The Cavaliers and Bulls looked like the two clear-cut favorites in the Eastern Conference a year ago, and while the Bulls’ roster is still largely the same, the Cavs zoomed past them in the playoffs and other Eastern Conference contenders appear to have gained ground. The Heat, Wizards, Raptors, Hawks and perhaps even the Bucks, whom Chicago dispatched in the first round this spring, all appear capable of posing a threat and then some to the Bulls this coming season. While we wait for training camps to open later this month to see how it all unfolds, there’s more on the Bulls and Cavs amid the latest from the Central Division:
- LeBron James has structured his past two deals with the Cavaliers to give himself a chance to exit every summer, but the Cavs don’t think he’d dare to leave Cleveland a second time, as Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher said recently in a video and as Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk notes. That falls in line with a suggestion that Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports made last October, though Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer heard in December that James would be prepared to leave the Cavs if he felt it would be the “appropriate business decision.”
- The Pacers agreed to trade Roy Hibbert to the Lakers with the caveat that the Lakers would pull out of the deal if they signed a marquee free agent center, Lakers Executive VP of Basketball Operations Jim Buss told Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times. “[Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird] was fine with that,” Buss said. “Bird wanted to put the kid into a spotlight like this.” Hibbert praised Bird for having been up front with him, though David West cited the Pacers’ handling of their desire to move on from Hibbert as one of the reasons he opted out.
- Sam Smith of NBA.com, writing in a mailbag column, wonders about the lineup choices new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg will make and looks at whether the season ahead will have as little roster movement for Chicago as the summer did.
- We asked for your input on the Pistons roster dilemma as part of Tuesday’s Community Shootaround.