Quick takes on last night’s Bulls win, Rose “updates,” and the impending trade deadline.
PELICANT WIN. The Bulls started the second half of the season off on the right foot with a 96-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets. Luol Deng & Joakim Noah avoided an all-star hangover by both leading Chicago with efficient performances in under 40 minutes of action. Deng scored 20 points on 54% shooting (7/13), while Noah recorded a double-double (15 points & 17 rebounds) on allegedly 0 hours of sleep. While the future Pelicans aren’t amongst the Western Conference’s elite, they had been playing well as of late winning 14 of their last 26 games – so I’d still consider this a solid road victory for the Bulls after starting the month 2-5.
THE RETURN (PREQUEL). After missing the last 7 games due to an elbow injury, Kirk Hinrich returned to the Bulls lineup and dished out a game-tying high 10 assists. I’ve been a major Kirk-detractor this season mostly due to his shooting deficiencies, but there’s no longer any denying his ability to manage the offense and facilitate open looks for his teammates. Last night wasn’t any different as the Bulls offense looked more fluid with Hinrich on the floor. Defensively, Hinrich also lived up to Gar Forman’s assessment that he is “very difficult to screen” and thus limited dribble penetration by Hornet’s guards. The Bulls are now 27-14 with Hinrich in the lineup.
Kirk’s abilities are only accentuated by the limitations and often erratic nature of his point guard counterpart, Nate Robinson. While Robinson is a more capable and explosive scorer, the Bulls offense tends to stall with the ball in his hands. As evidence, the Bulls starting five with Hinrich at point has a plus/minus of +26 this season compared to the -37 posted by the same lineup with Robinson in control. A potential drawback to Kirk’s return is how it can neutralize Nate’s production. The former Eastern Conference Player of the Week only had 6 points on 2/9 shooting last night against the Hornets… but at least got his own customized locker.
GO GO GADGET. This was the Bulls first look at 2012 number one overall draft pick Anthony Davis, who missed the previous contest in Chicago due to injury. The “Brow” was very impressive, showcasing both an inside and mid-range game on his way to 15 points and 10 rebounds. The future is definitely bright for the 6’10” Chicago native who displays supernatural wingspan and the coordination of a guard. Davis demonstrated his inspector gadget-like arms a few times against the Bulls.
DERRICK ROSERCOASTER. Last week, Derrick Rose wasn’t coming back until he was 110% , admitted his leg wasn’t feeling right, and could miss this season. This week, he’s participating in 5-on-5 scrimmages and reportedly looks “really good” and even “dominant” in practice. I’ve always believed Rose would come back this season, and in my 47th revised prediction, I’m now speculating Rose suits up either on February 28th at home against the Sixers or March 10th in Los Angeles to face the Lakers. From a “full-circle” standpoint, it’d seem appropriate and even symbolic for Rose to return against the last team he played in the very same venue. From a financial perspective, we should never dismiss any hidden marketing agendas for an event of this magnitude – especially after the accusations made in light of Rose’s recent USA Today piece. Both the Sixers (TNT) and Lakers (ABC) games will be broadcasted to a national TV audience.
TAXPOCALYPSE. We are approaching 24 hours until the NBA trade deadline (Thursday, February 21st at 2PM CST) and the Bulls currently remain idle despite previous reports on the availability of Carlos Boozer & Rip Hamilton. If the Bulls refrain from a payroll-cutting transaction, the franchise will be subject to the league’s luxury tax penalties for the first time in team history. No trade this year would be uncharacteristic for fiscally responsible owner Jerry Reinsdorf, but it wouldn’t be for a lack of trying. Teams ultimately aren’t biting on damaged, aging, or overpaid goods, and the Bulls’ front office is unwilling to part with their more desirable assets.