[Thanks to JockstrapNoah for today's game preview. We still need peeps for the next couple of weeks. If you're interested in tickets tonight, make sure to check out our partners at TiqIQ for Chicago Bulls Tickets -yfbb]
The Education of Nate Robinson
Everybody hates Rajon, except perhaps Nate Robinson? Google the pair and you'll find a collection of Shaq-as-victim pranks from Nate's time with the Celtics in 2010. Clearly this buddy business won't fly in the Bulls locker room and surely Kirk Hinrich is briefing Nate on the major incidents in the Rondo-Bulls history.
Incident A: Definitely not a flagrant
Incident B: Definitely didn't throw an elbow
These teams have a dislike for each other. This site has a dislike for Rondo, and all focus is on Nate Robinson as he prepares for his first start as a Bull in the wake of Kirk Hinrich's "day-to-day" injury. The matchup of the two point guards has precedence in a game following last year's trade deadline where Nate Robinson as a Golden State Warrior greatly outplayed his former prankster partner but missed a possible game-tying three point shot in the final seconds.
Can Nate's hyperactive style be the answer to Rondo's mystifying ability to control games with his awkward passing?
Age, Defense and the Bench
Amazingly, Garnett, 36, Pierce, 35 and free-agent signing Jason Terry, 35 are all older than Rip Hamilton. The world has been predicting that age would catch up with the Celtics since 2009 and quick asides on the Celtic's defense at Celtics Blog offer hope that age is affecting their play:
The biggest worry from the first few games of the year (for me at least) has been the lack of defensive dominance that we have all grown accustomed to with this team.
The good news: Lee's defense has been solid (like the rest of the team, he simply needs to do a better job of getting back in transition).
Many, if not all Celtic fans can agree that defense has really been the Celtics' biggest problem, especially defending the opposing backcourt.
These random observations are backed by the numbers. The Celtics have a defensive rating of 104.1, 22nd in the league (The Bulls are 2nd with 96.1). Whether this is age, distance from the Thibodeau era, or just a collection of new players needing time to gel, its heartening to think that the Bulls mediocre offense might break 90 points.
The Celtics really do have a lot of new faces on the team. Lee, Barbosa and Terry rotate in the backcourt (although they don't seem to have a clear backup point guard). Rookie Jared Sullinger from OSU has been seeing the floor, even starting three games. And thankfully, Jeff Green has returned after an aortic aneurysm that required heart surgery and a year long recovery.
So far, however, the entire set of new players is under performing. Terry has shot well but provides no rebounding, passing or defense, Lee has shot poorly, and Sullinger and Green seem like weak options at back-up power forward while they acclimate and re-acclimate to the NBA game. We complain at Blog-a-Bull about an awful off-season and a shaky bench, but the early season verdict on the Celtics is that their off-season looks more awful and their bench shakier. Aside from two hall-of-famers and a rubber limbed alien point guard, the 3 wins 3 losses Celtics look bad.
The Front Court Will Win This Game
Carlos Boozer continues to rebound well, and that's it, but he draws Brandon Bass, Sullinger and Green as his opposition tonight. The nba is full of athletic power forwards but this group seems a bit underwhelming. If Carlos Boozer can contribute... something... anything... the Bulls can separate from Boston.
Joakim Noah versus Garnett seems like a classic battle, but Garnett is surviving on experience and will. Noah can jump higher, can run faster and will beat Garnett down the court consistently, box him out routinely and will provide another stellar performance as the Bulls best player.
Bulls win 90 - 82.