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#IMHO: Running of the Bulls, hoops commercials, LeBron in L.A

by Lang Whitaker | Grizz Gaming GM

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.


From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2018 9:30 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

Man down! So we’re barely at the one-quarter mark of the season and we had our first coach fired on Monday, when the Chicago Bulls relieved Fred Hoiberg of his duties. (And considering their start, I bet he really was relieved.) It had been a long season for the Bulls, that resulted in more than a few reactions such as this from Hoiberg:



It’s wild to think that Hoiberg started three years ago as the coach of a team with Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler… and now all of them are gone. (And Noah’s here in Memphis!)

But where are the Bulls today? I guess they are rebuilding around young players like Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. But I’d argue they still don’t have a superstar, and none of these guys have shown that they’re on the path to becoming a superstar. So who is the right long-term coach for them and where they stand right now? I’d suggest maybe a coach with college experience who could develop their younger players, but they just fired a coach with college experience who could develop the younger players.

Looking at these Bulls, what’s their path forward?


From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Tuesday, December 4, 2018 10:53 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: RE: #IMHO

That last question you just raised underscores the crux of the problem in Chicago. The Bulls have not had a clear path forward for some time. They’ve been all over the place in recent years under Gar Forman and John Paxson. The coaching philosophy and the roster have never blended on one accord. As a wise man once said, it’s been like having peanut butter, no jelly. Kool-aide, no sugar. Hoiberg hasn’t done anything to distinguish himself. But he was forced into a bad spot as a young coach taking over a scarred veteran group. Then the Bulls traded vets to go relatively young, only to reverse course again and sign an aging Dwyane Wade and an irritable Rajon Rondo. Then, they blew that roster up a year after that to get here. Eight years ago, this was the No. 1 seed in the East as a 62-win team. The fall-off has been steady, frustrating and lacking direction for some time. A fresh start from top to bottom might be the only solution.

Lang, I’m a sucker for a good story and a heartfelt message. In a day when most commercials are either outrageously corny or simply white noise to me, I find myself stopping what I’m doing every time to watch and embrace that Nike commercial with Kyrie Irving and his dad playing one-on-one inside an empty Boston Garden...


It resonates deeply because it takes me back to playing my pops, who once actually had a tryout with the Bullets way back in the day. As a teenager, there was no greater accomplishment then than when I actually got over the hump at 15 and beat him for the first time. That first W improved my record against him to, like, 1-97. But I felt like a champ. I felt like Kyrie. If I could beat Pops, I could beat anybody. Which hoops commercial hit you the deepest?


From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Tuesday, December 04, 2018 4:53 PM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

Well, to be honest, there’s one hoops commercial I’m particularly partial toward, especially the terrific actors who play the announcers...


The other hoops commercials that jumped out from my memory were the Converse Weapon spot where all the guys rapped...


The McDonald’s spot with Larry and Michael playing HORSE...


And I was telling someone the other day about this old Vince Carter ad where he danced down the street...


But the spot that always really gave me the feels was this TNT promo where they mashed up generations to show that as much as the game has changed, it’s still really the same.


(Also, my main takeaway from your last question is that I’ve spent way too much time watching TV over the years.)

As we hit the quarter pole of the NBA season, the Western Conference is basically one big log jam. Of the 15 teams in the West, 14 of them are with 5.5 games of each other. But of course we all know only 8 teams make the postseason. Right now, there are six teams on the outside looking in (Kings, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Spurs, Rockets, Jazz). If you had to make a choice today, which one of those six teams would you say is going to be a lock to climb up into the postseason picture by the end of the season? As for me, I’ll go with the Rockets, because they’ve been too bad for too long this season, and we know GM Daryl Morey won’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a deal if it comes to that. And with defensive coordinator Jeff Bzdelik back in the fold, they have to get things figured out before long, right?


From: Michael Wallace
Sent: Wednesday, December 5, 2018 9:03 AM
To: Lang Whitaker
Subject: #IMHO

The Rockets are a great choice, and I certainly see them recovering from this spell and getting into the playoff picture. But I feel most strongly about the Jazz. Of all the teams you list, Utah is probably the only one that’s not going through a bit of an identity crisis. We’ll get a good chance to see the Jazz and Rockets tonight in the national TNT nightcap. There have been so many moving parts with the Rockets, Pelicans, Spurs and T’Wolves, and the Kings are learning who they are in the midst of an internal power struggle. The Jazz defend, are usually a dominant team at home and have a structured approach to how they operate. Sure, they’ve stumbled from the gate, but it feels just like that – a stumble. Eventually, Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Co. will regain their solid stride and get back to being the Western Conference headache they’ve been for opponents.

Let’s roll out on this one, Lang. LeBron James comes to town Saturday for his first visit with the Lakers. This week, he’s had to respond to some critiques from Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant about his workload and do-everything style of play. I’ve said from jump that I think LeBron underestimated how much of a wide shadow in the court of public opinion Magic and Kobe would cast when he joined the Lakers. There’s nothing LeBron can do in L.A. that Magic or Kobe hadn’t already done, and he’ll likely never be as revered in Lakers lore the way those two are. At the end of the day, LeBron knows what he’s doing and has individually dominated the league for a decade. But is his skin thick enough to keep taking the high road? Or will he eventually have to tell Magic, Kobe and Luke Walton, “Chill, I’ve got this.”

LeBron James

From: Lang Whitaker
Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2018 10:03 AM
To: Michael Wallace
Subject: #IMHO

Well, what’s he got? As I write this, the Lakers are 5 games over .500 and in fifth place in the Western Conference. Last season, the Lake Show finished a dozen games under .500 and in 11th place in the Western Conference. For a team that’s already had a couple of injuries to deal with and is still heavily reliant on younger/developing players, it seems to me the Lakers are in a pretty good place!

But then, I’m not a Lakers fan. And there’s a certain sense of Lakers exceptionalism that exists in Southern California, in part because of guys like Magic and Kobe, who set and reached impossibly high standards year after year. What’s a reasonable expectation for this Lakers team? In the mighty Western Conference, I’d think just making the playoffs would be quite an accomplishment. But then, I’m not a Lakers fan.

As for your original question, I don’t know any athlete with thicker skin than LeBron. He’s shown again and again LeBron is willing to publicly state his opinion and deal with the backlash, all the way up to the executive branch, so I don’t think the opinions of a few former players will make much difference. King James is in Los Angeles: the weather’s nice; Bronny’s dunking in high school games; media mogul deals are being made; the Lakers are in the playoff hunt.

Hey, it’s a wonderful life.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace are solely their own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. Their sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and they have no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.