[Game preview spots are available, so sign up if you're interested.
This is an extra-special preview as it signals the start of a new contributor to BaB. Chris has been blogging about the Bulls at Bulls101 this season and I'm exited to bring him on board. You'll be seeing a lot of his work in the second half of this season and beyond, from recaps to longer-form posts and anything else. -yfbb]
Good news guys and gals, the Chicago Bulls are finally back. Yes, after a refreshingly-long-but-maybe-a-little-too-long All-Star break, the Bulls are back tonight to take on the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills. While going a full week without Bulls basketball surely sucked, at least we had killer episodes of Better Call Saul and It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia to hold us over in the meantime, right?
Anywho, this particular All-Star break was especially boisterous due to the NBA trade deadline coinciding with the week-long resting period. Which, ostensibly, made trades a hell of a lot easier to come by considering eight percent of the league - 37 players in total - were traded yesterday. For their part, the Bulls stood firm in continuity. Although they were oft rumored to be in the market as a potential buyer - I would contend trading Taj Gibson would have made them, in fact, a seller - the Bulls front office and brain trust decided they're comfortable with the current construct of the roster as is.
And, frankly, I don't think you can really blame them for that. Who on the market screamed ‘UPGRADE!' at a reasonable price? And besides, the last noteworthy deadline-day deal to push a fringe contender to elite status would be the Pistons trading for Rasheed Wallace way back in ‘04. Typically, teams in position to win now - like the Bulls obviously are - don't make blockbuster deals at the deadline. So I'm totally cool with the Bulls not making a move.
Now - for those, like myself, still wondering what the Bulls are going to do with the roster spot they've left open all season - we turn our attention to the buy out market. Reportedly, the Bulls are ‘VERY' interested in Kendrick Perkins, who appears will be bought out by the Utah Jazz in lieu of a three-teamer yesterday between Utah, Oklahoma City, and Detroit. However, the Bulls should consider adding literally anyone besides Kendrick Perkins. Yes, Tom Thibodeau and Perkins have a history together as Thibs was an assistant coach on the '08 Celtics championship team Perkins was a part of.
And some view Thibs' interest in Perkins as a small but important concession that could be made between a front office and a coach that just can't get along. In that, if general manager Gar Forman and Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson decide to scoop Perkins, it'll likely be seen as the guys upstairs doing Thibodeau a solid. A sign that the irreconcilable couple can act civilly.
To that end, sure, it'd be cool if Thibs and GarPax could play nice. However, the big thing not to lose sight of here is that we're talking about Kendrick Perkins! Perkins' player efficiency rating hasn't been above 10 - league average is considered 15 - since the 2010-11 season. Which wouldn't even qualify Perk to be labeled the Kirk Hinrich of big men (although I desperately want to) because even ole Captain Kirk hasn't been that bad, for that long.
So. Shifting gears but staying on the theme of transactions, the Pistons pulled the trigger on a rather large move yesterday. Detroit ransacked young, talented point guard Reggie Jackson from Oklahoma City as part of the aforementioned three-team trade involving Perkins [Jackson won't be available tonight, Spencer Dinwiddie will start and expect to see a lot of our old friend JLIII -yfbb]. Jackson's game brings pretty of intrigue to a Detroit backcourt lacking dynamism after Brandon Jennings (Achilles) was lost for the season on Jan. 25. In the wake of the Jennings injury, Detroit's gone 4-6 while sitting at 21-33 overall, which stunningly is still good enough to be only two games out of the No. 7 seed in the East.
Detroit is a team that very conceivably could still make the postseason, and the addition of Jackson certainly indicates they intend to make that push. Detroit did, however, have to surrender former-Bull point guard extraordinaire D.J. Augustin, stretch-forward Kyle Singler, and a pair of future second-round picks. But assuming Detroit is planning on re-signing Jackson in restricted free agency this summer, the move doesn't seem too shabby.
Oh, and the Pistons also traded for Tayshaun Prince with the supposed intention of keeping him and not buying him out. I don't really know what to make of this. But I do know that the Pistons dumped two additional players - Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome - in the Prince deal, which brings me to the main point here: Detroit's roster looks a lot different from what it was a week ago, and that probably bodes well for the Bulls tonight.
In fact, Chicago's next three games are against teams that made drastic changes at the deadline in Detroit, Phoenix, and Milwaukee. Again, I'm going to assume this is a good thing for the Bulls. While these other teams must undergo a ‘feeling-out' process of sorts, the Bulls are currently tied with the Thunder for the NBA's longest active winning streak at four games. In even better news Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler are all expected to play despite being labeled as probable on the injury report. Which means we might get one of those rare, precious instances where we actually get a fully healthy Bulls squad.
Also, as an obligatory reminder, the Bulls are 13-3 this season with the starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Butler, Dunleavy, Joakim Noah, and Pau Gasol. So if the Bulls can stay hot while the teams they are about to face try to figure out how to assemble their newly acquired parts, going on a sizable win-streak doesn't seem out of the question.
That is of course, as long as Thibodeau doesn't go screwing with Tony Snell's psyche by having Hinrich hijack all of his well-earned minutes. And also, again, staying as far away from Perkins as humanly possible. That too remains largely at play here.
But, all things considered, I'll say with genuine optimism: I'm looking forward to the second half of the season. I hope you are as well. Oh, and I probably should mention, I am very much looking forward to being a part of Blog a Bull, too.