The Cleveland Cavaliers had started to draw some criticism in the NBA following a start to the season that wasn’t exactly dominant in the Eastern Conference. However, the Cavs are currently in the midst of a five-game winning streak, one that has seen them improve to 18-7 on the year. With Kyrie Irving now back with Cleveland, they appear poised to start asserting themselves as the favorites of the Eastern Conference – as a showdown with the favorites in the west looms.
Irving saw his first action on Sunday since injuring himself in overtime of Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals. He scored just 12 points in his season debut. However, it was in limited action on a night where all starters for Cleveland saw curbed minutes in a rout of Philadelphia. The Cavs currently have a modest lead over the Indiana Pacers in the Central Division, with the Chicago Bulls a full three games back.
But where things appear to be on the upswing in Cleveland, things do not seem to be going well in Chicago. The Bulls are just 5-5 in their last ten and, in an odd development, it has lead to criticism of Fred Hoiberg, Chicago’s head coach. While the criticism itself is nothing out of ordinary given that coaches often get criticized, the source of the criticism is a little offbeat. Jimmy Butler, a shooting guard/small forward for the Bulls, alleged that Hoiberg hasn’t been as tough on his Chicago players as needed.
Hoiberg’s background for coaching basketball is not at the professional level. He spent several seasons in charge of Iowa State before making the leap to the NBA earlier this year. It does not look great that he has drawn some criticism from his own players, and you have to wonder if there will be changes in the near future. If so, then it would not likely be with Hoiberg, who is at the start of a five-year contract worth $25M, but with Butler. That said, Chicago are 15-10 on the season, which is nothing close to egregious, but it will still be interesting to see what transpires in the weeks ahead.
Upcoming games for the Bulls include a Monday nighter hosting the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn are a 7-20 team on the year with just one road victory thus far. The Butler comments promise to put extra pressure on Hoiberg and things could get ugly in Chicago if the Bulls start losing at home to weak competition. The Bulls also play on Christmas Day in a nationally televised game at OKC, a game that you have to think Chicago will probably lose given how well the Thunder have played of late.
Other Christmas Day games include New Orleans at Miami, San Antonio at Houston, Los Angeles ‘at’ Los Angeles, and the show-stopper – the Cavaliers at Golden State. The latter features the current betting favorites for each conference, and it promises to be the main event for sports in North America on the 25th of December. Start time for the Cavs/Warriors is at 5 pm ET with Sportsnet providing coverage in Canada and ABC providing coverage throughout the USA.