[Thanks Bullieving in Miami for today's game preview. A couple spots are still open. -yfbb]
In case you had put it out of your mind I'm here to remind you all about the Bulls' last meeting against tonight's opponent, the Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Hornets. It's important to remember the past in order to improve in the future. And so the Bulls get an opportunity early in the season to not only avenge an ugly loss but also show how they've adjusted, evolved, and improved over the course of the young season.
Not only was that win in Charlotte the Hornets' first of the season, it also catapulted them into a nice stretch where they have now won 4 out of 5 with the lone loss being against the Spurs. Interestingly, the Hornets have had a different player lead them in scoring in each of their last 5 games, so they are getting contributions from throughout the roster. The Bulls are similar in that way, having 4 different leading scorers in their last 5 games. If you look a little deeper, of players with at least 175 minutes on the court neither Charlotte nor Chicago has a player in the top 20 in regards to the percentage of their teams' points they score while on the floor (%PTS). In fact, the Bulls barely have someone in the top 40 of that stat (Jimmy Butler). You know that old adage about quarterbacks: if you think you have two quarterbacks you really have no quarterback. It seems the Bulls just don't have a player on the roster who can go out there and get his at any time. Perhaps the offensive system is dictating it as such right now but they simply don't have an elite-level, top line scorer. It will be something to monitor going forward because ultimately what wins in the playoffs is having elite scorers who can score without depending on other players.
Going off of that last point, the Bulls seem to be reverting to the Skiles Bulls, a team that relied a lot on ball movement to create open looks, often of the mid-range variety. The Bulls are currently 7 points worse per 100 possessions than they were last season and it's simply a result of less-efficient shot selection. Pau is slowly being forced away from the basket. Jimmy, who got almost half of his shot attempts in the paint last season (45%, according to vorped.com) now has his highest percentage of shots coming in the mid-range area. We know Rose's difficulties converting at the rim at the moment.
Where am I going with all of this? The Hornets don't have any particularly strong shot blockers of note. I mean, Marvin Williams is their leading shot blocker. Simply, the Bulls need to put pressure on the Hornets inside and attack the rim. Surprisingly, points in the paint in the last meeting were even at 40 apiece. The real telling stat is in the amount of FTs attempted, where the Bulls only took 8 trips to the charity stripe compared to 23 for the Hornets. That Bulls total is by far their worst of the season and well below the 20.8 FTA they average per game, which already has them ranked at a lowly 25th in the NBA. This could be a nice game for the Bulls to turn that trend around and get back to the stripe, a tendency that brought them a lot of success during the Thibs Era.
On to some fun stuff. I'm now married to a graphic designer so this sort of stuff is now coming to the forefront of my consciousness. The Hornets have a sweet court design, so kudos to them for laying down a unique honeycomb design that isn't an eye-sore and doesn't distract from the (mostly crappy) product on the court. I will admit, though, that I miss the old uniforms. Yes, our beloved Bulls basketball man-god Michael Jordan continues to own this team, and he continues to display as much ineptitude drafting players as he did brilliance during his playing days. Oh, Justise Winslow is on the board? Nah, he's a Dukie. I'll take Frank Kaminsky instead. Noah Vonleh? In another uniform after one season and drafted over the likes of Elfrid Payton and superstar Doug McDermott. Cody Zeller? Lighting it up to the tune of 8 points and 5 boards a game. Wait, it goes on. I'll leave MKG alone because we are not ones to make fun of injuries. But certainly there are other memorable gems, like trading for Bismack Biyombo on draft night, and selecting Adam Morrison. And let us not forget Burger King spokesman Kwame Brown.
In all seriousness, if the Bulls have any sense of personal and professional pride they come out motivated in front of the home crowd and avenge their embarrassing loss in Charlotte. Niko finally snapped out of his funk in the second half versus Philadelphia to compile a 20/10 stat line so hopefully that continues. Joakim Noah should be back in the lineup to help the Bulls make up a -19 rebound differential in the previous matchup with the Hornets and contribute more than the paltry 5 rebounds he himself had. Perhaps Rose can put together a complete game (I know, possible disinterest against the Hornets) with a decent point total to go along with the decent assist totals he's put up recently (7+ in 3 of the last 5 games) while pushing the ball up the court quickly, something he did well in Philly. After 3 days rest there is no reason the Bulls should not win this game. Despite the Hornets recent success they lost the one game they played against a good team (Spurs) since beating the Bulls. I'm really hoping we can at least categorize the Bulls as a "good team" as well and expect a W.
Catch the action at 7pm CST on CSN-Chicago.