[Thanks to BULLieving in Miami for today's preview. No Chris Paul, woo hoo! If you need and crave more me, I provided some As to AtTheHive's Qs. -ed.]
After being drenched in 3-game win-streak euphoria, last night's loss to the Rockets brings us back down a peg. It's a small peg, though, as the Bulls remain competitive. If we ignore the last home game versus Toronto before the trip, the Bulls' last five losses are by a combined 20 points. So they are close, but obviously not enough. There is still a ways to go with this team. I just hope the organization attributes this more to the roster getting healthy than to Vinny somehow coaching better.
Speaking of healthy rosters... Tonight's game against N'awlins presents an interesting match-up, in my opinion. It's interesting not-so-much for the match-ups on the court, but more for the comparison to be made between these two teams. When I look at the Hornets, I see a team the Bulls should strive to be like. They should be the prototype for our organization. You have an elite PG in Chris Paul, and hopefully Rose will be in that category in another year or two. I think Rose shows signs of being that caliber player. He just needs to find that delicate balance between when to be a scorer for his team and when to be a distributor. Paul is obviously very in-tune with this concept. And Rose definitely has the athleticism to become a good on-ball defender, but if he ever puts up steals numbers like Paul, it'll probably be attacking passing lanes.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Hornets present a roster the Bulls should be trying to emulate. Chandler is the perfect compliment to Paul. He's a long, athletic big man who can run the court and presents Paul with a big target to throw the ball to. (and when I say big target, I don't mean massive. I mean that since he's so long and athletic, it gives Paul a bigger area in which he can throw lobs and entry passes.) Then, the real kicker. The Hornets also possess David West, who is a talented inside scorer with a very good back-to-the-basket game. How can the Bulls duplicate that? Well, Tyrus can definitely be that athletic big that runs up and down the court and gets alley-oops and tip-dunks and such, like Chandler. (please, i don't want to start a whole "should we have kept Tyson" debate.) The only problem with this is that Tyrus is the only big the Bulls have that can possibly develop into something remotely resembling West. Tyrus' jumper is getting better, and if he can learn to gain control of his body more when attacking the rim, he can be a player in that mold. Unfortunately, I'm not certain he'll ever put up the numbers that West does, but he can certainly be that 'type' of player for the Bulls. That leaves us with Noah. Ideally, he would be the Chandler-type, but he just doesn't possess the physical talents that Tyson does. Noah's not as good a leaper and a step slower. So, basically, it's Tyrus trying to be both West and Chandler for the Bulls. This is not to say that Noah is complete garbage, but West/Chandler is a more formidable and balanced duo than Thomas/Noah, at least at this present time.
And finally, Paul is surrounded by legit 3-point threats to help spread the floor for him and the bigs. Peja, Rasual Butler, Posey, Mo Pete... these are legit outside shooters, all shooting better than 40% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the only Bull in that class is Ben Gordon. So we can see where the shortcomings are. Obviously I'm not trying to make the Hornets the end-all be-all of what the Bulls should be, but they certainly do provide a good blueprint considering the talent we have in place right now.
As for the game... Paul will not play because of the groin injury he suffered Monday. That is good news for the Bulls, though it sucks for the sake of my comparison. This would've been a great PG match-up to watch. Chandler looks like he might suit up tonight, so that could mean trouble. He's obviously not as effective without Paul out there, but he could give the Hornets a lot of second chance opportunities, and with the way the Bulls play defense, they can ill-afford to just give up extra possessions. I'm thinking the Hornets might get away with one here, but I could see the Bulls winning and guaranteeing an above-.500 trip. Look for Posey and Noc to bruise each other up. I know I will. And perhaps while Noc has Posey in a headlock, Kirk can come get a few cheap shots in as payback for that forearm shiver a few years ago in the playoffs versus Miami. Enjoy!!!
GAMETIME: 7pm CST, CSN, ESPN1000