Friday, January 07, 2005

Making Hay


Tonight's game against the Jazz will be the 7th in-game appearance by yours truly. I bought the tickets mainly to see some of my favorite out-of-town players, like AK-47 and Mehmet Okur. Kirelenko has been injured most of the year, but fortunately for the Bulls that means they catch a team on a significant downslide after starting the season real strong. Part of me still wishes I could see Kirelenko in person though, Bulls chances be damned.

This game is the start of a very significant homestand, as after tonight the Bulls will host the Celtics, Warriors, Sixers, and Knicks. First a look at the Eastern Conference:

Eastern Conference
MIA 26 8 --
CLE 19 12 5.5
WAS 18 13 6.5
DET 17 14 7.5
ORL 16 14 8
IND 16 14 8
NYK 16 16 9
PHI 15 16 9.5
BOS 15 17 10
CHI 11 18 12.5
TOR 12 21 13.5
NJN 11 20 13.5
MIL 10 19 13.5
CHA 8 21 15.5
ATL 5 25 19

In my estimation, the Bulls are in-between distinct classes of teams. Their recent play tells me that they're better than the lower class of Atlanta, Charlotte, and Milwaukee. So they got that going for them, which is nice. The next tier of teams is a whole lot of mediocrity, and includes New Jersey, Toronto (they've been playing well lately), Boston, Philly, New York, and Orlando (due to their poor play lately). As far as the rest (Indiana, Detroit, Miami, Cleveland and Washington), they have officially been declared Bulls-Blog approved(tm) playoff locks.

So in this homestand, the Bulls have 3 of these teams in town, and it will be a great measure to see how well they perform. I don't want to hear about the idea of talking playoffs too early, there is only one question: There are 3 spots left, and 8 teams going for it. Are the Bulls in the top 3 of those 8 (the fact that one of these playoff spots have to go the Atlantic division winner could complicate things)? If they perform well on this homestand against their standings competition (along with similarly-talented teams from the west), you'd have to give them a shot.

And for the rest of the month? @NY, @BOS, ATL, @DET, @ATL, DEN, CHA, BOS, @NJ

Only Detroit and Denver are clearly better, and even they have their share of problems. Not saying the Bulls don't. But it's nice to see a big block of schedule and find a LOT of winnable games. I'm not sure what number of victories gets the job done, but if they finish under-.500 for this stretch it's safe to say the team isn't ready for prime-time. And after 7 years of futility, even if the Bulls become the "Dharma and Greg" of the NBA's primetime, I'll take it.