Monday, December 21, 2009

Bulls Back on Track?

The Bulls' recent 101-98 home victory over the third place Atlanta Hawks looks may not seem like anything more than a nice win. Although the Hawks are a solid team, the Bulls' problems have not come at home this year. With a 2-12 away record, it's the road that seems to be hampering this relatively young team. However, I had the opportunity to watch them play this game live and have some positive thoughts about why this might be the start of a turnaround for the Bulls (By turnaround I mean that they will play well enough to slide in to the playoffs with no better than a sixth seed). 

1. Momentum: I have always believed basketball is game of momentum. Not only during the game but throughout the season as well. We saw how this worked in reverse over the last few weeks when the team lost 9 out of 10 games, including an embarrassing loss to the Nets. But now the Bulls have won three out of their last five games and have back-to-back winnable games today and tomorrow (Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks). If Chicago can take those two games they will be nearing .500 and should gain the momentum to grab a couple of wins in their next few games against the Hornets and their struggling Eastern conference foes Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers. With a little bit of confidence this team has the tools to be a pretty tough team (see: 2009 Celtics/Bulls playoff series). 

2. Returning players: If you didn't know at the beginning of the season that the Bulls have absolutely no depth, you couldn't have missed it when forward Tryus Thomas and team hottie Kirk Hinrich went down a few weeks ago. With the temporary loss of those two assets, players such as Jannero Pargo, Lindsey "I prefer to coach with a jersey on" Hunter, and James Johnson actually saw the floor. I never thought I would say that I miss Ty Thomas, but his injury has shown me how valuable he is to this team (although, mostly just because our bench sucks). However, Hinrich is back and looking sexier than ever and Thomas is set to return the day after Christmas against the Hornets. Winning will be a lot easier when the riff-raff return to cracking jokes with Aaron Gray on the bench. 

3. Development of Taj Gibson: The only positive thing that Tyrus Thomas' injury did was give Taj Gibson an opportunity to develop a little. When he first started playing, I thought he was complete garbage. However, he appears to have broken the habit of throwing up nervous, mid-range jumpers and is focusing on developing a versatile inside-out game. His 10 points 8 boards look nice, but his offensive demeanor was even more promising. He showed confident patience as he worked his defenders in the post and looked good pulling up from the mid-range when he couldn't beat his defender. Furthermore, he was doing this in a winnable game not during garbage minutes. He actually stole a lot of Brad Miller's minutes while Miller was doing unmentionable things in the stands. He probably won't be as good as Dejaun Blair (whom the Bulls passed on twice), but I'm excited to see him develop into a solid contributor off the bench. 

4. The return of Derrick Rose: Whether Rose's underwhelming performance so far this season is the result of his lingering ankle injury or a sophomore slump, he appears to to be over it. He dropped 32 points on the Hawks, had no turnovers, and looked confident making the big plays for us down the stretch. He was also lights out from the field. His 14-24 field goal numbers, despite being solid, do not accurately sum up the way he looked from outside. I don't know if he missed a shot outside of the lane in the fourth quarter. 

5. Krik Hinrich outshines Mike Bibby: This probably means nothing for the Bulls' season, but I don't care. It was awesome to see my two favorite childhood point guards face off. With Hinrich's wiry, preppy/rugged look and Bibby's ghetto, side-peck flaunting style, it made for an enjoyable battle. Hinrich topped Bibby's decent performance with a classic Captain Kirk stat line: 13 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, and a steal. He also scored a huge bucket down the stretch in the game. 

1 comment:

  1. How sad is it when a win over the Hawks may end up being the highlight of your season?


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