Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Baby Bulls

Chicago BullsThe Blot is finally back from his business trip to Chicago and made it in pretty much one piece. The change in temp did do a number on my sinuses though. I didn’t make it to the Threadless store but I was treated to a nice surprise by the company we were visiting, 11th row tickets to see the Chicago Bulls in action.
United Center

Michael Jordan StatueWhile I had driven around the United Center (where the Bulls play) before, I had never been to an actual Bulls home game there. So this was pretty exciting for the The Blot since I’m a pretty big sports fan. The “House That Jordan Built,” as the United Center is affectionately nicknamed, was awesome. While it’s a pretty big basketball arena, the seats are still crammed in there to fit as many people around the floor as possible…it really helps make you feel like you’re part of the action. It was also the first time I had seen that particular style of box seats in a basketball stadium. They had three different rows of box seats breaking the stadium into thirds with the highest seats in the arena being boxseats. Seems weird to have such expensive seats up high but I’m guessing there’s more partying going on in those seats than actual watching of the game.

Chicago BullsAs for the game itself I was a little too warn out from my early morning flight and meetings all day to appreciate it, but I can say one thing…for all the talent on the court the Bulls sure know how to underachieve. Well I’m not sure if underachieve is the right word because they did win that night but something’s not right with the Chicago squad. The Bulls played the horrible Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night and after that win now have a record of 3-10. This is pretty pathetic considering the expectations for the team this year and the amazing young talent Executive Vice President-Basketball Operations John Paxson has put together. Now it could be that all of the preseason Kobe Bryant trade talks disrupted team chemistry, but this roster’s game IQ should have allowed them to ignore the talk and focus on the court.

Ben GordonI can’t think of the last time a team has had this kind of young, experienced talent. In fact, six of their top 9 players all played intricate parts of NCAA Final Four and/or NCAA National Championship squads during their college careers. This list includes Luol Deng and Chris Duhon from Duke, Ben Gordon from Connecticut, Kirk Hinrich from Kansas, Tyrus Thomas from LSU, and rookie Joakim Noah from 2 time National Champions Florida. Together that’s 4 National Championships and 9 Final Four appearances. I have to believe this has uniquely prepared these young stars for the media frenzy engulfing them today. Add to that collection of talent 4 time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace and Argentine Gold Medalist Andres Nocioni and you have a team that should be at the very least challenging the Celtics for the Eastern Conference title this year.

Luol DengUnfortunately, I think the last few years spending first round picks on “the best available player” versus what player fits into their scheme the best has hurt the Bulls. They have now spent two first round picks and a ton of money on three players who essentially play the same position, Wallace, Thomas and Noah. None can shoot to save their life but are tenacious around the rim. Which is great if you have a Jordan caliber player that can score 60 a night, which I guess in theory is what Deng, Gordon and Hinrich are for but isn’t the type of production being put forth right now. This team was losing for almost 3 quarters of play against a team they outmatched in ability in every category. The Bulls did end up winning by 20 but it doesn’t explain their excruciatingly bad start. They have very little jump shooting ability but I’m guessing head coach Scott Skiles is ok with that. His philosophy is defense and rebounding which this team excels at.

Kirk HinrichIf their scoring can only get more consistent this team will be a force to reckon with come playoffs. But I still question the roster choice of carrying both Wallace, Thomas and Noah when all three can do little more than dunk the ball on the offensive end. This kills any fluidity in the Bulls offense and makes it easier on opposing teams to defend their star players Deng and Gordon. I would imagine at some point they’re going to have to make a trade to better equip their roster for an extended playoff run. So while the play at the United Center may not be up to snuff right now, if you find yourself find Chicago and aren’t afraid of the sketchy area surrounding the arena check out a Bulls game…the crowd and atmosphere are intense and its pretty cool to see all of the championship banners hanging in the rafters from the Jordan/Pippen/Jackson era.Benny the Bull

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