If you've been following the FIBA World Cup, Team USA has beaten every opponent by double digits but haven't really played to their full potential. One player in particular fitting that description is Derrick Rose. Of course, Rose isn't really needed to play huge minutes and be the leading scorer, but we all can see the signs of rust the Bulls point guard has shown after missing all of the 2012-2013 season and majority of the 2013-2014 season with knee injuries.
In Team USA's victory over Mexico, Rose went scoreless for the first time in the FIBA World Cup shooting 0-for-5 from the field with three turnovers in 15 minutes of action. Shooting just 21.6 percent from the field through Team USA's first six games, should this be cause for concern or just going through the motions of shaking the cobwebs off? Well not to worry Bulls fans, the big picture is Rose getting valuable time back on the court in a competitive atmosphere. Everyone knew Rose would have times when he's not explosive and can't finish at the rim, but that all will come in time. By the time Bulls training camp comes around, Rose should already be in good basketball shape and having his timing almost all the way back.
Carlos Boozer never got a fair shake in Chicago. He signed a five-year, $82 million deal with the Bulls back in 2010 shortly after the team missed out on its top four targets: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson. That's a lot of money for a guy the fan base considered a laughable consolation prize after Gar Forman and John Paxson couldn't land any of the elites at the top of the free agent bonanza. The relationship between Boozer and Bulls fans started out on the wrong foot, and it only got worse from there.
The infamous hand breaking incident in early October didn't help matters, prompting many fans to attend their Halloween parties that year in a suit jacket, dress jeans, an Ace bandage-wrapped their hand/arm, and a duffel bag. Or maybe that was just me. Anyhow, Boozer's first season in Chicago hadn't even started yet, and he was considered clumsy, overpaid, and generally unwanted by the fan base.
Then there was the defense. He was never considered a good defender at any point in his career, and the spotlight shined brightly on him in this regard because he was the only negative defender on the team during his first season not named Derrick Rose. For an organization and a coach that prided itself on a maniacal form of defense, this was unacceptable to the fans that sat in the United Center seats and watched on television.
Getting Carmelo Anthony to Chicago was always a long shot. Despite offering him the best chance at winning a championship during the remaining prime years of his career, the difference in money New York could bring to the table was just too great. The other 29 teams were at a roughly $35 million disadvantage to start with, and the figure was even greater with the Bulls because of their lack of max cap space.
Gar Forman and John Paxson moved on from the news of Anthony's return to New York almost immediately -- agreeing to terms with Pau Gasol on a deal reportedly worth $22 million over three years. The terms weren't reported in the media until a full day later because the Bulls' cap situation is an incredibly fluid one, being one of the few remaining teams in the NBA with the ability to amnesty one of their own players: Carlos Boozer.
GarPax have been trying for weeks to find a trade partner for Boozer, even seeing if the Lakers would take him off their hands in a sign-and-trade deal for the aforementioned Gasol, but the latest reports don't show that happening. The benefit to dealing Boozer as opposed to amnestying him is that the team wouldn't owe him any more money ($16.8 million this year) and could potentially add a massive trade exception they could wield at the February deadline to add an impact player for a playoff run.
Going to Pamplona is a bucket list item for thrill seekers, but it's not cheap when it comes to travel and stay costs -- not to mention the fact that it's utterly dangerous (see gored man in above link). The Great Bull Run at Hawthorne Race Course this Saturday, July 12th, offers you the same thrill that you would get running with the bulls in Spain, but in a much safer environment (as safe as running with bulls can be) and at a fraction of the cost.
For $75 on the day of the event (plus $10 for parking if you drive), you not only get to run with the bulls during one of their six different time slots, but you get a t-shirt, bandana, one free beer, and also get to participate in their Tomato Royale food fight that takes place after the bull running.
Spectator tickets are $15, and tickets for the Royale only can be nabbed for $55. If severe weather threatens the event, the rain out date is on Sunday. For more information about how the event unfolds, check out their handy FAQ page.
Editor's Note: This column was updated after a clarification of trade rules was realized by the author.
From the perspective of the Bulls front office, the only way last night's NBA Draft could've gone better would've been if Jabari Parker somehow fell into their laps at the 16th pick. Obviously that event was a pipe dream of all pipe dreams with absolutely no chance of actually happening. The second best scenario for the Bulls was to land Doug McDermott out of Creighton. And that's exactly what they did.
The Bulls traded their 19th pick, the 16th pick they had from Charlotte (Tyrus Thomas trade) along with a 2015 second round pick (either their own or the one Portland owes them), to the Nuggets for Anthony Randolph and the rights to the 11th overall pick, whom they had already used to select McDermott.
When McDermott was announced as the pick for Denver, the trade winds began to swirl mercilessly. The Nuggets had already acquired Arron Afflalo before the draft, and picking McDermott would've added duplication to an already stocked wing spot on their roster. That's when word that the Bulls had made the trade came down.
Yes, LeBron James might be available this offseason. If he opts out of his contract, the Bulls should do everything in their power to pursue him before Carmelo Anthony. He's unquestionably the best player in the league, and provides the clearest path to the NBA Finals.
But for this exercise, we're going to pretend the Big Three stay in Miami, which is the likeliest scenario at this point. And though Kevin Love is a really good player, he's a year away from potential free agency, which limits his availability to Hail Mary trade offers only. Anthony should be the Bulls' number one target this summer, and they need to go all in to get him if they want a shot at a title in the next three years.
It only took two days after the Bulls' elimination from the first round of the NBA Playoffs for their offseason to get into full swing. According Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, the Lakers plan on seeking permission from the Bulls to interview Tom Thibodeau for their head coaching vacancy.
The sweat has barely dried on the floor of the United Center, and the Bulls are now being flung into high gear when it comes to setting up their team next season. Instead of focusing entirely on their pair of first round picks, along with the potential pursuit of free agent Carmelo Anthony, Gar Forman and John Paxson have to spend time making sure their coach isn't going anywhere.
So many questions arise during awards season when it comes to the NBA. Should the MVP go to the best player (LeBron James), or to the guy who had the best season (Kevin Durant)? Should the Most Improved Player award go to a star becoming the superstar, or any random player that made a huge leap statistically from the year before? Should we just name the Coach of the Year trophy after Greg Popovich to make up for the fact that he's only won the dang thing three times (he's getting it this year)?
One award that didn't have a question attached to it this year was Defensive Player of the Year. Joakim Noah locked down 100 of the 125 first place votes to become the first Bulls player to win the DPOY since Michael Jordan won it in the 1987-88 season. Scottie Pippen never winning the award is an absolute crime, but that's an entirely different column.
The Eastern Conference was host to a lot of tanking this season -- mainly racing to see who could get the most ping pong ball combinations on draft lottery night. But in the last few days of the season, playoff bound teams started losing like crazy too.
Not to be outdone, the Brooklyn Nets were lining up perfectly for a first round slugfest with the Bulls with a week left to go in the season. Then came a "stunning" collapse in the final five games. Losses to Orlando, Atlanta, New York (without Carmelo) and Cleveland dropped Jason Kidd's team to the six seed, and a first round date with Toronto instead.
The Bulls have been on a roll lately, inexplicably notching 10 wins in their last 12 attempts following the trade of former All-Star Luol Deng. Most of the opponents have come from the lowly Eastern Conference, but there are some quality wins against Atlanta (twice), Golden State, and Dallas mixed in as well. Don't let the streak fool you into thinking the Bulls are a contender though.
One of those losses came in a throttling by the LeBron James-less Heat, and it's doubtful the run continues when the Grizzlies, Heat, Spurs, Rockets, Thunder and the hated Pacers (twice) all make their way to the United Center in March. A team that struggles to score as much as the Bulls do can't survive on backdoor passes from Joakim Noah in a tough stretch of regular season games, let alone a seven-game series. High-end talent thrives in the playoffs, and the Bulls don't have enough of it.
Control is something the Chicago Bulls don't have a lot of right now.
The future of the franchise rests on whether Derrick Rose can be elite again, some draft lottery ping pong balls in May and how the Charlotte Bobcats and Sacramento Kings perform.
The one thing Chicago had complete control over of was Luol Deng's future in a Bulls uniform. After years of living on the trading block, the Bulls front office seemed to finally value Deng's worth to the point where I truly wondered if they would be foolish enough to try and re-sign him in the offseason.
Luckily, they thought about the future and moved him to Cleveland, saved some major money in the process and added a few draft picks.
This story was practically already written in my head. You know, the one where I was going to commend the Chicago Bulls for doing all the right things (save winning) since Derrick Rose went down with a season-ending meniscus tear in his right knee.
Bulls management immediately ruled Rose out for the season, which would have been appropriate a year ago when the speculation of a potential comeback overshadowed a decent basketball team. Then general manager Gar Foreman made the media rounds with Bulls beat writers by providing some level of transparency as to what the state of the franchise is.
This crisis communication plan had my seal of approval until Rose spoke to the media on Thursday by giving his teammates and fans a glimmer of hope that they don't need right now.
"We want to step away from that shadow as the 'little brothers' of this division. Their success is the Michael Jordan era. This is a new age, this is a new team. It's ours till they take it." - Paul George to NBA.com after defeating the Chicago Bulls 97-80 on Wednesday night.
Paul George had the right to spit some fire after he and the Indiana Pacers spit a ton of game all over the Chicago Bulls to move to 5-0 on the season.
The quote matched the Pacers' confidence on the court, but the Central Division has been the Pacers' for exactly one season. That came in a year when the Bulls were playing without Derrick Rose. In the two years prior, the Bulls held the league's best regular season record.
The combination of Derrick Rose's prodigious talent and 18-month recovery from a torn ACL has made some of us something we're likely not. Just because we've all logged a night at a Holiday Inn Express doesn't give us the expertise of a doctor, the experience of being an NBA player or for that matter, walking a day in DRose's signature shoes.
With that being said, now is a good time to let go of any beefs and discard any complaints that you've logged over the last year and a half.
With Tom Thibodeau calling the shots and Derrick Rose running the floor, the Chicago Bulls are the two-time Eastern Conference regular season champions.
Yes, there's technically no such thing as the Eastern Conference regular season championship -- it's commonly called the top seed, and conquering that sometimes torturous 82-game stretch has been the Bulls' calling card two of the last three seasons.
The Bulls want and need a better reputation: to be the team that takes down the big, bad (but so good) Miami Heat in the postseason.
But first, they need to again be the regular season beast in the East.
Writing is a passion for everyone at Gapers Block. And if you're a sports writer who's looking for a forum, we've got room for you here!
Tailgate is looking for new contributors to add to our stable of coverage on everything related to Chicago sports. Any runners that want to provide more coverage of all the goings on in the 5k and half-marathon world, let's hear from you. Want to write about high school athletics within the city limits? Let us know. If you have an interest in collegiate sports (Northwestern, DePaul, UIC, etc) in Chicago, off-beat sporting events (fishing tournaments, beer pong, curling, the list is endless), or the Chicago Bulls (yes, we need a Bulls writer for this year), we're all ears!
Our Bulls writer would need to post a couple times a week during the season, and if your taste is another area, we'd love you to write as much as you're able to contribute. Please note that all positions are unpaid, as Gapers Block is entirely volunteer driven. If you're interested, send a couple of writing samples and what you're interested in writing about to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a year and a half, basketball fans waited for Derrick Rose to return to the NBA.
While Chicagoans are no doubt looking forward to seeing him back on the court, perhaps no one is more excited for his comeback than Adidas. To make good of Rose's lucrative endorsement contract, Adidas launched #thereturn last October, to keep him (and implicitly, his signature shoe line) in the spotlight while demonstrating his commitment to rehabilitation and reclaiming his potential.
Last Monday, Rose appeared in Chicago for the launch of his newest shoe, the D Rose 4. Along with the event, Adidias released a video called "all in for Chicago" reaffirming Rose's dedication to the game, his city and his team, and serving as a PR counterattack to anyone who criticized him for not returning to play sooner.
With the 2013-2014 NBA season on the horizon, and reports of a confident, healthy Rose ready to reclaim his mantle as the best basketball player in the game, the timing of his shoe launch could not have been more perfect.
...that is, until a certain pop star came along to rep the shoes of the only other Chicago Bulls player legendary enough to make Derrick Rose irrelevant.
The Chicago sports landscape is a vast space, reaching as far as the Quad Cities to Nashville, with legions of fans who stick with their teams through thick and thin. And much like that landscape in the middle of February, it is often dark and cold for what seems like an eternity, with no hope in sight. But once every so often, a beam of light shines through, melting away the ice and once again restoring hope for athletics in the Second City.
With so much drama and so many teams in the country's third-largest market, it became necessary for news outlets to canvas the city's north, south and west sides with sports writers, just as they crammed the courts and morgues with beat writers as early as they dawn of the newspaper.
And we're off to yet another uneventful offseason brought to you by John Paxson and Gar Forman. The non-excitement is palpable. The Bulls drafted incoming NBA freshmen Tony Snell and Erik Murphy, who will likely continue coach Tom Thibodeau's rookie acclimation program where they'll average anywhere between 8-12 minutes per game, just as previous rookies Omer Asik, Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague have over the last three years. Then management decided not to renew the contract of Thibodeau's best bud and lead assistant coach Ron Adams, which was a move that lubricated the rumors of there being friction between the GM and the coach.
The Free Agency period has been as quiet as Neil Funk after a Stacey King "Family Guy" reference. Nazr Mohammed tweeted that he's coming back to the Bulls. Whenever your team can re-sign a back-up center at the veteran's minimum, it's time to seriously consider favoriting the tweet of the sports writer who mentioned it on your timeline. In a move to appease a fanbase whose group-think has postulated that the organization (facing tax implications) is cheap (hat tip to Reggie Rose), the Bulls signed a soon-to-be-33-year-old Mike Dunleavy Jr. to a two year, $6 million deal.
For the second consecutive season, Luol Deng is at the heart of trade talks prior to the NBA Draft. With one year remaining at a salary just north of $14 million, many teams have called to see what the price tag would be to snag the All-Star defensive ace. The Bulls paid the luxury tax for the first time in team history last season, and unless a trade is made involving Deng, Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah, they'll pay it again this year.
The Bulls' draft scenarios all revolve around whether or not Deng is member of the team tonight. They've reportedly had discussions with the Cavs (owners of the No. 1 pick), Wizards (No. 3 pick), and quite possibly the Magic (No. 2 pick) because each team is stacked with young players, and are in desperate need of a veteran presence (aka not another rookie).
The likeliness of a deal happening, however, is quite slim. Chicago will likely make their scheduled pick at No. 20, and will snag the best wing player or rotational big man they can find. Mock drafts over the past six weeks have lined up a number of players with the Bulls, including: Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG, Michigan), Mason Plumlee (PF, Duke), Gorgui Dieng (C, Louisville), and Jeff Withey (C, Kansas).
As the old adage goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Since the start of the year the Bulls were (by experts and perhaps their own management) considered to be damaged goods who could do no good come playoff time. Consequently, with shoddy roster decisions they were sent to the curb, with no one expecting them to pick up until next year. However, mixed with garbage and grit, their ruby red hearts shined and displayed solid-as-gold determination as they delivered a season with a landfill's worth of "whoa, what just happened" memories. That's why we watched the games, isn't it?
The Game 5 loss against the Heat didn't feel anywhere near to the type of dejection felt after last year's Game 6 defeat to the Philadelphia 76ers. This time around the Bulls were beat by the best team in basketball, and they've grown accustomed to being seasoned veterans when it came to playing without Derrick Rose. Surprisingly, the Heat were vulnerable at times and kept the Bulls in two of the close games that they ultimately lost.
Would a healthy Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich have made a difference? Yes, to the extent that two of the Bulls' glaring weaknesses were turnovers and getting to the shooter on rotational defense. In fact, if both were healthy, you wouldn't be reading this piece until Monday, which would have been after Game 7, where the Bulls would have mightily lost the deciding tilt in Miami. What if Rose had put matter over mind, and stepped in at any point in this series with his teammates sharing a clean bill of health? Fortunately for next season and beyond, we'll never know.
How can a team only down two games to one in a best of seven series be on life-support? Because they're killing themselves, with unsportsmanlike conduct, perplexing fouls (especially the legitimate ones), and creating instant offense on turnovers -- for the Heat.
Tom Thibodeau's "we have enough players to win" mantra is as transparent as his updates on players' health status. And it looks like Thibodeau won't be reporting any good news before tip-off in the way of healthier players. The overmatched Bulls -- minus Luol Deng (already ruled out for Game 4) and Kirk Hinrich -- are throwing everything they have at the Heat. Though they're wearing their hearts on them, there are no more tricks up their sleeves.
Nate Robinson put the city of broad shoulders upon his own diminutive frame and marched into Miami to take down the gargantuan Heat. For an encore after what seemed like the Bulls' biggest playoff win in a decade on Saturday vs the Nets, the Bulls pulled off arguably the biggest playoff game upset in franchise history with the 93-86 shocker over the Heat. Hyperbole suits this underdog Bulls squad best.
As the minutes of the fourth quarter waned and the Bulls weren't being blown out, the vibe in my house with my buddies, as it was presumably all across Chicago's bars, was as if we were watching a pitcher who keeps getting deeper into a no-hitter. No one said anything to each other about the Bulls actually pulling the game out, and with each big basket, we all silently nodded and mutely noted the significance of the moment. That was until Robinson hit the floater past Ray Allen in isolation, putting the Bulls up four with 45 seconds left to play. The room exploded as if the no-hitter vying pitcher got the last batter to pop-up on the infield, and the game was all but secure.
Any hope for a banged-up Bulls team, missing their starting point guard and All-Star forward, to go into Brooklyn and win Game 7 against a streaking Nets team was just the kind of delusional faith the Bulls needed to ignore their shortcomings and win. And win they did. The depleted and damaged-goods Bulls handled their business trip like professionals. In Game 7, they never trailed at any point. It's not very often the less talented team in a playoff series goes up three games to one, then loses two in a row forcing a game seven, then said less-than squad marches into enemy territory without two of its starters and dominates every facet of a round-clinching battle. Would you expect anything less dramatic from these Chicago Bulls?
Joakim Noah, who has more heart in his bum foot than the Nets do on their entire roster, scored 24 points, had 11 rebounds, and blocked six shots. Over the entire series, he averaged 11 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks a game, but just as importantly, played outstanding basketball in the game's crunch time moments. It was a career defining series for Noah, who in his first couple of seasons was viewed as solely a energy-rich fan favorite. Now he is considered one of the toughest and best centers to ever play for the Chicago Bulls franchise.
Bulls fans are desperate for the return of their starting point guard -- no not whats-his-face -- the one who's been playing while not being 100 percent healthy: captain Kirk Hinrich. This perpetually tough team proved to be too vulnerable sans Hinrich's presence in game five and could be further exploited to the point they'll lose this series. Well, the Bulls season-long good luck had to end sometime.
Sarcasm aside, without Hinrich, the offense is more makeshift than maintained from point guard play. Nate Robinson, who gave what he could after his game four heroics (20 points, eight assists, only three turnovers in 43 minutes), was overextended, which cost the Bulls in the fourth quarter with some fatigue-induced poor decisions and bad shots. In game five, Marco Belinelli dribbled around the half court like a gadabout with no purpose or direction. Even Marquis Teague got a terse run at point, but like the aforementioned combo-guards, he had similar results of ineffectiveness. Hinrich's absence hurts the team equally on defense. Deron Williams dished 10 assists, got to the free throw line 10 times, making nine of them, and in total scored 23 points. He wasn't bothered or taken out of rhythm in game five. The Nets could run their offense and they did just that. Turns out they can score.
While it looks like Hinrich will be out game six and seven, the Bulls are going to have to rely on their wings to create offense, which is something Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng are going to have to get used to posthaste.
Joakim Noah and Nate Robinson should have no business outdoing their healthier and categorically more talented counterparts in game four. Brook Lopez is averaging 22 and seven a game, and Deron Williams, when he's hot, is one of the best point guards in the NBA. This Bulls team shouldn't be winning a series against a team that's better than them in almost every facet -- all facets except determination and will -- which is the difference maker. To say that Noah is operating at 70 percent of his normal self would be generous and a straight-up lie. Robinson, who's been a non-factor in this entire series, took the game over on offense, which no other Bull seems capable of doing, thus giving the Bulls their only puncher's chance to knockout the Nets in extra periods.
All of this wouldn't have been possible if not for CJ Watson's missed wide open dunk in the fourth quarter. There was less than four minutes to play, the Bulls were down 14, and Watson could have put the nail in the coffin had he just laid the ball in, but as Bulls fans are quite familiar with, Watson doesn't make the best decisions come playoff time.
Now that the entire Bulls fan base has genuflected toward the deity that is Joakim Noah, after his miraculous performance on Monday, it's time to pray that his foot holds up and the Bulls don't commit sins such as turnovers, missed free throws, and disobeying the scripture that is Tom Thibodeau's defensive playbook. OK, maybe game three isn't of biblical proportions but the occupants of the Madhouse on Madison need to treat it as. In fact, for a team playing with house money, every game is a must win. The onus will be on the players. The crowd will smell blood in the water and act accordingly. Thibodeau is doing well in the adjustment game and the pressure to win is on Brooklyn. Tonight's game will show who wants the series more.
Taj Gibson has to limit his fouls. Seeing Nazr Mohammed make some key plays in the win on Monday was great excited-Stacey-King-fodder, but it's nothing this team can afford to depend on. Carlos Boozer is playing a solid 43 minutes a game this series and it doesn't seem to be affecting his stats, but if he gets cold, then he becomes somewhat of a liability on defense (all one has to do against Reggie Evans is box him out, not guard him.) Gibson's 4.5 fouls a game and Noah's minutes limit can spell more big games out of Brook Lopez. The fouls could be a sign of the knee injury slowing Gibson down, but when he's not fouling players, he looks good on both sides of the court.
Grind, gut, grit; three words that can be attributed to any Bulls win this year, and yesterday's was no different. As everyone panicked about the Bulls' awful game one loss against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, the team and coach Tom Thibodeau refocused and readjusted themselves to notch a 90-82 victory last night. Micheal-Jordan-"flu game" praise has been given to Joakim Noah (11 points, 10 rebounds in 25 laborious minutes) for his inspired performance, and the Bulls don't win that contest without his fourth quarter and the team's late defensive stands.
On offense the Bulls played like a team that was going to win with defense. They shot 52 percent on two pointers (34-for-65), which was only four percentage points worse than what they did at the charity stripe (56 percent, 13-for-23). They shot 25 percent from deep (3-for-12), yikes. It's a good thing the Nets shot 19 percent (4-for-21) from long range, and 35 percent overall. Every shot is a tough shot for the Bulls in this series. Offensively it wasn't pretty, but when this season appeared to be on its "last call," you'll take what you can get.
Chicago vs. Brooklyn, the biggest playoff series ever between cities with the largest concentration of hipsters. Urban Outfitters in Wicker Park and Park Slope will have signs in their windows saying "closing early ironically/unironically to buy Champion era replica BJ Armstrong/Kerry Kittles jerseys, size 42, from a real thrift store." Regular season basketball mercifully over, it's now time to play the style of slowed-down hoops the Bulls have been rehearsing for all year long. While no one is counting on Derrick Rose to return, don't count out these Bulls for a playoff run sans a franchise star.
The individual match-ups will define this series. The Bulls face a team with a roster far less deep than their own. Nine of the Bulls players are averaging over 22 minutes a game and the Nets have only five. Remember when all of us thought this season was a wash because the organization let go of key personnel? Well Coach Tom Thibodeau could take you or me and make us at least serviceable in his defensive scheme. He's gotten the most out of Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Nazr Mohammed, which seemed a lot easier for him than it is for him to put on his oversized suits. With that said, playoff rotations tighten up, so when breaking down the match-ups, which six guys you got?
The Bulls have played this month just like April itself: a few pleasing days, but not enough to ignore the cold (shooting) and slippery (falling to sixth in the East) ones. This week, they've bolstered their reputation of being streak-enders and punching bags for teams whose fan bases just want this season to be over, like the losses they suffered Tuesday and Friday to Toronto. It's apparent that the Bulls want this season to be over too -- well at least the regular season. This team won't back down against opponents with championship aspirations. Mental fatigue is more evident than physical for this squad, so what can fans expect from the Bulls come playoff time? Exhausting displays of will and grit, with outcomes none can predict. Not just yet anyways.
Now while the Bulls don't necessarily have voiced goals of reaching the NBA Finals, they will enter each playoff series buying that they could, in spite of offensive limitations, win three out of six games with defense, and then hopefully stealing one on the road if Marco Belinelli, the point guards and, yes, even Rip Hamilton all get hot. Well, this is plausible against any Eastern Conference foe besides the Miami Heat, who even if the Bulls play the perfect game, LeBron James could still single-handedly decide the outcome of the games... but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
No matter who's healthy enough to be in uniform, the Bulls once again played to the level of their competition and lost. The 99-85 defeat yesterday to the perennially lottery-bound Detroit Pistons, was just another bad loss (which snapped an 18-game winning streak over that team) following a feel good win like the one against the Brooklyn Nets last Thursday. It would have seemed more plausible if the Bulls lost to the National Championship finalist Michigan rather than to a D-III program like the Pistons, which is led by NBA punchlines like Brandon Knight and Charlie Villanueva. Fortunately for the Bulls, their post-season fate seems to be set, so this loss isn't completely unforgivable. Reprehensible yes, but the team will move past it.
The Bulls have a quasi-cozy two-game lead over sixth place Atlanta with the Hawks playing two fewer games than the Bulls over the next week and a half. What's worrisome is the Bulls' opponents coming up have very little to play for, which could spell disaster for the "beat good teams, and get beaten by bad teams" Bulls. Of the six foes left, only two have winning records (Miami Heat, New York Knicks), and those teams are in the business of resting their stars rather than running with them in meaningless games. Depending on which blogger, buddy or Bulls fan you tweet at, there're more pros than cons to the Bulls finishing sixth in the East as opposed to fifth or fourth. All that talk is trite, moot and filler; the team has a matchup edge over the Nets and if the Bulls get the Indiana Pacers, which isn't likely due to the Hawks recent struggles, then and only then should Bulls fans start expressing worry for the first round.
While no player is held up in an ICU bed ordering hospital pizza smoothies, the Bulls have plenty of bodies that need physical (and one that needs mental) recuperation before the unpredictable first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs commence. With Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, and presumed out-for-the-year starting guards Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton already missing extended action, Taj Gibson also hit the inactive docket after he went down with an MCL sprain in the 90-86 loss to the Washington Wizards last night. The Bulls just have one thing to accomplish over the next nine games: to get healthy.
Aside from the assumed Heat-Bucks matchup where the Heat will do what they do, anything can happen between seeds 2-7 in the East. A lower seed could easily "upset" a higher one. The Bulls know how to win big games, but whether they can do that four times in a span of seven matches is another story. With all of this year's surprise revelations realized (Jimmy Butler's emergence and Noah's full potential met) and early season expectations turned into disappointments (Rip's scoring and body breakdowns, the Rose waiting game, and complete lack of consistent three-point bailouts), it's safe to say this Bulls team has to play a perfect game of team defense, getting to and then converting at the free throw line, out-rebounding, and out-hustling an opponent to win a playoff series.
The Bulls were without a signature win all season long, but that changed last night when they signed the death certificate to the Miami Heat's 27-game winning streak with a 104-97 triumph. For a sweet, sweet moment, Bulls fans could finally lift up their heads that have been hanging low and finally have something to hang their hat on this year. While this isn't exactly a Cinderella story, bitter Bulls fans are still waiting for the other shoe to drop with the potential of Derrick Rose announcing he'll sit out the season. The thought of beating the Heat and perhaps turning things around seemed like a fairy tale, but it's nowhere near midnight, and the ball has just begun.
The Bulls jumped to an 11-2 lead to open the game. The starters were focused from tip-off and so was the attention of anyone watching. Nazr Mohammed, again filling in for Joakim Noah, who's still dealing with a foot impediment, had two criminally easy steals and two tough baskets which set the tone that the Heat wouldn't win this game easily -- at least in the first quarter. This had all the makings of a classic 2012-'13 let-down game from the Bulls. The lead at half time was nine and as expected the Heat imposed their way back in the beginning minutes of the third quarter. It was a good thing that four Bulls decided that they weren't going to lose this game.
It's good to be a Bulls fan right now, if you ignore everything else that has happened to this team over the last year, and just focus on this current hope-bearing two game winning streak. The Bulls went from being the team nobody wanted to play in the playoffs earlier this year, to the team everyone wants to play as of late, and now back to being the team nobody wants to play, pending a clean bill of health.
Just when Bulls fans were ready to tap out for the season, the team shows some fight. Against the Indiana Pacers sans emotional and physical leader, Joakim Noah, the Bulls had seat fillers like Nazr Mohammed (11 points, seven rebounds) and Daequan Cook (nine points, five rebounds) play inspired basketball to help defeat Central Division-leading Indiana, 87-84.
After wearing their green St. Patrick's Day uniforms, the Bulls will have the same feeling as most Chicagoans do after a Paddy's Day weekend: pissed off/on. Add incorrect calls of offensive interference to the list of bad breaks that this Bulls team has caught all year long. An indignant cry of "Bullsh*t" was as emotionally charged as it was apt from the sold-out crowd at the United Center. The hot-as-of-late Nate Robinson had a season high of 34 points and a clutch three-pointer to send the game into overtime, but it wasn't enough in the Bulls' 118-119 loss to the streaking Denver Nuggets.
Winners of 11 straight coming into Monday night, Denver is one of the deepest teams in the NBA -- so facing the Bulls, a team they blew out a month earlier, shouldn't have been a problem considering Chicago was without two of its starters and their sixth-man.
The Bulls came out with energy to start the game, but would consistently let Denver drive its way to the rim on scoring runs, just to claw their way back in a game that showed heart, effort, and the same adjectives and verbs commonly used to describe this team when they win games. The feeling that they deserved to win this one is justifiable on paper, seeing as how the Bulls shot better from the field, from deep and from the charity stripe, but at no point were the Bulls ever in control, which is a synopsis of this season.
Luol Deng is a defensive stalwart who provides endless effort and is in the prime of his career. But the team's intangibles leader has failed as a tangible, stat-line force this season when they've needed him most. As has been the case year after year, Deng needs to do more for this team on offense.
It's hard to place blame on a guy that dependable, but this season, Joakim Noah stepped up to the cumbersome challenge, and Deng stayed his course. Whether or not Derrick Rose returns this season, the team's only chance at an iotas worth of mid-to-late May playoff success has it's ball in Deng's court.
It's that time of year in the second city where with the playoffs looming, bars are dusting off Chicago Bulls banners and display them outside their saloons, proclaiming that their establishment is a Bulls bar. While flags are flown, when it comes to their flat-screens, sometimes the Bulls are a second priority. Like most stir-crazed Chicagoans dealing with winters coup-de-grace week, last Thursday night I had to get out of the square footage that I rent and watch the Bulls-Sixers game at a bar. There was only one problem: not only haven't the Blackhawks lost a game in regulation, they've haven't lost a TV decision in a Chicago sports bar when they're playing at the same time as the Bulls.
I've worked in various Chicago bars for seven years. I even had a gig at the world wide leader in sports bars, the now defunct ESPNZONE. While trying to pour brews, mixing spirits, and answering the inane question of "what's good to eat here?", bar staffers are asked to change the channel to accommodate the patrons' gambling or personal tastes. A conflict arises when you have more games people want to watch than HDTV's can cover. Normally bars have a "first come, first served" approach for television rights, though a committed sports bar manager should have the TV's auto-tuned and preset.
The Bulls have shown a lot of range this month; they've lost games all sorts of ways. They've been blown out by teams loaded with superstars like the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. They've fallen in perplexing loses to teams playing without their franchise players like they did against the San Antonio Spurs and the Cleveland Cavaliers in last night's game.
On the road or at home, with rest or without it, this team looks beat literally and figuratively. Cue the obligatory excuse of "there's no excuse for the team losing games" that the players and coach constantly offer. The squad sits four games in back of the red hot Indiana Pacers for the Central Division lead, and only three games ahead of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and the resurgent Milwaukee Bucks. Perhaps Bulls fans' collective panic attack will give the team a reason to start attacking each game with sustained intensity.
Non-story after non-story this week, this Bulls team just can't seem to separate themselves from blog gossip, or the Miami Heat. A trade deadline came and passed seeing the Bulls, for the first time in franchise history, heading into the luxury tax after not being able to move some contracts. Derrick Rose practiced 5-on-5 and apparently he looked "really good" but still may sit out the season. The team won two road games but all anyone cares about was the loss to the Heat. March Madness has begun early for the Bulls (although the Cinderella teams that will ruin our brackets in three weeks will do it by better three-point shooting than this team could ever muster.)
In the two wins this week against weak teams, the Bulls recorded an assist on 67 plays, and turned the ball over 21 times, including a paltry six times in the Bobcats game. Every player in the eight man rotation had a decent game in at least one of the contests. Perhaps the Bulls' knack of losing against bad teams is behind them. It's safe to say this team understands the importance of the next eight weeks and won't let excuses get in the way of beating teams they should be beating.
My wife and I just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary last week on Valentine's Day (no, I'm not that hopeless of a romantic. It was cheaper and it scored points with my in-laws so that they didn't have to make plans). And overall, we have been together for nearly six wonderful, glorious, fun-filled years, where I feel we have both learned so much, not just about our favorite music and foods, but about what makes us tick as individuals.
Early on in the relationship, my wife got an inside look at my love for the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, Bears and, sadly, one of my favorite pastimes, fantasy sports. While dating, I would come over on Sundays and take over her front room by snagging her laptop to monitor football scores, while flipping between the Fox and CBS games.
Needless to say, she had the patience of a Saint while I marched my way through the playoffs to eventually capture my first ever fantasy sports championship. I had my good luck charm in her, and she got a nice dinner out of the winnings.
The return will happen on Thursday. No, not that return, but the return to the United Center of the too-big-to-fail Miami Heat. In front of a national basic cable audience, the Bulls will play harder than the Heat, but the game's outcome will be decided on whether LeBron James wants to start a new efficiency streak or if James isn't able to recover as the best player in the world after the devastating blocks that Kobe Bryant put upon him.
After Tuesday night's 98-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets, the Bulls are left with 29 games in nine weeks. 15 against teams that are currently below .500 and 14 against teams fighting for the chance to play game sevens in Miami and Oklahoma City. Perpetually shifting in the Bulls' way for the second spot in the East are: the three-point shooting, non-rebounding New York Knicks; the team without an identity or a leader, the Brooklyn Nets; and the Bulls' doppelganger and current day arch rival who may be getting a former all-star in Danny Granger back, the Indiana Pacers.
Any predictions at this point are as pointless a post game interview with Coach Thibodeau. The Bulls just need to go on an actual winning streak larger than four games, something they haven't done this season. The Eastern Conference finals is only possible if they don't meet the Heat in the playoffs until then.
In the Chicago Twitterverse, the only speech that got more coverage than President Obama's State of the Union address was Derrick Rose's very own impassioned declaration to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt. "I'm not coming back until I'm 110% healthy," Rose said in the piece, which was full of calculated candor.
Rose may sit out the season, and it's beginning to make Bulls fans think that they may be "stuck" with this fourth place team that's had an awful 2-4 record in the month of February. The mood in the Bulls milieu is almost as bleak as when Rose's tore his ACL in the first place.
Last week, reports confirmed that talks between the Bulls and Raptors had the teams swapping prodigal sons Carlos Boozer and Andrea Bargnani. Some argued the trade would be great for the Bulls because Bargnani could help the Bulls improve on their 34% three-point shooting, in addition to having a nice pick-and-roll piece for Rose. Others claimed Bargnani plays even less defense and doesn't rebound as frequently as Boozer does, which is a strength against teams like the Miami Heat and New York Knicks. One thing everyone could agree on, this trade, and possibly the season, is moot if the Bulls don't get Rose back.
Who needs last year's "Bench Mob" when you have this year's collection of "Spot Starters In Waiting"? OK, that's not as catchy as "Bench Mob" but it's very apt.
In the Bulls' two road games over the weekend, they were without All-Star Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), the team's second leading scorer and rebounder Carlos Boozer (hamstring), and the oft-injured Derrick Rose fill-in, Kirk Hinrich (elbow). In last night's loss against the Pacers, though Boozer returned, the Bulls were out-rebounded by 12, and Luol Deng and Taj Gibson, seemed to tire towards the end of the game. The Bulls are racking up minor injuries, but are hanging around in the standings.
Everyone who's ever typed a word of praise for the Bulls has mentioned their depth, but that only gets a team so deep in the post season. According to basketball-reference.com's navigation friendly NBA championship series composite box scores, out of the last five finals match-ups, only 56 players logged an average of at least 20 minutes per game, which breaks down to each of those ten teams using a feeble 5.6 players that played an entry-level average of 20 minutes a game, minimum.
At a game well over .500, Bulls fans are drinking the squads' Kool-Aid that's enriched with vitamin-D(efense). However, the glass was half empty in the beginning of the season. The consensus among sports writers, before this season tipped off, was that the Derrick Rose-less Bulls would finish the season anywhere as low as the eighth and as high as a fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff seeding. Instead the Bulls are a pinch past the halfway mark of the campaign and just two and a half games out of first place. The battle for post-season positioning will become less oppressive with the Bulls gaining an offensive All-Star during the All-Star break.
Though at first he will be in the unfamiliar guise of a pass-first, jump-shoot second point guard, Rose will return with Bulls sometime in February. It would be almost condescending to reflect and praise the Bulls for what they accomplished in the first half of the year without their superstar, instead, as I'm sure is the teams mantra, it's best to focus on how the team can get better. There's room for each player on this hard-capped roster to augment their game positively.
Nate Robinson: Would it be too much to ask to get you to commit at least one less turnover and/or shoot one less fast-break-pull-up three pointer a game?
Time to make dinner reservations at some expensive West Loop restaurant fellas, Valentine's Day is approaching. In the spirt of the holiday, I'll use a dating analogy to explain Robinson. Robinson is the person you think you can change. You make excuses about why he's good for you, but only because he's so much fun to be around. Robinson's been committed to five different relationships in eight years. He's a great "in the moment" guy, but you certainly can't build your future around him. He is who you thought he is. Though he may not be "the one," he'll be an important part in all Bulls fans lives when Rose is back running the point, allowing the Bulls to play Robinson at shooting guard -- where you can forgive his mistakes.
Derrick Rose tearing his ACL was scary. Him returning is just as frightening. What if he's not the same? Can you stand watching him suffer setbacks, which are a commonplace on the corrugated road to recovery? The lion's share of Bulls fans have made peace with playing games without Rose, but his return has always given them peace of mind. Rose scrimmaged against teammates on Tuesday. Thursday it was reported he was participating in two-on-two drills. Saturday I'm sure it will be noted the Bulls are having Rip Hamilton and Marco Belinelli guard Rose so he can get used to being fouled. By Monday, he could even be taking charges that Nate Robinson so generously gives to his defenders. The point is, this is really happening, Rose will be playing in a regular season game for the Bulls -- this season. Early season paranoia and pessimism of the return has been substituted for excitement and optimism. Both rationals are reasonable, below are some things Bulls fans should consider for Rose's immenant comeback.
Training talking points account for zero game points.
In #TheReturn video series, we saw Rose work medicine ball like the hungriest contestant on NBC's "The Biggest Loser" competition. A lot of Rose's training programs have been turned into fodder on why he's going to have the best season anyone has ever had in basketball, ever. "Rose has been doing a lot of core work, can he win the MVP award in just two months of play?" There's talk of the muscle he's added. "Ten pounds of muscle, maybe coach Thibodeau can let him bang the boards at Center position to give Joakim Noah a breather!" Rose has had nothing but time to work on his jump shot. "OK, that's actually a good thing." Chicago sports radio callers aside, you hear about athletes coming off an injury or a bad season taking MMA training programs, doing Bikram yoga, taking pointe dance lessons, and other unusual efforts to play better. Rose has to trust his knee. There's no short cut, no unconventional regiment, or rehab for Rose to help him decide if he should split LeBron James and Dwayne Wade's double team or pull up and take a low percentage shot. A lot of Roses early success is dependent on if he can convince himself to just play his game. The old football cliché that's shouted to any of us who played Pop Warner football is, "When you go half-speed, that's when you get hurt." Speaking of football...
The 62nd annual All-Star Game starters were announced Friday with Joakim Noah and Luol Deng finishing seventh and twelfth (dis)respectively, while Carlos Boozer didn't even crack the top 15. The All-Star starter online vote is a popularity contest where reputation, marketable star power and suburban school-children are the deciding factors for election. Unfortunately for the Bulls starting front court, there's nothing 50 Shades of Grey sexy about double-doubles, playing 40 minutes a game, and true shooting percentages above 52%. Members of the TNT broadcasting crew suggested Noah and Boozer warrant a shot, and Coach Thibodeau thinks Deng should make his second appearance in as many years. There is hope for this trio to make the All-Star Game as reserves. Why is this even important for them to play in a presumed meaningless game? Aside from contract incentives, All-Star players money pool share, and a free trip to Houston, the NBA All-Star Game means a lot to its players and fans.
The three other professional sports leagues' All Star Games doesn't hurt or help in the growth of their sport, but the NBA's does. MLB tries to make its All-Star Game meaningful by having the winning league of the exhibition host the seven-game World Series championship. The NFL's Pro-Bowl, which I've been to three times on family Hawaiian vacations, is only exciting when the players are introduced and then hearing the pockets of fans of that player's team cheer. The game itself is a half-speed, full-throttle nightmare. Hockey's All-Star Game doesn't even happen every fours years because of the Winter Olympics, and this year due to greed. The NBA is a time for a lot of African-American families to get together in a ritual that Chicagoan sportswriting demigod, Michael Wilbon calls "Black Thanksgiving." The players seem to love adoration a spot on the team garners, and for the rest of their lives they can call themselves an All Star. Just ask Wally Szczerbiak how much respect he's received due to the honor.
Every perpetually perturbed Bulls fanatics' worst nightmare has come true. No, Derrick Rose hasn't suffered a set back in his recovery by tripping over the unstable point guard play of Nate Robinson in "predictable contact drills." And fear not, the Bulls aren't going to bring in the recently pink-slipped former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Scott Skiles as coach Tom Thibodeau's new director of "let's further neglect the offensive side of the ball" assistant coaching position. Nope. The worst possible scenario for the ever critical message-board-trolling Bulls fan is that Carlos Boozer is contributing to the Bulls recent success. #SMDH
Carlos Boozer is the latest Bull to rise to the occasion and play well. Over his last five games Boozer is averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds. His big games haven't been against stellar competition (Orlando, Cleveland, Charlotte, and Washington), save for the Miami Heat, but it's been in games where the team has needed him. The term "streaky shooter" isn't applied to front court players often, but Boozer can attribute this quality to his game. He's feeling it right now. He's a career 53% shooter from the field, and during this five game double-double streak he's stayed close to his average (52%), but he's starting to take it to the rim more. I've stated before that Boozer brings his "A" game when playing against softer and/or inexperienced power forwards, and his recent competition falls into said categories (although Miami's Chris Bosh isn't weak or a neophyte, Boozer plays inspired against Bosh, because Boozer doesn't like Bosh because he took his spot on the team in the town where Boozer calls home, during the free agency bonanza of 2010.)
The flu we've all alley-ooped to each other has made its way to the immune system of Joakim Noah, which forced him to sit out Wednesday night's 98-96 win over the Orlando Magic. Either Noah hasn't coughed on Taj Gibson yet, or Gibson hasn't procrastinated like most of us and actually got his flu shots from Walgreens, because he played a very healthy game versus the Magic.
This performance was just another entry in a series of "next man up" games where a Bull gets injured and the next man steps up and plays his reserved heart out. Gibson who's been struggling all season long, needed a breakout game like the one he played on Wednesday. The power forward racked up 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks in a Noah-esque 45 minutes of action. Not to mention (although I am) Gibson blocked Jameer Nelson's would be game-tying lay-up to secure the win for the Bulls.
Gibson may have gotten his groove back. Basketball statistical hub 82games has yet to establish an advance stat for swagger, but perhaps swag-stats-man of the year, and former Chicagoan, Nate Silver could commence calculating one. Swagger (in the on-court sense), is a subjective term bounce-passed by everyone in the professional basketball bubble and as it seems ironically trivial (just ask Metta World Peace), it's utterly vital for the mental health of an NBA player. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will be believe in you. We've seen Gibson perform at a high defensive level in the past so believing him isn't as far-fetched as believing that Nazr Mohammed was going to be an adequate replacement for last years back-up center Omer Asik.
If the Chicago Bulls' management and players were as self-aware of their faults as the bloggers, bar patrons, and barbershop customers in Buena Park, Old Irving Park, and Washington Park, then play-time would be much more enjoyable than it has been this season. The Bulls, who have cooled off their last couple of games after a great 8-4 start to the month, are still in a virtual first place tie with Milwaukee and Indiana atop the Central Division. New Year's resolutions are pretty easy to renege on, so here are some very simple resolutions that the Bulls could haphazardly achieve.
Lose some wait?
How long can you wait for Derrick Rose to get back into playing shape? Before the All Star Game? Sometime in mid-March? Will the old adage of "April showers bring May flowers (or Roses')" be acceptable? We all know the right answer is the one Tom Thibodeau bounce-passes to reporters; "When he's ready." Bulls fans are clamoring for #TheReturn of Rose. This weekend Aggrey Sam of CSNChicago broke news that Rose has been practicing with the team but in non-contact situations for the last few days, and plans to travel with them from here on out.
It was the best of times(Friday nights ejection-plagued feel-good game of the year where the Bulls beat the New York Knicks 110-106), it was the worst of times (Bulls getting out-everything'd by the third place Atlanta Hawks on Saturday), it was the age of wisdom (Coach Thibodeau adjusting and playing a "small ball" line-up to match the three-guard Knicks), it was the age of foolishness (Thibodeau leaving in an ineffective Kirk Hinrich and ice cold Carlos Boozer for extended minutes letting the Atlanta game get further out of hand).
Fortunately for the Bulls, regular season basketball before March is not as epic as 19th century historical novels. They won the type of game versus the Knicks where you text your buddy, "Are you watching this? Should we book a hotel and plane tickets for Miami in May for the (Eastern) Conference Finals?" And on Saturday they lost the type of game where you text the same bud, "this is embarrassing (NSFW it's a graphic throw-down)."
It's that time of year where Chicagoans incessantly small talk about the "aberrant" December weather, but what the city should be chit-chatting about is their unseasonably hot basketball team. The Bulls have a record of 7-3 record in the month, and after the previous game's defensive tussle, where the Bulls lost by scoring an insufficient 71 points against the Memphis Grizzles, the team bounced back on Tuesday at the United Center to beat the detested Boston Celtics 100-89. It was fun. Like, the most fun any Bulls game has been since Derrick Rose tore his ACL and ripped out championship optimism in the hearts of all Bulls fans. To continue the perpetuation of the tired Ice Cube lyric, Joakim Noah messed around and got a triple-double (if I didn't say the lyric, you'd think it). Nate Robinson hit five three-pointers including one that was from such long-range it was as if he shot it from Albany Park. Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer both had 21 points. Oh and Robinson did this. Like I said, the game was fun.
The Bulls did exactly what they needed to do after a road loss wherein they shot poorly: they attacked the basket. The team notched 48 points in the paint and made 21-of-24 free throws. They appeared confident once they secured a lead. In fact, since the November 26th Milwaukee Bucks meltdown, where the Bulls had a 27 point third-quarter lead, the team hasn't lost a game that they've led by four points at any point in the second half.
We've all gotten burned by Secret Santa gifts in years past. Gift cards to bland-corporate-panini-places like Panera, novelty bottle openers (there's only one way to open a beer bottle), or worst of all your co-worker bakes you something with your name written in frosting. How are you suppose to return or re-gift that? The Bulls organization is filled with millionaires, so what do you get someone that has everything some things? I've compiled a list of what the employees in the Bulls contingent should ask for in this hypothetical game of Secret Santa. Like in the office version of Secret Santa, the gifts can't be extravagant, they must be a realistic request, so there's no getting the Bulls point-guards Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague razors for their awful facial hair, they won't use them!
Joakim Noah - Stuff his All-Star ballot box stocking.
The first returns from the All-Star game fan vote have been released, and Noah is seventh in the new front-court format, which will take a combination of the top three players in the forward and center positions. Noah is playing at an All-Star level this season but instead of leaving it up to the coaches' vote to get him on the All-Star roster, Bulls fans owe it to him to vote him in as a starter. This is Chicago after all, our political motto is "Vote Early, Vote Often." Fill out your ballot here.
No need to frantically search for Lasik surgery deals on Groupon, your organs of vision are working appropriately. Marco Belinelli and the Bulls are finally a sight for sore eyes. The team was one no-call-foul on Loul Deng away from winning their last five games in a row, and are now on a three-game winning streak.
A week ago when Rip Hamilton went down, I surmised that Jimmy Butler was to benefit most from the extra minutes available. Butler has played well, as evident in Stacey King's frequent mustering of the nomenclature "Jimmy Buckets," but it has been Belinelli who has Bulls fans excited about the current two-guard situation. The Bulls three-game winning streak is due in large part to Joakim Noah's grandiose performances, Belinelli's surprising uprising, and a total team defensive effort. (Not to be redundant, but until Derrick Rose's main focus is hoops and not PJ's diaper duty, let's assume anytime the team wins it will be a total team defensive effort.) The Bulls signed Belinelli to the bi-annual exception contract and expected him to be a role player, but at 20 points and 41 minutes per contest over his last three games, he's playing at a mid-level exception status! Though the sample size may be a bit diminutive, it's very telling of the potential Belinelli has when given the opportunity. (Sidebar, what has better odds? Every Bulls player playing at least 38 minutes in a game once this season or coach Thibodeau not playing one player 38 minutes in at least one game this year?)
This 2012-13 Bulls season is more of a labor of love than the entertaining escape we've all grown accustom to during the Derrick Rose era. They're constantly inconsistent with a record of 9-8. They win ugly, and lose uglier. Without the Blackhawks, the West Side's "Madhouse on Madison" has been hushed and now has earned the moniker the "Meh-house on Madison." There are bright spots, though. Progress is being made, and depending where you are on the Derrick Rose return optimistic-pessimistic scale, the Bulls can get the ship heading in the right direction sometime around February.
Until then, Carlos Boozer is a double-double machine eight of the team's last 10 games. Joakim Noah leads the team in rebounds, blocks, technical fouls and is second in assists, field goal percentage and minutes played. Loul Deng is likely an All-Star for the second straight year with averages of 18 points and seven rebounds per game. Taj Gibson is playing his way back to the sixth man of the team with an impressive Jimmy Butler nipping at his heels. There's still reason to celebrate. So in the spirit of the work holiday parties we'll all be darting around the city to get to, here's a comparison of some Bulls player to the night life scene in Chicago's various communities.
Carlos Boozer = Wrigleyville
It's the place where one goes to indulge in "shots" while haphazardly ending up with easy "rebounds." Assuming he was a single man, which if you watch his game, he plays like he's the only one out there.
Bulls fans are all suffering from the same hyphen-centric condition: Basketball-Related-Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. It's understandable when you realize they all witnessed their star player, Derrick Rose, tear his ACL and rip up the Bulls title chances until 2014. A symptom of this BRPTSD is the involuntary act of rolling one's eyes to the very back of the head, emitting a distressed guttural sigh at the very sight of a Bulls player hitting the ground and writhing in pain. A feeling of "really, for real, honestly?" overwhelms. Frustrated overreactions quickly turn into emotional avoidance, which all culminates in an overly optimistic "alright next man up, yeah, Nate (Robinson) can take this game over and hit some shots" cries.
On Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers, who are also without their star player (Andrew Bynum), Rip Hamilton was carried off the court after a non-contact injury, but returned to finish the game on the last play to sink a couple of free throws. An MRI on Sunday revealed he had torn his planter fascia, which should only keep him out of action for two weeks.
Offensively, Hamilton has been a reliable option when points were hard to come by. Defensively speaking, Hamilton is an offensive player. To use an overly muttered Chicago sports cliché "Defense (most likely) wins (the mediocre Central Division) championship."
Tom Thibodeau is a fantastic NBA coach. That goes without question. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in his first season with the Bulls, and led them to the best record in the league, along with a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Last year, he dragged an injury ravaged team to the top of the standings once again, and finished second on the ballot. The guy that finished ahead of him, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, is someone he could learn a great deal from.
I love Thibodeau. Most Chicago fans do, considering he embodies the blue-collar work ethic the people in this city take pride in. But he's got a flaw that has become a running jokeamong everyone who follows the league: The amount of minutes he plays his starters -- especially Luol Deng.
Like you, Carlos Boozer is back in town and ready for work Monday after an extended amount of taxing travel. Unlike you, Boozer didn't ride the Megabus back home to Michigan, where you slugged macrobrews at townie bars and ran into the people responsible for ruing your facebook timeline with their rants on why every state should secede the Union and cheesy engagement photos. Nope, Boozer took the "Booze Cruise" all over these still United States and the only pics he posted was him quasi-posterizing Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova.
Boozer was a stat line hero four out of his last five games on the road trip, turning in averages of 17.8 points and 12.6 rebounds in that span. If we pardoned the poor contest he had in Portland, that comes out to a 21.5 per game scoring with a more impressive rebounding rate of stunning 15 per. The match against the Trailblazers was aberrant incident rather than an cyclical bad night ebb to a great game flow. Boozer and the entire team left the Staples Center dejected after the previous night's blowout loss to the LA Clippers, and Boozer just couldn't get anything going versus Portland's physical front court of LaMarcus Aldridge and JJ Hickson. He shot 2-of-8 and Tom Thibodeau recognized this and decided to play him a mere 22 minutes. As I stated in my last piece, Boozer plays more like a spot-up two-guard who doesn't crash the boards for rebounds, but rather waits for them. In games against tough, defensive minded, box-out power forwards, if he can't find his rhythm earlier, he won't be in the game late. He's been playing much more aggressive as of late, and Thibodeau has rewarded him by opting for Boozer in the fourth quarter as opposed to defensive stud Taj Gibson.
In the first three games of the their "Circus Road Trip," the Bulls defense has made their opponents level of play look like the Ringling Brothers' "The Greatest Show on Earth." You expect the team's offense to play as passively as they have, however, this defensive display of late is perplexingly offensive. Over that span of three games the Bulls have surrendered an average of 103 points per contest. After winning ugly in Phoenix on Wednesday, the Bulls lost uglier back-to-back games over the weekend.
The team is losing in different ways, too. Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers they lost via lobbed dunks and Jamal Crawford's off-balance jumpers. Sunday they suffered defeat outside the paint at the three-point proficient hands of the Portland Trailblazers.
In their two setbacks, the Bulls were down 23 to LA and 15 to Portland. They made runs and lessened the leads of their foes, but when they are fighting for every high percentage shot and not connecting on low-calorie burning spot-up threes or simply making free throws, the Bulls were doomed to run out of gas. The problem with the Bulls as a whole is that they have two players who play the entire game on both sides of the ball (Joakim Noah and Loul Deng) while the rest of the team is comprised of situational oddities. It would appear that the Bulls have brought the circus with them on the road trip.
That was a dynamic three and a two-third quarters last night for the Bulls. Up by eight, down by seven. Ball stolen from the rich, then given back because of poor ball handling. It was on a national stage, it was performance where the Bulls bravely chose to be vulnerable and honest concerning their flaws, it was a jarring reminder that this team is in need of a leading man to carry their play.
Last night's loss versus the Oklahoma City Thunder was a public showing of the Bulls beat themselves and a dead horse. Accessible points late in games are a handicap that this squad will rehabilitate from until a particular ACL is healed and trusted.
The Bulls we're collectively inconsistent, and let the consistent Kevin Durant decide the outcome by not being able to stop him from scoring eight points in the final three minutes after a relatively quiet 16 points scored in the previous 3 2/3 quarters. This is what superstars do, they outshine other matter regardless of time, space, and who's guarding them.
The Bulls had a weekend similar to a twenty-something East Lakeviewian with disposable income and nothing to prove. On Friday they dominated on D (dinner at DMK Burger), shot well (Koval Lion's Pride Whiskey), and came away with a win (facebook'd "#winning"). On Saturday they were worse for the wear, got off to a bad start (45-minute wait for brunch in Wicker Park), forced bad shots to try and get something going (Malort bombs) and finally tweeting around 9:35pm, "you win some, you booz some" to end a night to forget.
It was a weekend that showed that when the Bulls are on, they're on, and when they're off, they're still in it because of Tom Thibodeau's defensive schemes. Below are both games recapped. It should be noted that I didn't change a word of what I wrote Friday, just to illustrate my excitement and optimism after the big win.
This season opener felt different. The typical blind fan excitement was traded in for subdued acceptance that even overachieving won't be good enough to go deep in the playoffs. This is, of course, because the team living the reality of regular season games without Derrick Rose. Though this squad is most likely capable of winning 45-plus games, last night seemed as if this team went from "first-to-worst" like they did in the '98-'99 season.
Last night the Bulls fought the fight we expect them to "pick" all season sans Rose, in a 93-87 win over the Sacramento Kings.
On the mind of every Bulls devotee was the league mandated 11pm deadline for teams to extend the contracts of players in the third and forth year of a deal. Taj Gibson's contract was expected to be signed before the animated Bull busted through the visiting teams bus in the opening video animation. No deal was done, and the game played on.
Say the following in the same way as Homer Simpson does, 47 seconds into in this Halloween Classic clip: "No D-Rose, No Westbrook, No KD, makes season ticket holders in attendance go something, something..."
OK that was a "treat," now for your "trick." The Bulls pulled a cohesive offensive performance out of their "hard hat, lunch pale". The Bulls "won" by a final of 94-86, though they "lost" post game injury report when Kirk Hinrich left the game halfway through after straining his right groin. The contest gave reason for the overused buzzword of the Bulls year: optimism. Yes, Oklahoma City played without two of their three gold medal Olympians, but preseason isn't about the team you played, it's about how your team played.
The Bulls starters, minus Hinrich, played between 32 and 36 minutes, scored a total of 73 of the teams 93 points. Overall the team tallied five three-pointers, continued the pre-season league-leading offensive rebounding dominance with 13 boards and only turned it over 13 times.
Fair weather fans from Elk Grove Village to East Lakeview livin' SynergySports subscribing hoopster, take a knee, I'll watch all of the Bulls games this pre-season so you don't have to pretend you do. Unless you are into dissonant, rhythmless basketball, in which case by all means ask the bartender if she'll change the playoff stickball contest to the Bulls-Cavs televised live from from beautiful, live-a-bull Champaign, Illinois. Training camp in the NBA isn't as "do or die" for that many guys as it is in the NFL or MLB. There's not much upside to watching these games; your favorite player could get injured, if rookies impress it's while playing against other the D-leaguer's of Ordinary Gentlemen, and or worst of all you'll fall in love with Kyrylo Fesenko's split-ended flop-top.
More exciting than an Adidas-produced Derrick Rose #TheReturn video series featuring 68% montaged images of calisthenics and core building movements, more tantalizing than the 146 Derrick Rose YouTube mash-up vids, and even more electrifying than Derrick Rose emo tweets about the CTU strike/Giordano's Pizza is the Bulls training camp sans Derrick Rose! To keep your physical and mental health at peak performance, here are some exercises to help you wake up and smell the Rose-less Bulls outlook.
Former Chicago Bulls forward Brian Scalabrine has retired from the NBA to take a broadcasting job with the Boston Celtics.
It is hard to believe that he lasted in the NBA for 11 seasons. Scalabrine averaged 3.1 PPG and 2 RPG. He should have never been anywhere near an NBA roster. Somehow he managed to stick around while developing a cult following along the way.
Scalabrine's last stop was in Chicago with the Bulls for two seasons. Fans cheered every time he checked into a Bulls game that was already well out of hand. Some even bought that stupid "White Mamba" t-shirt.
There is not much to say about Brian Scalabrine's playing career. Having said that, I leave you with this question: If anyone out there can provide some evidence of a time Brian Scalabrine positively affected the outcome of a professional basketball game, I will buy you a beer. I'll wait.
Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love wants to win.
So much so that the Chicago Bulls might be a potential landing destination.
It is no secret that Kevin Love wants to play for a playoff team. Love averages 25 points and 13 rebounds per game. The Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs in eight seasons. The two-time all-star made his frustrations known in article by Yahoo! Sports. "My patience is not high," Love said. "Would yours be, especially when I'm a big proponent of greatness surrounding itself with greatness? All these [Team USA] guys seem to have great players around them.
Like all Bulls fans, I too would love to have a power forward that can drop 51 and 14 at a moment's notice. Love would be a serious upgrade from Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.
At this point, any talk is purely speculation, but as a Bulls fan you cannot blame me for thinking of having Kevin Love and Derrick Rose on the same team. That would be on par with the "Super Friends" era that is the new trend in the NBA. Two or three star players can take a team pretty far in today's NBA.
Love seems to be chomping at the bit to play for a winner. "It's tough seeing all these guys that are young and older who have all played in the playoffs," he told Yahoo. "When they start talking about that, I have nothing to talk about. If I don't make the playoffs next year I don't know what will happen."
Maybe Gar/Pax can right some recent wrongs by bringing K-Love to the Windy City.
Since Derrick Rose tore his ACL, Bulls fans have watched the team collectively wet the bed against a team (Philadelphia 76ers) they should have beaten, sign Kirk Hinrich (whose best days are behind him), and draft a point guard (Marquis Teague) even though the likes of Vanderbilt shooting guard Will Barton was theirs for the taking. Also don't forget the earth-shattering signings of Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed, and Vladimir Radmanovic.
Meanwhile, most of the teams in the Eastern Conference got better through free agency, the draft, and trades. You know? The old-fashioned way.
At this point I am resigned to the fact that the Derrick Rose should sit out the upcoming 2012-2013 season. What's the point of having Rose come back halfway through the season? Having Rose sit out will further expose the ineptitude of Gar Forman and John Paxson.
"I'm all in," says the Bulls' Derrick Rose at the end of this new video from Adidas showing his efforts to recover from the torn ACL he suffered during the playoffs earlier this year. Adidas promises to let you follow along, whatever that means, via the Twitter hashtag #TheReturn.
Before reading any further, I highly recommend dousing yourself in cologne or perfume, and strapping on a fresh hazmat suit if one is handy. You're going to feel dirty when you're done either way, so be thankful I'm giving you the heads up before it gets real.
When Gar Forman proclaimed, "Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions," you might be thinking he flat-out lied to everyone. The Bulls parted ways with talented players like Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and Omer Asik mainly because of the amount of money they were owed. He didn't lie, there's just no such thing as making basketball-related decisions without taking into account the financial implications (unless you're David Kahn).
After being dealt in an offseason trade two summers ago to free up cap space in a futile attempt to sign LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, or Chris Bosh, Kirk Hinrich was most disappointed by the fact that he didn't get to play for incoming head coach Tom Thibodeau. He'll no longer have to wonder what it would be like to hear play calls shouted by that famed hoarse voice.
The former first round pick by the Bulls has verbally agreed to a two-year contract worth roughly $6 million dollars, and will officially sign on July 11th when the new league year begins. His signing ends CJ Watson's tenure as the Bulls backup point guard, as he's been reportedly notified the team will not pick up his option for this year.
Watson's exit isn't surprising. He was wildly inconsistent in Derrick Rose's absence throughout the season, and struggled mightily in the playoffs. Some of the blame can be placed on the plantar fasciitis he had surgery for after the season, but the move came down to simple economics. Would you rather have one year of Watson who can only play point guard, or two years of Hinrich who can play the point while Marquis Teague learns the league and can move to shooting guard upon Rose's return?
When asked what the Bulls would do in regards to free agency after last week's NBA Draft, Bulls GM Gar Forman said, "Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions."
He'll soon get a chance to put Jerry Reinsdorf's money where his mouth is.
The Houston Rockets made the first move on the NBA free agent chessboard by verbally agreeing to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet with Bulls restricted free agent Omer Asik on Sunday. The deal can't be officially signed until July 11, and the Bulls will then have three days to match.
Forman told anyone who would listen before the start of free agency that the team intended to match whatever offer the Turkish center accepted. But after seeing the details of the contract the Rockets negotiated, I think the Bulls should let him go and come up with a Plan B.
My reaction was somewhat similar: I just couldn't believe the Bulls drafted him at all.
The 6-foot-2 inch freshman point guard (and brother of Hawks PG and noted Bulls antagonist Jeff Teague) was a stunning pick by Chicago in a draft that turned upside-down after Teague's former Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist went second overall to the Bobcats in a surprise to pretty much everyone that put out a mock draft.
With the NBA Finals in the rearview mirror, Bulls fans can now stop praying the entire Heat organization comes down with food poisoning and get back to worrying about their own team. And despite the season seeming like an unmitigated disaster, there were some positives that can be pulled from it - most of which coming from the front line.
Carlos Boozer's Improvement
Before you puke, Google my name, and hunt me down to beat me senseless, hear me out. Sure, his points, rebounds, and assists per game fell slightly along with his minutes being trimmed (mainly in the fourth quarter), but if you watched the Bulls every night, you could notice two things. First, Boozer played in every game for the first time in his career. Second, he actually made some strides defensively.
There's no doubt you threw a beer bottle at the television every time Booz fouled a guy taking it to the rack because his feet were stuck in concrete, but it happened far less than it did last year. Also remember that he still hasn't had a full training camp with the Bulls (duffel bag injury first year, lockout this year). Oh - and his player efficiency rating was nearly a point higher than last year. But his improvement was at times overshadowed by ...
Leading Game 6 by a point with 12 seconds left, Watson took the inbounds pass from underneath the Bulls basket, streaked up court (blowing through an uncalled intentional foul by Philadelphia) and passed to quite possibly the WORST FREE THROW SHOOTER IN THE NBA!
Sure, Omer Asik was 4-of-5 from the stripe before missing two free throws (on a blatant, but also uncalled, flagrant foul) with seven seconds remaining, but don't blame him. It should've never gotten to that point. An NBA point guard should be able to read a scoreboard without the assistance of coach explaining the situation during a timeout. It's utterly inexcusable!
You know the story from there: Bulls announcer Stacey King explicitly tells the world that, "Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson have to watch the runout," followed by Andre Iguodala grabbing the rebound, running down the court uncontested, and being fouled by an exhausted Asik.
Iguodala hit both free throws with 2 seconds left, and the Sixers had a 79-78 win and a date with Boston in the East semifinals.
It was ugly. It was appalling. It was (insert repulsive adjective here). But despite playing a game that would have driven James Naismith to drink, the Bulls limped away with a 77-69 win in Tuesday's Game 5, sending the series back to Philadelphia down 3-2.
Limped, unfortunately, wasn't a figurative use of language.
With 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, Taj Gibson rolled his right ankle badly when he stepped on Lavoy Allen and was forced back to the locker room to be evaluated. He returned to a resounding ovation usually saved for Derrick Rose, but was relatively ineffective late in the game while favoring his right leg. Even though Gibson was able to finish, you have to think his ankle will swell and limit motion, perhaps making him questionable for Thursday's Game 6.
Already down from Derrick Rose's season-ending injury, the Chicago Bulls faced another setback Sunday afternoon as starting center Joakim Noah was benched with a sprained ankle sustained in Friday's loss. The absence was glaring, allowing Philly center Spencer Hawes to have his second great game in a row, leading the 76ers to an 89-82 win.
The victory gives Philly a 3-1 series lead heading back to Chicago, where the No. 8 seed will try to close out the Bulls on Tuesday night.
Not just Joakim Noah's ankle roll in the third quarter that made his foot bend like a flexi-straw, but the improbable collapse Friday night that saw Chicago lose a 14-point lead in the final few minutes to fall to the 76ers, 79-74.
It was a gut punch of a loss, the kind that makes you wonder, with no exaggeration, if there's any chance this team can come back.
Not even Derrick Rose could've saved the Bulls last night.
In the first game without their superstar point guard, the Bulls fell apart after halftime in a 109-92 drubbing at the hands of the visiting 76ers to even the series 1-1.
The culprit in defeat was something nobody saw coming. Sure, everyone knew the Bulls would have a tough time scoring during stretches of games without Rose's run-stopping abilities. Yes, the offense would get stagnant and more prone to turnovers because they were missing their primary ball-handler. But nobody could predict the lax defensive effort the Bulls showed, especially in the second half.
Left to fend for themselves without Derrick Rose, the Bulls go back into the fray tonight with Game 2 against the 76ers. Jake Kaplan offers a message of resolve and inspiration to a demoralized fanbase:
"It's not a death sentence for him, it's not a death sentence for our team."
Those are the words of Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau less than 24 hours after learning that reigning MVP Derrick Rose would miss the remainder of the postseason (Olympics, and the start of next season) with a torn ACL.
He's absolutely right about Rose. There's little doubt in anyone's mind that he'll make a speedy recovery and come back next season stronger than ever. In fact, the extended immobility may be a blessing in disguise.
By being unable to play in the Olympics, Rose will get time to fully recover from every single back and lower body injury he suffered during the lockout shortened season. After getting little time to rest last summer during his MVP tour, he'll get sufficient time to prepare his body for the beating he'll take in the years to come.
But in a sport where the importance of a single player with the rare skill set Rose possesses is undeniable, in a league dominated by its stars, in a playoffs where you need to have confidence in that singular player to take the big shot, it's hard to believe the second half of Thibs' statement.
Sure, the Bulls should still be able to beat the 16th best team in the NBA. But could they beat the Celtics (or even the Hawks) in the conference semis? Could they win four games against a focused Heat team in the East finals?
It was one of the rare instances when the final score is the least important part of a playoff game.
With 1:22 left, Saturday's NBA playoff opener was heading toward its expected conclusion, Chicago leading Philadelphia by 12, when Derrick Rose drove into the lane, jumped to a stop and leaped in pain. He came down clutching his left knee and crumpled to the floor.
As an unsettling silence fell over the United Center crowd, Rose was helped up and shuffled off to the locker room. The Bulls finished off a 103-91 victory, and within a few hours of the final horn, word came down that Rose had torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. He will miss the rest of the playoffs and several months beyond that.
Sixers guard and Chicago native Evan Turner was asked this week what it would mean to face the Bulls in the first round. He responded, "It means we're dodging the tougher team. That's what I think. I think we'll be able to compete well against Chicago, and have an opportunity to win the series."
Two things happened at that moment. First, NBA scribes did a collective fist pump by being handed two guaranteed stories: one for the original quote with reactions from Bulls players, and a second story on Turner's eventual clarification. Secondly, scores of fans blew the comments completely out of proportion and sought vengeance against a "cocky player."
Let's get one thing straight here. Evan Turner isn't wrong.
By playing in Chicago in the first round (beginning on Saturday at 12pm), the Sixers dodge the star-studded Miami Heat, a team that throttled them by a combined 53 points in their four meetings during the regular season. Can you blame Turner for saying they'd rather face the Bulls? I sure can't.
Derrick Rose's jersey is the most popular jersey in the nation, according to the NBA, with rookie phenom Jeremy Lin taking the number two spot. Here's the full list of the top 15:
Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys:
1. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
2. Jeremy Lin, New York Knicks*
3. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
4. LeBron James, Miami Heat
5. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
6. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
7. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks*
8. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
9. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
10. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
11. Amar'e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
12. Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
13. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics
14. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
15. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers*
* New to the top 15 this year.
Bulls team merchandise was also tops overall, followed unsurprisingly by the Knicks, Lakers, Heat and Mavericks.
Episode 8 of Bulls Hittin' is taken over by the "Miami Heater Hottie" and his show "Heat Shitting." But don't worry, your faithful host, the "BULLS hitman," steps to defend you all of you Bulls hitfans.
This week on Bulls Hittin': Kyle Korver — or at least a guy who looks like him — doesn't talk about his alliterative name, but he does talk about his 3-point game, walking the BullsHit Man through how he learned to take that shot, and how he likes to prep for it.
This week on Bulls Hittin': Think you have what it takes to coach in the NBA? This week our host talks to a buzzed and drugged Tom Thibodeau, who walks the BullsHit Man through the Thibodos and Thibodonts of becoming coach of one of the NBA's most successful franchises.
My apartment was broken into over the weekend. My laptop was stolen (sweet!) and so was my wireless router/modem doohickey (again, sweet!). Now, aside from presuming, not accurately, but humorously, that the human garbage who took said items were tech-loathing, Luddites of the first order, and the implied fear-mongering, knife-sharpening, bottle-throwing that ensued "OMG! WHUT! RAWWWR!"* Contemplate the fact that these brigands crippled me in a gut-punch, "Wah, I'm tethered to my laptop and wifi, "NO! NETFLIX!" Wah!", visceral level sort of way.
Now bear with the author, as he makes the awkward, but inevitable, leap to pointing out how good the Indiana Pacers are and how they, not only, broke into the United Center, and handed the Bulls their first home loss of the season, but, also, cripple the Bulls in a dreadful, "Not enough ammo, more protection," sense.
Think you're Derrick Rose's biggest fan? The title might have to go to a 15-year-old from Omaha who got a big surprise last weekend during NBA All-Star Weekend.
The folks at adidas explain:
To reward their most passionate and active fans of the adidas Basketball Facebook page, adidas and Derrick Rose surprised Adam Turner, 15, of Omaha, Nebraska, during his review of the adizero Rose 2.5 during NBA All-Star Weekend.
Adam is an avid reviewer of Rose's signature shoes and adidas flew him to Orlando under the guise that he would be the first person to review the NBA All-Star edition of the adizero Rose 2.5. Adam got a big surprise when Derrick popped on the video set to help him finish his review and he also enjoyed access to all NBA All-Star events courtesy of adidas.
Bulls Hittin' is a new bi-weekly video series about your friendly neighborhood basketball team, produced by comedy troupe Wood Sugars and sponsored by Gapers Block. Each episode will fill you in on team news, offer predictions for upcoming match-ups, and introduce you to some of the colorful characters surrounding the Bulls.
Here's the Wood Sugars' synopsis of the first episode: "So You Think They Can't Dance? You might be right. Our host, the BullsHit Man gives these two, six-time 'Luv-a-Bulls' auditioners, a seventh and final chance to prove they can cheerlead to the beat of their own drum."
Got $29 million to burn? Hungry to test your hoops skills on a professional-grade hardwood court with stadium-quality lighting? Need nine bedrooms (presumably to hide lucre and canvas bags with "$" printed on them), what about a security gate with "23" on it? This can all be yours, because his Airness has decided it's time to sell. Crain's Communications is reporting that Michael Jordan is selling his 56,000 square foot manse for the modest asking price of $29 million.
Built between 1993 and 1995, the house is, presumably, not haunted by the specters of championship-less Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley ghosts. If that's not the case, I know a good exorcist.
The Bulls return to the grindstone tonight against the downtrodden New Orleans Hornets. Fresh off a few days in the former swampland, cum citrus farm, cum "bustling" metropolis, Orlando, Chicago's all-stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng are looking to keep the pre-break momentum rolling at the United Center. For the casual Bulls fan, this might be a game to miss, surely you have a book to catch up on? handwritten notes to pen to friends and family members? ...sigh... tweets about reality television to post? [Ding!] But, well, let's consider for a moment, that you, like me, will be watching this game.
Woe Unto The Hornets
Stung (zing!) by the move from Charlotte to New Orleans and stung once again with the diaspora following Hurricane Katrina, the Hornets, in a city of forgotten souls, is the bedraggled, mangy dog of franchises. While Drew Brees is busy resetting passing records and winning championships in a sport called "football" (but it's played with your hands?), the Hornets were the consistent, diligent runner-up. Playoff-bound and led by the cherub-faced Chris Paul, the Hornets were still largely ignored.
First things first, BIG ups to Chicago's Luol Deng. First timer at the ASG and Deng's not sweating about getting to Magic Kingdom, he's rockin the threads for his continent and his home nation (Sudan, duh!). Astute observer of things/writer on the Internet, Ricky O'Donnell, deftly points out that Deng may face a fine from Kommisar Stern's office, but, you gotta believe that'll be the happiest [X amount of money] Deng writes a check out for.
Speaking of fines, will we be seeing a fine doled out to Chicago's own Dwyane Wade for breaking the Mamba's nose? I'm not a seer (that's not what I went to school for), but I would be sorta surprised if Wade isn't fined (but not suspended).
Mase, only one of the many things Derrick Rose can now afford to buy.
Chicago Bulls point guard, Derrick Rose, signed a lifetime contract with shoe and athletic apparel provider, Adidas, on Friday afternoon. The deal guarantees Rose a $185 million minimum for the life of the 13-year contract with incentives that could push the total to over $200 million. For the Association's reigning MVP, who is currently soaking up the scene in Orlando for the All-Star break, the new shoe deal (on top of his lucrative max deal signed last offseason, which is worth an approximate $94 million), well, let's just say Derrick Rose is a very wealthy young man. Via an exclusive and anonymous source, Gapers Block and Tailgate have learned of an entire dossier of Derrick Rose's wants and dreams. A wish list, if you will, that is now wholly in his grasp for making a reality.
Big ups to Joakim Noah who notched his first career triple-double last night in the win against Milwaukee. The pogo-legged one had been simmering like a volcano recently with 11 double-doubles in his last 17 games, and there it was: the boundless joy of #airgunz and a triple-double eruption for Mount St. JoNo. Dismiss the fact that Milwaukee was without the services of both Andrew Bogut and Drew Gooden (Noah would've likely nabbed double digit rebounds regardless) and stare slack jawed at his 10 assists and 13 points in a mere 29:49 of game time. Impressive work.
While it was nice to see Derrick Rose back in the lineup for the Presidents Day matinee against ATL, the win was strangely unsatisfying. Why? Tough to say, ennui? The dregs of even a compressed 66-game season? I'm not sure. Most pressing I think is that, in spite of the Bulls having their booster rockets on for the first half (and most-definitely the first quarter), there was Atlanta, lingering and waiting for a chance to snatch the win away.
With Rose shaking off the cobwebs and showing some [Umm, lingering tightness in his lower back? -Ed.] on his early free throw misses, the Bulls did all of the rights things. Yet basketball is a game of streaks and runs, and the Hawks made theirs. And with top-five personal favorite of mine, Josh Smith, doing everything except "go Nova" --thanks largely to 7-21 shooting from the field, not all Luol's doing, either, "Sigh. Josh." NB: J Smoove did manage 17, 12, 5, 3, 2 (L-R: pts., rebs., assists, blocks, steals) and maybe if Joe Johnson doesn't leave with a gimpy knee (that's causing him to miss the ASG), Josh doesn't huck up quite so many ill-advised shots, and it's a different result?
This isn't CJ Watson's first polka, but to say the reserve point has been getting a hard education this week would be wholly accurate. After a remedial course against Charlotte's rookie point guard, Kemba Walker, CJ has faced Rajon Rondo ("The Cassowary Game"), Tyreke Evans ("Utterly blanketed CJ Watson. Gripping." -Roger Ebert), Rondo again (Hey, "only" 17, 8 and 7 for Rondo this time), and the brutal education continued yesterday as Deron Williams did his best Deron Williams impression. Scorching CJ (or any of Chicago's guards since we're being honest) for 29 points (five 3s, 6-7 from the charity stripe) while dishing out eight dimes, Williams was on point all game long. The Nets in general were on point all game long, which the Bulls, as it should be very clear, were not. And you know what? Bulls fans should've seen a game like this on the horizon. No Derrick Rose, two big games against the Celtics in five days, the Nets at the flukish time of 3:00 pm on a Saturday afternoon? Yeah, this had the makings of a "Toronto Raptors Sunday matinee" letdown game written all over it.
First off: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MICHAEL JORDAN. If you're on the Twitters, the must-follow Andy Gray is posting Sports Illustrated's best MJ pics in honor of the legend's 49th birthday. The above video? The indelible memory from my childhood NBA education. "The year was nineteen-dickety-two, we had to use the word "dickety" because the Kaiser had stolen our word for ninety. I had just gotten home from a putt-putt party to bear witness to Michael Jordan set an all-time Finals high for points in a half." In any case, that game was the catalyst, thus cinching my love affair with the Association, that and Shawn Kemp as a Supersonic.
Now to the lecture at hand... No Derrick Rose (again) and Bulls fans are still allowed to impishly grin like Alfred E. Neuman.
Something of an either/or dilemma for the Bulls and their legions of fandom last night. Either the Bulls, sans Derrick Rose, took care of business against an underachieving and talented Kings team; or the Bulls showed some major flaws in their post defense as well as letting the Kings ("The WORST, Jerry!") stick around for the entire game. So what was it? Well, in spite of Chicago Land's typical self-hatred and "Sky is falling" demeanor, I'm siding squarely with the former.
The injuries continue to mount, reoccur and linger for the Bulls, just like every NBA team in this abridged, compressed, death march of a season. Still, "Neither pulled hammies nor ankle sprains nor x-rays nor gloom of turf toe stays these ballers from the swift completion of their appointed games." The Bulls, bench, starters, 10-day contracts (we see you Mike James, 'sup?) are doing their thing.
No Derrick Rose, no problem, which as the 6-2 record without D.Rose will attest, has been this squad's M.O. all season. CJ Watson has been alternately "good-ish" and then regressed, but let's give him the pass after being harried by a very focussed Rondo on Sunday and then facing the supersized point, Tyreke Evans. The 6'6 guard swallowed the 6'2 Watson like a starbeam dropping into the infinity of a black hole, and well, that's why Derrick Rose is so valuable. Still, Bulls win and in this bizarre season, that's good enough.
After missing two games in a row due to back spasms, Derrick Rose made a visit to a back specialist who says his problems are muscular, not structural. Ultimately, that's good news, but it doesn't mean Rose is back in the game just yet.
General manager Gar Forman says Rose will play when he feels he's ready, but that isn't looking likely for Tuesday's game against Sacramento. Rose suffered back spasms in high school as well which would go as suddenly as they had come. In the meantime, he will continue with therapy and rest and hope the spasms will pass.
Rose is a competitive player, and of course will always want to be on that court, which is one of the things we all love about him. However, we also love his ability to score and keep the Bulls in tough games, which won't be the case if he plays before he's ready. Forman seems confident that for now at least, Rose understands that he needs to be 100 percent before he jumps back in.
Despite Sunday's Rose-less loss against the Celtics, we must remember that Derrick Rose is not the only scorer, and not the only talented player the Bulls have. While he is of course an important player and a huge asset, the team should be able to balance the responsibility, which the Bulls have proven capable of this season throughout most of his seven missed games - more than in his first three seasons combined.
"In America, first you make the currency, than you get the All-Star nod , then you get the power."
Congrats to #9! There's been a good deal of rumination and debate about Luol "truly earning" this all-star berth (he's been injured, his WS/48 isn't "all that" compared with Kevin Garnett, Rondo, Josh Smith --personal fave of this fella, Greg Monroe, [insert your favorite player who "totally got jobbed"]) and to that I say, "Relax. It's an all-star game. Luol is a good dude and, again, it's an all-star game."
"Blammo!" Just when you think you don't want to write a post about a dull, hardwood bludgeoning against a middling opponent, there's a video of Will Ferrell doing the introductions for the Chicago Bulls. (h/t to WXRT and the New Orleans sound man who pumped in Paper Lace's best song) So, thanks, Funny Comedy Human, for this treasure that fell into my lap. And much like me, the Bulls are probably happy they got a gift-wrapped 23-point win in the Crescent City against a sorry, sadsack Hornets squad.
After dropping 3 of 5 (Indy, Miami and Philadelphia) and eking one out against the Knicks, the Bulls have morphed into a Red Hulk-esque "SMASH!" run through the soft, gooey portion of their season's longest road trip. Following the too-close-for-comfort win at Madison Square Garden --which was too close, largely, by the way, because of Carlos Boozer's "defense" on Amare Stoudemire-- the Bulls have been on a warpath. Why? Precisely it has to deal with the return of Luol Deng and the Bulls encountering two not-so-good teams in a row. The Bucks, who did give the Bulls a few fits two Fridays ago, had no answer for Luol Deng (and his absurdly prescribed 41+ minutes of game time, thanks Thibs) on Saturday night.
That is a point guard, friends. That is your point guard, that is my point guard and we can all sing Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" around a campfire that's fueled by Derrick Rose's passion. Those tears? You dare mock them? Go watch "Entourage," drink some Michelob Ultra and mock your significant other for being a few pounds too heavy, brah. Derrick Rose's reaction to that one loss? That speaks volumes to what victory and pride mean for Englewood's man. Since he entered the league Rose has always been the measured one, "the nice guy you're really pulling for." Now in a scant two-and-a-half weeks, we have Squire Rose goofin' on his new shoes, calling out the Pacers and shouldering his universe and gritting his teeth after a loss to the team everyone wants to know if he'll be able to beat.
The wise and powerful Octophant, Phineas X. Jones, has seen fit to bestow upon us a series of gorgeous designs for every corner of the Chicago sports world. Feast your eyes on our new icons for the Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Sox, Fire and derby demons.
Memory is a funny thing, maybe 16 wins in 19 tries had caused you, the affable Bulls fan, to forget that the Indiana Pacers are no cakewalk. And maybe the extended lockout let you forget another fact about the Pacers, namely, that Indiana is *GULLY* The Pacers after affording the Bulls (and their United Center partisans) a cushy 10-point lead --with your requisite "Resistance is futile at the United Center"-style-Borgspeak. Yet, then Indiana lowered their shoulder and pushed back. Pushing, hefting, pounding and reminding the Bulls --and you, gentle reader-- exactly of how annoying that first round playoff series last April was and in the process, sent the Bulls to their first home loss of the season.
Indiana's front court has depth [Sigh. RIP Josh McRoberts, still depth. -Ed.] in the persons of Man Mountain, Roy Hibbert and Captain Opie, Tyler Hansbrough, NB: Third member of this Justice League of Taller Ballers, The Economist, Jeff Foster was out with a sore back. Hibbert, who frequently is a nightmare for Joakim Noah, was no different on Wednesday night. Noah, for all his talents, his pogo stick legs and not-quite-yet in shape frame, wasn't a match for, in spite of the solid 10 and 13, the Colossus, see also: Howard, Dwight.
An ongoing theme in Tom Thibodeau's tenure as Bulls head coach has been his approach to every regular season game: Just win, baby. Thibs, for better or for worse, has taken this Davis-ism as seemingly his own personal mantra. Running his stars for needless minutes during the tail end of last season's regular season, there were a lot of raised eyebrows and agog expressions around Chicago's water coolers, "Why risk the injury?" "What is he trying to prove?"
Fast forward to this season and the fans and media-types alike are still trying to learn what exactly Thibodeau is trying to prove. The Bulls are off to an incredible pace, dropping a mere three games in their first 19, still, the injuries continue to rack up. Deng's wrist injury is the latest to an already impressive array of dings and bumps in the triage unit that is the Bulls roster: Noah (slight ankle ding), Taj (ankle), Rose (toe sprain/turf toe), Rip (groin), these are normal dings that will accumulate through the course of a regular season, but the compounded 66-game season is magnifying the injuries. The Bulls' stellar early season record which is, let's be honest, a testament to the Bulls depth and a mildly generous early season schedule --10 of their first 19 games have been against teams with sub-.500 records-- may not be so stellar if Thibs continues this Ahab-esque quest for "more minutes, win every regular season game."
Die Marke mit den Drei Streifen has dropped the latest Derrick Rose ad/self-review of adidas' adiZero Rose 2.5 on the YouTubes. More than anything I really like these ads because they force Derrick to talk to the camera. He stumbling and umm'ing his way through the spot is priceless and showcases, in a non-judging sense, his goofy demeanor. This is humanizing stuff for the NBA's reigning MVP who, heretofore, has been showcased as a high-flying, slicing, dicing, on-court impresario that off the hardwood has shown to be (save for the awesome "Caviar Swimming Pool" spot from last season and the Skittles fetish) a bit wooden or cardboard.
SBNation's Jon Bois pulled together his selections of the 50 greatest animated sports GIFs of 2011 last week. By statistical probability alone, Chicago teams were sure to be included, and they were -- though not always in the way you'd expect. So rather than force you to flip through the 11 pages of Bois' post, here are the Chicago highlights. I've preserved the original titles, but arranged them according to their Chicago-related awesomeness (Bois' original ranking is in parentheses, with a link to the original post page.) Some of these gifs are massive, so forgive the slow load times.
Even famous people do weird things in the stands at Bulls games, apparently. Bois guessed that the sound Bird was making was sort of a croak. I think it looks like a ...actually, I don't know what it looks like. A stifled yawn? Considering the Pacers were in the lead, could Bird have been that bored?
Also, what's that guy in the pink shirt describing that came out of his mouth and grew as big as his head?
Editor: "You want to write about the Bulls this year?" Me: "[muffled laughter] There's a lockout, there's no season!" Editor: "The lockout ended over a month ago, the Bulls lost a fluky game to Golden State on the second day of a back-to-back." Me: "The Warriors?" Editor: "Yeah, Mark Jackson has the Dubs sipping the Play Defense Cherrytacular Kool-Aid and the Bulls decided to go off the cuff and play improv and frolic, Thibs wasn't amused, you gonna write or what?" Me: "Yes, I shall writerly writerly write."
So that's how I got back into the holiday spirit of giving (average NBA analysis) to you, the Tailgate readers. Thank me later, kids.
Nota Bene: I have to drive halfway across Ammurica this week so I'll, unfortunately, be missing most of the Bulls games this week. Sorry, I'm still in training camp, I promise I'll have a piece dedicated to the awesome that is Noah, ala this cherry, by mid-February.
In any case, the Bulls thoroughly dismantled the Grizzlies of Memphis last night.
The addition of Rip Hamilton makes the Bulls a better team. I come not to dispute that. I simply seek, as always, a bit of perspective.
First, let us please, for the love of Tex Winter, stop comparing Hamilton immediately and exclusively to Keith Bogans.
Yes, Bogans is the man who lost his starting job and indeed his gainful employment altogether to Hamilton, but far and away the better comparison is to Kyle Korver. In crunch time, if the Bulls last season needed offense, needed a wing threat to draw defensive attention from Derrick Rose, they turned never to Bogans but to Korver.
If Rip Hamilton is to offer the Bulls, in "winning time," more than what they had, he has to be better than Kyle Korver, not Keith Bogans.
Does he offer this? Well, yes, he probably does.
Hamilton is faster in the open court, savvier with his passes, and even more nimble in that which he and Korver do best: curling around screens to pop open on the wing.
Most notably, Hamilton is a better combination of offense and defense than Bogans, Korver or Ronnie Brewer. And if Tuesday's preseason finale is any indication, he fits seamlessly into this offense.
I just can't understand why Chicago fans and media are uniformly acting like the addition of a wing shooter who curls around screens is going to carry the Bulls to another level. They had a hugely successful one for 82 games last season! (And a slightly less successful version in the playoffs.)
Derrick Rose will wear a special edition of his AdiZero Rose 2 shoes in the Bulls' Christmas day season opener against the Lakers. The "Windy City" edition features the CTA's "L" line map on the sock liner, "The L" on the heel and a blue pinstripe in honor of the Blue Line. According to a press release, "The upper is anodized to give the brushed metal look of train cars with a fire red finish to look like a holiday gift on the court."
CounterKicks.com reports that Adidas will hold a special flash sale of the AdiZero Rose 2 "Windy City" shoe on its Facebook page next week. Another special colorway, the blue-yellow-grey "Wolverine edition" in honor of Rose's high school alma mater, Simeon, went on sale Dec. 1.
You might have seen it this week. You definitely saw it if you watched any NFL football this weekend: Derrick Rose joins Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and UFC fighter B.J. Penn in a new teaser commercial for the next Assassin's Creed video game.
In another bid to keep themselves top of mind while the lockout drags on, the Bulls are taking their six championship trophies on the road this month, starting with an event today at Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., from 3pm to 5pm. Fans can get their photo taken with the trophies and meet Bulls veterans, including Bill Wennington, Randy Brown and Bob Love.
The tour is next headed to the Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's, 600 N. Clark St., on Nov. 11 from noon to 2pm, and to the Thompson Center concourse, 100 W. Randolph St., on Nov. 16 from 11am to 1pm. More dates will be announced soon.
Check out this little piece from Josh Cohen of the Orlando Magic: an illustration of the evolution of every NBA team's logo from the team's inception to present. Some pretty good reminiscing is sure to occur, but yet, Bulls' fans might feel a bit left out: despite 45 years of play in the Windy City, the Chicago Bulls have never changed their iconic, forward-facing Bull head logo. The only other team to still be on its first logo is the three-year old Oklahoma City Thunder, and really, you could argue that was just a drastic change in logo from their Seattle Supersonics uniforms.
What could possibly explain this, especially over the past twenty years? Superstition, once they became national icons in the Jordan era? Did they just forget to hire a graphic designer full-time? Or is this some brilliant marketing scheme to always be able to sell Jordan #23 jerseys, which would obviously look a bit far-fetched if stitched onto some new design?
Maybe the Bulls have always just felt they got it right straight out of the gate. And when you look at some of the originals (say hey, '76-'81 Denver Nuggets dude!), you have to admit that maybe they're right. At the very least, it could be so much worse.
What do you think, Chicago? Do the Bulls need a modern update? Or are some designs, like log cabins, colonial mansions and Benny the Bull always in style?
Dennis Rodman was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame today. Though he wasn't a Bull for his entire career, he's remembered best for his time in Chicago at the end of the Jordan Era. What Chicagoan in the 1990s doesn't remember the gapers blocks (heh) caused by the Bigsby & Kruthers Bulls mural next to the Kennedy, on which Rodman's hair was updated to match his ever-changing coif?
He was easily one of the most entertaining athletes in Chicago, and still one of the most loved. But importantly, he was also a brilliant basketball player.
Rodman wasn't the only Bull to enter the Hall today. Former Bulls center Artis Gilmore and former Bulls assistant coach Tex Winter were also inducted. Gilmore was the Bulls' first-round draft pick in the 1976 ABA dispersal draft when that league folded into the NBA. Winter invented the triangle offense and brought it to Chicago under Jackson -- directly contributing to six national titles.
"Guns up, Bulls fans!" Sure, your team lost in a stunning fashion to the Miami Heat in five games ... Cough. 18-3 Miami run to close the cinching game, at the United Center. Cough. But, at least you can hang your hats upon the fact your point guard, Derrick Rose/youngest MVP in NBA history, was the best he could be against the league's best defenses during the regular season and the playoffs. Who says? Well, I saw this reported by the indomitable Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don't Lie and the story was first dropped by the --and stat heads/Bulls fans (a rare breed, I know) will mirthfully recall these kids-- big brained, number crunching squad at Basketball Reference [dot] com.
There wasn't much reason to get really excited about the Chicago Bulls heading into the 2011 NBA Draft last night:
• They didn't have any high picks: After posting the league's best regular-season record, they owned the 28th pick (from Miami), their own 30th pick and the 43rd pick (from Utah).
• The talent pool was universally regarded as shallow.
• Nearly all their roster spots and probably all the spots in their regular rotation are already taken for next season (whenever that happens).
• They didn't need two more guaranteed, first-round contracts, with nine guaranteed deals and $65 million already on the books for next season.
Given that background, the Bulls actually did quite well last night.
They used the 30th pick to draft Marquette's Jimmy Butler, a 6-foot-8 defender with decent all-around skills who could be especially useful defending wing scorers (e.g., LeBron James, Dwyane Wade). He's another good guy and hard worker who will fit right in with Tom Thibodeau's current group.
The bottom line is these Bulls will go as far as Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah and Luol Deng can take them. The latter three are all already making $12 million or more per season, and Rose will join them after next year.
Adding a playoff-caliber shooting guard would be nice, but it's far less important than Noah playing with more consistency and Boozer earning most of his $75 million contract. And of course, there was no such shooting guard in this 2011 draft, much less near the end of the first round.
There are losses, and then there are losses that stick around for awhile. You'd think overtime in Game 4 would be one of the latter, one of the games that Bulls fans would remember as a heartbreaker for a long time to come. But somehow, Thursday's epic Game 5 collapse surpassed it with incredible ferocity.
I approached this game thinking Miami wouldn't try too hard. They're a glittery team -- tough at times, but still flashy. Furthermore, they looked confident, and I expected that would manifest as overconfidence and a halfhearted effort that might send the series back to Miami for Game 6.
For 45 minutes, that's exactly what the Heat looked like. You could suggest it was the Bulls' defense that was making Miami look mortal again, but not for long.
Not after Miami closed the game with an 18-3 run, erasing a 77-65 deficit with 3:10 left. The Heat earned a return date with Dallas in the Finals with a combination of smothering defense (LeBron James again took on Derrick Rose for the final minutes of the fourth quarter, and promptly shut him down save for one fantastic shot) and an explosion of offense (including the previously comatose Dwyane Wade erupting for eight points in the final three minutes, including a four-point play).
There aren't a lot of lessons to be learned from this game, just one very harsh one. For 45 minutes, the Bulls did almost everything right. Before the fourth quarter, Wade had made two shots from the field all night. James started the game well; in fact he was the only player on the Heat able to make shots in the first quarter. But he eventually went cold too, letting the Bulls take command of the game.
This was, dare I say, a boring game for large parts of it: the Bulls led by four or eight points, Miami lacked focus and routinely turned the ball over through mistakes and turnovers, and all looked good for a return flight to South Beach.
But then, with just a few minutes left, the bill came due for Chicago.
Well, that one was quite a dagger, as far as basketball games go.
The Bulls played their best defense since Game 1, had the opportunity to take advantage of their deep bench with the game going into overtime, and yet threw away Game 4 with three turnovers in the extra period as Miami won their third straight, 101-93.
Trailing the Eastern Conference finals 3-1, Chicago now needs to win three straight, starting Thursday back at home, to keep its season alive. Only one team in NBA playoff history, the 1995 Rockets, has pulled off that kind of a comeback.
Nobody had a pretty game Tuesday night; while there were certainly a few stellar dunks and acrobatic finger-rolls, the marquee attraction was the all-out intensity of both teams, particularly on defense. Any preseason worries about whether the Heat's stars would be willing to put in the dirty work defensively have been decisively put to rest in this series, while Tom Thibodeau's men had a return to the defensive form that got them this far in the first place.
While Chicago's dominance in Game 1 is starting to look like a fluke, Game 4 at least was a return to some normalcy, as the Bulls shot 40 percent but held Miami to 42 percent. Yet despite their offensive troubles, Chicago still had the chance (two of them, really) to win the game in regulation -- but Derrick Rose was unable to get anywhere close to the basket due to the intense defense of LeBron James. The new MVP wound up attempting two long, step-back jumpers, and with that lack of creativity and conviction, it's not so surprising the Bulls wilted in overtime.
This game was a prizefight, with both teams landing good combinations before the other would bounce off the ropes and return the favor to even it up. With the defense each team was playing, it never felt crazy to say "it's only a four-possession game."
But after a frustrating, potentially decisive loss for the Bulls and their fans, these were my biggest takeaways:
1. LeBron James is better than Derrick Rose.
The traditional stats tell only part of the story: James scored 35 points on 11-of-26 shooting, hitting all 13 of his free throws, while Rose had 23 on 8-of-27 shooting. But James' ability to finish off the Bulls this series almost single-handedly has been the biggest reason they've won.
The Heat were in charge most of the night, but Chicago hung around, trailing 68-66 with 11 minutes left, before Miami's Big Three took over and engineered a closing surge similar to Game 2.
Now with their first back-to-back losses since February, the Bulls are looking for the defensive strength that helped them romp in Game 1. Miami shot 50 percent from the field, their best mark of the series. The Bulls limited the scoring of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but instead saw James and others dish the ball off to Chris Bosh all night, giving the Heat power forward ample opportunities for easy buckets.
Bosh had a game-high 34 points on 13-of-18 shooting -- possibly the best big-game performance of his mercurial career -- while James added 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting with six rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and two blocks, and Wade had 17 points (6-of-17), nine rebounds and three assists.
Carlos Boozer played a great game for Chicago, despite missing his first five shots, mostly around the rim. But after he stepped back a few feet, he seemed to heat up with jumpers from 15 to 18 feet, and ended up with 26 points and 17 rebounds.
If you ever wondered what the adage "defense wins championships" means, I present this stat from Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals: The Bulls missed 14 of their first 16 shots, and yet led by seven points after a first quarter capped by Luol Deng's 60-foot buzzer-beater.
The philosophy of a coach like Tom Thibodeau is that sometimes, no matter how many good looks you get (and there were quite a few open shots), the shots just won't fall. But you can control how well your opponent shoots, and as long as your defense keeps it close, you're still in the game.
And yet, the other part of the adage is "offense wins games." Keeping the Heat under 90 points yet again is certainly an accomplishment and one of the keys for Chicago in this series, but when the Bulls themselves can't crack 80, defense won't be enough to win the night. With players like LeBron James, a scoring run is always right around the corner, and you need to find the points to respond.
This game was an ugly but determined effort by the Bulls. Ugly because they couldn't hit their shots (they shot 34 percent from the field), yet inspiring because of how many offensive rebounds they grabbed (a 17-10 advantage) only to miss the put-backs. Still, those offensive boards limited the Heat's number of possessions, and that's what kept it close until the end.
Two hallmarks of the Chicago Bulls combined in the second half Sunday to take down the Miami Heat 103-82 in Game One of the Eastern Conference finals. A deep bench along with Tom Thibodeau's trademark defense (executed almost flawlessly by Luol Deng & Co. ) held LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to a combined 33 points on 12-of-32 shooting.
Derrick Rose played well, but not out of his mind, finishing with 28 points and six rebounds on 10-22 shooting. The game's high scorer was Miami forward Chris Bosh, who netted 30 points, but wasn't able to do much else in the way of damage as Chicago owned the glass with 45 rebounds to the Heat's 33.
Through two quarters, this game was largely as everyone expected it--tough defenses controlling the pace, with both teams prone to turnovers and shaky shooting. But in the second half, with both Miami starters tiring and a Chicago bench surging, the Bulls pulled away.
Miami led 58-57 with 7:30 left in the third before the Bulls took a 17-point lead with a 26-8 run.
The Bulls are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 13 years, set to open a best-of-seven series against the surging Miami Heat on Sunday night at the United Center.
As good as Derrick Rose & Co. have been this season -- most recently in Thursday's decisive Game 6 in Atlanta -- it's hard not to give the Heat a slight edge initially after seeing them handle Boston in five games. Twelve of 14 ESPN experts picked Miami to win the series -- which is not to suggest, oversensitive Bulls fans, that Chicago cannot win this series, but simply that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are probably the best two players in the league, with all due respect to Rose's achievements this season.
There is a strong possibility this will not be the most beautiful team basketball we've ever seen, given the ability and propensity of Rose, James and Wade to simply explode to the basket seemingly at will. You won't, on balance, see the five-man ball played by Boston or Dallas at their best. But with both teams closing out the semifinals in peak form, every game should be a must-see event.
Nine more scattered thoughts:
1. Yes, the Bulls won all three of their meetings with Miami this season. No, that doesn't really mean anything. Both teams are different now, especially a Heat team that is using vastly different lineups these days.
2. Very few teams have anyone who can stay in front of Rose, but Miami point guards Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers will get positively torched if they try to guard him. There's little chance Dwyane Wade won't draw the assignment during the biggest moments of the game, if not throughout.
3. This should settle the 2011 MVP debate once and for all. LeBron still is the game's most dominant player, but if Rose can carry the Bulls into the NBA Finals, it'll be hard to deny him every last shred of glory.
4. Carlos Boozer vs. Chris Bosh is a delightful matchup of perhaps the two most frustrating power forwards in the league. It's not entirely fair to call them underachievers, but it would certainly be nice to see one or both of them step up in this series. Boozer took a big step in that direction last night.
5. I'm excited to see what Luol Deng, one of the game's most underrated players, can do defensively against LeBron. He's got as good a chance as anyone to slow him down a bit.
6. The Bulls' 10-man rotation worked wonders at times against the Hawks' much shorter bench, and it's hard to see that not being a significant edge for Chicago again in this series. Taj Gibson, Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver have all had big moments in the playoffs.
7. The center matchup between Joakim Noah and Joel Anthony should be a nice battle between two of the league's most active big men. (Boy, I'm fond of superlatives today.) Neither is especially skilled -- though Noah continues to distinguish himself as a passer -- but they make up for it with indefatigable hard work.
9. Reasonable minds can disagree on the distastefulness (or awesomeness?) of LeBron, Wade and Bosh joining forces to chase championships, but please, don't let them tell you it's no different than what Boston did in assembling the triumvirate of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Miami's three were free agents in the prime of their careers; Boston's were potential (or sure-fire) Hall of Famers, to be sure, but all closer to the end of the line than the beginning. The Celtics took on significantly more risk. They did it "the right way" by building up a cache of young talent and trading multiple pieces for two singular stars, instead of simply using the sun, sand and nightlife of Miami as a lure. And of course, they kicked things off with a team-bonding trip, not a grotesque exercise in premature coronation.
Whatever hopes the NBA nation had for a thrilling Game 6 last night in Atlanta were dashed quickly by the Bulls, who put together one of their best wire-to-wire performances of the season, beating the Hawks 93-73 to win the series and a date with Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Chicago was led by Carlos Boozer(!), who owned his jump shot to the tune of 23 points and 10 rebounds. He even handed out five assists.
Derrick Rose took on the role of setup man, tossing out 12 assists, while scoring 19 points on 8-of-14 shooting -- a big drop from the usual 23-28 shots per game he's been taking all series.
The 4-2 series win puts Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time the since final Jordan championship in 1998. Awaiting them are the Heat, who struggled for a time with gigantic preseason expectations -- including going 0-3 against the Bulls in the regular season -- but are looking great as they come down from the high of eliminating the Celtics in six games.
Beyond winning the series, the Thursday's biggest story undoubtedly was Boozer. I'm not even sure what I can say about him, as so many weeks of mediocre contributions have me in disbelief that he really just played that game. But by grabbing the first rebound of the game and scoring seven of the Bulls' first 11 points, he made it clear to all on the court that this would be his game to lose.
The way Boozer had been playing, with 10 points and 5-10 rebounds per game, made the Bulls a very good team, as long as Rose plays up to his potential. But what we saw Thursday is the difference between a very good team and a championship team. It was a giant reminder of how good Chicago can be if everything falls into place, and I'd truly forgotten what that looked like.
Toppled in Game 4 by a late Atlanta surge, the Bulls put together an explosive finish of their own in Tuesday's Game 5, turning a one-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter into a 95-83 win at the United Center.
The mercurial Hawks submitted their second straight determined effort, but Derrick Rose set game-highs with 33 points and nine assists, Luol Deng added 23 points and Taj Gibson came up big down the stretch, scoring all 11 of his points in the fourth.
The win gives the Bulls a 3-2 lead as the seven-game series shifts back to Atlanta for Thursday's Game Six, putting them one win away from their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since the final Jordan championship 13 years ago.
Chicago started the game on a 10-2 run, eventually stretching its lead to 15. Atlanta hung around, though, and managed to whittle down the margin with strong defense and fast-break points, eventually taking its first lead at 64-63 late in the third.
But in the fourth, the Bulls came out firing, and in a show of confidence in his bench, coach Tom Thibodeau trusted three of them down the stretch. Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer came out for a rest late in the third and stayed out, as Thibodeau closed with Rose, Deng, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik. The three reserves played the whole fourth quarter, sparking Chicago to a 26-15 quarter.
"I definitely believe that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step," the Zenmaster said. "My first step was being hired by the Bulls, and it all happened in the strangest way. My birthday [Sept. 17] just happened to fall on the day [in 1987] when the Bulls had lost assistant coach Gene Littles, who left to accept a job coaching the Charlotte Hornets.
"My telephone number just happened to be on Jerry Krause's desk when somebody called him asking for it because they said they wanted to wish me a happy birthday. So since the Bulls had to pick up another coach at the last minute, those circumstances all came together to put me in the right spot at the right time. So Jerry called and offered me the job. I took my first step when I accepted the job, and the rest is history."
As the two-time defending champion Lakers fell apart in Dallas, the Atlanta Hawks came out Sunday night determined to right their own ship. They did so with a fantastic final push, beating the Bulls 100-88 in Game 4 by closing the game with an 18-6 run in the final five minutes. The win evens the series at 2, with Game Five scheduled for Tuesday night at the United Center.
Despite a surprise eight-rebound performance from Omer Asik and 11 rebounds from Joakim Noah, it was the Hawks that owned the boards, particularly Josh Smith. Making his first real statement in the series, Smith amassed 23 points, 16 rebounds, eight assists, two blocks and a steal.
Atlanta's Al Horford and Joe Johnson also combined for 44 points on 18-of-25 shooting, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers by Johnson. Many looks went uncontested for the Hawks, leaving Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau with the task once again of instilling in his team the desire to play each defensive series like it's the last of the game. The Hawks hit 40 of 81 field goals, no doubt boosted by their 56-40 point advantage in the paint.
If last night was the first Bulls game you've seen this year, you might be surprised to hear they struggled a bit on the road this year. You also might be surprised to hear Carlos Boozer is their highest-paid player. But if you're surprised at all at the performance Derrick Rose turned in, you clearly haven't been paying attention at all.
The league MVP went off against a porous Atlanta Hawks' defense, scoring a career-high 44 points to lead Chicago to a 99-82 win and a 2-1 lead in this second-round series.
Rose's scoring coupled with a suffocating defense meant the Hawks were doomed from the start. The Bulls scored the game's first six points and pulled ahead by 13 at halftime before cruising through the second half.
Seemingly shaking off the ankle injury he suffered at the end of Monday's Game 1 loss, Rose continued to improve his play this series by really nailing down his jumper. It was hardly necessary, given the wide open lanes in Atlanta's defense, but he could clearly step back and hit his shots as well, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Rose also dished out seven assists, grabbed five rebounds, grabbed a steal and blocked a shot--all while committing only two turnovers and one personal foul.
After losing the first game of their second-round series with Atlanta, the Bulls and the defense that carried them to an NBA-best 62 wins this season finally arrived Wednesday in Game 2. Chicago won 86-73 by holding the fifth-seeded Hawks to 33.8 percent from the field, including 3-of-13 on 3-pointers, and earning 44 of their 58 rebounds on the defensive glass.
And of course, newly-minted NBA MVP Derrick Rose led the way with 25 points (though on 10-of-27 shooting), six rebounds, 10 assists and two blocks.
In true (Coach of the Year) Tom Thibodeau fashion, the Bulls came out committed on the defensive end. Joe Johnson, dominant in Game 1, was held to 16 points, while Jamal Crawford shot 2-for-10 and Josh Smith was 4-for-14.
As Chicago focused its attention elsewhere, second-year point guard Jeff Teague went to town, scoring a team-high 21 points while committing zero turnovers -- an impressive stat for a talented but inexperienced 22-year-old playing major minutes only because of Kirk Hinrich's hamstring injury.
"Why not?" Derrick Rose asked before his third NBA season.
"Why can't I be the MVP of the league? Why can't I be the best player in the league?"
It was a surprisingly bold public statement for one of the game's least talkative stars, but Rose backed it up every night on the court. Tuesday afternoon the 22-year-old Bulls point guard was introduced as the 2010-11 NBA MVP, becoming the youngest player to win the award.
We'd been building to this day for some time, as Rose earned plaudits from players, coaches and media throughout the league, but the moment was no less special for the lack of suspense.
Typically stoic in his public appearances, the Englewood native choked up during his acceptance speech when he thanked his mother, Brenda, calling her "my heart. The reason that I play the way that I play. Just everything."
Rose said whenever he needs motivation to work harder, he thinks of what she sacrificed as a single mother raising four sons.
"Those are hard days. My days shouldn't be hard because I love doing what I'm doing, and that's playing basketball.
"You keep me going every day and I love you."
Rose's speech begins above at the 2:20 mark, with the sappy mom stuff at 4:40.
It was, to say the least, a wake-up call for the top-seeded Bulls, as the fifth-seeded Hawks showed a determination to win it from the start. With Atlanta racing off to a 9-0 lead, the first quarter was a demonstration of masonry by soon-to-be-named-MVP Derrick Rose, who missed his first seven shots before finally getting a layup deep into the second quarter. Unfortunately for Chicago, his poor shooting was the least of their troubles.
Against a Bulls team known for its defensive prowess, the Hawks shot 51 percent from the field, including 53 percent from behind the arc. They shot 58 percent in the first half, and it was only with a second quarter run by the reserves that the Bulls were able to pull within one point at halftime.
But the Hawks reasserted themselves in the second half, taking control for good with a 15-2 run across the third and fourth quarters. And then, with five inconsequential seconds remaining, Rose rolled his troublesome left ankle. He needed assistance to get back to the locker room.
With the first round done and dusted, albeit with more difficulty than most people expected, the Bulls begin the Eastern Conference semifinals tonight at home against fifth-seeded Atlanta. The athletic Hawks knocked off Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic to get here, so they're eminently capable of challenging a top seed like Chicago. But if anyone can take apart an opponent, it's NBA coach of the year Tom Thibodeau.
This is the point at which earning that No. 1 seed pays off, as the Bulls get to watch the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat face off in what will almost certainly end up being seven games of tough, competitive, high-pressure basketball. That's not to say the Bulls can take it easy, however, as the Hawks will definitely present a few challenges along the way.
1. Battle on the boards
Carlos Boozer has a painful toe injury, but he said this morning he plans to play in Game 1. The bigger question is, healthy or not, how effective will he be? The Bulls power forward averaged 10 points and 10.2 rebounds in the first round, shooting 35.8 percent from the field -- not quite what the Bulls expected they'd get when they signed him for $75 million last summer.
Joakim Noah, the other banged-up big man, has seemed to regain the form that abandoned him near the end of the regular season, as he had a couple great games against Indiana and averaged 12 points and 10.6 rebounds in the series -- and of course, played far better defense than Boozer. His energy in particular will be a huge asset against an Atlanta team that's known to take entire quarters off.
After three games under 40 percent, the Bulls shot a series-high 48 percent Tuesday, eliminating the pesky Pacers with a 116-89 home win in Game 5 of their best-of-seven first-round series.
Behind 49 combined points from Luol Deng and Derrick Rose, Chicago took off from the opening tip and never looked back. Fears about the health of Rose's ankle were clearly unfounded, as the point guard displayed his usual athleticism, one of several factors that sent the Pacers packing.
The win gave the Bulls their first playoff series victory since 2007, and sets them up for an Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against either No. 4 seed Orlando or No. 5 seed Atlanta. The Magic crushed the Hawks in their own Game 5 on Tuesday, pulling within 3-2 in the series.
One of the biggest reasons the Bulls took off was their 14-of-31 shooting (45 percent) from behind the 3-point arc. Keith Bogans in particular found his range, going 5-for-7, while Deng hit 3 of 5 and Rose 3 of 8 -- all three of them coming late in the third quarter after the visitors had pulled within four.
Despite a furious Chicago charge in the final minutes, the Indiana Pacers finally held on to a lead to beat the visiting Bulls 89-84 on Saturday and take Game Four of this seven-game series. The win keeps Indiana alive for at least one more game, with Chicago still holding a commanding 3-1 series lead as the series moves back to the United Center on Tuesday.
Indiana won this game with the tough defense they've shown all series (except in the fourth quarters), and for the second game in a row Derrick Rose was largely ineffective. Though he did roll his ankle late in the first quarter, he soon returned (in trademark tough fashion) and still ended up playing 43 minutes but only managed 15 points. Rose shot 6-of-22, with an awful 1-of-9 from behind the 3-point line, as the Pacers forced him to turn to his teammates to the tune of 10 assists. Unfortunately for Chicago, most of them weren't shooting much better, with Carlos Boozer scoring 15 and Luol Deng going 5-14 for 16 points.
The brightest player in red today was Joakim Noah, who played his first great game of the playoffs, and maybe his best since he returned from his thumb injury in February. Noah finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds, including a key three-point play in the dying seconds that pulled the Bulls to within one point, after being down 13 just a couple of minutes earlier.
In front of a mixed crowd at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (it's nice having a playoff series within easy driving distance of Chicago), the Bulls kept the Indiana Pacers at bay for a third time last night with a physical, hard fought, 88-84 victory.
A lot will be written about Derrick Rose once again, as the young point guard came through with a fantastic (and yet so very common for him) drive to the hoop with 17 seconds left to give the Bulls their final lead. But apart from that play, Rose actually had a rough night, certainly by his high standards.
Rose scored 23 points, but shot 4-of-18 from the field. He did draw plenty of hard fouls and hit 13 of 15 free throws. He had a team-high five turnovers, one-third of Chicago's 15, another stat that he certainly won't be pleased with.
If this series was supposed to be easy, as some people (like me) thought, I guess we forgot to let the Pacers know. Behind 19 points from Danny Granger and contributions from everyone else, Indiana hung with the Bulls through all 48 minutes of Monday's Game Two before Chicago escaped again, winning 96-90 at the United Center.
Derrick Rose once again poured it on with 36 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two steals. He got more help this time from Carlos Boozer (17 points, 16 rebounds), but Luol Deng needed 13 shots to score 14 points.
Unlike Saturday's opener, controlled by Indiana before a big Chicago comeback, neither team was able to get much of a stranglehold on their opponent throughout the entire game. Modest leads by both teams were never able to stick, and it wasn't until another wide-open Kyle Korver three in the final minute that Chicago had the chance to finish off the game. Their fantastic foul shooting contributed to the win as well, as the Bulls made their last 16 shots from the line.
It wasn't just that the Bulls trailed by 10 points with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. It was how they'd gotten there, getting outplayed all over the court by the eighth-seeded Pacers, the worst team in the 2011 playoffs.
Derrick Rose had 30-some points, but few if any of his teammates were playing the type of basketball that had earned Chicago the league's best regular-season record. Their vaunted defense had been diced up time and again by Indiana's compendium of solid but unspectacular young players.
So it was easy to abandon hope when Tyler Hansbrough stripped Carlos Boozer at the top of the key and took it in for a fast-break dunk plus the foul. The three-point play epitomized Hansbrough's game-long dominance of Boozer and gave the visitors a 98-88 lead that seemed awfully decisive.
A few minutes later, the Bulls and the capacity crowd were roaring with excitement, celebrating a 104-99 win. They had scored on their final seven possessions and shut down the Pacers almost entirely, ending the game on a 16-1 run.
Well, that certainly wasn't easy. But despite not leading the game once until the final minute, the Bulls overcame the physical play and hot shooting of No. 8 seed Indiana to escape with a 104-99 win this afternoon at the United Center.
If the young Bulls had any doubt what playoff basketball really means, they should know now.
Let's take a look at what caused a supposedly easy opponent to beat up on the Bulls so much, and what the team (read: Derrick Rose) did to power them over the top for another fourth quarter come-from-behind victory, their 12th of the year.
For those of you who may have just turned into the Bulls for the first time today, Rose put on a show. The point guard scored 39 points, including 19-of-21 on free throws -- two more points than Indiana had from the stripe and the most any NBA player has had in a playoff game since Allen Iverson in 2002.
He was fearless going to the basket, despite getting fouled hard every time he did. The young player who missed critical free throws at the end of the 2008 NCAA national championship game has clearly disappeared, and who remains is a calm, collected shooter who steps up to the line with confidence. The only real disappointment in his game today was his outside shooting; despite showing all year his increased ability to hit the three, Rose went 0-for-9 today behind the arc.
Fortunately, the grand tradition of Chicago basketball means Derrick Rose isn't our only native son taking the stage this spring. (Heck, he's not even the only one on the Bulls roster; Jannero Pargo is a Robeson graduate, though he's only been on the team for a month and won't be on the playoff roster.) Trying rooting for these guys too:
Dwyane Wade, Heat (Harold L. Richards H.S.)
Our relationship with Wade was totally different a year ago, before the Super Friends became the greatest villains in sports and the primary obstacle to the Bulls' steadily growing title hopes. He was our basketball boyfriend before D-Rose, and still deserves some love. Just root for LeBron to fall apart; we'll get rid of the Heat that way.
Not just easily winning the Central Division, not just overtaking the Celtics (the East beast for the past three years) and the Heat (the most talented team on paper) for the Eastern Conference title, but the best team in the entire league. They've won their past nine games and 21 of the past 23, surpassing San Antonio on the final day of the season for home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
But they'll need a Finals run to take full advantage of this opportunity, and the first step comes Saturday at noon against the visiting Indiana Pacers.
Simply put, the 62-win Bulls are far and away a much better team than eighth-seeded Indiana (37-45). Sure, there are small factors that will make the going a little easier or harder, but as long as the Bulls play four solid games, they should win the series.
With that in mind, here are a few things to keep an eye on:
As a whole, Indiana is less skilled and forced to use physicality to slow down the Bulls. While this shouldn't be enough to take the series, it can screw up Chicago's chances in the second or third round against much better teams.
2. Keep the machine well oiled
With one or even two off days between games, NBA playoff teams can play their starters extended minutes, but Chicago will want to make sure its key bench contributors, especially Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer (if he's healthy) don't go a whole week and half without taking any pressure shots. Korver especially is streaky, and I don't want his first important shots to come against Orlando in the second round. The reserves got plenty of run in Wednesday's finale, but that's not quite the same thing.
Having locked up the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs with Friday's win in Cleveland, the Bulls headed to Orlando for a potential playoff preview Sunday against the fourth-seeded Magic.
Except it wasn't Dwight Howard and the Magic, the Brobdingnagian big man having been suspended one game for whining way too much about calls and non-calls that didn't go his way. And on the other side, Joakim Noah played only 18 minutes, sitting out most of the second half because he just hasn't been playing that well since spraining his ankle.
So we can expect the matchups will look a little different if these teams meet in the second round of the playoffs. But even in defeat, the Magic showed me enough to rethink my previous position that they'll roll over and play dead against the contenders.
But if nothing else, the Bulls learned in Sunday's 102-99 win that they won't sally past the Magic later this month unless they're firing on all cylinders. For predictive purposes, the game was a wash; tied in the final minutes, it turned on the relative randomness of a few plays -- including a bizarre possession wherein Jason Richardson panicked and passed the ball to no one, jump-starting an easy Chicago fast break. I'm not sure something like that will happen again.
The Statistical MVP and his supporting cast can make life difficult for six games, even if neither is good enough to recapture the glory of their 2009 run to the NBA Finals. (Or more precisely, they're about as good as they were then, on balance; the competition just got way tougher.)
It's the Super Friends down in Miami that should worry the Bulls the most, as they bathe in the blood of the 2008 champions and close in on the No. 2 seed. [UPDATE: And now they've clinched it.] If they haven't yet reached a shark-like level of lethal efficiency, the Heat are at least at the level of a cave troll, misshapen and flawed but terrifyingly powerful and hard to stop.
As for Bulls fans -- a defensive bunch forever seeking out "haters" even as NBA Nation swoons over prospective MVP Derrick Rose -- the more objective among them are getting worried about LeBron and Wade. As Matt McHale of By the Horns and Basketbawfulargues persuasively:
I know Chicago is a popular pick right now, and, as picks go, the Bulls are a good one. They've been a better team, play better defense, have a better bench. They bring it every night. But the playoffs usually are about the best players. The bench becomes less important. Tom Thibodeau's defense has slowed down Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James...but can it slow down LeBron and D-Wade every night in a long playoff series? Could anybody's defense?
The Bulls have had an amazing season, all things considered. I mean, 60 wins despite a combined 60 games missed by Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah? This is a detemined, dedicated group of players. Unfortunately, I think their flaws are going to be exposed in the postseason. That's what tends to happen when the schedules even out and teams can devise new schemes on a game-by-game basis. Chicago's D is fantastic but their offense relies so heavily on Derrick Rose that slowing him down becomes the key to beating the Bulls (much like slowing down James was the key to beating the Cavaliers the last few seasons). They're going to throw constant double-teams at Rose and dare Luol Deng, Boozer, Noah and, yes, Keith Bogans to beat them. I predict a Heat-Bulls Eastern Conference Finals in which the scores will be hard-on-the-eyes low and the LeBron-Wade duo will trump the Rose uno. As a Bulls blogger, this pains me.
Here's all you need to know about how well the Bulls handled the visiting Celtics last night, in one paragraph of the AP recap:
"Paul Pierce led Boston with 15 points. Kevin Garnett scored all 10 of his points in the second half and [Rajon] Rondo finished with seven. Jeff Green scored 10 and Ray Allen had seven points."
Anytime the phrase "all 10 of his points" appears next to Kevin Garnett's name, your team has done well.
The game was close for long stretches, but Derrick Rose and the Bulls were too much in the second half, pulling away for a 97-81 win that put them on the brink of clinching the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed. Leading by four games with four games left, Chicago needs only one more win or one more Boston loss to officially clinch.
The Celtics led early in the third quarter, but -- and perhaps this is overconfidence -- the Bulls always seemed in control. Sure, Rondo or Pierce would occasionally make an impressive play, but Rose or Luol Deng were always able to match it. Never once did it seem like the C's could surpass the Bulls in skill or effort.
Rose led the way with 30 points, five rebounds, eight assists and two steals, even hitting all 10 of his free throws for good measure, while Deng added 23 points and Carlos Boozer had 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer played together last night for the 24th time / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
After resting a sprained ankle the past three games, Joakim Noah returned last night to help the Bulls earn a 97-94 victory against the Phoenix Suns. The 6-11 center played just over 28 minutes, looking healthy and quite able-bodied with several fast break baskets off Phoenix turnovers. He finished with 12 points, same as Carlos Boozer, while Derrick Rose led Chicago with 19 points. Luol Deng wasn't far behind with 18 of his own.
With Boston and Miami winning, the victory keeps Chicago three games ahead of them for first place in the Eastern Conference, with five games left -- including Thursday's marquee matchup with the Celtics at the United Center.
Boozer and Noah have played 24 games together this season because of injuries -- less than one-third of the team's 77 games. But is a lack of chemistry truly affecting their performance? Or is each player's perceived drop in points when they both play simply a result of them sharing the wealth?
It seems fitting that on Chicago baseball's Opening Day, I'm thinking about how long the NBA season feels. It shouldn't seem that way, and in fact, with the Bulls leading Boston by only two games for first in the Eastern Conference, this should feel like the closing weeks of a September pennant race.
Well, maybe it would if there weren't 16 teams in the playoffs. As it stands, the Bulls aren't putting too much emphasis on this final push for the No. 1 seed. They've been through a LOT of challenges this year, and maybe they feel they've seen about all that can be thrown at them. At this point, there's nothing left to surprise them, so they want to just get to the games that matter and see where they stand.
But if Tom Thibodeau heard that, he'd probably slap you. So let's put on our coachin' hat and take a look at the big questions facing the Bulls over the final week and a half.
Can Derrick Rose reduce his turnovers?
Call it blasphemy, but Derrick Rose has one sizable flaw in his game and he knows it. He tends to turn the ball over either late in the game, or occasionally, throughout the entire game. Very occasionally. He typically holds himself publicly accountable for his mistakes, but he was back at it again Monday night, losing the ball 10 times in the loss to Philadelphia.
Thibodeau came to his defense after that, saying "when you handle the ball as much as he does there's going to be [some turnovers]. ... I thought he was trying to make the right plays."
Tough night for the Bulls as they fell to Philadelphia 97-85. But with the playoffs approaching, I'm here to tell you once again: don't worry. But not because of Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah, or even because of Luol Deng's burgeoning scoring prowess. No, today it's time to share with casual Bulls fans the secret weapon passionate NBA fans have known about for years: little-used forward Brian Scalabrine, the luckiest player in the league.
It's a secret that stretches back to the beginning of the decade, when he was drafted in the second round in 2001 by the New Jersey Nets. He fell into luxury, as the Nets acquired Jason Kidd the day after the draft. Some of you youngsters might not know this, but the 2001 model Kidd was one heck of a point guard. He was an all-star for five straight years from 2000-2004, tacking on an NBA Skills Challenge title in 2003 for the illustrious All-Star Weekend Double.
The net result (oh you better believe that's intended) was two appearances in the NBA Finals in 2002 and 2003 for Scalabrine.. All this, despite being in the league only two seasons and contributing an average of 10-12 minutes per game with 2.1 and 3.1 points per game each season. STELLAR numbers.
A handful of solid playoff games in the spotlight of the Finals earned Scalabrine a big free-agent contract with Boston in 2005. They were awful for two seasons (partly because they were spending lots of their money on Brian Scalabrine), but the Celtics retooled in 2007 much like the Nets had in 2001, making major trades to bring in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Scal's first (but not last?) NBA championship came in 2008 -- this again with 10 minutes per game and barely more than a point per game scoring average -- a stat line he mirrored again last season as the Celtics went to another NBA Finals. (That's four appearances now, for those keeping score at home.)
And now, yet again, he's traded to a team stacked for a run to the Finals. OR IS CHICAGO STACKED BECAUSE OF SCALABRINE?!
Boozer and Noah have had a lot of fun watching the Bulls reserves / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
With an even dozen games left in the NBA regular season, the Bulls lead the Eastern Conference by one game after Boston's last-minute loss to Memphis on Wednesday. With one more meeting between the two contenders (two weeks from now in Chicago), there's precious little breathing room in the race for the No. 1 playoff seed.
Stars like Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo get all the attention, but both teams also have good depth. With the mentally and physically exhausting playoff routine approaching, it's a good time to see who they'll be relying on to give their starters much needed rest in the middle of a tough seven-game series.
I had planned to scold the Bulls for missing a golden opportunity Friday night, as they lost to the Indiana Pacers in overtime, 115-108. (Yes, the same Pacers who trail Chicago by 20 games in the Central Division.) Boston's win Saturday in New Orleans means the East's top two teams are once again tied in the standings.
And perhaps the Bulls still deserve a scolding, but Derrick Rose can leave the room. Because right now, all I want to say to him is this:
Ronnie Brewer passes around JaVale McGee to Omer Asik / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
Looking better in green than their Boston brethren with snazzy St. Patrick's Day uniforms, the Chicago Bulls took sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference last night by beating the visiting Wizards. Playing without Joakim Noah (illness) and Carlos Boozer (ankle), the Bulls relied on 23 points from Derrick Rose, 20 from Luol Deng and 17 from Keith Bogans to reach seven wins in a row for the second time this season.
They're now half a game ahead of the Celtics and 2.5 games ahead of Miami in the race for the East No. 1 seed, which carries with it the opportunity to avoid the other two contenders until at least the conference finals.
Boston still has 17 games to play, Chicago only 16, but the two teams face each other in the United Center on Thursday, April 7. Miami has even fewer chances to make up ground, with only 15 regular-season games left.
But best of all for the Bulls, they have the easiest slate of opponents remaining. Let's go to the tape!
Given how dominant he's been this season, it's no surprise that Bulls MVP candidate Derrick Rose made the cover of this month's ESPN The Magazine. But more than that, the magazine's theme this month -- they always have a theme -- is athletes and fashion, so Rose is decked out in Calvin Klein and Louis Vuitton and Tom Ford throughout his five-page spread.
Ric Bucher's cover story and the full Style Issue feature -- which also includes Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh, Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson, New York Rangers left wing Sean Avery and golfer Ian Poulter -- are available online to ESPN Insider subscribers. Or check it out on your local newsstand.
From left: Scott Williams, assistant coach Johnny Bach, Dennis Hopson, John Paxson, Horace Grant, Craig Hodges, Stacey King, Michael Jordan, Will Perdue (obscured), Scottie Pippen, Cliff Levingston. Tribune photo: Chris Sweda
Twenty years ago this June, the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA championship, the first of six they would win with Hall of Famers Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Phil Jackson. Saturday night, most of the members of that 1990-91 team reunited to be honored at halftime of the Bulls-Jazz game.
After the jump, we've got all the best tweets and photos from the historic night, but you might want to start with this CSN video of the ceremony:
Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer sprained his ankle in Wednesday's win in Charlotte, but nothing's broken and he's now listed as day-to-day. Taj Gibson will again step in as Boozer's replacement, and coach Tom Thibodeau has few worries about how he'll perform.
"Taj started a majority of the season last year and played great," Thibodeau said. "We had the (hand) injury to Carlos early on in the season and he started (15 games) then. He's very comfortable starting. Whenever he has gotten extended minutes, he has played extremely well."
Little to say here, because we've already been down this road a few times this year. Rest up, big guy, the biggest games are yet to come.
Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf pulled a half-hearted Rex Ryan impression, telling the Sun-Times that with the nucleus the team has now, "at least four championships" are possible.
"We have an outstanding coach, an outstanding bunch of players, the team is deep, and if we stay healthy we have an awfully good chance of winning at least four championships."
Ugh. OK, folks. I suppose it was inevitable, and perhaps we deserve a pat on the back for doing a very good job of not getting ahead of ourselves. A six-game win streak here, seven there, a legitimate MVP contender -- yet even still, most Bulls fans and observers kept their cool. "They've got no shooting guard," we said. "There are too many injuries", we said. "Good lord, why is Keith Bogans starting?!" we said.
We faithfully doubted, excited by the Bulls' precocious accomplishments but nervous about their youth and potential vulnerabilities. But with 19 games left, 1 1/2 games out of first place in the East, the Central Division title assured and a sweep of the Heat completed, I suppose it's time to go over the falls, for better or for worse.
But four? Let's focus on one for now, Jerry. A lot can happen over four years, as former Bulls No. 2 overall pick Jason/Jay Williams knows all too sadly.
The Bulls are in fine shape with 20 regular-season games remaining, sitting second only to Boston in the Eastern playoff race, but there's still plenty of work to be done, even after winning six of their past seven games. That's why they are so fortunate to have the calming presence of coach Tom Thibodeau.
After Sunday's one-point win in Miami, the biggest story nationally wasn't Chicago's three-game season sweep of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade & Co., but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's curious decision to tell the media that some of his players took the loss so hard they were crying in the locker room.
I'm not going to comment on the crying itself; there are plenty of others willing to do that. But Deadspin's Barry Petchesky wrote a short piece yesterday related to the sob story, and it's gone a long way towards increasing my appreciation for Thibodeau.
The Bulls have only been around for 44 years, but it's still impressive that their first star, Jerry Sloan, and their latest, Derrick Rose, can be connected through only five degrees of NBA separation.
Sloan, an all-star with the 1966-67 expansion Bulls, played the year before in Baltimore with:
It's been a bit of a crazy week for the Chicago Bulls, and they're about to head into one of their toughest weekends all season with games against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat. Let's get our head right, as I'm sure some of you are probably still clearing the cobwebs away from that shocking collapse Wednesday night in Atlanta.
You didn't see much evidence of it last night in Atlanta, but the Bulls have been pretty good this season. That means plenty of MVP buzz for Derrick Rose, but it also means Tom Thibodeau is a top candidate for the NBA's Coach of the Year award.
Under their first-year head coach, the Bulls have already reached last year's win total at 41-18, currently good for third in the Eastern Conference, three games behind first-place Boston.
That record should certainly get you invited to the dance as far as COY. But this year certainly brings some good competition, such as San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, whose blend of new and old Spurs have the league's best record, and Scott Brooks, another coach who has taken a young cast in the form of the Oklahoma City Thunder and steered them into fourth in the West.
The Bulls were good defensively last year in Vinny Del Negro's final season, allowing 105.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranked 11th in the NBA. But this year, under Thibodeau, that defensive rating is 100.2, second only to the Celtics. Opponents are shooting 42.9 percent this year against Chicago, compared to 44.5 last year.
Busy week for the Bulls, if you haven't noticed yet. Joakim Noah returned in his first action since mid-December (a span of 30 games), the Bulls lost to a lowly Toronto team, 118-113, and then returned to Chicago to defeat the Miami Heat last night, 93-89.
Noah was able to stay in shape while rehabbing his hand injury, but he still faces an uphill conditioning battle. In Wednesday's return at Toronto, coach Tom Thibodeau paced him through 24 minutes. Noah finished with only seven points, but he grabbed 16 rebounds, re-establishing his presence in the post. He'll need time to get his offensive touch back as well as regain his chemistry with teammates on the court, but those things will definitely sort themselves out in plenty of time for the playoffs.
Against the Heat last night, Noah had another seven points with eight rebounds in 27 minutes. Chris Bosh, Miami's mobile power forward, had the worst shooting night of his career, hitting 1 of 17 shots from the field. A lot of that is due to the physical play and big reach of Noah and Carlos Boozer, who made him fight for every shot. Making life hard for an opponent isn't often so clearly shown on the box score, but the Bulls' big men did it to Bosh and it showed in the numbers.
So what to make of drastically different games for Chicago two nights apart? Frankly, it all comes down to defense. Once again the Bulls were reminded on Wednesday night that if they don't put in the effort defensively, they can and will lose to anyone.
It looks for all the world that Dave Duerson, the former Bears safety who killed himself Thursday, might have been among the growing number of American football players bludgeoned into brain damage. At the very least, he worried he might be, telling his family to donate his brain to ongoing research about football players and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Joakim Noah will be back in the lineup when the Bulls return from the all-star break Wednesday at Toronto, coach Tom Thibodeau said today. If you had any doubt how important that is, ESPN.com had a great piece over the weekend about Chicago's team defense, as explained by Taj Gibson:
Derrick Rose's all-star adventure in Los Angeles this weekend included his first all-star start; a quick exit from the skills challenge; and an MVP vote from Celtics coach Doc Rivers. But last night's main event was a reminder that as great as Rose has been this season, he's still a third-year player. He's still a little brother in the NBA pecking order.
Rose played nearly 30 minutes, second only to LeBron James and Kevin Durant, but he was a bystander for most of the time, robbed of his central offensive role by the presence of LeBron and Dwyane Wade. Final line: 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting with three rebounds, five assists and one steal -- and a C-minus from ESPN NBA writer Kevin Arnovitz, who graded all the all-stars:
Judging from Rose's comments this week, there was a sense he might defer to his more veteran teammates -- and that's precisely what happened early on. Rose became more assertive after intermission, but finished with only 11 points on 13 shots.
For all the scoring that gets done in an NBA All-Star Game -- the West won 148-143 this time -- the circumstances weren't especially conducive to Rose showcasing his talents.
Derrick Rose draws a foul on DeJuan Blair. Tribune photo: Scott Strazzante.
Apparently Derrick Rose reads GQ.
On the day that Free Darko's Bethlehem Shoals published a humble confession explaining why he's one of the few basketball writers in the country not enamored of Derrick Rose, the Bulls' point guard put up a career-high 42 points against the visiting San Antonio Spurs. Defeating the NBA's best team 109-99, even in the dog days right before the all-star break, Chicago has thrown down the gauntlet to the rest of the league, declaring that they're afraid of no one -- while the rest of the league knows they'll only get stronger with Joakim Noah set to return next week. Rose, meanwhile, heads off to L.A. this weekend as the Eastern Conference's starting point guard.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen enjoy an ovation. Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo
Nice win for the Bulls last night, handling a Charlotte Bobcats team that beat them twice this season and trounced the Lakers by 20 points the night before. Chicago has won three straight since stumbling briefly on the West Coast and will be looking to head into the all-star break on a real roll by beating the NBA's top team, the San Antonio Spurs, at home on Thursday.
Coming up this weekend is the last game of the Bulls' five-game "Disney on Ice" road trip, a Saturday night matchup against the New Orleans Hornets. Chicago is 2-2 so far on this Western swing, which has been right on par with their 12-12 record away from the United Center this season.
But let's be honest. The best thing about this game coming up is the chance to see two of the NBA's best point guards go toe-to-toe just a few weeks before they do so as starting guards in the Feb. 20 All-Star Game. With the pride both of these players have, I fully expect Saturday's game to contain NO LESS than 97 no-look passes.
Two games isn't a habit. It's not a pattern, a trend or a tendency. It's barely a streak. Thus, there's certainly no reason to bring out the lifeboats just yet. But with two losses caused by terrible defensive play, and games coming up against Deron Williams' Utah Jazz and Chris Paul's New Orleans Hornets, perhaps it's best if the Bulls nip this in the bud before it becomes a real issue. (The Cavs would most certainly agree.)
Instead, the East reserves, as chosen by the league's head coaches, will be Boston's Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen; Atlanta's Al Horford and Joe Johnson; and Miami's Chris Bosh. (Here are the full rosters for both teams.)
That leaves no room for Chicago's Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, both of whom have missed significant time because of injuries, and Luol Deng, who has shouldered a huge load in their absence.
Should we take to the snow-covered streets with pitchforks and torches? I debated the issue last night on Twitter with Sherron Shabazz, a Chicagoan who writes about the NBA for Examiner.com. Here's the transcript, edited slightly for clarity and readability:
-- One of four brothers, Kyle's siblings all have names that start with "K" (Kirk, Kaleb, Klayton).
-- Many people have noticed his resemblance to Ashton Kutcher. Many people have also commented on it, to the point where Korver really doesn't want to hear it anymore. But you don't truly kill the joke until some older folks realize it, several years after both Korver and Kutcher have been around in popular culture. Beat that horse dead, Clyde!
The new deal, which includes a $10 million team option for Year Five, wasn't strictly necessary. The 29-year-old Ramirez was entering the final season of the cheap four-year deal he signed as a Cuban free agent three years ago, but the Sox could have kept him around for a few more years through arbitration. Instead, they decided to give him a little more money on the front end in exchange for a few years of cost-effective security on the back end. And it won't cost anything this season.
Jim Margalus of South Side Sox likes the move: "I'd call this contract fair, with an overtone of fun. Ramirez is often a blast to watch, and he's not going anywhere. That's good."
Good news for the Bulls too, as Joakim Noah had the cast on his right hand removed Monday after practice. The fourth-year center, one of the league's premier rebounders and post defenders, will participate in non-contact drills with the team on their current road trip and could be ready for game action after the all-star break in three weeks.
Chicago is 21-4 at the United Center this season, but Orlando is one of those four losses. Even worse, the Magic won 107-78. Yet several things have changed since then for both squads, so there's hope that perhaps we shouldn't put too much stock in that one game.
For starters, Orlando made two major trades a week before Christmas, shipping out Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter and receiving Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark. This is not the same Orlando team that beat the Bulls so handily two months ago -- there's good reason to believe they're better. Arenas hasn't done much, but Richardson and Turkoglu have smoothly transitioned into the offense and are filling their roles as a shooter and distributor, respectively.
Weird day for Derrick Rose. The Bulls' star point guard missed practice for a second straight day, visiting the hospital to find out what he thought was heartburn actually is two stomach ulcers caused, it appears, by spicy food.
We'll see if he plays Friday night against the Orlando Magic ... and his new teammate, Dwight Howard! Yes, fans, that's right. Nothing crazy happened in the final round of fan voting and Rose was announced Thursday evening as an Eastern Conference starter for the Feb. 20 NBA All-Star Game. He'll be the first Bulls starter since Michael Jordan in 1998.
Rose earned 1,914,996 fan votes, finishing a close second behind fellow Chicagoan Dwyane Wade of the Heat (2,048,175) among East guards and well ahead of third-place Rajon Rondo of the Celtics (1,587,297).
LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire will join Rose, Wade and Howard in the East starting lineup, while Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Pau Gasol and the injured Yao Ming were voted in for the Western Conference.
Joakim Noah had surgery yesterday to remove the pin that had been holding together his right hand for the past month, allowing his thumb mobility for the first time in the healing process. Next up for the 6-foot-11 center is regaining the dexterity and movement in that hand, though in the meantime he's been staying in shape and no doubt improving his handling with the left hand.
The title of Most Valuable Player means different things to different people. Some believe it should be synonymous with the best player in the league, while others (myself included) believe it should be awarded to the player who is most integral to the success of his team. Sometimes, these two descriptions represent the same player. This year, they don't.
I suppose it starts where all good point guards should start: in their head. Derrick Rose can play, there's no doubt about that. MVP season stories are rife with tales of summers spent in the gym, honing a 15-foot jumper or defensive footwork. Rose's story has that too, but it's the intangible improvements he made this year that are making the difference. He knows that as a former No. 1 overall pick, he's expected to be a leader in more than just points and assists. The attitude adjustment he made this summer was the first step towards taking the reins, as Bulls front office assistant Randy Brown told Michael Wilbon :
"He had to become more vocal, and he knew it. But it's not in his nature. He just decided to do it. The only thing I told him was, 'You don't have to cuss guys out; you can say something nice, pat them on the back.' He knew he was the point guard on a team with guys who aren't that vocal, so he had to do something about it. I am surprised he did it so quickly."
Furthermore, Rose leads by example, night after night. Averaging career highs with 24.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists per game, he's the only player in the league to be in the top 10 in scoring and assists.
Halfway through the NBA season, no team is fully healthy. You just try to fight through your injuries and capitalize on your opportunities to beat opponents who aren't at full strength.
The Bulls, missing Joakim Noah, weren't able to do that last week against a Miami team missing LeBron James -- in a game that also saw Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh leave with minor injuries. But last night Chicago came through without either of its star post players, beating a Dallas team playing without Caron Butler, still getting Dirk Nowitzki back to full speed and coming off a tough win against the Lakers the night before.
Neither team was at full strength, but it was clearly a meaningful win for the young Bulls. There's no doubt they can play hard-nosed basketball when they need to. The point that's been lacking at times this season is that sometimes they simply don't. But over the past three days, with Boozer out, Chicago has shown a defensive determination that's impressive if not especially pretty.
While the Bears clinched a return engagement with the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, the Bulls have been busy as well with games against Charlotte, Indiana, Miami and Memphis. Here's what you missed:
Jan. 12 at Charlotte -- 96-91 loss Stat leaders: Points-Boozer (23), Rebounds-Boozer (14), Assists-Rose (7)
Story: Bulls dug themselves a big hole in letting Charlotte off to a 36-point first quarter, and despite fighting back before the half, had a few key turnovers in the waning minutes. D.J. Augustin stepped up big for the Bobcats, limiting Derrick Rose to a terrible night of 5-of-17 shooting and had a double-double himself with 22 points and 12 assists.
What it means: Tough to say. Charlotte's certainly playing well since Paul Silas replaced Larry Brown as head coach in December, winning their fourth in a row and sixth in eight games since the change. That, and the fact that it's no secret Chicago has had trouble on the road lately perhaps means a loss like this isn't too surprising. Is Chicago the better team? Sure, but only if Rose is playing up to par, and despite 17 points, he certainly wasn't.
-- Once rented out his Los Angeles mansion for eight months to Prince, the artist formerly and currently known as -- and then sued the Purple One after he made a slew of unauthorized renovations, including painting the exterior of the house purple with his eponymous symbol.
Throughout the constant chatter about how to keep the Bulls on top with Joakim Noah sidelined has been a familiar refrain about why Keith Bogans continues to start every game. While a few weeks ago it was arguable who should replace him, Bulls fans across the city agreed that somebody had to.
Enter Ronnie Brewer. The shooting guard has taken his role as a super-sub and run with it, often alongside Derrick Rose on fast-break baskets. The past few games in particular have seen a great effort on the defensive end from him, illustrated most clearly in the fourth quarter Saturday against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics.
Even after a close loss at New Jersey snapped their five-game win streak, the Bulls sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of Orlando and Atlanta and a few games behind Miami and Boston. Truth be told, that's how the top half of the conference should shake out, as after Miami and Boston, everyone else would seem to be playing for bronze.
On paper, the Celtics and Heat are head and shoulders above everyone else. The Bulls have a pretty good top four with Joakim Noah healthy, but individually, you'd still find it hard to argue anywhere outside the Midwest that any of those four are clearly better than their Boston and Miami counterparts.
Down low, Carlos Boozer, Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh are matched fairly evenly; same for Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. But does Chicago have a second perimeter player to match the aging but still accurate Ray Allen or the Cleveland Judas, LeBron James? Not to mention Boston also has Paul Pierce.
It's been a mixed bag for the Bulls without center Joakim Noah. In the first of an expected 30-plus games without its best rebounder and post defender, Chicago sandwiched a blowout win against the 76ers between a pair of tight games against the lackluster Clippers and Wizards.
With Joakim Noah out for the next 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery yesterday to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb, Bulls fans could be expected to be a bit pessimistic in forecasting the team's future. Yet Steve Rosenbloom and Melissa Isaacson aren't too worried, and neither am I.
Noah averages 14 points per game and ranks fifth in the NBA with 11.7 rebounds per game. And last year, Chicago fans might remember, the Bulls went 6-12 when he was out with a foot injury. But there are two big reasons to feel better about this stretch.
Just as they were getting Carlos Boozer up to speed, the Bulls announced Joakim Noah needs thumb/hand surgery that will keep him out until February or March. Noah had been playing with torn ligaments in the thumb for 2-3 weeks; the idea here is surgery will have him at full strength for the playoffs in May and June.
Probably not a disaster for the Bulls, but disappointing news for anyone who's grown to love watching Noah's unique brand of exuberance and intensity on the court. Get ready for another big dose of Taj Gibson!
With the Bears leading the NFC North and the Blackhawks' title defense off to a good start, you might have overlooked the first six weeks of the NBA season. But with Derrick Rose scoring 25.1 points per game (fourth-best in the NBA) and Joakim Noah averaging 12 rebounds (third), the Bulls are fourth in the Eastern Conference and first in the Central Division with a 14-8 record. Under first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau, they're playing exciting, physical basketball and looking like a real threat to the giants of the East.
Friday's 88-84 win against the visiting Lakers was their best win of the season so far. Behind Rose's 29 points and nine rebounds, the Bulls fought back from an early deficit and stayed on top of the Lakers down the stretch. For Chicago, a team that showed flashes of brilliance against some of the league's best last year but lacked the ability to finish them off, a win like this displays an evolving mentality. No longer content to just compete, the Bulls are expecting to win the big games--and willing to put in the work to do it.
Derrick Rose is good at basketball. His shot selection still needs some work (too many long two-pointers) and we're all praying that Tom Thibodeau installs some sort of microchip in young Derrick's cranium to get him to even believe in the tenet of defense on the hardwood. Still, the dude can ball. He dunks, he makes defenses poop their pants and he's got some boss hawg new shoes from adidas. I'm not a huge hoops sneaker guy, but I know what I like and I like these. Slick design for a mere $100.00? Not bad, "die Marke mit den drei Streifen.*"
Anyway, it's a simple equation, folks: cool shoes + superstar NBA player/funny Asian gangsta from "The Hangover" = excellent branding. (H/T @ Trey and Tas and Skeets of TBJ, watch it, know it, love it, people)
Some NBAers really just need to come with a caveat emptor. That being said, Boozer is always injured -in the past five seasons with the Jazz he missed a full 25% of the games due to injury and whatnot. And the Bulls still got him for a steal and Bulls fans should still be very pumped to have him on the squad. With Boozer every single fan should know what to expect by this point: injuries, averages of about 20 points and 10 boards per and a wilting (though not necessarily caustic) locker room presence. Boozer's value is decidedly left on the court. But he does add such a dimension to this Bulls offense and, let ye forget, this offense was stagnant and terrible for most of the past two seasons.
So Boozer's getting his injury bug (fingers crossed, Bulls fans) out of the way early this season and should be gelling with the squad by the end of December or start of the new year at the latest. Pick and rolls and comfortable, difficult to defend jumpers are sure to follow from the Booze-man. In the meantime, Taj Gibson is afforded more starting time at the 4, a spot he flourished at last season during his rookie campaign. Intriguingly with Gibson and Noah at the starting big spots, Chicago's interior defense should be forecast as "rugged and nasty" for the first month of the season.
See because he's hanging out with Navy recruits and the Bulls primary color is red and their season starts in October, see? No? Okay. In any case, the newest Bull dropped by the Great Lakes Naval Base wherein he teamed up with Converse for their Open Gym program.
Whilst on base the affable Korver --who, yes, Ashton Kutcher does uncannily resemble and they're both from Iowa. GO! conspiracy theorists-- spent some time talking with recruits, troops and their families while also giving a few on court pointers and engaging in one or two three ball contests. Oh yeah, and he sat down with Tailgate for a quick interview where he talks about being in Chicago, the team's expectations for this season and the "Jazz East" movement. Vid after the jump.
The slow trickle that is the NBA summer news cycle continues to go on, drip by drip.
This week were treated to finding out exactly who is playing who, and when. We already knew that the Bulls would open the season (and ESPN's coverage) with a showdown with the Oklahoma CIty Thunder. Set your DVRs now for that one.
As a sign of the growing respect for this team, the Bulls will be on national television a whopping 27 times throughout the year. Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends. The Bulls recieved no help from the schedule makers in their hope to become major players in the Eastern Conference.
A full season in the NBA is tough work no matter how the games are scheduled, but what really gets to the players are back-to-back's and heavily loaded weeks. Bodies simply need a day or so to recover as the season progresses. The Bulls will be faced with a daunting task.
As Sam Smith states in his recent piece, "once again the Bulls are getting a brutal schedule of back-to-back games with 23 for the season, far more than all the top contenders. The Lakers, seemingly being set up for a three peat, have just 15 sets of back to backs while Boston and Miami have just under 20 each."
Seems a bit unfair from the Bulls' fan perspective, but all the team needs to do is remain healthy entering the playoffs and they will have a shot against any opponent.
Read more about the most intriguing games of the season from ESPN Chicago.
Another roster spot was locked up this past week as the Bulls signed Keith Bogans.
This will be the last you hear about Keith Bogans.
Scottie Pippen's years of supporting Michael Jordan will finally be rewarded as he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame this Friday. While it was never a doubt that Pippen would one day be among the most respected in the game, it was a question of just who would act as the presenter.
After Jordan's regrettable Hall of Fame speech during his own induction, many thought that he would not return to the scene of the embarrassment. Thankfully for fans all over the world and especially in Chicago, Jordan will be the man to present his most talented partner.
USA Today sums up Scottie's career very succintly by noting that "Pippen...averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists, won six titles with the Chicago Bulls and was part of the Dream Team that won the 1992 Olympic gold medal. Pippen also won a gold medal in 1996."
Sure, things have really slowed down on the Bulls front, but this does not mean that nothing is happening. All it means is that you have to look outside the box for interesting stories. Here are a few to tide you over for a couple days.
All I Want For Christmas...
The Bulls will be back on the annual NBA Christmas Day showcase this upcoming season. And apparently they have been good because their opponents will be the Knicks. It feels like Christmas in August.
LeBron James made his
decision official last night when he invaded television screens from
coast-to-coast on the special edition ESPN program aptly titled "The
Decision". With his proverbial chess piece moved over to the Miami Heat
side of the board, most of the biggest NBA free agents have been
Bosh, Dwyane Wade and James fall to the Heat. Joe Johnson re-signs with
the Atlanta Hawks. Amare Stoudemire signs with the New York Knicks.
No matter which way it
is analyzed, these players formed the nucleus of what has been
understood for years to be the greatest free agent class in recent NBA
history. Landing one of these marquee names, specifically any of the
three that are now in Miami, was the goal heading in.
The Chicago Bulls are
now left with Carlos Boozer.
In the hours that have past since it became
apparent that the Bulls would be hanging their hats on the Duke
graduate, many have been trying to spin the benefits of his addition to
the team. Of course having Carlos Boozer is better than not having
Carlos Boozer. He is a quality player who is a proven scorer and
rebounder. This part is not debatable. However, the conditions
surrounding his signing make it a complete failure.
As the July 1st free agency starting line comes closer and closer, every news outlet has taken the duty of breaking the LeBron James scoop as their primary goal. Surely the person or people who do manage to lead the pack on the eventually free agent decision will instantly gain credibility, but at what cost? No story has been so sloppily reported in recent memory.
Take a look at these seemingly definitive statements:
"I got a call last night from a source and I double-checked with another and they told me essentially that LeBron James and Chris Bosh are going to tag team and go together and join Dwayne Wade in Miami...Dwayne Wade has done a very good job of convincing them not just about [Heat president] Pat Riley, not just about the fact that there are no [state] income taxes in the state of Florida but at the same time he's there in a tandem and that's what it's going to take." -Stephen A. Smith of Fox Sports on the Dan Patrick Show.
"(An) executive, who did not want to be identified discussing a player
who is not yet a free agent, said he had gathered from discussions with
his fellow N.B.A. executives that James was strongly leaning
toward joining the Bulls in tandem with another free agent, Chris Bosh
of the Toronto Raptors. 'I think it's a done deal,' the executive said." -via the NYTimes.com
"A source who's provided accurate information to me in the past has told
me that LeBron James will agree to terms with the Bulls by July 3rd
after meeting with other teams." -Doug Thonus of Chicago Bulls Confidential.
First, the French National Football team ("Les Bleus") becomes a source of national embarrassment at the World Cup with terrible play, insubordination and a general sense of apathy. Then one of their countrymen loses the longest tennis match in the history of the game (John Isner beats Nicolas Mahut). And now, just last night, Kevin Seraphin was drafted by our Chicago Bulls, but only as a movable piece. Mr. Seraphin has no chance of ever playing for the Bulls. As Gar Forman puts it, "We are currently in discussions to trade our draft rights to Kevin
Seraphin." Sorry French fans, at least you have Tony Parker.
The 2010 NBA Draft was hijacked by a far more intriguing subject last night: the Great Free Agency Arms Race. As exciting as the careers of John Wall, Evan Turner and Derrick Favors might be, they cannot begin to capture the same amount of attention of a free agent class that has been in public's minds for years. Enjoy the bright lights of New York now, rookies, you will instantly be wiped off the front pages.
What last night proved was that there are two teams that are going head to head for the biggest prize of this free agent class. Both Chicago and Miami have positioned themselves to be the best possible destination for LeBron James.
Today marks the beginning of the a new season for the NBA. Just days after the Los Angeles Lakers celebrated their 16th NBA championship, hope is restored to every NBA franchise in the form of the NBA Draft. History has shown that there is no better way to transform a downtrodden team than by infusing some young, inspirational talent. Each summer the draft acts as the source of belief for every fan.
More so than any other league, the NBA is dependent on stars to drive its popularity. Thanks to the enormity of the NCCA Men's Basketball Championship, many college stars enter the draft with built in appeal. These are the young men that inspire fans to call into the ticket office the next morning to put down a deposit on season tickets. It's these players who will be selling the most jerseys in places like Washington and Philadelphia. These are the players who will hold the fates of their new found franchises on their shoulders.
Unfortunately for both the fan bases of these teams and the players themselves, the 2010 NBA Draft is sorely lacking in the types of franchise leaders that are so sought after.
The Only Certainty: John Wall
John Wall is the only sure-thing in the entire draft. Many can find flaws in the style of Kentucky basketball from last season, but admissions must be made that Wall was the prime mover on a team that was very successful. Playing with a semi-professional team filled with what will be a handful of first round draft picks, Wall led the Wildcats on offense and on defense. Without Wall, John Calipari's squad would have resembled the North Carolina team from last year: limitless potential with no direction. Wall brought the pieces together.
The Chicago Bulls have entered into a period in their franchise
history that is full of two things: questions and potential.
If the cards land just right, the Bulls could become immediate NBA
Championship contenders. On the flip side, a few missteps or mistakes
could mire the team in another prolonged stretch of mediocrity.
To help you follow along with all of the questions, and subsequent
answers, that will invariably come from the next few months, please
follow along with this "Pocket Guide to the Chicago Bulls Offseason".
Feel free to score along at home as each topic is addressed in real
life. This document will be living and breathing with each additional
update, so be sure to check back frequently.
The Chicago Bulls have entered into a period in their franchise history that is full of two things: questions and potential.
If the cards land just right, the Bulls could become immediate NBA Championship contenders. On the flip side, a few missteps or mistakes could mire the team in another prolonged stretch of mediocrity.
To help you follow along with all of the questions, and subsequent answers, that will invariably come from the next few months, please follow along with this "Pocket Guide to the Chicago Bulls Offseason". Feel free to score along at home as each topic is addressed in real life. This document will be living and breathing with each additional update, so be sure to check back frequently.
1.) Will LeBron James be playing for the Bulls next year?
Current Status: Unknown
Rumors: Every new day seems to bring a new story about the insatiable chase to recruit LeBron James. There are even dedicated websites that push out information constantly. Even major news outlets cannot stop themselves from covering each angle. At this point, one cannot rely on any information until the man himself makes a statement.
While it is not official, all signs point to the Bulls signing Boston Celtics and long-time NBA assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. After the NBA Finals come to a close the announcement will become official and Thibodeau will become the replacement for ousted former Bulls head man Vinny Del Negro.
Much has been speculated regarding what this impending hire means for the other storylines surrounding the Bulls: How does this affect the LeBron James to the Bulls scenarios? Did Thibodeau's signing with CAA Sports influence the decision? Will the Bulls ever look at a candidate with real NBA head coaching experience?
These stories will be covered ad naseam in the next few weeks and months. Instead of speculating about the back page news, why not look at how the Thibodeau Era might play out on the court?
The Chicago Bulls have entered into a period in their franchise history that is full of two things: questions and potential.
If the cards land just right, the Bulls could become immediate NBA Championship contenders. On the flip side, a few missteps or mistakes could mire the team in another prolonged stretch of mediocrity.
To help you follow along with all of the questions, and subsequent answers, that will invariably come from the next few months, please follow along with this "Pocket Guide to the Chicago Bulls Offseason". Feel free to score along at home as each topic is addressed in real life. This document will be living and breathing with each additional update, so be sure to check back frequently.
1.) Will LeBron James be playing for the Bulls next year?
Current Status: Unknown
Rumors: Every new day seems to bring a new story about the insatiable chase to recruit LeBron James. There are even dedicated websites that push out information constantly. Even major news outlets cannot stop themselves from covering each angle. At this point, one cannot rely on any information until the man himself makes a statement.
Ever since LeBron James signed his last contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, all eyes began to focus on July 1st, 2010. This will be the first day that the biggest star in all of the NBA will be available for courtship. Teams will surely be at the James residence at 12:01 AM that day, but before official moves can be made, fans and cities can make their voices heard.
Chicago has vaulted itself into the LeBron James sweepstakes through various moves throughout the past season. The team is positioned to make a legitimate run at signing the modern day Michael Jordan. With this said, it will take more than a mega contract to make this fan-dream come true.
AJ Barthold, for one, is not going to sit back and let the fate of his beloved Bulls be left to management deals. He has started a campaign to organize the fans and communities in Chicago behind this effort. Gapers Block spoke with the man behind the movement, "Send LeBron to Chicago."
Was there a specific moment or event that led you to starting the "Send LeBron to Chicago" campaign?
AJ Barthold: I was always a Bulls fan, I have always been a LeBron fan. I wished for him to play on the Bulls for a long time. This is the first realistic shot the Bulls have had in making that happen. I was aware of his free agency status for a few years now, but I would say the campaign idea became detailed in my thoughts 2 months ago.
Until recently, as in the Game 5 loss (LeBron's Cleveland Cavaliers went down to the Boston Celtics in their Best-of-Seven series 3-2), did you actually think there was a realistic chance for the Bulls to land LeBron?
Yes. I always thought there was a chance. We have it all here! Tradition, big market, international brand, great fans who sell out every game and the young talent of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Also, LeBron grew up a Bulls fan.
Can't argue with that logic. Now there are a lot of conspiracy theories floating around about LeBron's performance in Game 5. Do you think the free agent situation is playing into LeBron's play on the court?
I won't buy into conspiracies that suggest LeBron would purposely lose. I think he is quite the competitor and he has been playing through pain from his elbow injury that may require surgery. He won't make excuses and you can not give your opponent any ideas by suggesting you are in pain, especially against a physical team like the Boston Celtics.
Cue up the Boys II Men soundtrack, Bulls fans. LeBron (wonky right elbow and all) took care of the business last night in the Quicken Loans Arena and like that, the five-game series, along with the Bulls season was over. James nearly had another triple-double (one assist short) last night and for the series "The King" averaged the most sick 30+ points, 9+ boards and 8+ dimes a game. But I come to bury the Bulls, not to praise their betters. So let's slip into some scrubs, slap on the cadaver gloves, fish out the bone saw and carve open the post-mortem 2009-10 Bulls.
JoNo. Yes, young Joakim Noah was cursed with plantar fasciitis and yes, he missed his most games ever due to that damned affliction. Still, Joakim Noah was amazing for the Bulls this year.
As Kenny Smith would say, the Chicago Bulls have officially "gone fishin'."
With LeBron James f**king around and almost getting a triple-double, the Bulls were eliminated from the 2010 NBA playoffs after falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 96-94, in Game 5 on Tuesday night. Fortunately for Joakim Noah, he finally leaves the city that has "nothing going on."
There are many ways to explain Chicago's loss to Cleveland on Sunday afternoon: Kirk Hinrich (after a stellar game three on Thursday) fell back into his atrocious slump; Luol Deng went back to being awful; collectively, the Bulls shot terribly (37.4%) from the field; it goes on. But simply put, there was no answer for LeBron James.
LeBron had one of the best playoff games in his career. A series-defining, cliche-inducing, game of pure, hardwood brilliance. 37 points, 11 dimes, 12 rebounds, two steals, one block and only two turnovers in 36 minutes of action. He made mistakes (he must've, right?) but his game was too dominant. Chess amongst checkers; man amongst boys; wolf amongst sheep, et cetera.
The Bulls have delivered more in this playoffs series than I thought possible from them. They've delivered two straight well-played games. Granted, they've only won one of those games. Still, I didn't see them stringing together more than one or two quarters (and to be fair, that's about all they've delivered, but I'm being nice) of more-than-adequate basketball in a row. What I did see? Them needing to get Kirk Hinrich on track; them needing anything from Luol Deng; sustaining Joakim Noah's samurai-style and Derrick Rose taking smart, smart, smart shots (for the most part).
The first round series between Cleveland and Chicago is now on the Bulls home court. The results, sadly --for Bulls fans; fans of good basketball shall rejoice-- will very likely be more of what we all saw in Cleveland. The Bulls gave Cleveland their best shot Monday night in game numero dos and still walked outta the Quicken Loans Arena with the loss. I'll reiterate what I said the other day, Chicago shot .441% from the field (a hair below their season average); made 16-17 free throws; outrebounded Cleveland; held everyone on the Cavs not named "LeBron" to under 15 points and still lost. The Cavs are just so, so good at winning games. This isn't really even about how inept the Bulls are --but the Bulls are very inept. O, so very, very inept. Cleveland should be able to do this against a team like Chicago. The Bulls have very little offensive resources and the ones they have (Rose, Deng, Noah? Flip Murray? NOT Pargo) are all taxed to the limit by Cleveland's defense and own ability to just score points no matter what. Meanwhile, Mike Brown is playing chess against Vinny's rousing game of tic-tac-toe.
"If you come at the King, you best not miss." You're the Chicago Bulls and you gave King James all he could handle, the bad news? You did everything right and still lost. (The Bulls are Stinkum and Weebay, LeBron is Scar and Omar is the refs? fate? You make the call, readers.) You came at the King and you missed, Chicago. The Bulls only had four turnovers! That's a franchise playoff record, MJ's teams never did that in a game and Chicago still lost. Four of the Bulls starting five scored in double figures, with three of them (Deng, Rose and Noah) going for 20+ and the Bulls still lost. Chicago killed Cleveland on the offensive glass, created second-chance shot opportunities and still lost by double-digits. How did this happen? Well, this guy, for one had a major say in it: 40 points, 16-23 from the field, 6-6 from the charity stripe, 8 boards, 8 dimes, 2 threes, and only 2 turnovers in 41 minutes of game time. LeBron is the best player in the world right now.
Congrats, Bulls & Bulls fans. Your team, through the general awfulness of the lower tier teams in the Eastern Conference and fortuitously timed injuries, has qualified for the playoffs. Your just rewards? Some just losses at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Throughout the injuries to Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich, everyone else; throughout the comically awkward "firing" of Vinny Del Negro that never occurred; throughout the pathetic, telenovela-drafted dramz going on with John Paxson and VDN right now; the Bulls have steadily, well, tried not to lose too many games. But that fun, that ends now. The Cavs should steamroll Chicago with a storm trooper's proficiency; Vinny will get canned; Paxson will go on some meds and the Bulls PR machine will do its best best to coax and convince a Bosh, or Wade, or whomever over in the free agency gold rush this offseason. Let's breakdown this coming Playoff demolition:
Derrick Rose had a very, very complete game in a must-win situation for the Chicago Bulls. He dropped 26 on the flailing Torontosaurus Rexes and had four boards, one steal, one block and seven dimes. Rose did the right things on offense: he penetrated, he cut, he passed, he took smart high percentage shots (for the most part). But then there was Noah. The pony tailed, pogo-legged, Noah grabbing every rebound and altering shots on the defensive end and shooting 70% from the field and passing out seven assists on the offensive end. Noah and Rose set a pace and tone throughout the game that forced the rest of the Bulls to follow and ***sports cliche alert*** buy into "refusing to lose." Might I say, it's about time. We all know Vinny Del Negro's attempt at motivation was probably him walking into the Visitor's locker room at Air Canada wearing some Wayfarers and blasting "Takin' Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive on a boombox. Meanwhile, Noah and Rose rolled their eyes and said "Here we go again."
I had a fun/awesome (really, it was that good) piece about what an incredibly dominant figure LeBron is for Cleveland and of course he decided to take the game off and just sit in a suit on the bench and think about his party at Cuvee or the new Shrek that's coming out this summer or whatnot. Frustrating. In any case, if you really wanna discuss LeBron hit me up on the Twitter machine and we'll talk.
Let's talk about this game right now, LeBron was out, the Bulls shot over 50% from the field, outrebounded the Cavs and Cleveland was really feeling the whole "F*ck it, it's the end of the regular season" and it showed in their game and the Bulls still only won by one. O, Chicago Bulls, you're such a funny team.
You're the Milwaukee Bucks. You just lost your dominant big man (Andrew Bogut) to a gruesome arm injury (a fracture, sprain and dislocation, gnarly!) for the rest of the year. You're playing the Chicago Bulls and the Bulls are desperate for a "W" to try and make the playoffs. Well, at least Chicago should be desperate for a win, judging by their play last night however, the Bulls are desperate for this season to be over (don't worry guys, five games left to go.)
Look at that box score. That's not a box score for a full NBA game, that's a box score for 2.5 quarters of a game. You want a bona fide NBA box score? Try on this Oklahoma City-Utah number. This wasn't some classic defensive battle, though the Bucks are actually a very good defensive squad. The Bulls are just awful right now, 16 turnovers; 4-12 shooting from Hinrich; 5-12 shooting from Rose; 3-11 from three point land. I guess you can applaud the coaches for only playing Pargo for six minutes. The whole team: LOLZ, ROFL, LMAO, et cetera.
Last month in the first installment of Tailgate Talks, we featured Rick Telander, the celebrated Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist and author of the seminal Heaven Is A Playground. This month, Tailgate is talking with a nouveau member of the Fourth Estate and qualified "brain-hurting smart" economist, David Berri. Berri and his colleague Martin Schmidt maintain the popular, numbers-intensive, basketball blog, Wages Of Wins, the duo's second book, Stumbling On Wins, is out now (Tailgate will have a review of it later this week) and both of them are noted economists in the fields of sports economics and macroeconomics (where the "brain-hurting smart" comes in handy.)
Mr. Berri was generous enough to share his time and thoughts on the Chicago Bulls, their season, Derrick Rose's development and the "new stats" of sports among other things. Here is the email Q 'n A that Berri and Tailgate shared over the weekend.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Chicago Bulls would be on the outside looking in. Luckily for Bulls fans the NBA season still has 10 days left in the regular season and the Bulls still have six games to try and "catch" the Toronto Raptors for the unenviable task of playing the Cleveland LeBrons in round one.
The Bulls, who beat Washington and Charlotte in a weekend back-to-back, are now entering a final pivotal stretch of their season. With the Raptors loss on Sunday the Bulls are now one game behind Toronto and are hosting Milwaukee and, gulp, Cleveland at the United Center before traveling to the "suddenly competent, but not good, but still competent" New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre (see, it's "Centre" 'cuz it's Canadian English, seriously). Meanwhile, the Torontosaurus Rexes face @Cleveland, Boston at Air Canada and @ Atlanta Hawks, so, yeah, if the Bulls are gonna make a push for the 8th seed: now is the time.
Full disclosure: I went to go see Hot Tub Time Machine last night. I forgot to record the Bulls-Suns game and I still haven't seen the episode of Lost from last night either. Scanning the internets this morning, I'm pretty sure I made the right choice. HTTM is funny and entertaining and [SPOILER ALERT] the good guys win. The Bulls? They're sorta funny in a clown crying way and they are not entertaining to watch, also [SPOILER ALERT] they aren't the bad guys but they don't win.
Now, back to the lecture at hand, this Suns-Bulls tilt really sticks out for a few reasons, one: Jannero Pargo is terrible at basketball, two: Steve Nash is very good at basketball and three: Jannero Pargo [terrible at basketball] should not defend Steve Nash [very good at basketball] at any point but never in the fourth quarter of a close game. Why wasn't Nash blanketed by Kirk Hinrich (UPDATE: Hinrich rolled his ankle and left after only 17 mins. of game time, got it) or somebody? ANYBODY besides Jannero Pargo.
Three ugly games, one loss and two wins for the Bulls. Last Thursday Chicago endured a 29-point loss at home to the playoff hungry Miami Heat while over the weekend the Bulls won two straight over the awful New Jersey Nets and woeful Detroit Pistons. With the two wins the Bulls are now inching ever closer to the final playoff spot (a mere half game out at this point). Of course, the Bulls, if they do qualify and do stay as the 8th seed, will be mere lambs at the altar of LeBron in the first round, still, it'd be nice for some 'offs games to be played at the Madhouse on Madison.
Not that the Bulls are likely to make the Playoffs -- they're still 2.5 games back of the Torontosaurus Rexes -- but Joakim Noah is back and playing limited minutes. That, Bulls fans, is excellent news. The murdersome row of games Chicago just endured (10 of their past 11 games have been against teams that are .500+) was also against some of the more efficient scoring teams in the Association; so, Noah around or not, yes, the Bulls were gonna lose the majority of those games. Sorry, Bulls offense is just that bad. But without the pogo-legged Noah lurching through the paint causing altered shots and rejecting would-be dunks, the Bulls were a defensive sieve and the losing got ugly. Now that he's back? Well, the results are not jump-off-the-page amazing, but considering how his minutes are being doled out, Noah's return has brought with it phenomenal "microbursts" of defense, offense and magic okay, just offense and defense.
Ah, spring, that magical time of year where the Chicago Bulls flirt with the potential for being first round playoff fodder for the better teams of the Eastern Conference. Tailgate, takes a look at the crystal ball to see if the Toros will be playing in the playoffs or looking at lottery potentials (for the Milwaukee Bucks*).
Didn't the Bulls just lose 10 Games?
Yes. But the bottom half of the Eastern Conference is rife with mediocrity and the Bulls are still only 2.5 games out of the 8th seed. 3.5 games outta the sixth seed, mind you and 7 games ahead of the New York Knicks, just sayin'. They have a decent schedule the rest of the way and face Charlotte twice, and Miami and Toronto once each, so there is opportunity for the Bulls to make up ground on those three teams that are ahead of them in the standings. Additionally, they play the New Jersey Nets twice and the Washington Wizards once, those teams are bad, bad, bad right now.
As pretty much everyone in Chicago: moms, little brothers, high school gym teachers, whatnot, have deduced, the Bulls are real bad right now. Their starting line up last night in Memphis?
Aww, thanks injuries and suspensions! You left the Bulls with a starting five that conjures up law firms and a leftover name from a spaghetti sauce naming contest. There's not a whole lot to add to the recap or "point" of a column like this. The Bulls are extremely injured and bad right now. One criticism? Starting Taj, dude is injured and he's playing the "Karate Kid" theme in his head non-stop, I'm sure, but give him the night off and make James Johnson get some cardio in.
The Bulls brain trust really, for the first time in quite some time, seem to be trying to make the right moves. They traded John Salmons to Milwaukee for the expiring contracts of Hakim Warrick and the always droppable Joe Alexander; they traded the talent-laden but moody and damaged Tyrus Thomas to Charlotte for the expiring contracts of Flip Murray and Acie Law, all in the name of clearing cap space with the plan of alluring a Bosh or Wade or Joe Johnson or Rudy Gay to be the Robin to Derrick Rose's Batman this offseason. Still, take a gander Bulls fans at the box score that those moves wrought. Mind you, neither I nor you, should blame the Bulls for this loss, sure we could in that, "Don't do that thing where you get caught up in a shot-for-shot contest with one of the better offenses in the league." We could say that, but what options did the Bulls have?
When last we spoke it was revealed that the Bulls are a squad of basketball zombies, hell-bent on winning games and eating more and more delicious brains...or something. Sadly, even zombies it seems can get dinged up and slowed by the likes of nagging toe injuries (Zombie Joakim) and knee owies (Zombie Derrick and Zombie Luol) and with the impeccable timing of a SWAT team descending on an abandoned and isolated farm house to destroy the zombie threat and rescue the heros, so too has the hammering force that is the Bulls' March schedule arrived to terminate the adorable "Zombie Bulls." Chicago's March is coming in like a lion, sticking around and destroying the lamb and finally leaving with a "whimper" against the points!, points!, points!, points! Phoenix Suns.
Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan has purchased the Charlotte Bobcats. Jordan has had part ownership since 2006. The deal was completed late Friday; the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. His "Airness" was inducted into the basketball hall-of-fame last year, and he received a lot of criticism for his induction speech.
Seemingly every single season the Bulls appear to be the lifeless husk of a NBA franchise. Staggering through the early parts of the NBA season --the losses accumulating-- like a stiff and reanimated corpse out of a Romero script. Yet, here we are past the All-Star Break and the Bulls are right where they wanna be: methodically pursuing (comfortably in 6th place in the Eastern Conference) a wounded and desperate heroine who's down to her last few bullets (the Boston Celtics, who currently would be Chicago's opponent in the 'Offs). Granted, there's no Derrick Rose shuffling about clamoring for "BrrraAINS" in the original "Night of the Living Dead" but that doesn't make the Bulls turnaround any less spectacular (and, honestly, it makes this team waaay less creepy).
As frustratingly dumb and talentless as the Bulls do manage to look at times, much like zombies; the Bulls have found a way, much like zombies, to keep on going and keep on nomming down on those tasty brains (wins) from the swifter, smarter and deliciously fleshy bodies of better NBA teams.
**UPDATE** Hey, Flip Murray and Acie Law are expiring contracts! Making this deal all the more sensible for the Bulls. Bulls are really getting serious about the 2010 free agency. Will it pay dividends come July?
Reports are trickling in from across the Internet that the Charlotte Bobcats and Chicago Bulls have a deal to send Tyrus Thomas to the Bobcats in exchange for guards Flip Murray and Acie Law as well as a future first-round draft choice. The Bulls have been shopping Tyrus for the better part of the past 18 months and were especially eager to ship him outta the Windy City following his closed door tirade to Vinny Del Negro a few Fridays ago. Still, trading away a talented (if not difficult) big like Tyrus to a team your competing with directly in the playoff chase? Not smart but definitely an indicator as to how urgently Chicago wanted to be rid of Tyrus.
Goodbye, John. Hello, Hakim and Joe? Although not finalized, all indications are suggesting that middling small forward John Salmons will be shipped to the Milwaukee Bucks for power forward Hakim Warrick and spare part Joe Alexander. The deal is seen as largely a salary dumping move for Chicago as the Bulls no longer are on the books for the guaranteed 5.8 million Salmons was to earn next season. Furthermore, Warrick and Alexander are both free agents this summer, providing additional cap space for the Bulls to use on one (or two) of the many excellent free agents available this offseason: Dwyane Wade, LeBron James (NOT likely), Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay...the list goes on.
As far as immediate on-the-court impacts go, this trade won't be helping too much. Salmons, for all of his head-slapping, bafflingly poor shot selection, he was a major component of the Bulls "offense." Warrick and Alexander are not what one would call offensive weapons, threats, or even factors. So, yeah, ouch. Still Warrick at least provides some bench depth at the power forward position until Joakim Noah can recover from his ongoing struggles with plantar fascitis. However, unless a Tyrus Thomas trade completed in the 11th hour before the trade deadline provides a legit scorer, the offensive burden for Derrick Rose and Luol Deng just got way heavier.
After dropping 4 of 6 prior to the All-Star Break, the Bulls took their frustrations out on the woeful New York Knicks at the United Center last night. Chicago shot a season-high .605% from the field in a laugher that wasn't even close after the first half. The heretofore dinged up Derrick Rose led all scorers with 29 points on 14 of 18 shooting [That's really good --Ed.] while the rookie forward Taj Gibson added 10 boards, 2 steals, 3 blocks and 6 points. David Lee added 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks in the loss. In any case, the two clubs are meeting up again tonight in Madison Square Garden in a home-'n-home series.
Remember a few nights ago when the Bulls were absolutely destroyed by the Orlando Magic? Remember how Derrick Rose collided with Dwight Howard and sustained some inevitable damage at the hands of a smaller object hitting a larger object? Well, according to numeroussources* on Twitter, Chicago's son, Derrick "I pwned the Skills Challenge last year" Rose, will be sitting the event out this evening thanks to a bruised hip. In lieu of Rose, NBA fans will be thrilled/entertained/hypnotized by the amazing and awesome Russell Westbrook. This writer's best guess as to Rose and the rest of the ASGWknd? Rose plays spare minutes in the All-Star Game tomorrow night, sits rest of the game and jokes with teammate Taj Gibson about VDN's hair...yeah, hair jokes, that's the ticket!
*accredited journalists in Dallas for the All-Star Game and not just moi in CHI.
With Joakim Noah still rocking the suit and tie on the bench as his ailing foot gets better, Dwight Howard used the opportunity to abuse the Noah-less Bulls. Superman led all players with 14 boards while his backup Marcin Gortat, aka, "The Polish Hammer" added another 12 rebounds as Chicago was largely held off the glass all night by the long and athletic Magic. In the Magic's 20 point win with Dwight (aside: He always does THIS against the Bulls...) rending the Bulls interior defense apart one Bull who did step up? The petulant Tyrus Thomas who erupted for 16 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, 2 steals and a block in a fiery show of his athleticism and strength. Tyrus that was the best audition you could give for the trade deadline. Other NBA teams? You'll get a steal in dealing for Tyrus.
If Dwight Howard demolishing the Bulls statistically wasn't enough, the freak of nature did his part to neutralize the Rose Child with a mighty bash that sent Derrick Rose crashing to the hardwood floor. Rose left the game with a bruised hip and is now questionable for the All-Star Game Weekend festivities. [sad face emoticon if this is anything more than a bruise]
Two days, two losses for the Bulls. After a sterling effort on their recent Western road trip, Chicago cooked up a remix version of the energized offensive and defensive efforts against playoff bound competition called, cleverly enough, "Lackluster Effort Against Two sub-.500 Teams In a Row, Vol. 1" On Tuesday night, Chicago showed the utter lack of zip and "legs" common after an extended and travel-intensive road trip (seven games in eleven days, ouch) and were outmanned and outhustled at every turn by the "our record looks worse than it actually is," LA Clippers. Credit where credit's due, the Clippers played to win and Chicago sorta phoned it in (and yes, the Clips won the season series 2-0). Last night against Philadelphia, it was a different story.
Derrick Rose is Taking a Basketball As His Valentine
Cue up Smashmouth's "Hey Now You're An All-Star," Derrick Rose; 'Cuz, hey, now you're an all-star, D.Rose. Rose along with Rajon Rondo (Boston), Joe Johnson (Atlanta) were among those selected by the NBA's coaches to be the reserves for next month's All-Star Game in Dallas. This is Rose's first selection to the All-Star Game as a starter or reserve. The second-year point guard (and Chicago native son) is currently leading Eastern Conference points in scoring and is third in FG%. Rose, who was already headed to Dallas for the Rookie-Sophomore Challenge and Skills Challenge, suddenly has a very busy schedule the weekend of February 14th. Hope his Valentine is understanding...
Most promising about this news? The naming of Rose's Boston Celtic counterpart, Rajon Rondo to the reserve list as well. Rondo and Rose memorably dueled against each other in last spring's insta-classic Round One Playoff series, with Rondo and the Celtics ultimately coming out on top after seven games. The two guards have truly begun to flourish with Rondo leading the NBA in steals and leading the East in FG% and assists. To watch these two evolve and continue to battle one another is a boon for the NBA fanatic and casual sports viewer alike. Congrats to Derrick.
Bulls Have Won FOUR!!! Road Games In A Row
After defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, the Bulls have won (hold onto your hats, folks) four road games in a row. To put that feat in perspective, prior to their recent road success Chicago had won four road games all season. So four road wins in a row? Against Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City? Nobody could've seen this coming. More this "winning" team over the weekend.
Chicagocentric sports news that isn't necessarily late-breaking, more like irreverent or just as good the next day, like Thai leftovers...
Rose and Gibson Headed to Dallas
Second year point guard, Derrick Rose and rookie forward, Taj Gibson will be representing the Bulls in Dallas at the 2010 All-Star Weekend next month. They will be going head-to-head in the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge on Friday night as Rose quarterbacks the Sophomores against Gibson and the rest of his rookie running mates. Rose is joined by such standouts as Brook Lopez (New Jersey, center), Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City, guard) and Kevin Love (Minnesota, forward); while Gibson will be playing alongside first year standouts such as Brandon Jennings (Milwaukee, guard), Tyreke Evans (Sacramento, guard) and DeJuan Blair (San Antonio, forward/center).
Bears Knox Selected as Pro Bowler
Johnny Knox contributed immediately as a player for the Bears in his rookie season, he made Jay Cutler's first year in Chicago slighty more bearable (sorry) with his penchant for getting open and catching the ball, but Knox a Pro Bowler? Knox will be filling in for Percy Harvin this coming Sunday as a replacement kickoff specialist for the NFC Pro Bowl team which, well, good for Knox. Still the Pro Bowl has always been the most superfluous of all-star games and a replacement kickoff specialist? Knox should make it as wideout (hopefully with the Bears) in a few more seasons.
ESPN NBA reporter/know-it-all, Marc Stein is reporting (via his Twitter account) that the New Orleans Hornets and Chicago Bulls have reached a deal sending the Bulls Devin Brown and the Hornets Aaron Gray. For the Bulls the deal makes some sense; shipping out Grey, who, let's face it, wasn't going to be getting much run in the Bulls already crowded front court rotation for Brown, who is very much in the "journeyman scorer" mold, a poor man's John Salmons, if you will. Brown's stats will never be confused for an all-star's, but the 31 year-old does provide some semblance of offensive "threat" for Chicago's moribund offense and should be able to contribute some solid minutes off the bench in lieu of Janero Pargo. Brown is averaging close to 10 poins a game this season and is shooting a "robust" .367% from beyond the three-point arc, which, when accompanied with Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons' shooting touch, provides some scoring assistance for Derrick Rose.
After dropping the first two games of their seven-game, Left Coast, road trip to the likes of the lowly Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers, Chicago took downthe mighty Phoenix Suns on Friday and the intimidating Houston Rockets on Saturday. The hero of Friday's game? The increasingly awesome and "deadly-like-a-ninja," Derrick Rose. Rose who, along with Pau Gasol and numerous other NBAers, pledged $1,000 per point to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. Rose's contribution to the victory? 32 points, five dimes, 3 rebounds and 3 steals. His contribution to Haiti? $32,000, granted, that's an average Americans income for the year, still, that's a tremendous donation to a most-worthy cause. Kudos to you, DRose and all the other NBAers who are doing their part*.
Saturday's hero against Houston was the forgotten man, Brad Miller; who dropped an unexpected 25 points in a "turn-back-the-clock" performance while replacing the ailing Joakim Noah who was out with a case of plantar fasciitis afflicting his left foot. Noah is officially day-to-day and will likely be brought back slowly as plantar fasciitis can be a tricky sort of ailment, particularly when you consider the physics of one of two supporting pillars (feet, people) being dinged up on a near seven-footer like Noah. Heartening news for the Bulls is the fact that Chicago has now won two road games in a row and are still sittin' pretty for the playoffs. A clash with the menacing San Antonio Spurs on Monday night awaits.
*NON-SPORTS ASIDE: Please, in at least one case, try to emulate the stars of the NBA. Donate to Haiti. Here are three great organizations where your money can make the most difference.
Wrap your minds around it, Bulls fans, but, in spite of a winning percentage of .450 the Bulls are currently the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. O RLY? YA RLY! Internet memes aside, have a looksie at the current standings in the rugged and wooly Southwest division: here. Yeah, that's all five teams in a division sitting above .500 and only two of them (Dallas, San Antonio) are currently in the Western Conference's post-season picture. So, yeah, here's to "parity" or "lack of good teams" in the East and let's investigate how those adorable scamps, the Bulls are managing to keep their heads above water and how they might continue to do that heading into the future.
The greatest basketball player of all time and former Washington Wizard --wink, wink, Michael Jordan was on Jay Leno last night. Via satellite from his secret bunker in the Bahamas (or just visiting for a golf benefit). His Airness held court on his endorsement deals, manicures and pedicures, how many pairs of shoes he owns and whether or not he can still dunk. The video is pretty entertaining and one has to think the "Are you stupid?" line resonates with a certain red-headed late night host...
It's bad enough for some Bears and Bulls that they had or are having a less-than-stellar season. Seems as if they can't win outside of the playing arena either. Two Chicago athletes have taken a bit of a bath when it comes to the housing market. The Bulls Kirk Henrich took a more than $200,000 hit when he recently sold his Deerfield home, while Bears kicker Robbie Gould missed the uprights when he sold his Gurnee home for $100,000 less than he paid for it in 2006.
These are important things to know if you care about, you know, athletes and their housing conditions.
Now that's more like it! After winning four straight game (and even pulling "zee upset" over a sleeping Orlando team), the Bulls have lost two in a row and gave up a should've won game against Charlotte after dropping a game to the very capable Oklahoma City Thunder. Peep the boxscore again, gang and understand that Vinny Del Negro is culpable for this one. As is Derrick Rose. As is Kirk Hinrich. As is John Salmons. And Luol Deng. Heck, even Ty Thomas screwed this one up, and he's been a can of awesome lately.
Defensively, the Bulls (in spite of everything else this season) have been pretty good. They made OKC work hard for the points (excepting for Russel Westbrook who, of course, manhandled rudderless, young point guard Jedi, Derrick Rose. DRose still has no defensive skillz [sad face emoticon], and the game was close up until the Thunder mounted a run in the fourth. This Charlotte game? Not so much with the defensive effort or offensive effort (natch). You let three players score over 25 points and you're going to lose. And, lo!, that's exactly what happened: Gerald Wallace went off for 32 on 10-16 shooting with nary a hand in his face, nor a body in his path to the basket. Stephen Jackson dropped 25 with three boards, three dimes and three steals all whilst shooting an efficient 10-21 from the field.
If you forgot to get Vinny Del Negro something for Christmas, you might want to think about wrapping up a new set of luggage.
Seems the ax is about to fall at the United Center where the Bulls are reportedly set to part ways with the rookie head coach. On the heels of their embarassing loss to the Sacramento Kings, as well a a few more losses in the aftermath, canning Del Negro is reportedly a done deal, with just the little matter of finding his replacement.
Unbelievable. Just when the Bulls might have been slowly gaining some momentum by upsetting the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night, they turn around and collapse in epic fashion. In a season already loaded with blowout losses, the Bulls found an entirely new way to spell disappointment: "Giving up a 35-point lead in the second half." Vinny Del Negro is so fired.
The Circus Road Trip wrapped up last month, but the clowns are still at the United Center. [Ba-Zing! -Ed.] Led by the Clown Prince of the NBA (VDN) the Bulls have now lost 11-of-13 games against, admittedly, some very tough teams (two losses to the Lakers, Ls to Cleveland, Denver, Portland, Utah, Boston, Atlanta, y'know, games the Bulls should lose). However, mixed in with those "gimme losses" have been a few terrible losses to teams the Bulls should be beating from a talent standpoint.
The Bulls are a fitful and frustrating team to follow. They have incredible and untapped talent that, for now, is growing fallow on the hardwood of the United Center. Walk with Tailgate as we investigate further...
Chicago's winter sports teams are hurting --save for the first-place Blackhawks-- the Bears season is already at zombie-dead and craving brains, while the Bulls death-slog through their brutal (and annual) "Circus Road trip" has killed off any early season twinkle in their eyes and spring in their step. The Bulls have lost 8 of 10 and are facing a grim schedule for the next week: @ Atlanta, Golden State, Boston, LA Lakers, Knicks, Hawks (again), fans should be asking for copious boxes of Kleenex and VDN's resignation for Christmas. But how did a decent, if not amazing, start slide so quickly into oblivion? Afterall, the Bulls are notoriously slow starters, yet, this season, any hopes for a midseason turnaround strike hollow. The reason? Simple lack of offensive punch, yeah, that's right, Chicago is the third-least productive offense in the league.
Not quite, but, from the "don't see that every day file," the former Bulls center recently won an eBay auction to dub a new species of shrimp with the classic binomial (and Linnaeus-based) naming system. Longley's winning bid was for $2,900 Aussie dollars (you win multiple NBA championships and you call that kinda money, "pocket change"), the seven-footer went with the sweet and sentimental notion of naming the species of crustacea, Lebbeus clarehanna after his 15-year-old daughter, Clare Hanna. Pics of the newly discovered shrimp after the jump.
First there was LeBron James dancing and goofing around during the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-87 blowout victory over the Bulls this past Friday, a little impromptu performance that seemed to dismiss the Bulls as a mere distraction on the court. Now it's this hand to the face.
During Saturday night's blowout victory over the Bulls (sensing a pattern here?), Toronto Raptors point guard Jarrett Jack brough the ball up court, stopped at the top of the key, stuck the ball under the crook of his arm and began tying his shoes while the Bulls on the floor, apparently dumbstruck by the move, simply stood and watched. I mean, we're talking Jarrett Jack, a guy who's only been in the league three seasons and has already played on three different teams.
Now this may seem like a slight, quirky gesture on Jack's part, but given the James performance a couple of nights earlier, it seems as if the rest of the league isn't feeling too threatened by the Bulls. After all, not one player rushed up to attempt to knock the ball out of Jack's arm while he bent over, face down and tied his shoes. So perhaps they're right to take an Alfred E. Newman attitude toward the Bulls.
To his credit, Joakim Noah wasn't sitting still for the slights, reacting strongly to James' antics during the game (he earned a tech for yelling toward the Cavalier bench to tell James to knock it off). But the rest of the squad, head coach Vinny Del Negro included, seems to be willing to sit back and take it.
The Bulls aren't the Washington Generals (yet), but if this keeps up, don't be surprised if the Harlem Globetrotters are added to their schedule.
When he was a member of the Bulls, Ron Artest was something of an...well, let's say eccentric. His play and behavior on the court was inconsistent and there were stories of fights with teammates and others in practice. Now, we might have a clue as to why.
In an interview with Sports Illustrated (via Deadspin), Artest said he used to drink Hennessy during halftime of games, particularly during home games.
"I used to drink Hennessy ... at halftime," Artist said. "I (kept it) in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it."
Artest admits he was a "head case" during his tenure with the Bulls (1999-2002), which probably didn't help the rebuilding efforts of former GM Jerry Krause and head coach Tim Floyd, whose tenure began and ended the same time as Artests' (coincidence?).
Other teammates from that era downplay Artest's comments, calling them untrue and made for "shock value."
OK, fine. Now if we could only explain Dennis Rodman...
And Chicago's Sexiest Athlete is...no, not Orlando Pace (although, hey, some may go for that Barry White-build). It's the Bulls' Derrick Rose, who topped voting conducted by Victoria's Secret. Rose beat out (among others) the Bears' Brian Urlacher. Which may explain his sudden outburst concerning the team's play this season. There's always next year, Brian.
The Chicago Bulls start their 2009-10 season tonight, live from the United Center against the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs. Thanks to a case of the flu, this humble Bulls scribe is a little under the weather for a whole "preview," but, here's a decent highlight reel from the Bulls epic first round playoff series with Boston from last spring. Oh and here's a link to Ball Don't Lie's 2009-10 Bulls preview by the always informative and entertaining JE Skeets.
The Bulls as part of their preseason tour competed on Tuesday in London, England at the spectacular O2 Arena (the venue that Michael Jackson's final tour was planned for) and the ever-polite Brits were doing their best, but, well, uhh, their parlance and lingo was a bit off. The Bulls won the game on a buzzer-beating jumper by rookie James Johnson.
OK, Chicago has admittedly had its troubles in Europe lately (The Blackhawks lost something called the Victoria Cup to Zurich in Switzerland and the first game of their two-game series to the Florida Panthers, although they managed to salvage some dignity for our town with their 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers Sunday). But that hasn't stopped the Bulls from trying to save face for the Windy City on the other side of the pond.
The Bulls are the next Chicago sports entity to try and flaunt their muscle in Europe, in their case taking on the Utah Jazz in London's O2 Arena Tuesday night. The game will be the first live NBA game televised on the UK's version of ESPN.
With the nascent NFL season merely getting warmed up and with the Cubs and White Sox still trudging through the marathon MLB season (with no playoff berths in sight) it's hard to believe but the NBA is less than a month away from its triumphant return. The Bulls hosted their annual Media Day this past Friday to kick off their training camp and announced their preseason schedule that will see the Bulls travel to London, England for a match with the Utah Jazz in front of, the oft-injured Luol Deng's hometown. Additionally, the Bulls will be playing the Milwaukee Bucks in Green Bay, as well as facing the Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards before starting the season with their home opener against San Antonio on October 28.
Artist Shepard Fairey has teamed up with Upper Deck, the trading card company, to produce three prints depicting Michael Jordan, in honor of the Bulls superstar's induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. While all three are pretty spectacular, one should really appeal to Bulls fans:
Finally, Jordan is going into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Comcast Sports is broadcasting "23 Hours of MJ" in honor and every single major sportssite has been doing something for his Airness, which, considering that the NFL season is nigh and with it America's myopic bloodlust for football, is rather impressive. With the best sports writers finding it difficult to capture all that Jordan means, suffice it to say, that "No. I'm not going to do any better." Just watch these vids of him being his awesome, gravity-defying, psychotically-competitive, ripper-of-hearts, and champion self.
Is the Bulls' Joakim Noah the most photographed NBA player working today? It seems not a week goes by without someone slapping up a quickly-snapped cellphone shot of the 6-11 center/forward saunting through some party, occasionally with drink (or, ahem, something else) in hand or mugging for the camera with a co-ed or two under his substantial wingspan.
Deadspin has the latest documentation of Noah's Journeys, this time as he was hanging out at the recent Lollapalooza. At least this time he was smart enough to be seen with only a can of Pepis in his hand (at least we THINK that was only Pepsi in that can). Look, why don't we just get started on the Joakim Noah reality show and get it over with? (Photo from Deadspin.com)
The Bulls management has gone ahead and bought out the remaining season of NBA journeyman, Tim Thomas' contract. Thomas, who came over from the Knicks in the Larry Hughes trade, "contributed" in 18 games for Chicago last season; by buying out his contract the Bulls remain juuuuusst below the luxury tax level, which would have been a tremendous move for the franchise, except for the unfortunate fact that some of that money that Tim Thomas would've been getting is, instead, going into the hands of Lindsey Hunter and Jannero Pargo. I'm no fan of Timmy Thomas, but, really, Paxon, Forman? Signing Pargo and Hunter? Replacing Thomas with those two is, I don't know, sorta like fixing a leak in a dam by removing one sorta leaky and ineffective brick with two smaller and even less effective bricks. Ugh. Look, I'm sure Pargo is a perfectly decent dude: probably he loves dogs, goes to church, kisses his wife before he leaves the house, respects the game, et cetera ... BUT ...
Remember the proposed three-way trade between Chicago, Utah and Portland last week? The one involving Carlos Boozer to the Bulls, Tyrus Thomas to the Utah Jazz and Kirk Hinrich to Portland? Well, the Blazers decided to nix that by outright offering a sexy contract to Jazz forward of the future, Paul Milsap, Utah which is already strapped financially after reupping with Mehmet Okur, et al, now has seven days to match Portland's offer to Milsap.
Meanwhile, this puts the Bulls components: Tyrus and Kirk on the back burners of both Utah and Portland respectively. However, Utah is still expected to try and trade Boozer so there's a glimmer of something for Tyrus (sadly) being shipped to Salt Lake City for the Booze Man. Which isn't a terrible deal. The Bulls would essentially be "renting" Boozer for next season, it's just, y'know, Tyrus is pretty rad. And speaking to the radness of Tyrus, behold the people's champ's twitter site!, replete with "LMAO," complaints about babies on planes, people farting on planes, and, indeed, even well spoken notions re: trade scuttlebutts:
t_time24: "No I'm not traded. Just switching locations for the weekend!"
or this gem,
t_time24: "To clear the record, I never commented on playing with D Will [Utah's pretty awesome point guard]. And I am a BULL. Let it go people!"
The Bulls, Utah Jazz and Portland Trailblazers are involved in a verbal menage a trois, so to speak, that would --and this is all hearsay-- send power forward, Carlos Boozer to Chicago, Tyrus Thomas to Utah and Kirk Hinrich to Portland. For Chicago the speculative trade talks suggest that the front office is growing weary of waiting for Tyrus to grow into his potential and truly flourish; Boozer is an elite offensive force in the paint and would be a (relatively slight) defensive upgrade over Thomas as well, sans Tyrus' explosive shot-blocking talent and apocalyptic athleticism. With only one year left on his contract the trade for Boozer should be seen as essentially a one season rental before, inevitably, Boozer heads for greener pastures in the 2010 free agent bonanza. However, this isn't even close to a bad thing as Boozer's expiring contract will give Chicago a great position to go out and grab a Bosh or Wade...
Like to shout, wear stupid hats, throw things at people and wear the color red? Have you longed to be the center of attention during NBA timeouts? Your time has come.
The Chicago Bulls will hold tryouts today for 2009-10 IncrediBulls squad. You know, those guys and gals who try to keep your attention focused on the court when the Bulls are down by 12 to the Cavaliers with 1:20 left in the third? If you're interested, bring your lungs and enthusiasm to the McDonald's at 3200 W. Roosevelt Rd. between 2 and 4 p.m. TODAY. You have to be at least 18, live in Chicago, be in decent physical shape and be "a BULLS fan." Cause nothing puts a damper on a TV time out than a guy dressed in Bulls warm-ups shouting "Let's go Knicks!"
There's no way of verifying it (unless someone makes an admission), but an anonymous text message to a website claims that Bulls' forward Joakim Noah was spied once again enjoying a little... um... herbal therapy, as reported on Deadspin (via "Texts From Last Night"). It's not the first time the Noah has been allegedly imbibed. And depending on your views on marijuana, this is either a major problem for the Bulls to deal with or a whole lot of nothing.
Ben Gordon stopped by the ESPN 1000 studios on his way over to Mo-Town this morning and is claiming that the Bulls didn't even make an offer to him this off-season. Okay, but they did make an offer to you in each of the past two off-seasons, Gordon, for approximately $50+ mill. over five years in each offer. You did have your chances, and maybe (though I doubt it) the Bulls management realized that the team could be better without your 20 points a night, your mercurial FG%, your demand for star money when, in fact, you're not a star: you take entire defensive possessions off, you are a poor rebounder -even for a 2 guard, you have no concept of ball movement in a team-oriented offense...
Meanwhile, out in Las Vegas the odds have been released for the favorites to win the 2009-2010 NBA Championship. Not surprisingly, three of the NBA's final four this year: Cleveland, Los Angeles and Orlando take spots 1, 2, and 4 respectively, with Boston sliding in at 3. The Bulls are a little lower on the list at 14 with 50/1 odds, sandwiched in between Atlanta and Miami who are both at 50/1 as well.
Former Bull Ben Gordon surprised exactly nobody by signing with the Detroit Pistons for a reported $55 million over five years. Gordon had led the Bulls in scoring the past four seasons, rejected offers from the Bulls the past two off-seasons with each offer, reportedly, in the $50+ million stratosphere.
Without Gordon on the books, Chicago has much more salary cap space for the remainder of this free agency period and also, potentially, for the 2010 free agent market that includes LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, et al.
The NBA's free agency season starts tonight at 23:00 CST and the question on many fans of the Bulls is" What team is making the grab for BG7?" Gordon, Chicago's mercurial, shoot-first-ask-questions-later guard, has strongly been linked with divisional rival, Detroit. With flirtations between Pistons GM, Joe Dumars, and Gordon's agent getting downright ribald* at moments. The Pistons after taking a huge step backward last season (barely qualifying for the playoffs as the 8 seed and getting swept by Cleveland in the first round) after making it, at least, to the Conference Finals for the past six seasons, have started the housecleaning by firing head coach, Michael Curry, today.
"With the 16th Pick, from Wake Forest, James Johnson!" So sayeth the Commish.
Reaction from a crowded living room of Bulls fans: "Meh. He's not that bad." "Can you say, Marcus Fizer???" "He looks sooo fat, but in a fast way." "I'm not unhappy about this pick, he could be alright."
Not exactly a glowing endorsement, but the lowdown on Johnson isn't that bad. Considering that this is arguably on of the worst draft classes EVAR! OMG!! Johnson should provide at the very least 10-15 minutes, 6 fouls and a few boards night in and night out.
Johnson develops into a utility tool who, with some NBA seasoning, could develop into a decent outside defender with his insane (7'1"!!!!) wingspan to guard taller shooting guards and forwards. Offensively, if Johnson keeps at his Wake Forest production he could easily eclipse Ty Thomas and the perpetually injured, Luol Deng, as the Bulls most productive front court man. And that's what I really think this pick is: a "Break Glass in Case of Injury to Deng" Johnson could very easily slide into the starting 3 spot in Chicago's uber-athletic front court. I'm surprised that the Bulls didn't go hunting for a two guard to complement Rose, but they still have the 26th pick...
And now we come to the 26th pick...
The Bulls received this pick from Oklahoma City during the season when Chicago shipped Thabo Sefolosha to the Thunder back in February.
Taj Gibson from the University of Southern California. Huh? So now the Bulls have the new James Johnson, Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, Brad Miller, Luol Deng, Aaron Gray and, apparently, now -Taj Gibson. An wealth of 3-5s if I ever saw one, but how will all these guys get minutes? Also, where's an athletic 2 guard? I know nothing about Taj Gibson but am already unhappy about this pick. More recap Monday!
The Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is meeting tomorrow to figure out once and for all how they should regard players of the Steroid Era in their future Hall of Fame voting. One Delaware sports writer is urging them to "do the right thing."
When the dust clears after tonight's NBA draft, will Kirk Hinrich end up wearing a new uniform?
The NBA draft is tomorrow, so get ready for an onslaught of analysis, suggestions and predictions about the possibilities that lay before the promising Bulls. The local pundits are having their say, while the national media is weighing in as well. And yes, there are trade rumors as always. But no words carry more weight than new Bulls GM Gar Foreman. So if you have a favorite as their No. 1 pick (No. 16 overall), place your bets now.
After an entertaining if too-short run in the Playoffs this past season that culminated with an anti-climactic Game 7 loss in Boston in the first round, the Bulls are looking to reload in this month's NBA Draft; armed with two first-round selections, what will the Bulls be looking for? Tailgate looks into the future with some, ahem, lucidity...
First things first: Chicago, in spite of drafting Derrick Rose last year and some guy named Jordan back in 1984, does not have a track record of awesome or even adequate draft selections. Check the facts and convince me that Eddy Curry was the best the Bulls could've done with the number 4 overall pick in '01. Or, of course, there's the infamous Draft of 2000: the Bulls with three!!! first rounders, pulled Marcus Fizer, Chris Mihm and Dalibor Bagaric; guess which one is still in the league?
Gar Forman took over John Paxson's position as the general manager of the Bulls in expected news.
Wasting no time, Forman is already on the record as saying that getting sometime star, Ben Gordon to reup with the franchise is a priority. Big Mistake! Look, Ben Gordon is a totally passable professional basketball player, the only major problem is that he's a black hole on offense. Yes, he'll make big shots from time to time, see: Round One of this year's Playoffs; but he'll often miss a ton of ill-advised shots that his ego tells him he can make. These misses will often be rebounded by the other team, starting a fast break opportunity for said team; leading to easy baskets against the Bulls. Additionally Gordon can't figure out how to play defense; so, please, Forman, I beg you, shop Gordon or send him happily on his way to the fortunes of free agency and let some other team get burdened with a bloated contract payable to BG7.
The Trib says the Bulls may be entertaining offers to deal guard Kirk Hinrich to the Los Angeles Clippers, possibly getting either Marcus Camby or Chris Kamen in the deal. The perennially losing Clippers have the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft and are reportedly leanding toward drafting Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. He's be one more big man in their coffers, meaning they'd be willing to part with one or two. Stay tuned.
Worried about what the Bulls are gonna do with the Vinny Del Negro experiment; or who they'll be drafting in next month's NBA Draft; or what on Earth a team can do with unrestricted free agent-to-be, Ben Gordon? Well, Joakim Noah is forgetting all about that! TMZ, ahem, "reports." NOTE: PHOTOS ARE NSFW!!!! Yes, the young Joakim has discovered the two-headed joy of women and marijuana, kudos, young Jedi!
Final observations on the Bulls surprising, but ultimately disappointing season...Seven overtimes. Margins of victory as big as 21 points and as small as one point. A young, inexperienced team (albeit one with the reigning Rookie of the Year) taking on the defending NBA champions (albeit it one missing their star player).
They're already calling the Bulls/Boston Celtics Eastern Conference quarterfinal series the "greatest first-round NBA series of all time", a title that at once is both awe-inspiring and overblown at the same time. Granted, it had more than its share of thrilling moments. But greatest? Well, that's going to take some research. In the meantime, Bulls fans can take some solace in that early assessment and dream of better things next season.
The Bulls hopes for a first round upset of the defending NBA champs came to crashing halt in Boston on Saturday night. After an astonishing seven game series with more twists and turns than a Grisham novel, the Bulls were outmatched in the deciding game. Sadly after a record setting seven OT sessions in the first six games of the series, this one wasn't nearly that close as Boston (after an early Bulls lead) grabbed the momentum and led from the second quarter on, with the Bulls only making it close in the fourth quarter for the requisite high-drama that this whole series seemed to be blessed with.
Assasins were for hire last night in Beantown as both Chicago and Boston's finest ice-blooded dagger droppers, namely, Ben Gordon and Paul Pierce put on a show in the fourth quarter and overtime of Game 5 in what has become the most physically-demanding and competitive first round playoff matchup in recent memory. Gordon and Pierce matched jumper after jumper after jumper; neither The Truth nor BG7 was going to let his team go quietly into the night. Gordon who didn't even heat up until the fourth after struggling with a strained hamstring all game long and Pierce who, prior to this game, has been -at times- absolutely AWOL in this series, went off with the Celtics prevailing to take the 3-2 series lead with Chicago's backs-to-the-wall in Game 6, Thursday night at the United Center. Now onto the analysis!
Four games into their round one series, and Chicago and Boston already have an entire postseason's worth of memories and nailbiters. The Bulls tied up the riveting series at two games apiece after their dramatic double-overtime game four victory. Honestly, even haters of the NBA should be taking a long look at themselves and realizing that their foolish "unbelief" in the NBA is heretic. Cop the video above of John "That's how you spell HERO, mothafu**er!" Salmons blocking Paul Pierce's three-pointer with seconds left in OT numero dos and tell me that's not compelling sport and theater.
Let's just all take a big step back and re-evaluate the Bulls-Celtics series. Ouch. Those numbers for the Bulls? God-awful! And hey, I'm not just talking about the pathetic 37.5% fg percentage. Cop what the Cs shot and recognize one thing: the Celtics have shot an insane 48.1% and 49% from the field over the course of the past two games, including a shocking 57.1% from 3-point land in game three last night. Now, this is definitely --to a point-- attributable to the Celtics having incredibly hot shooting and over the course of a seven game series the Celtics will have to cool off (won't they??); but the Bulls team defense must improve or else this series is like the dodo for Chicago fans. What should be much more concerning for the Bulls isn't the final score --hey, we all get the short end of the stick-- but the physically intimidating manner in which Boston set the tone from the tip-off. The Celtics simply pushed Chicago and the Bulls did nothing. So, Bulls, listen if you wanna keep playing into May next time Rajon frickin' Rondo b*tch slaps a Joakim Noah, step in and let him know he can't do that in your stadium.
Meanwhile, with all the plaudits surrounding Rose, the Bulls still are a toothin' and clawin' with the Boston Celtics in their first round match that's knotted at one game apiece. Game three is tomorrow night at the United Center and the Bulls are imploring you to wear red and be noisy. Shocking, I know. In any case, with game three tomorrow night, now would be a great time for Boston's already depleted and injury-addled bench to get more bad news. -- Dramatic aside: Stranger at Door: KNOCK, KNOCK. Boston's Front Office: "Who's There?" SAD: "Bad News." BFO: "Bad News, Who?" SAD: Bad News, Leon Powe Just A'sploded His Knee."
So, ouch, sheesh! Celts are totally cursed with injuries and yeah, Chicago Bulls, you better win this series.
Rose averaged at least 17 points per game, along with six assists and shot 45 percent from the floor during the year. He joins exclusive company in that regard. Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson all had similar numbers in their rookie seasons
Rose is coming off an impressive game one performance against the Celtics in which he scored 36 points and had 11 assists. The Chicago Bulls have scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. to make the announcement.
Whoa. Boston-Chicago is a wooly series where, seriously, the Bulls are going toe-to-toe against the reigning NBA champs. Without the above trey by Jesus Shuttlesworth, aka: Ray Allen, the Bulls would be up 2-0 going back to the United Center for Game 3. Alas, Ray-Ray nailed the triple in spite of Noah's fro's best effort to block it and here we go, sportsfans, this series is getting good. [Duh!-Ed.]
The Chicago Bulls struck first in their opening round series with the Boston Celtics; as the Bulls, led by Derrick Rose's 36 points and 11 dimes, won in overtime 105-103. Rose tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA record for points scored in a postseason premiere in a game that had the Bulls looking like the savvy, playoff-seasoned team and not the greenhorns of the second season. Game two is Monday night in Boston. Buckle up, Bulls fans, this is gonna be good.
The Chicago Bulls wrapped up the regular season last night with a home loss to the dismal Toronto Raptors, but thanks to a miraculous 76ers win in Cleveland; the Bulls will be opening the playoffs with a first-round match-up against a Boston Celtics squad that will be without Kevin Garnett instead of the fierce and relatively healthy, Orlando Magic.
The Bulls start their series on Saturday afternoon in Boston and will be looking to steal away at least one victory in Beantown before the series heads to the United Center next Thursday (4/23).
And even though the Celtics are still, well, the Celtics: a defensive titan of a team, with a highly efficient offense led by the bloodless assassin, Paul Pierce, and, oh, by the way defending NBA Champs; without Kevin Garnett the Celts are a very different team.
The Bulls wrapped up at least the seven seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs last night in Detroit by putting the clamps down on a feisty Pistons squad. A balanced offensive attack, led by Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon helped the Bulls trim a fourth quarter deficit in the final minute into a lead with seconds to go and the Bulls held on to cinch (at least) the seventh seed. Currently the Bulls are the six seed, which as we've discussed before is not what the Bulls want; nay, the Bulls want/need to face Boston who they match up oh, so much better with than Orlando. However! unless the 76ers can beat Boston tonight or the Bulls lose tomorrow night at home against the Toronto Raptors, Chicago will be stuck in 6th which means facing the juggernaut Orlando Magic, who shoot waaaaaay too well from three-point land and happen to have a hulking, laboratory-bred freak called Dwight Howard lurking in the paint. So, maybe now is the time for VDN to start Aaron Gray and the rest of the bench whilst DRose, et al get some much needed rest against the Raps.
Behind strong 24 point performances from both Ben Gordon and Tyrus Thomas the Bulls took care of business at the United Center against Philadelphia and strengthened their hold on the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Sporting garish and awful green jerseys in honor of "Green Week," the NBA's feeble attempt at celebrating eco-awareness or not clubbing baby seals (seriously, Shaq isn't allowed to club any baby seals this week); the Bulls outhustled and flat out overwhelmed the flagging 76ers who are now a mere 1.5 games ahead of Chicago for the 6th spot.
For the Bulls, the victory further cinches their already close-to-guaranteed playoff berth, really, it's just a matter of who ends up where, but Charlotte could still sneak in, but would likely be knocking out Detroit and not Chicago.
With five games left to play and with the Bulls mere percentage points ahead of Detroit, it's a little too early to say, emphatically, "Yes." But, the Bulls are on the verge of returning to the second season for the first time since 06-07. Still, the MoTown Get Along Gang, aka: the Detroit Pistons, have had a decade's worth of discontent and injury bugs crammed into this season and yet, there they are: scrapping with the Bulls, while at the same time keeping the Bobcats collective heads under water 'til them kittens don't breathe no more. Honestly, the Pistons, how do they stumble in first gear all season, lose players ('Sheed, Iverson in the past two months alone) and keep on rollin'? Gotta respect Joe Dumars and if the Bulls wanna make the playoffs an annual rite of spring then Paxson would do well to take notes when Joe D speaks.
Michael Jordan is officially a hall-of-famer. Jordan has been elected to the basketball hall of fame. It goes without question that MJ would one day be in the basketball hall of fame. It was only a matter of time before he would become enshrined.
He led a storied career and left little doubt that he would be a first ballot hall-of-famer. He lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA Championships while snagging five MVP awards. Hall of fame inductions will occur Sept 10-12 at Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Jordan along with four others including former Chicago Bull and current Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan will be inducted.
In spite of Hollinger's Playoff Machine, the Bulls chances of getting into the second season took a big hit last night in Indianapolis courtesy of TJ Ford's game icing jumper with a scant 3.9 seconds left on the clock. Not only did the Bulls lose a heartbreaker, but the pesky Charlotte Bobcats had the gall to defeat the mighty Los Angeles Lakers, thus sweeping the season series from the Lake Show and making up a game on the Bulls in the standings.
An easy question to answer really, Derrick Rose of your Chicago Bulls will more than likely be hoisting the Eddie Gottlieb Trophy come the off-season awards extravaganza. Rose has the Bulls competing for a playoff spot a year after Chicago won the draft lotto and, thus, selected Rose with the #1 pick and has provided a great boost to Chicago's heretofore sluggish and uninspiring offense.
However, should Rose's inspired play and emergence as a point guard of the future be the only factors? The media hands out the ROY award and, honestly, I don't have the faith in them to not simply skim the candidates list, spy "Rose, Derrick," and auto vote him or have their intern/lackey vote for him. Rose --to most media types-- is probably the most household of rookies this season; yet, Russell Westbrook has been steadily and silently dominating teams all season long in the forgotten NBA outpost of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
The ongoing chase for the final seed in the Eastern Conference is, seemingly, more and more likely becoming Chicago's to lose. Will they make it?Tailgatetries to answer that question and more!
Last night the Bulls won the season series against the depleted and awful Washington Wizards and won some good old-fashioned vengeance against the Wiz, after being shellacked in front of the Leader of the Free World/Bulls Fan, Barry Obama, last month. Aside from the satisfaction of, you know, clubbing the doormat of the East, the Bulls also further improved their chances of making the playoffs and the likely beatdown at the hands of Cleveland or Boston/Orlando that will come with the 7th or 8th seed.
The Bulls winning ways at the United Center were put on hiatus for at least one night after coughing up a 14 point halftime lead to Kobe Bryant's LA Lakers. The Bulls, who had won 8 in a row at the UC, dropped the decision to Lakers after being throttled in the third and fourth quarters and giving up the ball 23 times to a Laker squad that preys on the opposition's mistakes. John Salmons contributed 30 points for the Bulls in the loss and Chicago's lead for the final playoff berth remained at one game after the Charlotte Bobcats lost to the Indiana Pacers at home.
The Bulls, who had miraculously been slaying vastly superior teams at home for the better part of two months, made far too many mistakes against a team that knows how to win a game even when their superstar is having an off night. In this case, the "off night" for Bryant was 25 points on 10/25 shooting with "only" 7 assists and a "mere" 5 steals.
Potentially huge weekend for Chicago/U of Illinois bball fans this weekend, here's the breakdown:
Thursday: U of Illinois v Western Kentucky in some sort of minor tournament that the NCAA has organized.
Friday: Most of you will probably be calling in sick to watch the continuing coverage of that minor tourney betwixt the colleges of the USA.
Saturday: LA Lakers v Bulls, live from the United Center. Kobe only comes to Chi-town but once a year, and it's not for jury duty. Meanwhile, the Bulls will be looking to push their home winning streak to nine straight and keep a leg up in the race for the final playoff spot.
Sunday: The winner of Illinois versus WKU faces off with the winner of Gonzaga vs Akron [Go Zips!-ed.] in lovely Portland Oregon.
A statistical lesson for all of you NBA general managers-in-training, +/- as a metric for who did what well and what wrong in one game is incredibly inaccurate, see, Marbury's stat line from last night's Celtics-Bulls tilt as evidence. Granted, +2 isn't anything too spectacular, but it is strange that the losing team's backup point guard/"reason the Celts lost to the Bulls," would be in the positive at all. To wit, Boston's coach, Doc Rivers, kept Marbury in for the majority of the fourth quarter in lieu of the disruptive and much taller and larger, Kendrick Perkins; and the Bulls feasted on Marbury's awful defense, attacking at will, the lane and making easy layup after easy layup. With the small Boston lineup --for cereals, the 6'7" Paul Pierce was the tallest Boston player on the floor for most of the fourth-- even the man child/coach, Vinny Del Negro, knew what to do: attack the rim, rinse and repeat.
This St. Patty's Day edition of WBMP will be looking at the Bulls performance of the past week --spoiler alert: not good. And what the Bulls need to do in the weeks left in the regular season to make the playoffs.
The Bulls book ended two nice wins over Milwaukee and New Orleans by losing three straight to Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia, yet, there the Bulls are in a virtual tie with the Bucks for the final seed. The wins and losses all made sense as, you guessed it, the wins came at home and the losses were all on the road, where Chicago has been an awful 10-26 for the season.
The Bulls deathMarch [Pun-tacular, seriously-Ed.] continues as they face the Boston Celtics tonight, than @ Oklahoma City, LA Lakers at home, @ Washington and Detroit at the United Center. For Chicago to keep up with Milwaukee and Charlotte, both of whom have much easier schedules of the next two weeks; the Bulls have to win the oh-so-winnable games against Oklahoma City and Washington and pull out a win against BOS, LAL or MoTown, stay tuned!
After getting absolutely brained against the Magic on Wednesday night in Orlando, the Bulls find themselves in Philadelphia tonight with a key head-to-head game against the 7th seed, 76ers, and then travel back to Second City to play New Orleans at the United Center tomorrow night --a game, by the way, this writer will be attending. The good news for Chicago is that as terrible as the Bulls have been on the road, Philly has not been much better at home; barely holding a .500 record. With Chris Paul and Co. rolling into the Windy City tomorrow night and with 5 of their next 7 against likely playoff teams, the Bulls need to beat Philly to stay on pace with the rest of the teams vying for the final playoff berth; particularly with Charlotte breathing down their collective necks and with the Bobcats having 8 of their next 10 against teams that are sub .500.
As the season has progressed I've really not been paying too much attention to the Miami Heat, they've been a team hovering in the 3-6 seed limbo of the Eastern standings; I've been aware that Dwayne Wade has been mercilessly slaughtering defenders for the majority of the season and that he definitely deserves far more MVP chatter than he's garnered. However, after last night's double-overtime tense-fest against the Bulls; I'm now a believer in the Heat and that they will be posing a serious threat to either Boston, Orlando or Cleveland at some point in the playoffs. Just watch the video and try to convince yourself that what Wade is cooking isn't just as delicious as the Michelin-starred Kobes and LeBrons of the NBA.
Tailgate's weekly look at how close the Chicago Bulls are in the race for the final playoff spot in the East, this week: The Bulls are almost to the 7th seed!
After throughly dismantling their closest competition (statistically and geographically) on Friday night, the Bulls are now standing tall in "the race for death by LeBron or KG" that is the 8th seed. And with the 7th seed, Philadelphia 76ers, reeling, --dudes have lost 7 of their last 10, ouch-- the Bulls have a legit shot at closing the two game deficit and sliding into the 7th seed where they'll still be demolished by Cleveland or Boston in the first-round. But still! All of this with VDN as the head coach, who'd have thunk it?
The Chicago Bulls are in a virtual tie with the Milwaukee Bucks for the 8th and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, tonight the two squads are facing off for the final time this season with the Bulls holding a 2-1 series edge for the season. Should Chicago win they would vault one game ahead of the Bucks and potentially give themselves some breathing room from the rapidly ascending Charlotte Bobcats and New Jersey Nets, whom are playing the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic, respectively. In any case, the UC should be loaded with more action than the most awesome action flick of all-time; and with any luck, Derrick Rose will be telling the Bucks, "Hasta la vista, baby."
Speaking of Bears quarterbacks, a Sporting News blog says that Rex Grossman's eminent departure is bad news for Chicago. And while he is visiting Cincinnati, Dallas seems more than eager to welcome him there.
Sure Blackhawks defenseman James Wisniewski was as fan favorite, but Daily Herald sports blogger Tim Sassone says give his replacement, Sami Pahlsson, a chance.
Tailgate's ongoing look at whether the Bulls will make the playoffs, this week we look at the other teams clawing and fighting for the 8th and final seed.
First things first, in the span of the past week Chicago has been the most manic team in the Association, spec the wins and losses of the past seven days: Orlando, win, WTF? The Bulls massacred the Magic, are you kidding me? What, was Dwight Howard out with a case of the plague? [No, he played, dropping 26/12 in the loss -ed.] New Jersey and Washington, gimme wins, right? Ha! Not. After pantsing the Magic, Chicago decided to take the fourth quarter of the Nets game off and let Devin Harris go off for 42 points, including 19 in the fourth. Meanwhile, on Friday night against Eastern Conference laughingstock/door mat/[insert-insult] with a very famous Bulls fan in the house Chicago decided to not show up and get blown out by the Wizards. When you get blown out by the Wiz in front of the Pres there's only one word: pathetic. But on Saturday Chicago somehow put the locks down on the mighty Houston Rockets and pulled out a quasi-miraculous fourth quarter win. So, uhhm, yeah, the Bulls are missing their meds or something and as a result are simultaneously amazing and awful. Stay tuned and now onto who else is vying for the last playoff spot.
Between now and the end of the NBA's regular season,Tailgate will be taking a weekly look at how the Bulls playoff chances are faring against the rest of the Eastern Conference.
Here is where the Bulls stand in the East if the season were to end today: on the outside, looking in; a game and-a-half behind the Skiles-led Milwaukee Bucks for the 8th seed. Yet, thanks to last week's many trades a new --if minor-- hope surrounds the United Center. The schedule is favorable, to say the least, with only 11 road games left and less than half of their remaining games against teams with a .500 or better record.
UPDATE: Literally minutes before the trade deadline yesterday afternoon, Bulls GM, John Paxson, sent shooting guard/small forward, Thabo Sefolosha to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a 2009 first-round draft selection. Another fairly "meh" move by Chicago, but sure, okay, a first-round pick for a heretofore, unheralded and borderline draft bust, makes as much sense as anything else the Bulls have done the past three days...
The Bulls in their never-ending quest for relevance in the NBA trade season made yet another move by swapping Larry Hughes (and his grossly oversized contract) to the New York Knicks for league-wide journeyman, Tim Thomas, Jerome James and Anthony Roberson. Of the three obscure and, fairly, worthless acquisitions; Thomas is by far the most "household name," having averaged a "robust" 11.7 ppg through his career that has meandered from Philadelphia, Milwaukee, New York (twice), Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles.
As for Roberson and James, what can be said? Hmmm, well, James is over 7' which ties in nicely with GM Paxson's growing collection of over 7' players with marginal NBA talent, see: Gray, Aaron. Roberson likely was thrown in to make the deal work money-wise for the Bulls and Knicks.
The Chicago Bulls have agreed to send power forward, Drew Gooden, small forward, Andres Nocioni, and small forward, Cedric Simmons to the Sacramento Kings for center, Brad Miller and guard, John Salmons. The trade works nicely for the cash-strapped Kings who will be acquiring Gooden's expiring 7.2 million dollar contract and Simmons's expiring 1 million dollar contract, both of which, will come off the books this summer. For Chicago, the Bulls get Brad Miller, a decent big man with a surprisingly developed handle for a center, along with a solid, if not spectacular, defensive game. Salmons is a very, ahem, "interesting" pick up for Chicago, as they already have two other shoot-first guards in the forms of Ben Gordon and Larry Hughes.
All rumor! Sadly, the force of nature that is Amare Stoudemire won't be teaming up with the annointed one, Derrick Rose. Bummer. But!...A new trade rumor has already sprung up, this time involving the Toronto Raptors at-times dominant power forward Chris Bosh. Bosh, who's a mere 24 years old, has been quietly evolving into one of the NBA's better fours in the relative anonymity of Toronto since he was drafted in 2003. According to a Sun-Times article, the trading elements are very similar to the nixed Stoudemire deal and it would involve Chicago shipping Tyrus Thomas, Drew Gooden and a potential first-round pick north of the border while bringing Bosh to the Windy City.
With Derrick Rose being about the only good thing going for the Bulls right now, it's as good a time as any to iron out some of the wrinkly rumors swirling around the Bulls, John Paxson and Amare Stoudemire.
Short answer: YES!
Long answer: Let's wait and see. The trade deadline for the NBA is at 3:00 pm on Thursday and the Suns, Bulls, Amare, everybody else involved, surely would love to get this deal wrapped up before then. But Phoenix did just fire their head coach and there is a lot of talk coming out of the desert that with interim-head coach, Alvin Gentry, running the show, he might want to make Amare more of an offensive focal point as opposed to a third or fourth option.
Bulls rookie point guard/the only reason to suffer through a Bulls game, Derrick Rose claimed the 2009 Playstation Skills Challenge at the NBA's All-Star Weekend in Phoenix this past Saturday night. Rose took down New Jersey's Devin Harris in the finals and sealed his win with a stylin' dunk to let everybody know who will be winning Rookie of the Year come the off-season. Now if Rose could only convince Vinny Del Negro to step down...
Yes, the Bulls managed to pull off that dubious feat, at home no less, Sunday night adding to a woeful stretch that included losing three of their last five and gettign booed by their own home crowd.
To be fair, the Oklahoma City Thunder aren't THAT bad. They do have Kevin Durant, sixth in the league in scoring. And they are in the middle of the pack in rebounding in the league, averaging 42 boards a game.
But this was a Bulls team that was supposed to be improving this season, thanks to the addition of Derrick Rose and veterans like Drew Gooden, to round out a roster that included Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon.
They've looked like anything BUT an improved team in the past month. Granted a lot of that lackluster play can be attributed to injuries (to Deng and Hinrich) but injuried have had nothing to do with a lack of aggression under the boards (anyone seen Joakim Noah lately?) and selfish play. The cry now is that the team lacks leadership. Really? A team with three assigned captains is lacking leadership.
Hopefully the loss will be a wakeup call for the Bulls and neophyte coach Vinny Del Negro. They'll find out tonight when they take on the Portland Trail Blazers 22-14) tonight at the United Center.
The Sporting News' reaction to the Wrigley Field hockey spectacular: meh.
Meanwhile, the Hawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are first and sixth, respectively, among forwards in NHL All-Star Western Conference balloting. Brian "Soup" Campbell is third in balloting for defensemen.
So far so good for Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro. While other NBA coaches have been falling like teenage girls at a Jonas Brothers concert (the latest was former Bull Reggie Theus who was fired by Sacramento Monday, the sixth firing of the season), Del Negro not only has managed to survive but thrive.
In his first season of head coaching... EVER! ... Del Negro has the Bulls a mere one game under .500, a situation that could improve tonight when they take on the Charlotte Bobcats in North Carolina. That complete lack of experience was big question mark hanging over his head, placed there by nearly every writer and fan in town. Granted, it's only basketball, but even there, experience has to count for something. Were he Vinny Del Negro the cardiac surgeon or Vinny Del Negro the periodontist, he'd be eating soup for dinner and probably still waiting for his first patient.
Michael Jordan had "The Shot". Now Derrick Rose has "The Move",which is already in heavy rotation on ESPN. Our Brian Lauvray has already sang his praises, but as good as his words may be, there's still something magical about actually seeing Rose make a fool out of Andre Miller. Enjoy.
The startling quick emergence of Derrick Rose as one of the Association's best young point guards, has thus far not been a provincial affair by any means, however, most casual NBA fans across the country probably would still struggle to point him out in a lineup. However that's all about to change after 1) the Bulls managed to pull off three victories in their annual Circus Trip -that time-honored nightmare of drugged animals, terrifying clowns and far, FAR too much noise that fills up the United Center for two weeks every November* also happens to displace the Bulls; and hey! three road wins out of seven games, ain't bad. Besides, the four losses were all to quality squads (LA Lakers, Denver, Portland and San Antonio) that will likely be making the playoffs in the burly Western Conference. Rose, for his part, delivered and is, seemingly, hitting a stride that only a few rookie point guards have hit in this (admittedly) young century --Chris Paul and Deron Williams. On the recent 12 day road trip that concluded Sunday night with a victory in Philly, Rose averaged 17.7 ppg and 6.5 apg while also dropping the first double-double (18 points and 10 dimes against the 76ers) of his blossoming career.
And the Cubs post-season post-mortem examination continues, with Lou Pinella blaming that old standby, the media, while Ryan Dempster says the team flatout wasn't ready. Hey guys, sorry, no do-overs.
Meanwhile, the White Sox, who seems to have come to grips with their playoff loss, work on keeping Bobby Jenks around. But did Nick Swisher phone it in for much of the season?
Four area college soccer teams have made it to the NCAA tournament.
It was bound to happen after that embarrassing loss to the Packers: The "Fire Lovie" talks are heating up. Here is one blogs' 10 reasons why he deserves the ax. Meanwhile, Fanhouse questions Lovie's assessment that the Bears receivers are "pretty good".
The Bulls' Derrick Rose sits atop most Sports Illustrated NBA writers' list of early top rookies. Naturally.
It's not the major draw it used to be, but prep football is still a big deal in Chicago. The Catholic League is gearing up for its title game, pitting Loyola Academy against De La Salle.
A disabled cyclist bikes 1,064 miles from Jacksonville, Fla. to Chicago. His final destination? Where else: Oprah.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gets a new name.
The Chicago Outfit wants YOU... well, that is, if you're a female and don't mind getting knocked around a little. There's a recruitment Q&A tonight at 9:30
Gapersblock.com's ever evolving take on the NBA and the superstars that hulk, lurk and shine within. First off, I'd be remiss as all Hell to not proudly endorse and encourage y'all to come to this. The pizza is damn good and you'll be able to meet real sportswriters as opposed to bums like me. So, yeah, if you like pizza, books and watching the NBA, please, embrace this shill. Onto the bball talkin'.
Derrick Rose!!!!! ZOMG!!!
Dude's got me speaking in tongues; seriously, his rookie campaign as a point guard is reminiscent of the Chris "Man-Child to Man" Paul assault on the league in the year of 05-06. To put things in comparison, Rose's, bottle-rocketesque ascension is equivalent to a rook qb putting a team on his shoulders and carrying them through the savages of a 16 game schedule, all the while seamlessly dominating and reading defenses like they were so many pre-K primers. Please, I implore you to spec Rose's stat line from last night. 26 points, 10 rebounds along with 6 dimes and a scant 3 turnovers? That's like Steve Nash and Baron Davis' statistical lovechild!
Meanwhile, on the same box score check out what skull-crushing force of Satan*/Atlanta Hawk center, Al Horford, did to Chicago's beloved Toros. He was definitely eating his Wheaties yesterday morning and morphed into full on "Horford SMASH" mode. 6 blocks? Yes, please!
Last night the Bulls collectively bore witness [Nike payoff-Ed.] for the first time this season to the King, aka, LeBron James, aka, The MVP-Elect. Bron-Bron was his highlight-ready self as he dropped a smooth 41 points in addition to his nine boards, six dimes and four steals; you know, just the sort of ultra-proficient and dominating performance that leads to an MVP award. Seriously, spec his production over HERE! So yeah, along with his myriad of monikers, I'm throwing another one up there: MVP-Elect. Of course it's early, but barring any (knock-on-wood) injury or Act of God, Bron will be rocking the hardware at the end of the regular-season wherein he will feast, statistically and literally (Dude, he loves cannibalizing on lesser-opponents) on the NBA. Right now, he's rocking a "healthy" 25.8 ppg, eight rebounds and 7.4 assists. I mean, what are you going to complain about with a line like that? "His scoring could be up?" Sure, but, I mean, that's like moaning about how Adriana Lima's body isn't hot enough, in other words: Madness!
Everyone knows that the loud, gaudy NFL is King of the American Sportscape and that MLB, with its seven month season is the stately, elder-gentleman of Americana and yesteryear; that even the most jaded observer can appreciate for its mere stubborn refusal to alter its entity. The NHL is a forgotten quantity that struggles in vain with hokey promotions and rule-changes to try and grasp some small corner of America's sports-consciousness.
When the Bulls tip off tonight in their 2008 season opener, it will mark the beginning of the Derrick Rose/Vinny Del Negro Era.
Not to be confused with the Jerry Krause Era (also known as the Post-Jordan-Organizations-Win-What? Era), the Tim Floyd Era, the Tyson Chandler/Eddie Curry Era, the Scott Skiles Era or the Ben Wallace Era.
Yeah, there's been enough "eras" in the Bulls recent history to require a team of archeologists, but for all their digging and excavating, they wouldn't come up with much.
Three playoff appearances in the last 10 years. Five season of 50 losses or more. Only one second place finish and one third place finish during that time. Five different head coaches (not including Bill Berry and Pete Myers coached for a total of five games during that span). Two GMs. Not. One. All-Star.
It's been a dismal decade for the franchise that once defined the modern NBA in terms of talent and organization. The word "rebuilding" has been used more times in relation to the Bulls than in San Francisco in 1906, and often involved a mashup of overwhelmed-and-unfocused rookies and sullen veterans who instantly became unmotivated when they slipped on the red, white and black jersey.
It's not a stretch to say that Nike probably owes their corporate life to Michael Jordan. True, the Oregon-based company was around long before Jordan was JORDAN. But they didn't become the No. 1 selling brand of athletic shoe in the world thanks to the silhouette of Steve Prefontaine or Bo Jackson on the side of their footwear.
And while there have been other athletic shoes named after famous ballplayers, did anyone really buy Converse All-Stars because Chuck Taylor endorsed them? Heck, wearing a pair of Joe Lapchick's was considered a good excuse for a beat down in my neighborhood. He might have been a great player in his day, but as a shoe pitchman he lacked the cachet of the kid from North Carolina.
Even though MJ left the court for good in 2003, his departure hasn't affected the popularity of the shoes, which continue to be produced and sold in as many variations as possible. How enduring in the Cult of Air Jordan? Consider that a movie is currently being filmed, not about Jordan the Man, but Jordan the Shoe.
Steve Stone joining Hawk Harrelson in the White Sox TV booth? According to the Tribune, it could happen, though the dominos have to fall in just the right way.
ESPN’s Scoop Jackson says the Bulls’ drafting of former Simeon High School star Derrick Rose evokes the memory another Simeon hoopster tabbed for greatness, Ben Wilson, whose murder 24 years ago stunned the city.
Deposed WSCR morning man Mike North says he has four deals on the table. No word on whether any of them involve dishing out extra relish.
A new online marketplace offers fans the chance to put in a bid for playoff and World Series tickets for the Cubs (provided they make it) from season ticket owners looking to dump them. Presumably the website will offer the same deal for (ahem) the White Sox.
The Chicago Rush take on the Grand Rapids Rampage (don’t you love those Arena Footbal League names?) in an AFL Divisional Round playoff game this Sunday, 2 p.m., at Allstate Arena. In other Rush news, wide receiver Donovan Morgan was named AFL Rookie of the Year
The Sky’s Sylvia Fowles is getting a bit antsy since being sidelined with a knee injury, as she reports on her WNBA blog.
White Sox catcher A.J. Piersynzki needs your help in selecting his at-bat music. Though the website lists suggestions (“Panama” by Van Halen?) , I’m sure there are more appropriate songs...right?
Also, the White Sox host the first Double Duty Classic, featuring the top high school baseball players from across the Midwest, on Monday, July 7, 2:30 p.m. The game will honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and is named for legend Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe.
By the time the draft came around, Rose had become the consensus #1 pick and the discussion had shifted to whether Michael Beasley or OJ Mayo should go second. The newfound emphasis on speed in the NBA game and the instant success of young point guards like Tony Parker, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams made the pick non-controversial (beyond the usual questioning about whether it's ever a good idea to take a hometown player, and how much responsibility can you really give to a 19-year old). That Rose is often compared to Deron Williams is another good thing from the Bulls point of view!
What's next for the Bulls? One would have to think that it's the end of the road for one of the Hinrich-Gordon-Hughes troika, but GM John Paxson was customarily tight-lipped during his on-camera with ESPN at the draft. The NBA's free agent and trading season doesn't really kick off until July 9th, so we'll have to wait and see.
The 2008 NBA Draft will go down in history as having the most Freshman selections
While the Bulls don't have a particularly rich history of point guard play, let's not forget all the great point guards that have grown up in Chicago over the past 30 years: Derrick Rose, Isiah Thomas, Doc Rivers, Quinn Buckner, Tim Hardaway, Mo Cheeks, and Dwayne Wade (ok, so not quite a PG).
Finally! After a coaching search that seemed to last longer than an explanation of the infield fly rule, the Bulls have reportedly made an offer to Phoenix Suns Assistant General Manager Vinny Del Negro to lead the team on the floor.
The Sun-Times is reporting that "a source" says Doug Collins will be the next coach of the Bulls. Collins was the Bulls' coach from 1986-89, and took them to the Eastern Conference championship before being fired by Reinsdorf. He went on to coach the Pistons and then the Wizards when Michael Jordon was on the team.
So with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft firmly nestled in their back pockets, are the Bulls now a little more attractive to potential head coaches than they were a couple of days ago?
That’s the question being asked around the league, including by the Sun-Times’ John Jackson, who speculates that having that top pick might pique the interest of the upper tier of available coaches, including former New York Knick coach Jeff Van Gundy, last seen analyzing games for ABC-TV, and former Dallas Mavericks’ head coach Avery Johnson.
However improbable it may seem (given the Bulls' lottery odds - 98.3 percent improbable to be precise), the hoop deities have seen the devotion of Bulls fans through thick and thin. They even forced them to acknowledge as much in the ad campaign for the '04-'05 season. What followed were two years of tremendous overachievement follow by two years of chronic underachievement (it was too painful to revisit this until a a couple hours ago), but these were merely Herculean labors to deliver us our much-need superstar.
We all knew it would be a tough sell getting one of the buzz-worthy coaches in the NBA to take on the challenge of running the Bulls. But the Mike D'Antoni snub takes it to a whole 'nother level.
Not only did D'Antonio sign with the New York Knicks for a whopping $24 million over four years, but he did so without even giving real consideration to the Bulls' offer, which had been discussed in the national media for weeks and even called a "done deal" by one report as late as last Friday. Reportedly, Bulls owners Jerry Reinsdorf and General Manager John Paxson were still getting their shi... er, deal together when word came out about the D'Antoni/Knicks pact. The Bulls weren't even given a chance to make a counter offer.
D'Antoni's agent tried to make nice and treated the Bulls like Ralphie Wiggums in giving them a gold star just for the (lame) effort. "Chicago made a terrific, last-second pitch, but at that point Mike was emotionally committed to New York", said agent Warren LeGarie.
As Aaron recently posted, the Chicago Bulls are negotiating with former Phoenix Sun's coach Mike D'Antoni. I feel obligated to issue a formal warning to Bull's fans thirsty for a return to the 1990s glory days: The Bull's will not win a championship with D'Antoni! Stop the negotiations now! D'Antoni provides the quickest route to action-packed mediocrity!
Yes, 232 - 96 is an impressive record and viewing a box score regularly filled with assists, dunks, and +100 point games would be exciting. But impressive athleticism and regular season records do not automatically result in championships. Really! I recently proved a scientific theorem proving Points + Vertical Leap / Speed never equal Success without a 5/8 focus on Defense. Really! Continue reading for some of the postulates.
The lauded auteur behind the critically acclaimed 2005-2007 Phoenix Suns, Coach Mike D’Antoni, seems to favor bringing his frenetic brand of basketball to the United Center rather than spending another season in the desert. The former Euroleague Champion advises his teams to put up a shot within “seven seconds or less” leading to copious amounts of scoring. Since D’Antoini’s Suns started lighting up scoreboards around the league, many teams (the Raptors, Hornets, and pre-Jason Kidd trade Nets to name a few) have copied his up-tempo approach and line-ups filled with smaller, more athletic players who can out run the opposition.
Sporting an impressive 232-96 record during his Suns tenure, why is this savant all the sudden willing to trade the 80˚ winters of Phoenix for our lovely December climes? Blame it on ex-Bulls sharpshooter and current Suns GM Steve Kerr who apparently ticked off D’Antoni with the meddlesome suggestion that he should devote some more practice time to defense. It seems Coach D feels that management no longer supports him, but with the Suns giving up an average of 104 points per game during his régime its tough to argue with Steve. Nevertheless, D'Antoni is so ideologically committed to his style that he would rather move on than try to grind it out defensively in the über-talented Western Conference while having to trot out the rapidly-aging Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal as starters.
Why Bulls GM John Paxon (Steve Kerr’s predecessor as the Bulls token white three-point specialist) would be interested in bringing D'Antoni aboard is a bit perplexing, though. The Bulls he built have been pretty vanilla with their focus on defense, fundamentals, and toughness, not unlike the defending champs the San Antonio Spurs (who happen to have won four championships in the last decade, and coincidentally eliminated D’Antoni’s Suns three times). For Paxon to pull a full 180 means either A) he's doubting himself (after all, last season’s 33-49 record can’t be put on Scott Skiles or Tyrus Thomas’ antics alone) or B) Jerry Reinstorf’s worried the Bulls need some more sizzle to justify $6000 a season for the choicest spots at the UC. The Bulls have the athletic personnel necessary to run and gun in D’Antoni’s system but the question remains whether they should if they wish to excise the ghosts of champions past?
I go back and forth on (coaching in the NBA). I still think it’s the ultimate level. There is something about it. I look at it and say, ‘It’s a real challenge.’ But I love what I do too. I go down and look at what the Pistons (coaches) do in preparation and I think, ‘That’s insane.’
Does the quote above portray a disgruntled college coach looking for new challenges? Or does the statement merely reflect curiosity for the highest level of basketball competition? Analysts and talking heads are discussing both scenarios today, after reports suggested Tom Izzo was a possible candidate for the Chicago Bulls head coaching position.
Another day, another play on words. Using "bullish" to describe the NBA playoffs refers both to my excitement surrounding the competition level and also the chance to watch some former Chicago Bulls in action. Four of the more prominent ex-Bulls still playing are Tyson Chandler, Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, and Darius Songaila. Please join me on this pathetic journey of what could have been in Chicago Bulls history.
1. Tyson Chandler. Bulls fans remember Chandler as half of the high school phenom front-court Jerry Krause promised would resurrect the struggling franchise. Chandler now routinely records double-doubles for the surprising New Orleans Hornets. Along with Chris Paul and David West, Chandler anchors a young, talented team capable of long playoff runs for the foreseeable future (I desperately want to say the same about the Bulls).
Although Chandler would be a nice component of the current Bulls nucleus, I struggle to criticize Paxson's decision to ship him to New Orleans. As a Bull, Chandler suffered from chronic back pain, inept offense, foul trouble, and other typical ailments of inexperienced athletes. Wonder if Chandler's stint with the Bulls would have faired differently with two years of college prior to the NBA? Support Chandler and the New Orleans playoff effort on his well-designed web portal.
After compiling a 24-32 record in his little-more-than-three-months tenure as interim head coach of the Bulls, Jim Boylan was fired by the team today.
Yeah, I know, me too. I’ll miss him. Now, what was his name again?
Boylan, who took over from Scott Skiles on Dec. 27, left a legacy that consists primarily of player apathy, lateness, temper tantrums and a general disregard for whatever authority he tried to muster. The Sun-Times’ Bulls beat reporter John Jackson likened the situation to "anarchy."
I pick up a newspaper the other day and realized that – huh? – the Bulls are still playing! Seriously. I mean, who knew? Between the opening of the new baseball season, the march to the Final Four and Dale Bowman spotting muskies at Heidecke Lake in Morris, Ill., I had completely forgotten about their existence. But there they were on Tuesday, getting their hats handed to them by the Boston Celtics in a 102-92 loss.
So when is this deathwatch going to be over? Well, you can console yourself with the fact that there are only eight games remaining in the Jim Boylan Era (as of April 2) until the team is finally taken off life support. In the meantime, enjoy the hardcourt stylings of Shannon Brown and Cedric Simmons, recently brought up from something called the Iowa Energy of the D(evelopmental) League.