Bulls win thriller in London, rookies impress those with little expectations (i.e. me)

As preseason games go, that was a fun one to watch. The crowd was late-arriving but very into the game (as KC Johnson noted, they were ooohing and ahhing the most routine of NBA action), and the close back-and-forth score kept them into it. It was nice that they got the excitement of a buzzer-beater, even if it was in a meaningless contest.

(OK, maybe the announcers on NBATV were terrible, what with Steve Smith yelling at us to appreciate Taj Gibson and whoever the play-by-play-guy-was mispronouncing nearly every name (luOWL) and giving the all-to-rare 3...2...1... countdown a minute early. )

First some notes on the top-7 (3 of them out) that were encouraging all around. Noah just looks great, and if he starts this season like he ended the last it's going to be a breakout year for him. He was active all over, and SLC Dunk remarked Noah "looked like he was swatting 6th graders". Miller already was giving out hard fouls, and hitting jump shots. Hinrich was great, finishing perfect from the field. There's no doubt he played great to end last season, I just worry that his 40% 3-point seasons are the outliers. But if he bucks that trend he'll be incredibly valuable in any role he plays this season. Though hopefully there aren't many instances where he has to play point the whole game because Rose is hurt.

Luol Deng was able to thrill his hometown crowd with a solid game, and just like in the opener it was just nice to see him playing without a broken leg. What was different than the opener was Luol showing something different, a couple of post-up plays. If he can use it to exploit certain matchups, it'd be a nice complement to his game. I'm not sure he'll ever be able to dribble-drive by many defenders. He hit a three-pointer in this game as well, the other thing we all wish Luol could do more often. Though as Bulls by the Horns notes, it's worrisome that Deng still mentions soreness in the leg. Wasn't that injury in the spring? I'd almost rather he lied at this point and said everything was fine...though there was a point where a dunk was instead a blocked layup, which could've been the leg. 

Now on to the rookies, with James Johnson being the hero and Taj Gibson giving a second-straight 'I may not stink after all' performance. If Taj can get to the point where we don't scream when he comes into the game for his handful of minutes, that's good enough value for that pick. It'll also be interesting to see how it effects the minutes of Tyrus Thomas, and any reduction in Thomas minutes will mean something bad has happened. Either he's playing like crud, or the Bulls really really don't want to pay him this summer. It may be an issue all season whether Taj is yet another Bull who's consistent competence is valued more than possible greatness (or above-averageness).

James Johnson is a trickier guy to peg in this year's rotation. He was able to flourish in this half-hazard 4th quarter in transition, but he won't be able to dominate the ball in the regular season (unless Deng is hurt again, yikes). Can he be useful away from the ball? At least he showed, like Gibson, that he's active, and as much as I like Tyrus Thomas I think Johnson ran the floor faster than I ever saw Thomas. Johnson also has shown more handle and a prettier shot, but that could just mean he's really meant to be a 3. 

I actually didn't think Jannero Pargo was too awful, despite being the only Bull who didn't shoot well Tuesday. He just doesn't need to play in meaningful lineups, is all, because he will shoot regardless of who's on the floor with him. I actually liked him chucking in the first half since he was in a srubby lineup, and does have the innate skill to create shots (if not makes). But if he's in there in 3-guard 4th quarter lineups because of some clutch ability that doesn't exist (at least not with him), that's not good. 

Chris Richard was definitely bad. Byers was a bit better (nice put-back dunk), and is still leading in the 'which camp invitee should stay' contest. 

A great performance all-around. It's not necessarily meaningful that the preseason performance is good, but it's preferred over a poor-looking performance. The top-7 has been real solid. If other players step up to warrant minutes, that's a good problem to have, right?

(So why am I worried that  they'll instead ruin a Vinny-proof rotation, with pressure from the Org. to push certain guys (Tyrus) out the door? I'm kidding, the Org. never has direction enough to dictate playing time.)

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