[Thanks to arjoseph for today's game preview, complete with some Red Kerr content. I'll be one of the luminaries in attendance tonight, it should be fun -ed.]
Back in 1955, the Fort Wayne Pistons (precursor to today's Detroit-based team) lost the NBA Finals in seven games to the Syracuse Nationals, a team playing a rookie at center. That rookie was Johnny "Red" Kerr. It was the only championship he would win during his years in basketball (as a player, coach, or front-office man), but it came against the Pistons. Hopefully the legend who took the expansion Chicago Bulls to the playoffs in their first year of existence (still the only expansion team to ever do that in their first year) can give us some good mojo against the Pistons tonight. Hopefully the crowd will be amped by all the wonderful history in the building (planned appearances by Michael and Scottie) and help give our guys some energy throughout the game. Hopefully our guys feel the excitement of being part of such a basketball tradition and play to impress the assembled Bulls onlookers.
Here's Johnny: For those of you looking for more Johnny Kerr content, I found these links to be interesting: a March 2008 article from Bulls.com extensively quoting Johnny on his career and basketball history, and including a quote late in the piece on the current status of the Bulls; video of Johnny the jongleur after he (allegedly) caused a power outage during a game (the allegations were from Stacey); a Slam Magazine feature on Red; and a February 2007 article by Johnny himself about his career (including vignettes about signing Dr. J and Ice Man Gervin to their first pro contracts) and relationship with Michael. [Sam Smith has a good piece up as well -ed.]
click on for the game preview...
Detroit comes into the United Center with a 27-22 record (13-10 on the road), half a game in front of Miami for the fifth playoff spot in the East. Hollinger's Playoff Odds give the Pistons a 66.4% chance of making the playoffs, though, only 17% better than the Bulls, who currently sit at tenth in the East. Furthermore, Hollinger's Power Rankings, which more heavily weight recent play, have the Bulls well ahead of Detroit (we're on the first page!) and even a bit ahead of the Heat, who enjoy an almost 80% chance of making the year-end tourney.
Whether the Bulls compete game-to-game seems to depend on the matchups. As we all know, we get victimized by large post players with any modicum of skill. The Pistons have some capable post scorers in Rasheed and McDyess (who had 10 pts and 11 rebs in 26 minutes last time vs. the Bulls); it'll be interesting to see if they use them. Rasheed has been beasting it the last few games, but he's also been gravitating out toward the 3-point line (as he is wont to do). Tayshaun has posted up in the past against Chicago with great success, so that's an option too (especially if Noc is playing the 4).
Detroit's guards shouldn't be an afterthought, though. In their December 23 matchup, Rodney Stuckey went off for 40 points. Thankfully, he's been in a slump recently. Unfortunately, as washed-up as he seems to be, Iverson can still torch a team when he's on. Rip Hamilton will be coming off the bench (making a Thabo showcase/matchup substitution pretty easy).
Will our young guys continue contributing to our ascendance? Will the trade rumors amp them or distract them? Will Deng continue his incredibly active play? Will Vinny stick with a lineup of Noah + Tyrus + Deng for significant minutes, or will we be subjected to a small ball lineup that Detroit is designed to destroy? Finally, will Kwame Brown eclipse his season-high total of 10 points in a game?
Game details: 7:30 central, CSN