Friday, January 28, 2005

The Wacky Mr. Skiles

Bulls coach Scott Skiles took an odd approach to last night's game. While the Bulls started out very hot, the Bobcats were staying in the game by taking advantage of a seemingly disinterested Bulls defense.

What did Skiles do? Emptied the bench, and liked what he saw.

“They were staying in the game tonight. They clearly deserved to and they set the tone for us in the second half and there was no reason to think of doing anything else."

Behind Andres Nocioni, Eric Piatkowki, and Jannero Pargo, the Bulls bench scored 63 points and stayed in the entire 4th quarter to pull out a comfortable 101-93 victory over the YMCA Bobcats. I guess my post touting Pargo was a month or so early.

So while the team won, seeing Deng play 12 minutes and Gordon play 7 is a little disconcerting, especially since they seemed to be playing well. But what Skiles did was definately rare. Normally even when the bench is playing that well the starters come in soonafter to finish the game. Bulls broadcaster (and former bench-player himself) Bill Wennington said after the game that he wished he had a coach like Skiles.

But I think Skiles got away with one last night due to the fact that he has a young team. If he were coaching, say, the Minnesota Timberwolves, somebody would be getting punched in the face in practice today. I'm less concerned that the Bill Wenningtons of the world are happy with the coach than the Michael Jordans. But there are no stars on this team, so Skiles has enough clout where this one-game 'message' to the starters will be taken the right way.

Will Skiles change when the team has more established stars (and that can be from within, obviously)? That has been an issue since he was hired due to the fact that the 'firery old ball coach' strategy normally has a short shelf life in the NBA. With this team though, he can get away with it. If there are problems when the team gets a lot better, well then that'll be something I can worry about when it actually happens. Until then, I can appreciate what Skiles is doing, because it's working.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Tonight is the first-ever game between the Bulls and the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. I hope the Bobcats have their beatdown shoes on, cause that's what they're gonna get. I mean....most likely.

The Bobcats are an interesting team to follow, since they did the smart thing this past offseason and not bloat their roster with overpaid marginal talents and instead taking a chance on some young players who may have slipped through the cracks on quality teams like Primoz Brezec(selected from the Pacers) and Gerald Wallace(Kings). Obviously not household names, but putting them alongside a safe, yet spectacular draftchoice in  Emeka Okafor (cue SportsCenter highlight package intro! its a UConn reunion!) has allowed the Bobcats to try and use this season to identify at least a few players they want to keep while still holding cap space. But naturally, that mean's a lot of losses.

While that kind of strategy takes patience, the success enjoyed by the Bulls this season has people in Charlotte wondering if good things truly come to those who wait.

So as two of the league's youngest squads face off tonight, its a nice little coincidence that today's the day the NBA has announced the rosters for the rookie/sophomore game on All-Star weekend. The Bulls had the potential to send as many as 5, but have to settle for just Ben Gordon and Luol Deng on the Rookie team, with Kirk Hinrich joining the Sophomores. I suppose there is a chance Hinrich makes the big show, but John Hollinger doesn't see it happening.

Here's the rest of the rosters:


Player Team Pos. College/Country
Tony Allen Boston G Oklahoma State
Luol Deng Chicago F Duke
Ben Gordon Chicago G Connecticut
Devin Harris Dallas G Wisconsin
Dwight Howard Orlando F SW Atlanta Christian Academy
Andre Iguodala Philadelphia F Arizona
Emeka Okafor Charlotte F/C Connecticut
Josh Smith Atlanta F Oak Hill Academy
Beno Udrih San Antonio G Slovenia


Player Team Pos. College/Country
Carmelo Anthony Denver F Syracuse
Chris Bosh Toronto F Georgia Tech
Udonis Haslem Miami F Florida
Kirk Hinrich Chicago G Kansas
Josh Howard Dallas F Wake Forest
LeBron James Cleveland F St. Vincent-St. Mary HS
Kyle Korver Philadelphia F Creighton
Luke Ridnour Seattle G Oregon
Dwyane Wade Miami G Marquette

I dunno; despite what cranky old white men tell me, the NBA looks like it's in pretty good shape, don't it?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Remember the Roar

I was at the United Center for tonight's game, a 111-107  win over the visiting Denver Nuggets. After seeing 8 games so far this season in person (5-3 record), I can say that this has been the best crowd I've been to. You could tell right away that this crowd was there to welcome their conquering heroes in a game against a (former?) Western Conference power.

The game started out with an uneasy feeling for everyone, with the starting introductions crediting "the man in the middle" as Othella Harrington instead of Eddy Curry (who was a late scratch due to a groin injury). The Bulls had a lackluster and turnover-prone first quarter, with Nugget star Carmelo Anthony supplying most of the offense while he and his teammates were able to have their way inside in Curry's absence. While the Bulls have used their size this season to establish the league's second-best defense, it's easy to forget how big a part Curry is in their scheme. Without him, not only did the Bulls not have no go-to guy early on offense, but the Nuggets took advantage of a frontcourt consisting of Harrington and Antonio Davis.

Halfway through the 2nd quarter Eddy Curry checked into the scorer's table. Immediately the crowd responded to seeing the much-maligned but perhaps now more appreciated Center. A bit of irony was in his anticipated performance as he quickly had to sit after getting 2 fouls. But the overall mood had changed: the Bulls would no longer be taken advantage of inside.

There were various contributors for the rest of the game that gave the Bulls their 4th straight victory and brought their record to 2 games over .500. Ben Gordon provided a late 3, Andres Nocioni did his best to frustrate Carmelo(and instigate a technical foul on new Denver coach Michael Cooper), Tyson Chandler provided his usual 4th quarter ownership of the defensive goal, and Curry reclaimed the paint for the Bulls.

But what I'll remember most is a crowd that was there for basketball. In the years post-dynasty, the famous Bulls marketing team (known for creating much of the pre-game gala that is in all of the NBA today) has done its part to keep fan interest in a subpar team through a variety of gimmicks and contests. While there was still a cheer when the Dunkin Donuts bagel won its race, and laughter when the 'matadors' did their dance during a timeout, the atmosphere was defined in the 4th quarter when the Bulls were able to survive some turnovers and missed free-throws to pull out a victory. In previous years, so often the crowd would be full of empty seats, with more fans looking at characters in the jumbotron than the real-life stars on the court. But tonight was different. The crowd was there for Bulls basketball. And in the meantime, that means winning Bulls basketball.

One unfortunate note was that the Nuggets were the first Bulls opponent in 26 games to score 100+ points. But then again, the Bulls scored 100 points in a victory, so that means free 'Big Macs' for all. Hey, I can't overlook all of the in-game promotions.


Monday, January 24, 2005

Answer: 1998

Question: When is the last time the Bulls did _[insert feat here]__?

I'm writing this in the middle of tonight's game at Atlanta, but its safe to say that the Bulls are in the middle of delivering a severe beatdown to the Hawks. While they started out pretty sloppily, the Bulls began toying with the Hawks on both ends and have now maintained a 30+ point lead. The Bulls were just too big, too fast, and too intense for the lowly Hawks tonight, even on the road (if you can give Phillips arena any type of advantage anyway). With tonight's win the Bulls move to over .500 this late in the season for the first time since....well, 1998, of course.

So since my last post, there have been 3 wins, with a huge road victory over the Pistons sandwiched in between two expected victories over the aforementioned Hawks. The story of the Pistons game was the unorthodox value that Andres Nocioni provides:

Give Andres Nocioni credit for applying plenty of it. The rookie forward found himself smack dab in the middle of two plays in a wild stretch just about midway through the fourth.

As Rasheed Wallace drained a jumper to trim the Bulls' lead to 83-80, Ben Wallace and Nocioni became entangled and were called for a double foul.

Ben Wallace argued vehemently, drawing one technical foul. On the ensuing Bulls possession, after Kirk Hinrich sank that free throw, Nocioni pestered Richard Hamilton into a loose-ball foul on a rebound. The Pistons were enraged with that call, drawing two technical fouls, one on Rasheed Wallace and one on Chauncey Billups.

Hinrich sank both for an 86-80 lead, which Chandler added to by splitting a pair of free throws on that extra possession.

I'm pretty sure that goading opponents into losing composure' is reflected in his PER, but it certainly came in handy that night.

(By the way, the Bulls swept the Pistons at the Palace for the first time since...1998 1996.)

So the Bulls keep rolling, and as you can tell there's little to add. Few things are going wrong, outside of Ben Gordon's sudden ineffectiveness, but can most likely can be chalked up to rookie inconsistency. And in the spirit of that rookie inconsistency, Chris Duhon has played particularly well to pick up the team when Gordon has been lacking. This included hitting 3 3-pointers in tonight's game, a sight that showed me right away good times were coming the rest of the night.

 I'll be at the United Center tomorrow for their game against the struggling-yet-talented Denver Nuggets. Unlike the currently dismantled Hawks, the Nuggets have the size to keep the Bulls from having their way inside. Yet the Bulls also bring one of the league's best defenses, which doesn't bode well for Denver's stand-around offense. With subsequent home games bringing the first-ever appearance against the Bobcats followed by the rubber-match against the Celtics, the Bulls can close out January very strong.

(And hopefully I can also close out the month strong with a much-needed links and site-design update. It hasn't been since 1998, but still a pretty long time.)

So no complaints for once! I am full of Bulls love. I'll even link this picture (more appropriate for my last post, I know) that gets me teary-eyed every time.