[thanks to Kris for today’s game preview. If you’d like to do a preview, there are spots available before the break -yfbb]
Your Chicago Bulls are in sunny Phoenix, Arizona tonight where it is currently a frosty 77 degrees. I might have to put on a long-sleeve shirt, guys, this is getting ridiculous. This is my favorite Bulls game every year because it's the one I get to watch in person, as I live in downtown Phoenix just a few blocks from the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
First, some logistics:
Chicago Bulls (26-27, 7th in East) vs. Phoenix Suns (16-37, 15th!! in West)
When: 8:30pm (9:30 Chicago time)
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
Watch: ESPN (were there no other choices, really? I guess the upside is no Neil Funk)
What can I say about this sad amalgamation of overpaid vets, reclamation projects, unplayable ready-to-play college grads, and overvalued 3rd year "rookies" with disappearing skills...other than that it has been A TOTAL SUCCESS. The White House isn't the only organization that has embraced #AlternativeFacts, as the Reinsdorfs had nothing but praise for the front office duo of Gar Forman and John Paxson's masterful rebuild that is wasting Jimmy Butler's prime and hamstringing the development of its questionable draft picks. GarPax's plan to get younger and more athletic and find players that fit Fred Hoiberg's pace and space system has gone about as poorly as you can imagine, but don't expect Jerry Reinsdorf to care. The money is still rolling in and he's very busy rebuilding the White Sox.
While there is nothing to look forward to in roster building, you can't say the Bulls aren't interesting. Although recently overtaken by the Knicks going Full Knicks, the Bulls have been Bullsing around this season even more than usual. Between Butler and Wade calling out the young guns, Rondo simultaneously defending them and throwing shade at Ray Allen, and Fred's continued death spiral as a coach, there's been plenty to write about.
There have been some positives, though. Really! Jerian Grant has quietly been solid since replacing Michael Carter-Williams in the starting role, shooting 61/48/83 for 9.7 PPG and only 1.2 TOs in the last five. Fred's RNG rotations have been brutal on development, but Jerian has been proving his worth on the floor. He also almost murdered JaVale McGee and all of his descendants on Wednesday with an ambitious dunk attempt. Cristiano Felicio, beloved son of BaB, The Black Samba, Lord Ruler of the Nimble-Footed Giants, His Eminence, continues his reign of terror on 2nd units, and his Hulkish regeneration overcame a slight ankle injury ahead of schedule. Paul Zipser has also caught fire, if not with his shooting, but his playing time has been fairly steady and he shows solid potential for a late 2nd rounder. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic are on time out and you are forbidden to speak of them for the time being.
Jimmy Butler has been a superstar on the court as usual, although a rogue heel injury has sidelined him the last few games, and as of this writing it hasn't been confirmed whether he will return tonight. Paul Zipser is out, Isaiah Canaan has a sore toe (and he's really bad), and Dwyane Wade returns to the lineup after a respiratory issue that has not affected his tweeting. Robin Lopez should be well received by Suns fans in his return, and maybe he'll punch the mascot for good measure. That guy never shoots the free shirts far enough for me to get them in the nosebleeds anyway.
The young Suns squad has some fight in them, literally, despite occupying the bottom of the West at the moment. Devin Booker took exception to being called trash after Troy Daniels hit a 3 on him, some minor chest-puffing and hold-me-backs took place, and the result is that Alex Len is suspended for tonight's game and some various fines were handed out. Dragan Bender is also out for the next 4 to 6 weeks while recovering from ankle surgery. Eric Bledsoe has been really good for the Suns and, as usual, has been mostly flying under the national radar. Booker has been a fan favorite in Phoenix, but the rest of the young guys are sort of middling to bad, and their front office (along with the Bulls) is among the worst in the league. The difference is that the Suns are going to land a very nice draft pick this summer, and the Bulls will stay stuck in neutral. Check out our Suns counterpart for more info on their situation.
The Bulls shouldn't underestimate this team, though. They are 10-7 against the East and the Bulls are known to play down to what they deem as lesser competition. If Butler plays, I think he'll shoulder the Bulls to victory. If not, one of the young guys will have to step up and prove their worth (so...Suns by 30).
In all honesty, I hope you guys enjoy tonight's game. I will! Just don't think about our dismal present or future, or how we've surrounded a top 10 player with people who can't shoot and need the ball, or why Denzel Valentine can't get minutes. Just bask in the warmth of this dumpster fire and pray the flames reach the front office.