Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Captain Kirk It's amazing how two games with similar outcomes could give me such a different reaction. But after monday's debacle against the Heat, last night's game in Minnesota was actually encouraging. Tuning in midway through the 2nd quarter and seeing them down by 20, I was resigned to just tuning in on the Illini for the rest of the night. But a nice rally in the 2nd brought the game within 4 at the Half, and the game stayed close till the predictable lack of excecution led to another defeat. But that kind of late-game execution is hard to come by against a good team like the Timberwolves on the road, so I wasn't too upset. The team actually looked good for most of the game, and that's all I can ask for on some nights. I said yesterday that I was looking for Eddy Curry to have a good game and Jamal Crawford to start attacking the basket. Eddy had another strong effort and looks like he's ready to defend his FG% title by going 6-9 for 16 pts. Jamal was still not attacking the basket as much as I'd have liked, but theres rumblings that his sore ankle may be still bothering him. Speaking of not going to the basket, Eddie Robinson is an even bigger culprit than Crawford. Its hard to notice while he's on the bench sulking, but in a game when he gets minutes like last night and actually scores 13 points you can see its all on jumpshots. This is fine from someone like Kendall Gill, but E-Rob can literally jump over people, and could be a major offensive weapon if he wasn't so scared of attacking the basket. But how much space have I devoted to E-Rob's potential already...its kind of getting old. Getting to the title of this entry, Kirk Hinrich is becoming the only player on this team who can be counted on every game. Last night he had 17 points along with 10 assists, and building a case for making the all-rookie team at the end of the year. Here are his monthly splits:
November: 24.3mpg 6.8ppg 3.8apg December: 36.7mpg 11.9ppg 6.8apg
I remember when he was first getting put in the rotation and he looked completely overwhelmed, but its amazing to see a rookie be the kind of floor leader that he is. Granted, its a team with only 9 wins, but you can tell how the team is effected when he's off the court. And more importantly than court vision and leadership and those other 'intangible' point guard qualities are 2 important parts of his game. He can Defend. And he can *shoot*. Those are 2 things that are rare on this team, and frankly 2 things that a healthy Jay Williams likely would have never mastered. I know its only a month of good basketball, but is it too early to think that Hinrich will be a better fit for this team than Jay Williams ever would have been? I'll leave you guys with that, enjoy the holiday!

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

I Call Them 'Gimmees' For a Reason Well I'm finally back after giving myself an extended break for the Holidays. I was hoping to talk about a nice 3 game win streak for the Bulls, but last night's game nixed that idea. After 2 wins against Eastern Conference lowlifes Washington and Cleveland, the Bulls entertained another such opponent in the Miami Heat. Up by 17 points in the second quarter, at home, the Bulls gave the game away. The loss hurt especially bad due to the circumstances surrounding it. In the previous 2 wins, Jamal Crawford had scored a combined 72 points and was playing his most impressive basketball all year. Eddy Curry was returning from a seven-game absence resulting from his knee injury. They were at home. Against the Heat. These are the games that should be gimmees. There were some bright spots on the floor last night. Eddy looked great on the offensive end netting 13 points on 6-7 shooting in only 14 minutes. It would have been great to have him on the floor in the 4th quarter when the Bulls were letting the game slip away, but undoubtedly his conditioning wasn't back yet. Jerome Williams' shots caused more "No!!......Yes!" reactions from me than I needed. Using an array of awkward post moves and layup prayers, Williams managed to get 14 points. Its nice to see him getting involved offensively, but most of those shots I could've done without. Kirk Hinrich was great again, hitting 4 of 5 three-pointers, and always seemed to have them when the Bulls really needed a basket. the scapegoat: As I said earlier, Jamal Crawford came into last night's game on a roll, perhaps the best 2-game stretch of his career. Last night, however, he seemed to have reverted back to his old ways, settling for long range jump shots and not attacking the basket. He finished with only 2 free-throw attempts, yet managed to jack up 8 3-point shots, making only 1. He was up against a marquee perimeter defender in Eddie Jones, but those numbers are still unacceptable for someone who needs to shoulder the scoring load every game. Was it possible that he was sharing the ball too much? With 12 assists, its the kind of performance that would have gotten Bill Cartwright teary-eyed, but last night it seemed like he was always trying to defer open shots with unnecessary passes. This especially was the case when he was going to the basket and gave the ball up instead of trying to get to the line. While its nice to get teammates involved, theres a time when 'nice ball movement' can be taken too far and stagnate the offense. I don't want to infer that Crawford needs to score 30 for the Bulls to have a chance, but with Curry and Chandler out that may be the case. At the end of games like last night, the lack of interior scoring forces Crawford, Hinrich, and Kendall Gill to make their jump shots in the half-court offense. And with the defense (rightly) giving no respect to Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams, this task becomes even tougher for the shooters. What winds up happening all too often is late-game possessions in the half-court ending in someone taking a difficult shot simply to beat the shot clock. So what happens from here? Its still hard to get over this loss because getting these 'gimmee' wins are so important when climbing uphill from a horrible start. But while I like to think of teams like the Heat, Cavs, and Wiz to be the soft part of the schedule, its also true that the Bulls are considered *their* winnable games as well. Tonight's game is at Minnesota, which isn't good news due to: 1) Its on the road, 2) the T-Wolves are good, 3)The game will be the 2nd in a back-to-back. That game is followed by one in New York against the hated(by me, at least) Knicks on Friday. It will be interesting to see if Jamal can revert to his previous efforts, and whether Eddy Curry is ready to take on more minutes. I'm especially looking forward to Eddy getting more time in the rotation because these Antonio Davis crunch-time adventures are really starting to wear on me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas to Bulls Blog Readers And under the tree for you is a site design update! Were you thinking there'd be actual wins to discuss? First of all there's a new comments provider, haloscan. It seems to be the popular choice, and hopefully it works better than what I previously had. Also working is the permalinks, so by clicking on the red 'posted at' at the bottom of each entry the posts can be directly linked. And then clicking my name will give out my email address. I'm sure that's what you all were begging for. There are also a bunch of new links, and some old ones deleted. As far as Bulls sites, is up there now, its the RealGM sponsored Bulls site. There are some very good articles written over there. I don't know what the deal is with Mikey's page or, hopefully they come back despite the Bulls' woes. Other links: RaptorBlog: A very very nice blog about the Raps, they even have their own message board and what seems like a large and intellegent fan base. Especially good if you want to talk about how Donyell Marshall is averaging 35 points a game now. If you somehow haven't heard of this site you have to check it out. Its essentially the Onion for the NBA. Made by some Raptors fans to make light of the Rick Brunson signing, but thankfully kept the site going after he was traded to the Bulls. Blazers Blog: This blog is pretty straight-forward, but gives good info on your favorite drug-addled team. Or at least my favorite. Michigan J. Blog: A site with 80% Pistons news. And I love the Pistons. BasketballReference: The one site for looking up stats. Simple design for fast access. I'm not certain when I'll be posting in the next few days, if at all. So enjoy the upgrade, and have a nice holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The Rick Brunson Show: featuring bulls basketball So for my first Bulls live experience of the season, I was at Monday's game against the Jazz. Now I know for a team with a home record like the Bulls, there aren't many games that can be considered entertaining, but last night's game had to be one of the worst possible ones to go to. And all it took was watching the first 2 minutes of the game before realizing things may not be going well. A timeout was called by Coach Skiles in the opening minute, and then a couple of possesions later, Jamal Crawford was taken out of the game for the rest of the half. Here was Skiles' comments on that:
“I was just pretty frustrated. I told the guys that my patience was wearing thin on our lack of execution, and knowing our handful of simple plays. We blew a couple early and I called time out. We had a time out play and did not execute again. I started taking the guys out. I felt like we did not know what we were doing. That led to a poor 1st half.
I was actually very pleased to read that quote by Skiles. Because while watching the game, I couldn't come up with a reason why Crawford was taken out so early. Skiles' problem with Jamal's last couple of performances was shot selection, but he hadn't taken a shot yet. So the only other explanation to me was defense. I was hoping that wasn't the case because that would be such a Bill Cartwright move to take him out of the game and replace him with Rick Brunson, who also can't play defense....or offense. I am definately behind Skiles for the benching if that was the reason. Apparently it wasn't just Crawford, as Eddie Robinson was also having trouble with the plays. But while that may be a good message long term for those guys, for the first half of last night's game it was awful. The team scored 14 points in the first quarter, and the supposed 'defensive' lineup still allowed 52 first half points for the offensive powerhouse known as the Utah Jazz. Perhaps the lowest point of the evening was seeing a lineup of Hinrich, Brunson, Linton Johnson, Jerome Williams, and Corie Blount on the floor. Now I can only count one guy who can actually put the ball in the basket, and he's a rookie. That also has a lot to do with the guys sitting on the bench with their sweet looking suits, but you can imagine seeing that lineup live and just putting your head in your hands and sobbing. Which is what I did. That said, I cannot say I didn't enjoy my live Bulls basketball experience, due to the performance by one of my favorite players. This is clearly the low point of the season, two losses at home to the Cavaliers and Jazz. It doesn't get much easier, since tonight they're playing in New Jersey. Originally it was thought that Eddy Curry would be back from his knee injury, but that's looking not to be the case. For the time being though, you have to hope that Crawford (and to a lesser extent, E-Rob) get their heads on straight, because the team needs their offense to win. Otherwise, there will be plenty of games like last night, although unlike last night I'll be actually able to change the channel.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Love it Live I'll be at tonight's game. See ya tommorow either happy or extremely dissapointed. We'll see.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I just realized that the Bulls have played both of this season's games against the Spurs already, and I totally forgot to put up this picture of MANNUU!!:
That picture is even more cool after seeing him go beserk in the game last week.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Ugh, The Life of a Blogger I had a nice post all ready to go, and lost it all. So you will never get to read what golden words were about to be posted. Oh well. :( to summarize: -Bulls win in Orlando, behind 26 3-point attempts and 9 free throw attempts, which is not a good way to do things. Kendall Gill was the obvious star of the game with 29 points, but Kirk Hinrich is consistently playing fantastic ball. Oh, and E-Rob hurt is ankle. -The team puts up 25 points in the first half against Detroit, but still manages to only lose by 4. Every paper labels them 'scrappy', which irks me as saying they're not very good. Had to give Rick Brunson, Chris Jefferies, and Linton Johnson way too many minutes (i.e. more than 0). Conclusion: The win at Orlando was nice, and a win at Detroit would have had me going through hoops. Not because they're signs of progress, but any game that the Bulls win in the next month with so many of their contributors injured is a gift. Just try and stay the course until these guys come back, and they can start winning games in bunches. I really believe that. As much as i hate the term 'scrappy', its better than lifeless, which is a nod to coach Skiles and the work he's done so far. Saturday's game at home against the Cavs is another one that the Bulls need to win if they're going to stay afloat with this undermanned roster. Corie Blount is expected to be back, and I assume Robinson as well, although I haven't heard an update on his status. But to show the true story of the season, look at the bench for that game: Tyson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Jay Williams (yes he'll be there saturday), and Scottie Pippen. As my Dad said, "that's going to be a lot of expensive suits". Even with practically the franchise's entire future sitting out, Crawford, Hinrich, and the role players should be expected to play as hard as they have been lately and get this win. It looks like the most important teammate of all this month will be the schedule.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Man, What the Hell Was I Thinking??? Here's what I said on Friday:
And with Pippen out now at least a month, its E-Rob's time to shine. He's actually been playing pretty well so far this year, but will get a major minutes boost from the 20 he's been averaging thus far. Consider it an opportunity to finally see what he can do.
Since then, there have been 2 games, a loss at Milwaukee (how, I don't know), and then a shocking win at home against the league-leading Pacers. Here's the E-Rob resurrection stat line:
@Milwaukee: 3min, 0pts, 0 rebs, 0ast Indiana: DNP
Impressive huh? I couldn't have been more wrong about ERob's minutes, since they've actually plummeted since Pippen had surgery. Here's what was in the Herald:
Eddie Robinson has played a total of three minutes in the two games since he let Spurs guard Manu Ginobili shake loose and bury 3 straight 3-point baskets late in a loss last Monday. But coach Scott Skiles wanted to make it clear that the defensive lapse against Ginobili is not why Robinson has stayed on the bench. "I made a point when I came here of telling everyone that I not only base things on what they do in the game," Skiles said. "I base it on coming early, staying late, working on their games, knowing what we're supposed to be doing. There are other reasons I may or may not be playing somebody besides just one thing that happens in a game." For the record, Robinson rarely stays after practice for extra work.
Yeah, He was the one guarding Ginobili when he went on that 4th quarter rampage in their game last week. But who in the league can stop MANNUUU!!! Point is, I believe Skiles when he says it wasn't the reason for Robinson's lack of play lately. At least I want to believe him, because that would be the kind of knee-jerk reaction I'd expect from Bill Cartwright. So apparently it took Robinson a little over a week to get his new coach doubting him. Great work. So who was exactly playing at the forward spot while E-Rob was counting his millions on the bench?? Why its our old friend Marcus Fizer!! Well..MY old friend, since most Bulls' fans hate him. Look at what he's been up to lately:
@Milwaukee: 30min 19pts 5rebs 3ast Indiana: 37min 15pts 15rebs 2ast
This whole year I thought Fizer hadn't been playing minutes because his knee couldn't handle it yet, since I know the man can play when healthy. I still think he's a great guy to have off the bench for some inside scoring (and who doesn't need that). More bad news for that lineup though, since its possible that Curry may miss tonight's game (or as now says, 2-4 weeks!!!) against the Magic due to a bruised knee suffered in the Indiana game. Corie Blount is also out till the weekend. So that leaves 3 guys to take up major minutes: Davis, JYD, and Fizer. I think that frontcourt could shatter the NBA record for offensive fouls in a game. So look out for that. Missing Curry tonight could really hurt, since the Magic get torched by everyone inside, the kind of defense that Eddy scores at will on (the kind of defense that Eddy isn't scared of). The new starting backcourt of Hinrich and Crawford is really playing well together, so it would be nice to see some momentum from them carried into this game along with any help possible inside. This game begs for a win. But fear not on the injury front, because Rick Brunson is back in town!! start the Grant Park rally. He was traded for Roger Mason Jr., in what was the worst kept secret in the league. Add Mason to the list with fellow 2002 draft pick Lonny Baxter, guys that Bulls fans loved to say 'give them a chance', which they never got it, probably because they're not very good. Hm....I can't remember anyone ever saying 'give Dalibor Bagaric a chance!' . Oh well, I doubt Mason will get minutes with the Raptors either, but good luck to him regardless. All kidding aside, if Curry is really out 2-4 weeks to go along with Chandler and Pippen, this could be a bad bad month. But the Magic are terrible, so lets get a win! UPDATE: well....I guess this is as official as you can get.

Monday, December 15, 2003

I wouldn't want to keep you all worried just saying i'll be back tommorow. -Matt

Friday, December 12, 2003

Who Had Dec. 12th in the Pippen Pool I don't care if My Man Sam(tm) made the joke already. I made it when he first broke down a few days into the season. And I'd link you too if my blasted permalinks worked....and if those meddling kids didn't get in my way. Anyway. Scottie's having surgery, and may actually retire. Now I know the retirement talk was all over the local papers today, but lets wait till it happens before we all go nutso. What is the case right now is a 5 million dollar player who's missing another month, and isn't going to make the total of 50 games that he and John Paxson hoped for. Which means it's time to second guess the move. At the time of the signing I liked the move predicated by the assumption that he'd stay healthy. Now that he obviously isn't healthy, the move's not looking so good. But looking at the other main summer option, Ira Newble, it could've been worse. Newble has been ineffective, injured and even put in the Paul Silas doghouse to give Ricky Davis some company. But there was another option out there at the time that got me thinking, James Posey. A good defender at the 2 or 3, Posey is younger, and right now better than Pippen or Newble. He's putting up about 9 and 4 for the Griz this year, in an average of 26.5 minutes per game. Those minutes might even be lower in the coming weeks due to the addition of Bonzi Wells giving them a surplus of swingmen. So obviously Jerry West and the Griz couldn't have been *that* happy with Posey. So maybe he wasn't going to be a savior here, but he would've been a better option than Pip or Newble right now. But you know what? Maybe another appeal of Pippen all along was that his 2 year deal would be less than what was required of Posey or Newble. What's wrong with giving them a big contract? Well the team already has a guy on the roster who already fits that bill, Eddie Robinson. He's back from the respritory infection that kept him out the past couple of games, forcing us to watch the Linton Johnson III experience. And with Pippen out now at least a month, its E-Rob's time to shine. He's actually been playing pretty well so far this year, but will get a major minutes boost from the 20 he's been averaging thus far. Consider it an opportunity to finally see what he can do. He'll probably never be the 6 million dollar man Krause projected him to be, but he could definately fill in as the starting small forward. As I always say, he's pretty much untradeable, so might as well hopes he turns his career around while in a Bulls uniform. Game tonight is at Milwaukee...and I decree it's winnable.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Injury Round-Up From the Trib:
"For now, figure Eddie Robinson, who has recovered from a virus, to replace Linton Johnson in the starting lineup. Kirk Hinrich, who was bothered by back spasms in Monday's loss to the Spurs, is expected to play Friday in Milwaukee. Corie Blount probably will be out at least a week with a knee sprain suffered Monday. Scottie Pippen's knee problems and Tyson Chandler's back problems mean the two players probably won't play again this month."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Admninistrivia: Sorry about not responding to comments(if you even wanted me to), it looks to me that my comment system (enetation) blows, and doesn't actually say the correct # of comments on a given post. Which stinks because I really like reading the imput. I'll be fixing up the site in about 2 weeks.....i think. -Matt
"No Excuses"? Ya know, It didn't really hit me until yesterday how poor the Bulls record really is. There's all the talk about how the new coach will help, the new players will help, they're injured, adjusting, etc. But at the heart of the matter, they still only have 5 wins. But I will make an excuse, these injuries are really killing their chances in these winnable games. Another one last night with the Spurs in town. The Spurs played as awful as the Bulls until the 4th quarter, when an 11-point run by Manu Ginobilli (yes, just him), sunk their hopes. Eddie Robinson returned last night, limiting the Linton Johnson minutes, which was good to see. But during the game Corie Blount had to leave after a knee injury and Kirk Hinrich played most of the game in pain while experiencing back spasms. The obvious bright spot continues to be Jamal Crawford, who is stepping up as the offensive leader of the team. He is taking over the Jalen Rose of taking those tough shots at the end of the shot clock, a situation that occurs with alarming regularity. But the difference is I feel confident as a fan watching him that he can create these shots. It shows the difference in coaching philosophy between Skiles and Cartwright when you see Jamal not getting pulled out of the game after a questionable shot or two. Some of the fourth quarter runners he made looked unguardable. I was screaming at the television form of Eddy Curry all night, who finally came up big with 16 points in the fourth quarter to finish with....16 points. While Crawford is playing very consistent, Eddy has been anything but. I have said this so many times already, but with Eddy dominating offensively inside like he can, the Bulls are a dangerous team. Otherwise, Crawford is the only bonifide scoring option, evidenced by the first 3 quarters of last night. Antonio Davis helped him out with 16 points of his own, but Eddy needs to be the focal point of the interior game. I still can't help but think what this team would be like if Tyson Chandler and Scottie Pippen played regularly. A stretch against Philly, New Orleans and San Antonio could have been 3-0 instead of 3 more losses.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Sorry I'll be back in full force tommorow. But for today, check out the developing Rick Brunson - Chris Jefferies Feud. I can't believe there even is a feud.

Friday, December 05, 2003

"National Showcase" I'm sure that TNT execs were thrilled to see Linton Johnson on the court to open a nationally televised game. In fact, I should've known right then to not watch. Last night's loss against the undermanned Sixers was just one of those games you hate to give away. The Bulls had this game under control but blew it at the end, to a team that was not playing well and is one of those weak east teams that the Bulls HAVE TO START BEATING. The backcourt of Hinrich and Crawford was a bright spot, especially Kirk who hit some key 3s in the 4th. But I will focus on the negatives, fitting the negative theme of this loss. Injuries: Their top 2 Small Forwards were hurt. E-Rob had the Flu and Scottie Pippen was lost in Walgreens looking for various geriatric medications. So that is why the aformentioned Linton Johnson was starting. Even newly aquired Chris Jefferies got some action, going 0-1 in 5 minutes. Take this along with Tyson Chandler being on the IR and Marcus Fizer...well I don't know why Marcus didn't play...and that's a really weak lineup. I can't believe I'm saying this, but if E-Rob plays, the Bulls win the game. Skiles: I had a problem with some of the lineups he was putting out there last night. Granted he's new to the team plus there were the injuries, but for an extended period in the second half the lineup was: Hinrich/Crawford/Johnson/JYD/Blount. I'm sorry but that's an unnacceptable frontcourt. Now I'll admit I didn't know the foul situation at the time, but why wasn't Antonio Davis in the game? He should've been in that lineup and had Corie Blount play with Curry, so your 2 squads arent all-or-nothing as far as offense goes. It was during this time that the Bulls predictably stopped scoring and allowed the Sixers to hang around the whole half. And the final play: I'm sure this was obvious to most fans, but how do you have an undrafted rookie free agent in Linton Johnson throwing in the inbounds for a potential last minute game-winning play? Given 2 chances, he was unable to do the job. Meanwhile a player like Kendall Gill was on the bench. The New Guys: I tried to gather the pulse of the Toronto Raptors fan after the big trade last week, and they were very consistent in saying to expect nights like last night. Williams and Davis did not play well last night, but what was telling was 2 plays near the end of the game. One was Jerome Williams letting a rebound go through his hands and out of bounds. At the time (I believe) the Bulls were up by 3 and there was near a minute to play. Now I like Jerome, he tries hard and that was just one play, but there were several others where Jerome's...'awkwardness' caused missed rebounds and layups. Another play I think I'll have to get used to is Antonio Davis starting at the top of the key, dropping his head and shoulder, and just barrelling to the basket getting a foul one way or the other. Near the end of the game last night, he pulled one of those into Derek Coleman and got called for an offensive foul. And speaking of Antonio, here's a scathing post over at RaptorBlog. Given how Antonio felt about Toronto, this seems well deserved. All things considered though, the Bulls still showed that they can easily compete in this awful conference. Crawford and Curry look ready to breakout and a healthy Bulls team can be a force. At least Barkley and the TNT crew didn't rip on the organization too much. Barkley even went as far as to say that the Bulls have a 'very bright future'. Oh, and he liked the black uniforms too.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Well, I care what Chad Ford thinks. Here's the juicy part of today's chat:
"Kevin (Chicago, IL): How well do you see the Bulls doing the rest of the year? When do you think that Scott Skiles can have these guys in the playoffs? My new favorite player is the 'Junk Yard Dog'!!! Chad Ford: I think Skiles will help with the toughness. So will Antonio Davis and Jerome Williams. Those guys are both past their prime, but they do hustle and work hard . . . something the Baby Bulls have never done well. I think scrapping the triangle will be a big help to guys like Jamal Crawford. I expect Crawford to put up big numbers now that he's moving to the two and will be freed up to take some shots. I still believe the Bulls will be in the playoffs by the end of the season. Robbie (Thornhill, Ontario): What do you think about the Raptors deal to acquire Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Lonny Baxter. Based on the Raps' performance the past two games and with so many offensive threats, the Raptors have seemingly vaulted themselves towards the top of the Eastern Conference. How good do you think they truly are and do you think GM Glen Grunwald's wheeling-and-dealing is done? Thanks. Chad Ford: I'm not sold yet. Donyell Marshall is playing out of his mind and that's the big reason they've won those two games. They still need a center. I love Chris Bosh, but he isn't a center and will eventually get exposed in the middle. If they can move Morris Peterson for someone like Michael Doleac, I think they'll at least contend for a playoff spot. But if the teams stays as is, I see them hanging around in the lottery another year. "
I put that Toronto question in there in case anybody was flipping out over the fact that the former Bulls are tearing it up for them in their past 2 wins. I wish them well and all, but they will be one of the teams competing with the Bulls for those coveted Eastern Conference playoff spots, so it's good to know that they have faults as well. Then again, who doesn't.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Nothin Doin' not much today. (check the updates below if you haven't) -There's a very good article in the Sun Times about 2003 second round pick Mario Austin and his exploits in Russia. There are stolen passports and collapsed lungs and weird hospitals involved. Interesting stuff. -Nice to see the former Bulls perform well in their Toronto debut. They beat the Sixers on the road, with Donyell Marshall scoring 27 points and Jalen Rose chipping in with just 6 points but had 8 assists. I'm starting to think that this team may work out for Rose because despite his own misconceptions in skills here, he has to know what he's not the best player on the Raptors. That will *force* him not to take as many shots.....right? -There are actual trade rumors around that the Bulls are interested in re-aquiring Rick Brunson from Toronto. Probably dealing Roger Mason to do so, Pax feels they need a more experienced point guard on the bench. And especially experienced at towel waving and butt slapping. UPDATE(9:23pm): Tip of the cap to my Dad (My favorite reader, and not just because he gives me money for booze) for mentioning that Rick Brunson is actually expected to be waived shortly by the Raps. (its at the more analysis here) Perhaps a little under-the-table agreement as part of last week's trade? UPDATE2(12/4 2:16am): Alrighty theres more. According to today's (tommorow's) Trib, Brunson(who's not traveling with the team) will in fact be traded on December 15th to the Bulls for Roger Mason. I guess they have to wait to the 15th since Brunson just singed with the Raptors this year. Its odd how its mentioned in the article: no header to it, or even a bullet point. Just part of the article about Scott Skiles. I mean Brunson may actually get some minutes with this team.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I LOOOVVVEE Honeymoon Games Actually, coach Skiles explicitly said that last night's game wasn't a honeymoon game, but obviously we'll have to see the next few games to be sure. Just remember that the Bulls won their first 2 games after Cartwright became coach, and first game after Jalen Rose got traded to Chicago. All that aside, It was a very fun game to see, new coach, new frontcourt, new defense, new energy....and new is always fun. Especially when the team wins a game it's supposed to. Playing the Milwaukee Bucks without Tim Thomas at home should be a win, so it's good that the Bulls didn't squander this one. And the best part was I actually got to see the game for once. Nearly all the Bulls players put in a solid performance (except Corie Blount), but beyond the game leaders I liked the effort put forth by Kirk Hinrich and Eddie Robinson. E-Rob looked really good last night, and he claims it's because of the new coaching staff ditching the triangle, which he says made him stand around too much. I don't exactly buy that excuse (the triangle was rarely run this year anyway), but if that's what was needed to get him going, well that's fine by me. And the new guys? I fully expect Bulls play-by-play man Tom Dore to run out to Springfield, Mass. to construct the Jerome Williams wing at the Basketball Hall of Fame. I swear he couldn't get enough of that guy. And neither could Norm Van Lier in what I like to call "The Jive-iest Damn Pregame Show Period" (TM). But the "JYD" sure played as advertised last night, getting a double-double and really energizing the team with his defense. Antonio Davis played pretty good too, but I have tempered enthusiasm with him knowing that some days those 17-foot shots aren't usually going to fall. And the other newcomer Chris Jefferies looked pretty(if not a little stoned) in his warmups. In the bad (yet expected) news department, Tyson Chandler was placed on the injured list yesterday to rest his back. Linton Johnson was activated, and played pretty much like the undrafted free agent he was last night. Tyson actually hasn't played since 11/25, so after 5 games on the IR that will mean he has a minimum of 18 days to rest. Hopefully that will be enough, but thankfully after this trade if Tyson needs more time the Bulls won't suffer as much in his absence. The next game is the one time the Bulls are on national TV, thursday night on TNT against the Sixers. Usually when the Bulls are on TNT, they lay an absolute suck-bomb on the court and Barkley just rips on them. Hopefully this will be different. I hope that the networks are happy that they have all these Orlando Magic games lined up to compensate for the lack of Bulls love. One final thing, a welcome back for The Bulls Reporter from his hiatus. One day perhaps I'll let more important things take me away from this site.....but probably not.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Will the New Bulls Play Tonight? Tonight's game against the Bucks should be an exciting one to watch. Well exciting if Davis and Williams are able to play. Apparently that's not a certainty:
It's not certain if the players acquired in Saturday's trade will be available to face the Milwaukee Bucks. Antonio Davis arrived in town early Sunday and stayed with his in-laws at their Naperville home, while Jerome Williams arrived late Sunday afternoon and stayed at a hotel. Those two, as well as Chris Jefferies, can't take a physical until the trade is approved when NBA offices open this morning. ''They very easily could be in uniform if they pass their physicals,'' Paxson said. ''The problem is they won't have had a practice.'' None of the players will be able to go through the morning shootaround, but if they're ready, Skiles said they'll play. ''I don't think I would have any fear of putting either [Davis or Williams] in the game, if it's called for,'' Skiles said. ''They're veteran players. Hopefully, I would be able to do it during a timeout, diagram one simple play and run that confidently and rely on their defensive hustle. I wouldn't worry about that.''
It looks like Tyson Chandler may be shut down for a while, another positive from this trade(well if his back heals). He's not scheduled to play tonight, which now could mean "At Forward, 6'10", from Cincinnati....Corie...Blount!!!" . The rest of the projected lineup has Crawford, E-Rob, Gill, and Curry. A new coach may be Robinson's chance to finally show something on the court besides his fancy jewelry. We've all been waiting for about 2 and half years. I'll leave ya with this anecdote from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
In his first meeting with the team, new coach Scott Skiles walked into the room and drew two columns on a board. In one column, he listed adjectives relating to the players: lazy, immature. In the other, he listed adjectives relating to himself: angry, disciplinarian. He then wiped the slate clean. "I told them I am judging you guys from this day forward," Skiles said.
cute huh? Enjoy the game tonight, and if you havent check out my needlessly long trade analysis below.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Addition by Subtraction, Finding a Role...and other cliches The Jalen Rose-to-Toronto trade rumors which have been on and off for weeks finally became reality this afternoon. Here's how the trade breaks down:
Chicago recieves: Antonio Davis, Jerome 'JYD' Williams, Chris Jefferies from Toronto for: Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall, Lonny Baxter
It will become official when the league office opens up on Monday. So in two days a new coach rolls in to town, and our 'star' player gets traded. I've already gone over in recent days the significance of the Skiles hiring, but this trade is another action that is reflective of what John Paxson wants out of this team. To generalize: one less scorer who needs the ball, and more role players who will defend and rebound for a team that sorely needs it. roster implications Here's what the depth chart looks like now:
C: Eddy Curry, Antonio Davis, Corie Blount PF: Tyson Chandler, Jerome Williams, Marcus Fizer SF: Scottie Pippen, Eddie Robinson, Chris Jefferies, Linton Johnson(IR) SG: Jamal Crawford, Kendall Gill PG: Kirk Hinrich, Roger Mason Jr.(IR), Jay Williams(IR)
Antonio Davis becomes the primary backup frontcourt player for the team, and even a starter possibly if Tyson's back keeps acting up. While he is only 6'9", Davis has played the center position for several years in Toronto, and shouldn't be too much of a size disadvantage in the East. I think he's a nice insurance policy to have on the bench when Curry gets into early foul trouble. He also takes away all of Corie Blount's minutes, which is a plus. It think this role (buzzword of the day) is more within his means in this stage of his career than in Toronto as a starter playing nearly 36 minutes a game. And now he can't complain about the exchange rate or whatever his problem with Toronto was. At power forward, a position where the Bulls had a glut of players (as if a team with their record could have a glut of anything), and essentially dealt 2 of them for 1. Jerome Williams was a fan favorite in Toronto for his energy and ability to handle the 'dirty work' during the games. I'm pretty sure this means he has little offensive game to speak of, but that's not a bad price to pay for the defense and rebounding he supposedly can provide. Its also important to know that his "JYD" (JunkYard Dog) nickname is a legit NBA nickname, which is key. I always liked Marshall and he was a great mid-level signing last offseason, but Williams would've needed his minutes to play, and it appears he was a bad influence on this team. First after nearly fighting former assistant Bill Berry last year, and his comments a few days ago regarding Scott Skiles were probably not looked upon highly by Pax. Chris Jefferies will probably be a non-factor, although he's an athletic wing-player in the Eddie Robinson mold. This season has been spent on the bench or IR in Toronto with whatever mysterious injury they give players they don't want on the floor. As for the backcourt, I could possibly see them activating Mason and placing Blount, Jefferies or Fizer on the IR, just to get some emergency pg minutes out of somebody. Right now I am listing Crawford and Hinrich as the starting backcourt, although what might happen is letting Pippen handle the ball with Gill and Crawford starting. Hinrich played well against San Antonio on Wednesday, but is still not ready to play starter minutes at the point. What this trade means for Jamal Crawford I'll go into detail later. salary implications (All these figures are taken from HoopsHype, which may or may not be correct) Rose's salary was one obvious reason for this trade, yet Antonio Davis makes nearly as much making 12m in 03/04 and 04/05, and 13m in 05/06. Davis' contract has an interesting story, because he was actually rumored to be considering the Bulls in the summer of '00, so much that he was angered that the Bulls didn't offer him a contract, but Krause thought (and rightfully so) that Davis was using the Bulls to get leverage in negotiaitions with more attractive teams. Just add that bad contract with the list of those who the Bulls lucked out on by not overpaying (Eddie Jones, Tim Thomas, Austin Croshere, etc...). But in a delightful twist of irony, the Bulls will be paying him after all, until after the 2005-2006 season. Jerome Williams has a nearly equally horrendous contract, a deal that goes all the way through the 06/07 season, escalating to 6.425m in that final year. Jefferies is on his rookie contract (he was selected in the 2002 draft), making under 1 million until he is up for his team option after next season. Here's a handy table (i apologize for the huge space before the table, I blame blogger) of the cap savings over the years (assuming no contracts are extended and Jefferies' option isn't picked up):
Davis/Williams/Jefferies $18,240,360 $18,499,040 $19,075,000 $6,425,000
Rose/Marshall/Baxter $18,388,179 $19,032,000 $15,694,250 $16,901,500
Bulls' Savings $147,819 $532,960 (3,380,750) $10,476,500
As you can see, the Bulls' are actually losing money in the 05/06 season, but have big savings the next year when the only contracts left are for Rose and Williams. the big picture With Rose gone and a new coach coming in, its expected soon that this team will actually have defined roles and a standardized rotation, which will do wonders for this team. But even more importantly is John Paxson counting Jamal Crawford on being the team's #1 perimeter threat and facilitating Jamal's move to shooting guard. I'm willing to give it a try, because Crawford certainly has the size and skills to both score and defend in this new position. So as a final verdict, I think this trade was a marginal success simply for the team's attitude, rotation, and salary structure. Paxson also mananged to not trade any of the 3 C's and take apart the foundation of the team. However, what will determine if the trade will make the team significantly better in the long run will not be because of Antonio Davis or Jerome Williams, but the development of Jamal Crawford. UPDATE(12/1 10:40): For a look from the other side, check out analysis from RaptorBlog

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I'm Sorry, All I can Think About Today is Hee Seop Choi Not much news, local columnists are in general agreement over the(all but certain) hiring of Scott Skiles as head coach. Dare I say.....Rick Morrissey(?!?) says it best:
This guy is different, and the best way to gauge that is by the reaction of several Bulls, who reportedly are quaking in their designer shoes over the thought that Skiles might be the boss soon. They know that he knows they have played like a bunch of wimps. If he does get the job, Skiles eventually will be run out of town for being too hard on today's "modern athlete." That's not a prediction, that's a certainty. In between, the Bulls will get exactly what they need: a coach who knows the game and won't take spit from anybody.
That's pretty much what I was saying yesterday. He isn't going to be coaching this team for the next 5 years, but in today's NBA, how many coaches can you say that about? For another perspective, check out this article asking Phoenix Suns' players about Skiles. Although I must say if Jason Kidd or 'Starbury' don't like you as a coach...well that doesn't really mean anything. non-coaching stuff Well we'd all like to think that the Bulls simply are waiting for a new coach and some trades to happen before re-starting the season, but alas they have more road trip games to lose. I won't go into detail the games, but before everyone goes nutso, remember who they're playing. Their last 3 games have been against the Lakers, Kings, and Mavericks. Even if the Bulls played up to their potential I wouldn't like their chances. And tonight's game is the wrong end of a back-to-back for the Bulls against your world champion San Antonio Spurs. Sadly, it appears that a trade may not happen soon, yet until the Bulls get a coach and stop playing Western Conference powerhouses, don't give up on the season just yet. Also, keep in mind that a grand total of 3 teams in the east have a winning record. - and in case you dont know who Hee Seop Choi is, go here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Scott Skiles...of 'NBA Jam' fame Man, he was a beast in that game. Anyway, Skiles is leading the candidates so far for becoming the next head coach of the Bulls. I have to say I like the idea a lot. But there are reservations, since he is indeed kind of a nut-job. Skiles is well-known as a hardass when it comes to coaching, but he alienated the players he coached in Phoenix and was known to have taken losses really hard. However, his personality is certainly something these kids on the team could use, even if they dont like it. Maybe he's even mellowed out a bit. But if this guy does come into town and runs things his way, he can't have players like Jalen around to whine(and its looking like he wont be). But more importantly than Jalen is that whoever comes in here (unless they stick with an interim) is the last chance for Crawford, Curry, and Chandler to get their acts together. My Man Sam(tm) spells it out all plain and simple-like:
Now Paxson also must make a trade—whether it's Jalen Rose, management's favorite future former Bull, or Jamal Crawford, Eddie Robinson, Marcus Fizer or Donyell Marshall, the new usual suspects for a daring heist. It's time to push everyone closer to the edge of the plank and make them watch someone go over. But even that might not matter to enough players, which may be the larger problem. That's why someone tough—like former Suns coach Scott Skiles—could become the Bulls' new coach. It's time to hold everyone accountable. No more strolling out of the arena without shoes, as Curry tends to do at times because, he said, his feet bother him. No more showing up assistants, as Marcus Fizer did recently, quietly drawing a big fine from the team. Cartwright tried—and deserves credit. He called them out. He sent them home from practice when they didn't work hard or talked back. He fined them, benched them. He was one of the league's toughest men when he played. He was a leader and a three-time champion, who endured years of struggle with injuries and bad teams in New York without complaint. He's a mensch. Even outside New York. But he takes the fall for being too nice. He tried to talk to Rose and Robinson and Fizer. Paxson doesn't appear as tolerant. Much will be asked of him now. He could have waited out the season. This was Krause's team and Krause's coaching staff, after all. Less than a month into the season, Paxson fired the coach and tried to trade the starting backcourt. Those kids had better be ready. This may be their last chance. They won't be able to get another coach. It's their turn to go next.
While I don't see Scott Skiles as the coach to lead this team eventually to a championship (god it sounds a lot crazier to say that now than it did a month ago), he is the kind of coach to save this season and get them to the playoffs. The kind that will finally let the fans see if these guys can actually play, or if rebuilding plan #2 is a failure.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Team Bad = Coach Gone That's pretty much how it works in the NBA. The Bulls fired Bill Cartwright this morning. He was hired a little under 2 years ago, and had a 51-100 (.338 win%) in what was his first stint as a head coach. and to show what a volatile industry this is, Cartwright was the longest-tenured coach in the Central Division. With a new GM this year, and with expectations deseveredly high, this season was known to be make or break for Cartwright. With weekend losses to the Lakers and Kings, the Bulls' record dropped to 4-10, which is unacceptable for Paxson and to the Fans. And while it ideally should be deemed the players' fault, the team is still underperforming given the talent on paper, and that usually means the coach gets the boot. In his 2 years as coach I was never proven by Cartwright that he could actually coach. That doesn't mean he can't be a good coach, I just didn't see the team being especially motivated, or his tactical decisions and player rotations making much sense. Assistant Pete Myers will coach the team on an interim basis, and Pax hopes to have a new coach in place by the end of the week. I think it is obvious that Pete Myers will not be coach the rest of the year, and that the new coach will not be someone from within the organization. I don't know if it was Jerry Krause (looking for loyalty) or Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf (looking for cheap) who set the hiring policy, but looking at the previous coaches (Doug Collins, Phil Jackson, Tim Floyd, and Cartwright), they have all been first-time head coaches who were brought up in the organization (or in Floyd's place, Krause's fishing buddy). There's nobody in the organization now ready to take over, and this team needs a coach that fans know *can coach*. That may seem obvious, but we never knew if Floyd could coach, or if Cartwright can coach. Now Tim Kraus, along with many others I'm sure, are saying the obvious choice is Doc Rivers. Doc's made it known that he doesn't want to coach this year, but like any coach I'm sure he can bow down to the almighty dollar to come back. This seems like a good option, yet like I said when he was fired, I'm not even sure if Doc Rivers can coach. My first choice to coach is a veteran of the NBA, or 'retread' if you will, to come in here and see if these kids can actually play. Its hard to see if Eddy, Tyson and Jamal can play or if they have just not been properly coached all this time. Just please lord (or Pax), don't hire Isiah. UPDATE(3:37): ESPN's Peter May has a big list of candidates, broken down by category. I, for one, vote for the 'crusty young guy' or 'crusty old guy'. Either way, somebody crusty. Trade Talks As it was becoming apparent that Cartwright's time was up, the writing's been on the wall for Jalen Rose. I still defend trading for Jalen in the first place, and defended him in this preseason when it was debated whether he'd be willing to be a secondary player on this team. This year though he's not playing well and seems to still be playing selfish ball. But I think more important than all that is Paxson's realization that him and Jamal Crawford cannot co-exist in the same defensive backcourt. (And may mean Crawford moving to the 2)Combine that realization with his attitude and contract, and Rose looks to be traded sooner rather than later. From what I've been reading, the Toronto deal rumored since Friday isn't off yet, and will still look to be Paxson's best option rid himself of Rose. I won't speculate on names, since there have been about 20 linked to all the deals, but I still expect something to happen between these two teams, for reason of desperation if anything. Personally, I would like to see Antonio Davis and Morris Peterson to be included in any deal. Lots happening in Bulls-land, and no I don't see it as pulling the plug on the season, but a great chance to improve the team. Really, I do!

Friday, November 21, 2003

Breaking News - Report: Toronto may get Bulls' Rose in multi-player deal This has also been reported on, and supposedly on WGN and WSCR radio in Chicago. There are two proposals being tossed around. Both include Rose being traded for Alvin Williams, Jerome "JYD" Williams, and Morris Peterson. One version also has Donyell Marshall going to Toronto with the Raps adding Antonio Davis to the deal. I'll have more on this if and when it becomes official. UPDATE(9:54pm): Well it looks like Jalen Rose started tonight's game against the Lakers. So obviously this trade isn't as close to done as reported.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Nothin Doin' But I thought I'd be nice and throw something out there: -Tyson's back is really worrying me. If this were a blog about back injuries, then I'd probably have more to say about that. -K.C. Johnson has his mailbag column up. There's some good stuff in there, and of course the obligatory E-Rob cheap shot at the end. Although its hard to regard anything about E-Rob as being 'cheap'. -In case some of you don't know what I'm talking about when referring to 'Media Powerhouse'(tm) WCIU, I found their website. In my delusions of grandeur, there are people from all over the country reading this, not just my dopey friends. -What can you say about the Laker game? Granted the Lakers aren't playing all that well, but they still have 4 hall-of-famers in the lineup. It'll be interesting to see if Eddy Curry can get pumped to hang with Shaq as well as he did last game. And it'll also be interesting to see if Kirk Hinrich can handle the defense and trash-talking of Gary Payton. I'm thinking not, but hey he's got a sneaker deal. That's what I call improved street cred.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

0-28 Another West Coast loss last night, this time against the Suns, in which was arguably the most winnable game on this trip. The game wasn't on TV here (you know why), but I see that Jalen Rose shot 3-16 (he's shooting 38.7% so far folks), and Tyson Chandler was limited to 19 minutes, and is scheduled to see a back specialist today. As Scooby-Doo would say, "Ruh-Roh". I'm sure I'm not the only one who's starting to get worried about this. In other injury news, Crawford still isn't practicing, and Marcus Fizer was activated from the injured list and replaced by Linton Johnson. Fizer went on to score 10 in 17 minutes. ESPN's Dr. Jack Ramsay has this week's 'prescription' for the Bulls. Get it? cause he's a doctor. Its a short read, not really informative though...lets take a look:
The Bulls' record stands at 4-7 going into a five-game trip through the West. They've yet to win two games in a row, and, statistically, they rank 20th in points scored (88.5), 27th in points allowed (98.0), 29th in 3-point percentage defense (.428), 24th in field-goal defense (.442) and 28th in turnovers (18.9 per game). They also commit four turnovers more than they force from opponents and are out-rebounded each game on average at both boards. Those are not numbers associated with winning teams.
Well to be honest, the only one that's suprising is the 88.5 points scored, but those defensive numbers are really awful. You'd expect some improvement with Pippen and Gill coming in. And, well, maybe the kids learning some defense.
As I watch the Bulls now, Cartwright appears to have given in. He sits impassively as they commit careless turnovers, take bad shots and play soft defense. He needs to take the Bulls by the horns and assert himself again. Next, he needs to establish a starting lineup and stick with it. That lineup must include the five most talented players who play together best at both ends of the floor. Crawford and Rose should be among them, although both need to upgrade their games. Pippen should come off the bench. Scottie is a great player to settle the team, but he is no longer capable of starting or playing extended minutes. Hinrich isn't ready to start in the NBA. It's difficult for the offense to function properly when the point guard commits more turnovers than assists, as Hinrich has. Cartwright then needs to tighten his rotation off the bench to eight players -- or nine at the most. These players need to know when they are going to play and for approximately how long. He needs to stay with those decisions long enough to determine whether or not they fail or succeed.
This has been a rallying cry against Cartwright for some time now, figuring out a rotation and sticking with it. While its nice to cause a 'shakeup' after getting blown out a couple of times, it's still important for players to know their roles. But this year I'm giving Cartwright a pass on this. The team just hasn't been healthy all season. While this doesn't excuse their record, it does excuse the lack of a set rotation. Now with Chandler's back getting worse and Crawford still days from coming back, it doesn't look like lineup consistency is going to be happening for a while. I still expect the Bulls to steal one or two games on this trip. And for a Bulls' Fans' prescription while watching the games, do what I do: drink heavily.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I'm Sorry, the Doc is no Longer In Doc Rivers got fired today as coach of the Magic. (see Orlando Magic Fan for the best perspective) The Magic are 1-10, 0-6 at home, injured, undermanned, bad bad bad. So this is actually a blessing for Rivers, the one time coach of the year will have little trouble finding another job. Because...well I don't know why, he hasn't exactly WON anything. But Chad Ford has the Bulls as a possible destination:
The Bulls offer Rivers his best shot of winning. The team is loaded with talent, has plenty of assets and is underachieving at the moment. Rivers always has yearned to have more than just one superstar on his roster. In Chicago he'd have three potential ones. To make things even more interesting, remember that Rivers is an Illinois native. He played high school ball at Proviso East High in Maywood. Don't count out the glory factor, either. Whoever gets the Bulls to the playoffs after the five-season drought will be a hero in Chicago. The Bulls have the raw pieces, they just need someone to put them together. Coach Bill Cartwright has done an admirable job, but he's had an uneasy relationship with several of his younger players. New GM John Paxson probably doesn't want to fire Cartwright, but the opportunity to get a name coach like Rivers might be too good to pass up. Paxson has made it clear the Bulls need to make the playoffs this year. You've got to believe Rivers gives them a great shot.
I don't think there's any question that Rivers would love the Bulls job, especially if his other choices include the Knicks and Hawks. But isn't Rivers the same kind of coach as Cartwright? not much of a tactician, more of a motivator and a former player who can 'relate' to the kids (you know, them kids with their rap music..the hippin' and the hoppin' and the bippin' and the boppin'). I don't know, just doesn't seem like its worth replacing mid-season unless you're bringing in a superstar coach. Like Fred Carter (i'm kidding. but it appears he's been excommunicated from ESPN). Read your local papers (links on the left) for all the gloom and doom you could ever want regarding this upcoming road trip. I won't be able to see the game tonight, thanks to Media Powerhouse(TM) WCIU.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Thank you Barnum, Bailey, and the Brothers Ringling ::cue circus music:: It's time for the "Annual Circus Road Trip of Death"(TM), a make or break time for every Bulls season the past 5 years. And every year they've broke. Nah I suppose its too early to start saying 'make or break'. Well, unless you're My Man Sam.(TM) First let's go for a recap of what's been going on the past few days. For someone providing the world with in-depth Bulls analysis I sure don't catch a lot of games. In fact I've probably seen more Warriors games over the past week than Bulls games. First there was a heartbreaking loss on thursday night to the Timberwolves that was on Media Powerhouse (TM) WCIU. (Yes, I'm trademarking all of my inane sayings). And Jamal Crawford landed oops upside his head, but he's alright folks. The team hasn't announced a return date, but here's hoping if they're planning on keeping him out for several games they just put him on the IR. I would rather have Roger Mason taking some of the PG minutes than forcing Pippen to play as much as he's been playing lately. I genuinely worry about the minutes he and Marshall have been forced to play this early in the season due to injuries. Then there was Saturday night's game against the Sonics, and I missed that because...well because I was out. But I guess some guy was at the game. So in what I thought was a very favorable early-season schedule, the Bulls are 4-7 heading into this West Coast swing. Why is it called the "Annual Circus Trip of Death"(TM)? , well lets look at the past 4 years: (thanks to for allowing me to re-live the horror)
1999: 0-7 2000: 0-7 2001: 0-7 2002: 0-6
That's what I call a not-so good success rate. And this year's trip? At Phoenix(11/18), the Lakers(11/21), Sacramento(11/23), Dallas(11/25), and San Antonio(11/26). prognosis negative. But, there's always the opportunity that a western powerhouse could have a letdown game against the Bulls. I looked through the 6 teams' schedules to see if any of their respective games against the Bulls were on the wrong end of a back-to-back, but unfortunately there aren't any. Theres reason for pessimism, but I still believe that if the Bulls play good ball they can win a few games. But they also need to be healthy, meaning starters minutes for Chandler and Crawford. So all I can do now is cross my fingers and watch the games unfold as streaming text on my computer screen, because it seems like Media Powerhouse (TM) WCIU has bought the rights to 70% of Bulls games this year. :)

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Three Road Wins Almost Seems Worthy of a Grant Park Rally And at the rally Jerry Krause can be there to get booed. good times. Well that was a fun game to watch last night, the Bulls played a pretty solid game (and even some defense!) to get their third road win of the year already, matching their total from last year. The Bulls were shorthanded, with Tyson not even making the trip, and Corie Blount in street clothes with a bum knee. Luckily that size wasn't exactly needed going against an undersized team like the Celtics. They were aggresive in guarding Eddy Curry though, fronting and occasionally doubleteaming him. Curry had a nice game though, especially with the 14 rebounds. I still didn't see him working hard enough without the ball to get position. He should have gotten more thatn 7 attempts with the size advantage he had over his various defenders. Another thing of note was Scottie Pippen's play in the 2nd half. Pippen can only play in spurts, and he's obviously not the player he used to be, but one thing he gets is calls. The refs respect him and give him the benefit of the doubt when he takes a charge, or when he got fouled taking a three by Vin Baker. Nobody else on the Bulls the past 5 years have gotten much respect from the Refs, its nice to see that maybe that'll be changing. And we won't have to see Jalen standing on one end of the court whining while the rest of his teammates are playing defense. Speaking of Rose, he was back in the starting lineup last night, but Jamal Crawford wasn't, passed over again for Kirk Hinrich. Hinrich still had only 3 assists to 5 turnovers in 28 minutes, but he looked better out there last night then in previous efforts. While he's not a better player than Crawford, you can see why Cartwright likes him, he pushes the ball up fast and doesn't wait to start the offense. And Cartwright claims his main reason for benching Jamal still is his defense. However while only playing 20 minutes, Jamal was part of a big run in the second half, and hopefully that will go appreciated. But this has been 3 games where Crawford has been benched, and its looking less and less like a wakeup call and more and more like an extended stay in ole Bill's doghouse. Chad Ford today dedicated his column to Crawford's plight this year:
Crawford knows that when a team struggles early, it's often the point guard who takes the blame. He knows that winning is more important than individual stats. And he believes, deep down, that his return to the starting lineup will happen soon enough. He knows that his insecurity has gotten him into trouble. That his words, spoken in the heat of the moment, have made him look selfish. He says he regrets lashing out when he found out he'd lost his starting job. He also claims to be misunderstood. Talk to Crawford a little longer and his perspective starts to come into focus. He's been fighting adversity his entire basketball career -- an NCAA suspension his freshman season; riding the bench his rookie year in the NBA; a serious knee injury in year two; a year-long position battle with rookie Jay Williams in year three; and now yet another position battle, this time with rookie Kirk Hinrich, during his contract year. Every time Crawford appears ready to break out, an obstacle gets thrown in his way. Forgive him if he thinks the world, or the Bulls, are out to get him a little bit. Nothing has come easy for Jamal. Sometimes, even the simplest of gestures gets filtered through Crawford's experiences as a plot to bring him down. "Just look at everything objectively," he says about his problems with the Bulls. "I don't want to bring everything back up. I'm trying to get past it. . .But just look at it objectively. All anyone wants is a fair shake."
I was too hoping that Crawford would finally be given the chance to just play and not have to look over his shoulder. I want to say that Bill should fit his scheme to Crawford's gifts as a scorer, and not try to force him to be John Stockton (which may or may not involve turning him white). But if this helps Crawford's game by by having him focus on his playmaking and defensive duties as a point guard, then this benching truly is for the best. So I'm in Cartwright's corner for this one, but I have to wonder how Crawford is going to be given a chance to redeem himself. By making him constantly worry about mistakes, it can only hurt his game to think Hinrich is going to take all of his minutes. Tonight's game is at home against the Timberwolves, a real NBA team...from the West. Scary. And while last night was fun, its important to note that the Celtics were on the wrong end of a back-to-back, and undoubtedly a little drained. The Bulls will probably be feeling the same tonight, and I think they need a healthy Tyson Chandler to make it a game.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

On Bill and the Boys... Thanks to that minor league hockey team called the "Blackhawks" (I think that's the name), I wasn't able to see the Bulls game last night. I guess that's a good thing, cause losing at home to the Nuggets is something I probably wasn't ready to take. I was trying to follow along on the game cast, and that was sad enough. Lookin through the boxcore, the first thing I noticed was free-throw differential. (12-16 Bulls, 33-41 Nuggs), and then of course the 24 turnovers. But the big story was seeing Hinrich and E-Rob in the starting lineup again in place of Rose and Crawford. They both seemed more resigned after last nights game judging by the post-game comments, and that has to be expected. After all, this kind of thing happens to every NBA team, and has happened to Cartwright before. And is a main reason why college coaches can't hack it in today's assocation, even the great Phil Jackson has to deal with the Egos. I would be all in favor of backing the coach in this kind of situation if only I was sure Cartwright is actually a good coach. He hasn't proven that yet, and he needs to think about winning games. And after looking at the alternatives, that means getting Crawford and Rose back on the floor. The message has been sent to them, and its time for both sides to get over it and play on. Tommorow's game is on the road in Boston. Go check out Celtics Blog and read up on the opponent. Tyson should be healthy for that game, and despite the loss last night, the team is at least looking better. Hopefully I can actually see this game. Update well...looks like Tyson will probably sit. However, good news I forgot to mention earlier was that the Celtics will be on the wrong end of a back-to-back, they beat Indiana on the road tuesday night.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Jalen Rose Other News: Sun Will Rise From the East Tommorow Wow, big-time soap opera action goin on in Bulls-land. Another bad bad loss to the Sixers on friday. I wasn't able to see the game because it was exclusively on media powerhouse WCIU. Saturday's game against the Hornets will be remembered for some time. Either for turning the corner on the season by beating a quality team on the road, or for starting the in-fighting that could sabotage the season. I missed the first few minutes of the game, and when I came in, I assumed that Crawford and Rose were in serious foul trouble cause E-Rob and Kirk Hinrich were in the game. But I soon found out that they started. Basically Cartwright's saying it was change for the sake of change, but Crawford and Rose viewed it as being scapegoats for the team's poor start. Its really a combination of both, because while SOMETHING had to be done, choosing those particular players to bench shows once again Cartwright's insistance on defense. Did it work? Well both players played well enough off the bench to the extent that they played the entire fourth quarter and helped pull out a nice road win (already 2/3 of the way till last year's total). But did the benching actually help the team? I'm not so sure, unless the benching truly made Crawford and Rose play harder, in which case the move was completely justified (they should be playin hard anyway). The move also seemed to inspire Eddy Curry, who put in a solid game. Other observations include Pippen's nice cream-colored suit, and Kirch Hinrich looking completely overmatched. He had 9 turnovers in 27 minutes, and missed a key free throw in the final minute. The shot would've made it a 2-possession game, and for some reason when Hinrich made the 2nd one, Wayne 'I'll work any game' Larivee enthusiastically remarked "way to go kid!". whatever that was supposed to mean. So Rose is upset that he ends some meaningless streak for consectutive starts he had, but who cares he's always upset. And Crawford is upset and saying "the writing's on the wall" as far as returning, but hey, that isn't really up to him. It's up to Pax to wait and see if Crawford is worth the money that he most likely won't get anywhere else. So as of now all this is overblown. However if the same starting lineup is out on the floor tonight (Cartwright has inferred it may be), and the players start taking sides, things could get ugly. You'd like to think that the players wouldn't care about the starting lineups as long as their winning (and they're still getting a lot of minutes), but as we know it doesn't always work out that way. This is a big risk by Cartwright, and has Sam Smith even requesting that he gets an extension, as a was to not allow the 'inmates to run the asylum'. I'm hoping that the move was a one-time deal to give the team a wakeup call, and that a motivated Rose and Crawford are back in the starting lineup tonight. Along with the day-to-day Tyson and Pippen. Cause while its nice to shake things up once in a while, having your best players off the court in the beginning of the game can't be a long-term solution.

Friday, November 07, 2003

"What's the deal with the IR..." "you're not injured..who are the ad-wizards who came up with that one?" - My Jerry Seinfeld impression The Bulls made some roster moves yesterday, putting my guy Marcus Fizer on the IR and replacing him with Linton Johnson. Johnson will supposedly provide energy off the bench...or something intangible like that. Despite what I said in my 'witty' title, Fizer really IS injured, his surgically repaired knee is flaring up. Kirk Hinrich will also be activated in place of Roger Mason Jr. Who probably has the usual garden-variety contusion or something. A nice road win at Orlando, although its possible that the Magic are just really really bad (and injured). Much has been made over the fact that Curry barely played in the 2nd half, with Cartwright riding the 57-year old back of Corie Blount to victory. Its nice to get a win, but Curry is gonna have to get out of his early funk if anything's gonna happen this year. Tonight's a home game against the Sixers. They've added Glenn Robinson in the off-season to give Iverson his best second-option to date. But so far, they've proven to be a weak defensive team. Gee...I wonder why? Anyway, hopefully the Bulls can take advantage of their size here and get another win. Especially since tommorow's game at New Orleans will be a tough one. I won't be able to see tonight's game, its only showing locally on WCIU. U'z got it! ugh. Am I a big enough nerd to watch the gamecast on I think you all know the answer to that...

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The Race to 80 points....or Bulls vs Magic Its hard to say that there are any 'big games' in early November, but tonight's Bulls/Magic tilt just may be one. The Bulls have to show some life tonight, against a team that is struggling in its own right. In fact, the top 2 coaches on the hot seat so far are Cartwright and Doc Rivers. oh, and probably Isiah Thomas too, even though he's not coaching anyone..I think that's just out of habit. The Bulls may start E-Rob today to guard McGrady. Obviously Pippen would've gotten the job, but you'll be seeing him on the sidelines waist-down in a tub of ben-gay. E-Rob has the potential to be a good defender, with his athleticism and wingspan, but as with other aspects of his game, has yet to show the enthusiasm to improve. I still think this is a better option than last year's, which was Trent Hassell. Guys like McGrady and Pierce would torch him up and down the court, at least E-Rob will give them something for McGrady (I refuse to call him T-Mac) to think about when he's on the defensive end. new links Theres a few I put up yesterday on the left, including Orlando Magic Fan if you want to read up on tonight's opponent. The Basketball Blogosphere is getting bigger by the week.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Hey Now, It's only been __ Games "Oh no, they suck again!" - Major League 2 What else is there to say. Blowout losses to the Wiz, the Buck, and the Rocket. And needing a good 4th quarter to avoid a loss to the Hawk. So what's goin wrong? Well theres that old interior defense problem, but we all knew that would show. What is suprising is averaging 77 points a game, which is just not Bulls-like. Scoring shouldn't be a problem. Going into the season the bulk of the scoring load was supposed to be directed through Curry and Crawford. Needless to say the poor play of these 2 is the main culprit to the slow start to the year. Crawford still looks lost at times running the point, and while he's shooting from beyond the arc very well (52.9%), is only averaging 4.3 apg and is leading the team in FG attempts, which isn't what the team's really looking for out of him. Curry has just been awful so far. He STILL can't get position to rebound on defense. Offensively, whether it is from aggressive double teams by the Wizards or goin up against shotblockers like Yao Ming and Kelvin Cato he seems to lose confidence early. Last night against the Rockets Curry was 0-8 with 1 point. But even with the young players struggling (i'll get to Tyson in a minute), here's a look at some notable (or notea-bull...hahaha) shooting percentages:
Rose: 36.4% Gill: 23.1% Pippen: 29.2% Marshall: 29.6%
So the Veterans are not helpin much at all. One bright spot so far has obviously been Tyson Chandler. I don't like to say certain guys don't play with fire, because honestly I know that the whole team is trying to win. But Tyson seems to just have more energy. He's averaging 17 rebounds per game, and most of those are simply done by jumping over people to get them. Last night it seemed that he was getting to the foul line any time he touched the ball, which I almost think can be attributed to his awkward offensive game as much as anything. But its nice to see that he's at least continuing on track from last year, unlike Curry and Crawford. But to be honest I'm not all that worried yet. As much as it's nice to say that fast starts mean everything, i'm not certain that they do. The veterans on this team aren't gonna be shooting this poorly forever, and Curry can't be this bad all year. While games like the first 3 should have been easy wins, its still very very early. And no I'm not gonna start with Cartwright yet, because coaching isn't gonna make up for 27% shooting (last night), and I don't believe (like some) that they're not motivated enough. They just need more time together and more importantly Curry and Crawford need to play like they can. old man river Pippen's knee swelled up yesterday, and will cause him to miss at least a week. So if you had 11/3 in the office pool, you win 2 big bags of ice. upcoming schedule @Orlando, Philly, @New Orleans, Denver, @Boston, Minn, Seattle..before the "Annual Circus Trip of Death". I'd like to say those are all winnables, but I'm just gonna bite my tongue for now.

Friday, October 31, 2003

Bulls and THAT'S Scary! Happy Halloween everyone! one of the top holidays for a college student. Bill Simmons, aka "the Sports Guy", finished up his 3-part NBA preview today with a look at the East. I guess he doesn't beleve in saving the best for last. I looooove reading his columns, they're so damned funny, but I oftentimes disagree with his prognostications. Here's his rankings:
15. Hawks 14. Bucks 13. Knicks 12. Heat 11. Bulls 10. Raptors 9. Sixers 8. Magic 7. Cavs 6. Pistons 5. Hornets 4. Wizards 3. Celtics 2. Nets 1. Pacers
Now you can see why this miffed me a little bit. I'll grant him this though, in this year's East, its hard to predict who's gonna do what. His reasoning for the Bulls being so low is that he has a sixth sense when it comes to picking a team that everyone thinks will be good but isn't that good, and this year its the Bulls. Hard to get worked up about that though, difference of opinion. And this is obviously his opinion driving the rankings, his preferences in players and teams. For instance, he's a huge Celtics fan, so him putting the Celts at #3, seems as crazy to me as me putting the Bulls at #6 are to him. But come on...the Celtics? Also he put the Pistons very low, cause he still can't believe that they chose Darko over Carmelo
And then there's Carmelo. There are few sure things in life, but this is one of them: Joe Dumars will regret taking Darko over Carmelo. Maybe it won't hit him this season. It might not even hit him until 2007 or 2008. But it's going to happen. This is "Bowie over MJ" all over again. You can't pass up on someone who ... A) Had the best college season in 15 years B) Like Bernard King, was practically created by God to play small forward in the NBA C) Could be the most engaging, likable rookie since MJ ... just because Tayshaun Freaking Prince looked good in the Philly series. Hey, I like Tayshaun -- I could see him being an above-average scorer off the bench for the next eight years. And I'm sure Darko will be fine, even if I can't imagine him being any better than Raef LaFrentz five years from now. But you can't pass up Carmelo Anthony. That's ridiculous. Every Piston fan should have a sick, queasy feeling right now, like the way you feel when you realize you left your bank card in an ATM machine ... only you'll be feeling that way for the next 12 years. Just prepare yourself now. He's that good. I feel very strongly about this.
Although this time last year he said this about Yao Ming:
One more thing: Years from now, we will remember "Yao Ming over Jay Williams" the same way we remember "Bowie over Jordan," "Traylor for Nowitzki," "Carroll for McHale and Parish," "Aguirre over Thomas" and every other great draft day blunder in NBA history. I'm not just predicting it, I'm guaranteeing it. Think about it. At best, Ming develops into a bigger, more athletic Rik Smits. Fine. But then you throw in Yao's adjustment problems (going from China to the United States -- yikes), his laid-back demeanor (what happens when NBA players start pushing him around, elbowing him and intimidating him?), his inability to play in the low post, and the way he'll struggle fitting in with his teammates, as well as lofty expectations, inevitable problems adjusting to a higher level of competition, the fact that NBA players will go out of their way to dunk on him (just like they did with Shawn Bradley -- and they ruined his confidence, too), the isolation of playing here, the meddling Chinese government ... I mean, did Smits have to deal with any of those things? Can't you picture Shaq rubbing his hands together and saying, "I'm going to dunk on that Chinese guy as much as humanly possible next season"? This is a disaster waiting to happen. Repeat: This is a disaster waiting to happen. I feel very strongly about this.
So basically...I won't take his Darko-hatin for shit. How could one be so wrong about Yao Ming. ugh. Which reminds me of this:
Last year on TNT: Kenny: "Houston's gonna need to learn that Yao will be their best player." Charles: "Kenny, Steve Francis is their best player" (and we all know later how he bet that Yao would never score 20 points in a game) This year EJ: "There's a look at the Franchise" (while the camera shows Steve Francis during warmups) Charles: "Yao Ming is the franchise"
So what's the point? I just don't understand how everyone is doubting Darko already, saying he should never be picked over an established college star, when Yao proved that theory false JUST LAST YEAR. I just didn't know it'd be such a long-winded point. Isn't there a Bulls game to talk about? Oh, right. the Hawks are in town, and Jerry Krause's banner will be raised to the UC rafters. Scottie's already said that he doesn't even want to watch it. (damn...grow up). But what's on my mind is how the fans will react. I predict this: the fans that are gonna show up to a game against *the Hawks* will be real Bulls fans. And while they may not all like Krause, they will respect him. So there could be some boos, but I expect a lot of cheers, and some nice signs and such. But, not a love fest. Then again...boos can perpetuate once a few start goin. We'll see. I hope the fans show a little respect though. The Hawks this offseason dealt away Glenn Robinson and signed Stephen Jackson. They still have their 'big 3' (hehe) of Abdur-Rahim, Terry, and Ratliff. The key per usual will be up front, and seeing if Eddy can get his offense goin against a top-notch shot blocker like Ratliff. Jamal should turn in a good game tonight against Atlanta's backcourt of Terry and rookie Boris Diaw (who I'm anxious to see actually), and Chandler should be playing tonight, so that's good news. Summary: the Hawks suck, but hopefully the Bulls don't play as bad as they did on wednesday, cause they can lose to anybody.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

That Feeling When You Almost Throw Up and it Kind of Just Stays in Your Mouth "Don't worry, Don't....worry. I'm not gonna do, what everyone thinks I'm gonna do, and just flip out" That game last night will be remembered by me for a while. Its just the culmination of such offseason and preseason optomism, the return of Scottie Pippen, an opener at home against a real bad team....and just goin out there and laying a huge crap-filled egg. Played poorly on both ends of the court, the Bulls not only gave a losing effort but a boring one at that. I lied when I said I was gonna take notes during the game, besides I had little chance to write since my hands were primarily used for burying my face in them. Chandler sat out the entire game to rest the back, and he would've undoubtedly made a difference. Its no secret that the Bulls' biggest weakness is interior defense, and Chandler could've helped out there. But that alone wouldn't have turned around such a dismal overall performance. The one 'note' I kept saying to myself all night was "Where's Eddy Curry!". who was a complete non-factor. It was my impression that he would be the first option on offense, yet by the end of the third quarter I was begging him to be taken out (although once I saw Corie Blount come in I regretted it). I did miss the first 10 minutes of the game, so I'm wondering what were the first few possessions like. did Eddy get the ball? Did he get muscled from the basket, or put up poor shots, or simply got into foul trouble. Cause something must've made him dissappear the rest of the night. But enough talking about that game. To be honest, I'm not predicting gloom and doom by any means. It's hard when you're throwing away these schedule gimmies early in the season, but at the heart of it you're only talking about one game. They have another such game at home Friday against Atlanta, and I'll definately be watching Curry because last season Theo Ratliff put him in the hurt box. I still think they'll be just fine, but naturally that's not the opinion of the chicago 'columnists', especially Mike Downey, who may just be the worst sports columnist I've ever read in Chicago. And yes I am including Skip "draft Desagna Diop" Bayless.
Otherwise, S.O.B. Same old Bulls. They were horrible. Terrible. Miserable. Indefensible. It doesn't matter that they had to do without 7-foot-1-inch Tyson Chandler (injured) and 2003 top draft pick Kirk Hinrich (ill) and 2002 top draft pick Jay Williams (out for the season after a motorcycle accident). No excuses. It was a game that every loyal season ticket-holder in the building expected the Bulls to win anyway, which shows you just how wrong a fan can be. It was a game that Cartwright thought the Bulls were prepared to play, which shows you just how wrong a man can be.
My god, "Same old Bulls?" That attitude sickens me, one game into the season and it's already "well they can't be very good, because after all, its the Bulls". I just thought I'd step up on my soapbox and attack that culture of fan before it gets out of hand. The Bulls shouldn't be held in the same regard as the Cubs (its ok i'm a huge Cubs fan, and no I don't believe in curses), the Phillies, the Clippers, the Washington Generals, The Brooklyn Brawler, France, and other chronic losers. The last 5 years have not been pleasant, but if you stand back and look at it all from a distance, the Bulls are one of the most successful franchises in major pro sports. They should be associated as a winning franchise, and try and tell the fans of a couple dozen other NBA teams how sad you are you havent seen a title banner raised in a whopping 6 years. (hmm...there's already something I've read about just that idea). I'm not saying that losing all these games over the past few years is acceptable, in fact I'm pledging the opposite: don't make it establish a culture of losing already. Expect and demand victory, and this year, expect and demand the playoffs. And DEFINATELY don't infer anything about the season based on this giant suck-bomb the Bulls put up last night. Just another bump in the road back to respectability.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Happy Opening Night!!! Well kids, this is what we've been waiting for. All the talk during draft night and during the free agent period is now subsided to watch the actual games. Actual games! Now Bulls fans, this is when it gets fun. The funnest time in being a fan is when the team is starting to get good. Starting to become a playoff contender, and you feel like you're growing with them. Then when the Bulls start playing meaningful games in April, It'll be even sweeter. OK, I realized that my Eastern Conference preview really should've meant "teams worse than the Bulls", and that the Top 5 really doesn't matter. But for the sake of continuity, I'll finish the preview, albiet the descriptions will be a little abbreviated. 5 - Philly 76ers OK, I fell for it last year with the Hawks, thinking that Glenn Robinson was still a difference-maker. But what the heck, I'm fallin for it again. Robinson is the best sidekick Iverson's ever had, certainly a better scorer than Keith Van Horn. I really think it'll help Iverson a lot to have someone who can score at will. Part of that trade that was overlooked though was the fact that the Sixers were also aquiring Marc Jackson, who in the East is actually one of the better centers. Add that to a returing returing supporting cast of Snow, Thomas, McKie, and Coleman (yeah, I said it), and Philly has a team that could go deep in the Conference playoffs. 4 - New Orleans Hornets This may have been a higher ranking, but look at the man on the sidelines. In one of the strangest coaching moves I've ever seen, Paul Silas was fired and replaced by native son Tim Floyd. He may be the native son to New Orleans, but he's also the native son of a place I call "The Land of Those Who Can't Coach" (the name needs work). Maybe the Bulls teams that Floyd coached had little talent, but it still seemed that they had no coaching at all. I guess everyone deserves a second chance, so this is Floyd's. And with a team loaded with talent, this will be his last chance. Especially since they'll be moving to the west next year. 3 - Indiana Pacers This is the complete opposite of the Hornets. This team would've been ranked LOWER except they fired Isiah and replaced him with a real coach in Rick Carlisle. For a team that's been said to have underachieved, a coach like Carlisle can mean a lot more wins. Losing Brad Miller will hurt some, but Scott Pollard will help out defensively and in fact probably create more shots for Jermaine O'Neal by simply getting out of the way. For this team to be successful though, Pollard needs to stay healthy and Ron Artest needs to take his pills every morning. 2 - New Jersey Nets What? the Nets aren't ranked #1? I'll just give one reason, I'm not sold on Zo. However, if signing him was necessary to retain Jason Kidd, then it was worth it. If Kidd left it would've crippled the franchise, so taking a flyer on a man coming off a debilitating kidney disorder may be worth it. People make a big deal over the Lakers' squabbles, yet the Nets this year may be just as bad. First theres Kidd allegedly wanting coach Byron Scott Fired. Then Alonzo is mad that the team paid Dikembe Mutumbo to go home. Then the whole mess with Kenyon Martin's extension (see the celtics preview). The team still has loads of talent though, and if everything goes well they could even beat one of the big 5 of the west. 1 - Detroit Pistons Now those who know me know I love the Pistons. That may seem odd coming from a Bulls fan, yet I just love the moves they've made over the years in assembling this team. While they doesn't have a go-to star, they just drafted one in Darko Milicic. BUT, don't get me wrong, he's not ready to take the reigns and lead this team. But the beauty of the work GM Joe Dumars is that he doesn't need to. The backcourt of Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton is one of the the best in the league. They still have defensive player of the year Ben Wallace, and forward Mehmet Okur is ready to become real contributor. The team is also very deep, and did I mentioned they aquirred a hall-of-fame coach in the offseason? If Darko gives them anything come playoff time, they will be a team to be reckoned with. Wow, those descriptions weren't very abbreviated at all. Enjoy the game tonight. With Stackhouse out and the Bulls being at home, needless to say this one should be in the bag. Like a nerd I'll probably be taking notes, so hopefully there will be some game comments tommorow.