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A long way from Monday

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Ben Gordon is amazing. It's great when you're watching a player having his way to a point where the only possible complaint can be "why doesn't he shoot even more?", which was a concern during a 3rd quarter when Gordon's ouput slowed. But thankfully he went back to work in the 4th and through overtime on his way to a career-high 48 points, leading the Bulls to their 3rd straight win since Monday's debacle against the Magic.

Ben's counterpart Michael Redd was equally incredible in getting 52, but only 9 of those points came after the 3rd quarter ended. Redd releases the ball almost behind his head and often fades away when he shoots, so needless to say he's very hard to defend. The only Bull defender to do a commendable job on him was Griffin, who logged 23 minutes to close out the game for that very reason. As long as he's not aggressively hurting the offense, Griffin can work in a lineup as long as you have Ben Gordon bombing away.

But before Griffin, Gordon, and the Bulls came back from an 18 point 4th-quarter deficit, the barrage by Redd was very troubling (although I must say if there's a team I'd prefer to see the Bulls that far down against it'd be the Bucks). It's possible that it wouldn't have made a difference the way he was shooting, but why not try Thabo as a stopper to Redd off the bench? He at least would have served as something different for Redd to consider after spending the whole game shooting over Hinrich, Gordon, and Duhon with equal ease. The East is full of guards like Redd, and while he had a nice game tonight I'm not confident in Griffin performing every time a wing stopper is needed.

But I suppose I'll take one rookie promotion at a time, as Tyrus Thomas has had the minutes and performances to indicate that he'll be in the rotation for the stretch run. Either starting in place of PJ Brown or being the 1st big man off the bench, Tyrus has provided defense (not merely solid, the game-changing kind) and rebounding while being a threat on offense. There are the occasional (or 7) turnovers, but Tyrus also is making more controlled shot attempts around the basket, and as we've seen it sometimes results in spectacular dunks, but also in some trips to the line: He's averaged over 5 FTAs in the past 3 games. One offensive move that he's done pretty well with is when he gets the ball a few feet out and instead of taking a jump hook he uses his supreme reach and quickness to instead just blow by his man and in one step lay it off the glass. It's a shot that not many guys can even attempt, and is enough to get me excited over what his offensive game can eventually become.

It's more common to say that teams need their veterans come playoff time, but I really think that the rookies can fuel what could make for a big playoff run. Sure it's nice to have guys the coach can trust in Griffin, Duhon, and Allen...but to say they're 'needed' in the playoffs should only be accompanied with the caveat: 'in case of emergency'. If the Bulls are going to make real noise (beyond the obvious need for the core to produce), hope for both Tyrus and Thabo to progress to the point where they're the relied-upon: with Tyrus supplementing the frontcourt and Thabo being the man to stop guys like Michael Redd.