[Thanks to paddyfairview for today's game preview (sign up!). I'm trying to ignore the Booz updates, they seem to be changing quite frequently. But there's a chance he plays. This game has all the trappings of the first-game-back-from-roadtrip letdown, but that may be a myth. -ed.]
I was just going to blather on about how the Bulls are a legit contender for the first time since the Jordan Era (which occurred sometime around the Civil War, it feels like) but then the news broke that Carlos Boozer is coming back. Bulls at full strength. Taj as a bench guy. Rose with options. Brian "the moving screen" Scalabrine sliding off the end of the bench. It's all happening. If you hear someone screaming, hide your children, because it's me running down the street naked waving a Bulls flag.
Booz's status vs. the Magic is still uncertain, but whatever. The point is that we're going back to once upon a time, when Booz was Our Guy. Remember that? First LBJ did the snickers commercial thing and morphed into Aretha Franklin. Chris Bosh is totally Betty White. We gave 'em the finger and put all our hope and a bunch of JR's money in Carlos' hands, so of course on his way to cash the check he trips. The "fifth metacarpal" - which I assumed was medical speak for "all hope of a championship season" - is crushed. Turns out we came out swinging. "Carlos Boozer" stopped being a basketball player for a while and became the byword of some hazy future where the Bulls would be even better than they already were. Sometimes I forgot there was another player on this team and just assumed we adopted a big bald mascot with a cool beard and a diamond-encrusted McDonald's watch.
But it's all over now. He's back.
[I can't stomach these discussions about us getting "worse" when he returns. You don't add a player of his caliber and not improve. Unless the player has the exact same game as one of your current stars, and you try to insert them both into the starting lineup, creating a weird traffic jam that disintegrates the halfcourt game into a stupid, VDNesque isolation "offense". (Not that anyone would be stupid enough to actually try this, Pat Riley.) There will be transition time but we will be an elite team before long.]
On to the actual game: I hate the Magic. I think they suck. Their game plan is, put the Howardmonster in the middle and let him play whack-a-mole, then jack a bunch of threes to stay in the game. They have Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis on the same team. What the hell is that? Being both overpaid and lazy in the playoffs is how "stars" kill a franchise, and if the owner wasn't willing to do things like effectively paying J.J. Reddick a max salary they would fall apart. We are hard hat lunch pail. They are the rich kid cashing a fresh check from Dad after blowing the last one on coke. If they get Arenas (who would fit right in, I guess), then maybe I'll be scared. I can't believe they didn't pull the trigger after that Heat game, when they spent four quarters dribbling around the perimeter looking more and more desperate. What a bunch of hacks. If Vince Carter retires they should keep him around as their mascot.
We've got the return of Chris Duhon (who cares) and the first appearance of J.J. Reddick at the UC after his almost-signing by the Bulls this summer as far as storylines go. I like that the Bulls will be rested and finally at home, and the Magic will be on the second night of a road back-to-back. Kurt Thomas should see some playing time - I'm pretty sure it says in his contract he has to run out and kick Dwight Howard really hard in the kneecaps if Howard tries to Rambis Rose. And Brian "the moving screen" Scalabrine will hopefully remain safely on the bench, where the crowd won't be forced to pelt him with concessions as he gets schooled by one of the Magic's many effective big men.
Here's a schedule breakdown I think is revealing (or maybe it just confirms what I want to hear): Orlando has gone 13-4 against teams with a combined record of 144-168. They are 11-1 against teams below .500, and 3-3 against teams above .500. Their wins came against teams with a combined record of 100-142, while their losses came against teams that went 44-26. What this says to me is that they have an easy schedule, and they definitely have not established themselves as elite. Their toughest wins came against Atlanta, New York, and the recently shitty Heat, while their losses have come in that first Heat blowout, and then to Utah, San Antonio, and weirdly, Toronto. Again, the ONLY teams above .500 they have beat are the Knicks, Hawks and Heat. All I'm saying is they have yet to prove they're the juggernaut everyone talks about.
The Bulls have gone 9-6 against teams with a combined record of 139-115. We are 7-0 against teams below .500, and 2-6 against teams above .500. That might not seem flattering, until you consider that a) we're still missing our second scoring option, obviously, and b) we beat Dallas, a much better team than anyone the Magic have beat (maybe a much better team than the Magic), and we lost mostly to very good/elite teams like LA, San Antonio, Boston, Denver etc. Teams we have lost to have a combined .692 winning percentage. I'm OK with that, for now.
This game is very winnable, even if Boozer doesn't come back. If we do walk away with a W, it will be on for the rest of the season in terms of teams coming at us. It might be already, what with the prophet Charles Barkley on our bandwagon now. Whatever, I'm cool with it.
Oh yeah, and go talk some shit.Orlando Pinstriped Post
Game is at 7:00 on CSN.