the players who go to championships are the ones you trust the most.

I want the season to start already so Butler, Rose and everyone else in a Bulls uniform can simply let their game speak for them. The Bulls open the season next week at the United Center, Tuesday Oct. 27th, against the Cavaliers. It’s only the start to another long season, but one that couldn’t come soon enough.

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#TBT Year in Review: 2002

In the last palindrome year you’ll see until 2112…

  • The Winter Olympics were held in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • NASA discovered water ice deposits on the planet Mars. 
  • The Sims became the all-time best selling computer game.
  • Joe Strummer of the Clash passed away at the age of 50. 

And here’s what happened in Movies, Music and Sports…

Movies

Comedy

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, Austin Powers: Goldmember, Punch Drunk Love, About a Boy, Mr. Deeds, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Friday After Next, Sweet Home Alabama, 40 Days and 40 Nights, The New Guy, Barbershop, Adaptation, Two Weeks Notice, Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, I Spy, Undercover Brother, Showtime, Bubba Ho-Tep, Slackers, AND…

Jackass: The Movie

Action/Thriller

Spider-Man, Minority Report, The Transporter, 007: Die Another Day, Panic Room, Red Dragon, Signs, Murder By Numbers, Blade II, The Sum of All Fears, Phone Booth, K-19 The Widowmaker, Equilibrium, Swimfan, Star Trek Nemesis, 28 Days Later, Insomnia, One Hour Photo, XXX, Resident Evil, Changing Lanes, Reign of Fire, The Ring, Enough, Bad Company, Collateral Damage, AND…

The Bourne Identity

Drama

Catch Me If You Can, Gangs of New York, 8 Mile, The Pianist, City of God, The Hours, 25th Hour, Secretary, About Schmidt, We Were Soldiers, Frida, Chicago, Antwone Fisher, Far From Heaven, The Magdalene Sisters, A Walk To Remember, Road to Perdition, Unfaithful, Amen, Bloody Sunday, The Count of Monte Cristo, AND…

John Q

The 75th Academy Awards

Best Actor

  • Nicolas Cage, Adaptation
  • Michael Caine, The Quiet American
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
  • Jack Nicholson, About Schmidt
  • Adrien Brody, The Pianist – Winner

(Adrien Brody won his only nomination, and kissed Halle Berry in the process) 

Best Supporting Actor

  • John C. Reilly, Gangs of New York
  • Christopher Walken, Catch Me If You Can
  • Ed Harris, The Hours
  • Paul Newman, Road to Perdition
  • Chris Cooper, Adaptation – Winner

(This was Chris Cooper’s only Oscar nomination)

Best Actress

  • Salma Hayek, Frida
  • Diane Lane, Unfaithful
  • Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
  • Renee Zellweger, Chicago
  • Nicole Kidman, The Hours – Winner

(Nicole Kidman won once out of 3 Oscar nominations, also for Moulin Rouge and Rabbit Hole)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Kathy Bates, About Schmidt
  • Julianne Moore, The Hours
  • Queen Latifah, Chicago
  • Meryl Streep, Adaptation
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago – Winner

(Like Brody and Cooper, this was Catherine Zeta-Jones’s only nomination and win)

Music

Rock Albums

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Hip Hop Albums

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Pop Albums

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Billboard Year-End Top 25 Songs

  1. “How You Remind Me” – Nickelback
  2. “Foolish” – Ashanti
  3. “Hot in Herre” – Nelly
  4. “Dilemma” – Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland
  5. “Wherever You Will Go” – The Calling
  6. “A Thousand Miles” – Vanessa Carlton
  7. “In the End” – Linkin Park
  8. “What’s Luv” – Fat Joe featuring Ashanti
  9. “U Got It Bad” – Usher
  10. “Blurry” – Puddle of Mudd
  11. “Complicated” – Avril Lavigne
  12. “Always on Time” – Ja Rule featuring Ashanti
  13. “Ain’t It Funny” – Jennifer Lopez featuring Ja Rule
  14. “The Middle” – Jimmy Eat World
  15. “I Need a Girl (Part One)” – P. Diddy featuring Usher and Loon
  16. “U Don’t Have to Call” –
  17. “Family Affair” – Mary J. Blige 
  18. “I Need A Girl (Part Two) – P. Diddy featuring Ginuwine and Loon
  19. “Gansta Lovin” – Eve featuring Alicia Keys
  20. “My Sacrifice” – Creed
  21. “Without Me” – Eminem
  22. “Hero” – Enrique Iglesias
  23. “All You Wanted” – Michelle Branch
  24. “Get the Party Started” – Pink
  25. “Hero” – Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott

Sports

Baseball

League Leaders

Offensive

Average: Barry Bonds (SF) – .370

Hits: Alfonso Soriano (NYY) – 209

Home Runs: Alex Rodriguez (TEX) – 57

RBI: Alex Rodriguez (TEX) – 142

OPS: Barry Bonds (SF) – 1.381

Stolen Bases: Luis Castillo (FLA) – 48

Pitching

Wins: Randy Johnson (AZ) – 24

ERA: Pedro Martinez (BOS) – 2.26

Strikeouts: Randy Johnson (AZ) – 334

Complete Games: Randy Johnson (AZ) & Bartolo Colon (CLE/MON)

Shutouts: AJ Burnett (FLA) – 5

Saves: John Smoltz (ATL) – 55

MVP

AL – Miguel Tejada (OAK)

NL – Barry Bonds (SF)

CY Young

AL – Barry Zito (OAK)

NL – Randy Johnson (AZ)

Rookie of the Year

AL – Eric Hinske (TOR)

NL – Jason Jennings (COL)

World Series

Anaheim Angels over San Francisco Giants (4-3)

Basketball

NCAA

Final Four

(1) Maryland, (1) Kansas, (2) Oklahoma, and (5) Indiana

National Championship

(1) Maryland over (5) Indiana 64-52

NBA

League Leaders

Points Per Game: Allen Iverson (PHI) – 31.4

Rebounds Per Game: Ben Wallace (DET) – 13.0

Assists Per Game: Andre Miller (CLE) – 10.9

All-NBA Team

Kobe Bryant (LAL)

Tim Duncan (SA)

Jason Kidd (NJ)

Tracy McGrady (ORL)

Shaquille O’Neal (LAL)

MVP – Tim Duncan (SA)

Rookie of the Year – Pau Gasol (MEM)

NBA Finals

Los Angeles Lakers sweep New Jersey Nets (4-0)

Football

NCAA

Heisman Trophy – Carson Palmer, USC

National Championship

(1) Ohio State over (2) Miami 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl

NFL

League Leaders

Passing Yards: Rich Gannon (OAK) – 4,689

Passing Touchdowns: Tom Brady (NE) – 28

Passer Rating: Chad Pennington (NYJ) – 104.2

Rushing Yards: Ricky Williams (MIA) – 1,853

Rushing Touchdowns: Priest Holmes (KC) – 21

Receiving Yards: Marvin Harrison (IND) – 1,722

Receiving Touchdowns: Terrell Owens (SF) – 13

Receptions: Marvin Harrison (IND) – 143

AP MVP – Rich Gannon (OAK)

Super Bowl XXXVII

Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Oakland Raiders 48-21

Hockey

League Leaders

Goals: Jarome Iginla (CGY) – 52

Assists: Adam Oates (WSH/PHI) – 64

Points Jarome Iginla (CGY) – 96

Hart Memorial Trophy – Jose Theodore, MTL

Stanley Cup

Detroit Red Wings over Carolina Hurricanes (4-1)

Did I miss anything? Let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03 or on Facebook.

Also checkout past #TBT Years in Review.

2011

2010

2007

2006

2005

1999

1998

1992

1990

1989

1988

1987