[Thanks to 'BULLieving in Miami' for today's game preview -ed.]
Thank you, Charlotte Bobcats!! Yeah, that's right. I said it. THANK YOU, BOBCATS!!!!
The Charlotte Bobcats have the honor of being the team that the Nets finally defeated to avoid going 0-82. Hey, 1-81 ain't bad. I just feel this would've been the game the Nets would win if they came to the UC tonight winless. That's just the bad luck of this Bulls team. The stars would've aligned. Dog and cats would be living together. It would just go down that way, I'm sure of it. Really, though, it's also nice that New Jersey lost at the Knicks on Sunday, because a 3-game winning streak is probably a bit too much to ask of these New Jersey Nets. I guess the same could be said of our Bulls as well. If you look at it, this is the first game the Bulls play against a putrid team (and I'm just referring to their record. They do have talent). All of the games played so far are against clearly superior opponents (many) or against teams either in the same boat as the Bulls (DET, CHA) or better off (TOR, SAC, MIL). Not necessarily good company to be in if you are trying to pose as a "playoff contender" or "team on the rise". Let me just say that term may apply to our core of young players, but definitely not to this organization. I'd say at least 20 out of the 29 other teams have more talent or potential than our current roster in my opinion.
That brings me to tonight's opponent, who I believe is one of those 20 teams, the New Jersey Nets. This team is a deceptive 1-19. You could say they have a better young core than the Bulls. Devin Harris missed the first 10 games of the season with a groin issue. They were a Dwyane Wade buzzer-beater from being just bad, as opposed to historically bad. I'd also say perhaps Lawrence Frank had worn out his welcome as this team was not going anywhere anytime soon. Harris is yet to get his game in gear, averaging 16 points/game on 35% shooting. Make no mistake though when healthy he is the catalyst for their offense, and in PG comparisons, a much more assertive player than Derrick Rose right now. That is my main gripe with the kid up to this point: is it still the ankle, lack of motivation, or lack of coaching, or ALL THREE?? I can't make up my mind. But based on last season, Harris is the more efficient scorer. I only bring this up because lately we've had debate about whether Rose should shoot more. I actually like Derrick's efficiency; he doesn't require many shots to get his points. They both average 15 FGA/game. The main difference Harris averages 7.5 FTA/game, a full 4 FTA more than Rose, and the gap was greater last season when Harris was healthy. So maybe yes, Rose needs to shoot more to get his points up, because i feel he is so athletically gifted, he CAN get around and over the defense, but needs to learn to kind of go into the defense to get more calls. Hopefully he will learn this, but as his body matures and he becomes stronger and faster, he might stay with the same approach and he might never become a guy that gets a lot of free throws, which is bad.
Another player I really like on this team is Brook Lopez. If the NBA hadn't handed the Bulls don't land that #1 overall pick, Lopez was the player to get at #9. He's already turing into a handful and he's the mythic low-post scorer the Bulls have lacked in the core they had the last few years. Lopez (18.9/9.0/2.3blks) has a good post game that will only get better with polishing, and he gets to the line (6.0 FTA/game) more than anyone on the Bulls. The Bulls should think of throwing a double-team at him every once in a while tonight. That's not to say Noah can't handle him, but Joakim has been getting in foul trouble lately, and if they don't give Noah help, it won't be long before Lopez is having his way against Miller, Gray (oh dear), and Taj on his way to some kind of new career high. And does anyone feel cheated for the Lopez twins not being required to go to the same team in the draft? My girlfriend loved them together, and they have the same last name as hers, which always helps. Plus, the Bulls can afford to double in this match-up as the Nets are bottom-of-the-league bad at shooting threes (yes, actually worse than the Bulls). And Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts are also promising young talents. Lee always displayed a heads-up game while with Orlando.
The Nets are 1 of 2 teams that score less than the Bulls and they also have a bigger differential than the Bulls, meaning they play worse defense. So the Bulls do stand a good chance and at home. I'm hoping Harris is still slowed by the groin and he and Lopez won't get some of those foul calls on our homecourt.
And in closing... the Nets bad start could be directly attributed to the absence of Devin Harris early on. Guess thats what happens when a team is without their best scorer. But Harris didn't sign with another team. He was just hurt. He'll be back. Can't say the same in Chicago.
GAMETIME: 7PM CST TV: CSN