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Monday, July 22

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Bears in Five - Celebrity Guest Predictions!
by Craig Aichele, Ramsin Canon and friends

This week, the Noble Street scribes are taking a break, and have asked their celebrity friends to fill in with their mid-season predictions. Enjoy!

Mike Ditka, Coach, Smoker
I gotta tell ya, I been playing, coaching and talking football in this town for 80 years. And the group of fellas over at the Noble Street League are some impressive sons-of-guns. Not when it comes to football (these guys spend a weird amount fo time arguing about which player you'd rather have to go to your senior prom with), but when it comes to hats. Nowadays, not enough men wear hats. Or sweater vests. It's a damn shame.

So when the boys asked me to sub in for'em, I told'em, I says, "You bark, I say 'woof.'"

That Bears game was ugly, boy, let me tell you. If I woulda been coaching a guy that fumbled three punt returns, he wouldn't have because I'da killed his dog after the first one and his first-born male child after the second. Also I would spit out my gum. And this new kid, Benson, he's hurt already? C'mon. Benson, don't make me find you and reach in and pull that wussy part right out of ya.

We're getting' into the second half of the season here, and we can't have dickheads making mental errors, or blaming the freaking wind.

Now, Nate Vasher, there's a kid with his head in the game. Returning a missed field goal 108 yards? Here's a kid I like. The kinda kid you'd let date your daughter, y'know, if you didn't keep her handcuffed to the radiator in my attic. The Bears're looking pretty good going into their second half, as long as they don't make stupid mistakes. Carolina and their fierce defense next week will be a major challenge for Kyle Orton, but I ain't too worried about it, because that kid is tough. You seen how he holds his liquor? I like that in'im.

Now for the rest of the bonehead celebrity panel, with their midseason picks.

One: Don King, Boxing Promoter
Oh Lordy! It's the second half of this fortuitous football season, and these warriorific gridironomes are looking to claw their way out of the crab barrel and hoist that Lombardonion silver trophy. My prognostific grumplitatious predicticating begins with the playoffs teams. Only in America!

Nationalist Footbalian Conference: Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawkians, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falconians, Washington Redskins.
Americonian Footballing Coalition: Pittsburgh Steelingtons, Indy Colts, New England Patriots, Denver Broncathons, San Diego Super Chargers, and Cincinnati Bengalis.
Super Bowl: Seattle, Indy. Winner: Indy.

Two: Vince McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment
Ladies and Gentlemen, this will be an epic battle whose outcome will echo far beyond the realm of the world of sports entertainment. The Los Angeles Xtreme will prove to be victorious against the San Francisco Demons, truly exorcising them in the Big Game At The End Of The Season. This ...is the XFL.

Three: George Bailey, Bailey & Bailey Savings and Loan
Now, now, now just a minute, just a minute. You just see here. I know the NFC isn't the greatest conference in the world, I know it wouldn't live up to—to—to—to your Wharton School standards, Potter, but it means a whole lot to a lot of people! Why my old man started this penny-ante conference of mediocre offenses and terrible road play I'll never know, but he did it without ever once thinking about himself — isn't that right, Uncle Billy? And, and, maybe it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of Potter's AFC, but the workin' people of this one-horse town need the NFC, fellas, and what's wrong with that? And just you wait and see, this Conference is gonna make it, Mr. Potter, it is, and I'm gonna prove my dad died a richer man than you'll ever be!

NFC: Carolina, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Bedford Falls.
AFC: Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, New England, Denver, Cincinnati, Jacksonville
Super Bowl: Indy, Carolina. Winner: Carolina

Four: Dick Vitale, NCAA Pundit, Lunatic
It's Dickie V here BAYBEE and we're getting' close to strawberry shortcake time here in the NFL. These teams are loaded with P.T.Pers. Over in the American conference you have to start over at the Indianapolis Raceway. The defense is full of glass cleaners and you have the Human Space Ship in Tarik Glenn paving the way for Edgerrin James and the running game of the Colts. You can't overlook the Bengals in the AFC either. Chad Johnson is the real deal for Cincy. He's Skywalker, baby!! And out west, not only can Jake the Snake get it done, but the D is shutting 'em down in Mile High. Al Wilson is Mr. Pacman, just eating up every ball carrier that comes his way. The Patriots will also make it to the big dance, but it seems like it's been December for them all year. They've been sleeping. They've been the All-Dow Jonesers, not world beaters like in years past. I think San Diego has the Trifecta in Tomlinson, Gates and Brees to sneak in at the end and make a game of it. Don't forget about last year's Diaper Dandy in Ben Roethlisberger. His Steelers are charging hard at the right time to make a deep run in the tourney.

The NFC East is a knee knocker this year, folks. If Donavan and the Eagles can settle down they'll be all right. This team is drillin' Reggies when they need Pete Roses! Run the ball. The Panthers have the Isolation Man in Steve Smith. He's not a very big guy, but he's an M&Mer for every corner he lines up against. And what about this year's Diaper Dandy? Kyle Orton, he's awesome baby!! The Bears have been a Cream Puff Delight but that defense is a dipsy-doo-dunka-roo!! Seattle is just running away with the west. Running right behind Shaun Alexander, my captain of the All-Rolls Royce Team. Speaking of teams, have you seen America's team play this year?? Not only do they have my MVP of the All-Marco Polo team in Drew Bledsoe, but the cornerstones of the All-Wacko Team in Terry Glenn and Me-Shawn. And it doesn't matter who lines up under center for Tampa Bay, Joey Galloway makes it easy. It's the All-AT&T team!!

Ultimately, Peyton Manning is the Blender. He's always bringing the W. It will be N.C. for the Colts at the end. Slam, Bam, Jam, baby!!!!!! Colts are winning the big dance this year!!!!!!!!!

Five: Don West and Tom O'Dell, hosts of The Knife Collector's Show on the Shop At Home Network
We are about to offer you something that we have never, ever offered before here on the Shop at Home Network. Our bosses can't believe that we're going to do this. We can't believe that we're doing this. Here on the Knife Collector's Show we always try to bring you the newest products and best deals you can find anywhere. But look at what we have for you today. The Atlanta Falcons. Can you believe this collection of Falcons that we're giving you today? You need to jump on this now. A collection like this will never, and we mean never, be offered again. If you call now, you get a T.J. Duckett, a Warrick Dunn, Keith Brooking, big Rod Coleman. The list goes on, folks. You would be crazy to pass this deal up. Look at what else we have here, Demorrio Williams. And quite possibly the rarest item we have ever featured on this program. With all the others, you get, WOW! A Michael Vick. Do not miss your chance. You must act now if you want to secure this unbelievable set for yourself. This will never be offered again, folks!

 

Bulls in Five - Depth On the Bench
by Jason Maslanka

Bulls in Five left you last with the Bulls at 1-2, playing the moral victory game against the Nets and Spurs. Just a week later, the Bulls' prospects look a bit better at 3-3, including a solid win over the Jazz. There's little that makes me angrier than having to watch Derek Fisher play winning basketball, so it's been a tough week for this Bulls fan. Despite our miserable loss last night, I still contend that Golden State shoots way too many threes to be effective for a whole NBA Season. I can't really even describe my emotions concerning that sloppy, awful basketball game last night, so we'll just look at player development through the first six games, what's going well, and what needs to change for future success.

One: Quadruple Double Figures
With Kirk Hinrich leading the way, four players currently score in double figures each game. Joined by Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and, surprisingly, Chris Duhon with more than 10 per, Hinrich needs to lead the team as he did during the Jazz game. His strong first quarter helped the Bulls get out to a rare early lead. While there tend to be about a hundred lead changes and 20 comebacks in every NBA game, the early lead helps to set the tone and relax this young team.

Two: Amazing Bench
The starting lineup may change a few times this year with Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Michael Sweetney all pushing for starting spots at some point. The interchangeability of the starters is a testament to the depth of this team and bodes well for the bench's play no matter who comes off of it. So far, the Bulls' bench has outscored the bench of each of their opponents. Continuing from last year, the dominance of the bench is a huge key to the Bulls' style of basketball. Without the dominant scorers other teams possess, the Bulls have to maintain their constant assault even when the starters are sidelined.

Threeeeee: Keep Your Hands Off Him
There have been few things more encouraging that Tyson Chandler's terrific rebounding numbers. At 10.2 boards per game, he's been dominant in only 32 minutes/game. Why only 32, you ask? Foul trouble is the answer. Too often, Chandler tries to do too much on defense and even offense, setting moving screens and picking up pointless fouls. As a talented shot blocker, Chandler needs to save his fouls for tough inside plays. If he can avoid moving picks, blocking fouls and two hands on the back in the post, he'll get 38-40 minutes and pick up his 6.8 points per game average to go with 12 or so rebounds. It sounds small, but another four points and two rebounds from Chandler will make a big difference in the Bulls' win-loss record.

Four: This Dog House belongs to Tim Thomas
With Scott Skiles, I can only assume it's his attitude, but Tim Thomas isn't finding the court. Playing in only three games this season, this could be the last time we even bring up his name. I said before the season that he could be just the right player for a few points and rebounds. He hasn't been. He's still an important player and will need to play some power forward if he wants to see the floor. Thirteen points and two rebounds never look good as statistical totals for a season.

Five: Big Small Forward Play
Two Sophomores man the small forward position for these young Bulls, and their complementary skills have created matchup problems for other 3's in the league. Deng is averaging 14 points and five rebounds, needing only to pick up his assist numbers complete the picture of a fine multi-tooled small forward. The current starter, Andres Nocioni, averages eight points and only three rebounds, but has continued to play incredibly tough defense and make the plays, as they say, that don't show up in the scorebook. Maybe I've just explained the Tim Thomas problem, actually — he's found himself behind two good, young players who don't appear to be looking back.

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About the Author(s)

Craig Aichele, Ramsin Canon and friends are not really friends but rather fierce competitors on the fantasy gridiron. They meet weekly to embarass each other with random football trivia at the Noble Street League HQ. This is where they write their column. Craig knows where every professional athlete went to college, and in some cases the names of their roommates. Creepy. Send comments to bears@gapersblock.com.

Jason Maslanka began his fandom of the Chicago Bulls in June of 1991, conveniently coinciding with the franchise's first championship. The years since the championships tested his fandom, but it never faltered. He believes that the NBA is more than dunks and hip hop, and that the NBA dress code is a good thing. He thinks most fans don't really understand basketball, and if they did, they'd love it even more. He knows that there are certain players who do the little things for no praise, and stat-mongers who don't really do anything to help their team win. Every week, he plans to execute a beautifully crafted column containing five points you should be thinking about and discussing as a Bulls and NBA fan. Send comments, questions, and arguments to bulls@gapersblock.com

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