Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bulls Links (Kirk, Taj, Pippen)

Well, I must say I'm pleasantly surprised to be 3-2 with our tough schedule over the first few games. I doubt many predicted anything better than 2-3.

That being said, tonight's game is a chance to build on our "momentum" (in quotes because we have put together some UGLY wins, so not sure we have any momentum). Either way, a win is a win, and the Bulls are 1st in the Central. The Bobcats are also 3-2, but I see the Bulls winning another ugly one.

Never content

Funny story: While picking up the kids from school, my wife ran into two friends of mine. They asked where I was. She told them I was out interviewing Kirk Hinrich. They both asked, "Why?"

He walked through the locker room ready to battle. Mentally. Physically, he was taking the night off. Nothing serious (left elbow), just a precaution. It was the last game of the preseason, and Vinny Del Negro decided to sit all of his point guards -- Derrick Rose, Jannero Pargo and Hinrich -- making Lindsey Hunter do something that isn't part of his contract: play.

Still Kirk wanted in. Even when the game was meaningless.

But that's just who he is. The kid from Sioux City, Iowa, who while he's going into his fith year as the captain of an NBA team that's built for the playoffs -- and seventh season overall -- still feels he has something to prove. The type of guy who never wants anyone to wonder why he's being interviewed. That guy who needs to remind people that he is worthy.

Gibson's golden opportunity

The rise of Taj Gibson isn't going to stop any time soon.

Now that Tyrus Thomas is out for four to six weeks with a fractured forearm, there's little doubt that Gibson will take the bulk of his injured teammate's minutes. He'll be in the starting lineup for the third consecutive night on Saturday, and you can be fairly certain he'll continue to do all the small things that NBA coaches love -- especially on the defensive end.

It's not often that a rookie is able to carve a niche for himself by playing defense, but that's exactly what Gibson is doing, and Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro couldn't be much happier about it.

"It's been great," Del Negro said after practice Friday. "Taj keeps working. He's out there working after practice now, and he's constant effort. He's still making some mistakes, but you can live with those because he's always working. And his energy and his effort, especially defensively is good. He's just got to continually find his spots in the offense and in transition and things. But, as he gets more confident, and gets more consistent minutes, I think that will come."

Pippen believes Bulls can contend in the East

We’re only five games in to a very long regular season, but I’m comfortable saying it: the Bulls can be contenders in the Eastern Conference. They’ve got a legitimate chance of being a top four seed in the playoffs the way they are playing right now.

The biggest luxury that this team has is that so many players have been able to step up. Everyone keeps talking about the absence of Ben Gordon, but the Bulls have players who are hungry on offense and looking to make up for his scoring. I like the pecking order Head Coach Vinny Del Negro has established. He uses John Salmons a lot and of course you have a lot of creativity from Derrick Rose. They’ve got a lot of versatility out there on the court, then you look at their bench and guys like Kirk Hinrich and Brad Miller can come in and step up with big plays. This is a team that plays well together, and you can’t underscore the importance of that in this league. Not to take anything away from Ben Gordon, but that style of play and how the offense revolved around him when he was in the game became too predictable. Their chemistry seems to be a lot better too at this point in the season.

K.C. Johnson's Bulls mailbag

I hope all you mockers are happy. I hope all you backpack-wearing lovers are happy as well. Thanks to the mad genius of inside guy Adam Caldarelli (a fellow Evanston Township grad), you guys have backpacker wallpaper.

What's funny---for those coming late to the party---is that I never have worn a backpack in my entire life except for the three weeks I was in China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In fact, that very ample backpack sits in our bedroom, collecting dust, while my wife mocks me for traveling to road games with a computer bag and plastic Jewel bag for my change of clothes and toiletries.

That's probably too much information for you. But here's some more:

I know it's still very early in the season and Bulls aren't 100 percent but outside of some decent defensive rotation against San Antonio, the defense doesn't seem much better than it did last year. What happened to that offseason dedication to defense? By the way, backpackers are respected in the hip-hop community. You're like the Kanye West of beat writers. Marlon, Chicago

Thanks, but I think I'm more like the John Denver of beat writers--a little granola and way geeky.

All teams make an offseason dedication to defense. It's typically forgotten by about the sixth game. The Bulls will stay with theirs because it's the only way they're going to get better. The offense certainly isn't cutting it thus far.

I do think Rose, once completely healthy, will make a jump this season. Noah has looked better. And Brad Miller is still a wily veteran. Through four games, the Bulls are allowing 94.8 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting. The second number is too high, but the first isn't awful. They rank 11th as of this writing. Let's see it play out a bit more.

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