GAME NIGHT FROM NEW ORLEANS: Bulls (18-28, 7-16 on the road) at New Orleans (24-21, 12-9 at home).
TV: NBC Sports Chicago: Neil Funk, Stacey King. Tip-off at 7PM CT.
RADIO: WLS 890 AM: Chuck Swirsky, Bill Wennington, Steve Kashul.
LEADING SCORERS: Bulls: Mirotic: 17 ppg. Pelicans: Davis: 26 ppg.
LEADING REBOUNDERS: Bulls: Markkanen: 7. Pelicans: Davis: 12.
LEADING ASSISTS: Bulls: Dunn: 6. Pelicans: Rondo: 7.
LAST MEETING: November 4, 2017 in Chicago: Pelicans 96-90. OT.
CCI 24 SECONDS COMMENTARY: The Bulls are coming off an outstanding win over the Hawks. It’s not always about points, either. Zach Lavine struggled shooting, but managed to grab nine rebounds. Jerian Grant dished out six assists and grabbed six rebounds. Denzel Valentine dished out five assists. The bottom line is, word around the NBA is when you play the Bulls you are in for a competitive forty-eight minute contest. When I speak to coaches and scouts, the first thing they like about the Bulls is their fierce desire to play hard. The Bulls are 15-8 after a very difficult start, and since December 15th they are averaging 111 points (5th in the NBA) and shooting 39% from 3 point range (2nd in NBA).
CCI SAYS NOLA HAS A BIG "3": We know about the brilliance of Davis and Cousins. Let’s give some props to Jrue Holiday. He struggled early, perhaps feeling the pressure of his off-season signing of 5 years at 126 million. Regardless, he has come on and has been absolutely off the charts. The past five games, he’s averaging 24 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 59% from the field. He’s shooting a career high 49% and averaging 18 points per game. The Western Conference comes down to nine teams battling for eight spots. Unless one of these teams has a wicked second half of the season, Utah, Phoenix, Dallas, Sacramento, Lakers, and Memphis are headed to the lottery. That leaves Denver, New Orleans, Portland, Clippers and OKC vying for 5-8. Someone is going to miss out. There's a ton of pressure on head coaches to grab that playoff spot.
I’ve seen a ton of Pelicans’ games. Why? Because I love watching Davis and Cousins. I want to see Davis play 80 games. He’s never played more than 75. This season he’s missed six. Davis is a future HOF player if he stays healthy. He gets after it, and I love his mojo. Cousins is so gifted and so versatile, and I have to give the two a ton of credit for playing together and buying in to having two mega stars on the floor together. Not just two players—two bigs, who deserve and need the ball. Add Holiday to the mix, and you’ve got three franchise type players. Here in lies the problem: New Orleans has been dealing with injuries to Tony Allen, Solomon Hill and Frank Jackson. These three would be in the Pelicans rotation. Alvin Gentry has a tight rotation, and only time will tell if this plan works. I’ve always maintained that players dictate minutes-not coaches. If a player produces and contributes, the coach will find time for him on the court.
CCI TAKES YOU DOWN MEMORY LANE IN NOLA: 32 years ago this week, I was in the city of New Orleans serving as Sports Director of WGN Radio, anchoring sportscasts and shows as lead host of the Bears Radio Network. It was Super Bowl 20: Bears-Patriots. The Bears had unique personalities, and while we are almost two generations removed from that brilliant season, the 1985 Bears will always have a place in the hearts of Chicago sports fans.
It was a crazy seven days in NOLA full of parties, press conferences, and erroneous media reports surrounding Bears quarterback Jim McMahon. The 1985 Bears crushed and destroyed opponents. You like swag? They invented the word. They enjoyed smashing people. The Bears symbolized glorified violence. Global advertisers couldn’t get enough of "The Fridge," "Sweetness," and "The Punky QB" or the Super Bowl Shuffle. Then there was "Da Coach". Mike Ditka remains an iconic figure in the history of Chicago sports. He was candid, newsworthy, and offered opinions on any subject and I mean ANY subject. On Monday mornings during the Bears season, Ditka would join myself and the late, great Bob Collins on WGN Radio, recapping the Bears game from Sunday. Ditka pulled no punches. He would go after anyone and it was must listen radio. Other than a complete demolition of the Patriots, the one memory I will take away from SB 20 is the sheer emotional disappointment of Walter Payton failing to score a touchdown. It was obvious Payton’s ego and pride was hurt, and it was afterward when Payton was reluctant to speak to the media. He put up a good front, but clearly the damage had been done. Months later I saw Walter and the subject of him not scoring never came up, but as I reminded him how far he and the Bears had come from his rookie year to ten years later, Payton was indeed thankful he was a Super Bowl champion. That’s my New Orleans memory.
NBA NEWS AND NOTES
For the first time this season, the Celtics have dropped three straight games. Despite Kyrie Irving’s 40 points, Orlando won on the road. The Atlanta Hawks approve of this message!
A first for Tony Parker in a regular season game: the future Hall of Fame player came off the bench in Indiana’s victory over the Spurs. Only one other time has Parker been a reserve, and that came in the 2010 playoffs.
Spencer Dinwiddie is hoopin’—the former Windy City Bull is enjoying a breakout season, as he knocked down the game winning shot in the Nets win over Detroit. Dinwiddie went 9 of 13 from the field.
The Lakers ripped the Knicks 127-107. Clarkson with a 29-6-10 game.
Always a pleasure!