[Thanks to Swoove773 for today's game preview -yfbb]
Thirty-two. The number is thirty-two. That's how many more games the Bulls have to figure out how to solve whatever problems they are facing. Defensive execution and intensity have not been present at all this season. Early in the season the offense looked to be a well oiled machine, but wrenches and pieces of chewed gum have since gunked and grinded the gears. All the while battling injuries for what feels like the one hundredth season in a row. It has taken fifty games for this team to go from being heralded as a top title contender, to a team hoping not to see a second-round exit of the play-offs.
Be that as it may, the Bulls still claim the 4th seed in the East with a 30-20 record. There haven't been many positives to take away over the past month. However, the positives that can be taken are the back-to-back wins against the Spurs and at the Mavericks, and an overtime win against the league-best Golden State Warriors. The Bulls are able to win. They have proven they have the ability to beat upper-tier teams. Upper-echelon even. In the DBZ list of characters, they're Vegeta, minus the twelve inch ego (shouts to Easy Eis). They have thirty-two games and the first round of the playoffs to gather their collective, and climb. Of course, this hinges on the belief that we are witnessing rock bottom.
On the greenish side of the lawn, the New Orleans Pelicans embody what the Bulls could be with less talent. New Orleans was thought to be an upper-tier team to start the season. Yet injuries, too, has stifled their ascension. There isn't a player on that roster that has played in all forty-nine of their games this season. Tyreke Evans and Ryan Anderson have played 48 games each. Omer Asik has appeared in 38 straight, with Luke Babbitt playing only one more game than him. According to their twitter as of yesterday afternoon, there hadn't been a single five man lineup to take the court in more than 37% of their games; that's 18 games for those of you that don't math. They have won only 27 games.
Their upswing lies in their youth. The oldest man outside of John Salmons (35 years old), is Omer Asik who is 28 years old. The sky is the limit for this team and they have nothing but time. The Pelicans is a team that could be fighting for a title five to ten years into the future, assuming the NBA lasts that long of course. And with players like Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Jrue Holiday, they're working with house money.
New Orleans is not looking at the same near-sided window as Chicago. Although their records are similar, the Pelicans play in a conference with many strong teams, and the Pelicans struggle against the competition. The Bulls play in a conference with many weak teams, and The Bulls struggle against themselves. Chicago still has a higher trajectory than New Orleans, don't let anyone fool you otherwise. Look for the Pelicans to play better than the Bulls [tonite]. Expect the Bulls to continue to struggle finding a rhythm. Celebrate the positive and forget the negative, that's the only way to get through it. The Bulls have thirty-two games to do it.
Tip-off is 6:00PM CST; WGN-TV / NBA TV and WMVP ESPN 1000AM