[Lets make this the game thread as well. -ed.]
The first game preview of the new year! Hopes and dreams abound for Bulls fans, despite the wailing negativity of Our Semi-Friendly BullsBlogger we true Bulls fans know this is a team of, dare I say, grinding hustlers that just make you swell with pride and tears when they play the game.
And that paragraph is the last optimistic thing you will read on this blog FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR. The Bulls finished the 00s, winning only 40% of their games. This was not the best 10 year stretch for a historically competitive franchise, and in doing so the team went from toast of the town to an afterthought. A once proud and loud fanbase has dwindled and replaced by a bunch of corporate fatcats and young douchebags who spend the whole game on their iPhone while their semi-attractive girlfriends are fondled by Benny the Bull.
But, lest I be too depressing for your tastes let us revel in the awesomeness that is the current 3 game win streak! The Bulls have beat up on teams ranging from bad to awful and with the 29th best offense in the NBA, continue to build big leads and let them slip away. Surprisingly (or not), the Bulls defense ranks as the 11th best, but IMO that comes from a now two week stretch where they played the dregs of the league (yet still manged to almost get blown out by the Knicks).
Some positives to take from this stretch is the resurgence of Derrick Rose. It's pretty obvious the ankle is healthy and that awesome combo of quickness and power he introduced to the league a year ago is back. We haven't seen any difference in his passing game, but until a couple of days ago his teammates were so awful at shooting the ball I can't tell who's more to blame. Joakim Noah is still a man-beast, 2nd in the league in rebounding per game at 12.5(!!!!). Tyrus Thomas is back and his athleticism is still dreamy as ever, and his jumpshot and decision-making skills still range from "ok" to "phew" to "omgwtflolz". Deng is consistently playing hard, but with the return of TT he's reverting back to being the invisible player on offense.
Tonight's opponent is the Orlando Magic, and I haven't really followed them this year. They are really good at basketball, ranking 6th in O/D-Rating. Dwight Howard is still the best rebounder and interior defender in the league, and still hasn't really added that finesse element to his post offense. Despite a ton of pundits crying about the loss of the overrated Courtney Lee, the Magic seemingly got a steal in Ryan Anderson, averaging just under 10 points in only 17 minutes, posting a 19.7 PER and 58.7 TS%. Stan Van Gundy is the best coach in the NBA IMO, their record is right there with Cleveland and Boston, and they had the biggest roster moves of any title contender. Incorporating Vince's shots, surviving 10 games without Rashard and yet another Jameer Nelson injury is pretty impressive.
The only way the Bulls win this game is by making a ton of their stupid mid-range jumpshots, and get Howard into foul trouble. A better team would use this game as a measuring stick for their own success, with ours we can only hope they don't lose by 30.