Vinny Del Negro couldn't help but take a jab at all the reports regarding his future on Sunday afternoon. When a reporter asked how his players were responding to all the rumors surrounding his future, the second year head coach stopped him mid-sentence.
"There has been?" he said sarcastically. "I didn't know that."
Obviously, it's a lot easier to joke about things when your team has won four games in a row. But, as both Del Negro and his players admitted, it's never easy hearing all of those reports during a season.
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What the NBA has learned this decade
When I think of how the nation changed this decade, I consider the cars in my town, and I think back to the day several years ago when I saw a Hummer with a personalized license plate that claimed "8 MPG" -- as if the owner were proud of eradicating the earth's natural resources one block at a time. I thought of that guy when gas prices hit $4 a gallon, and wondered whether he still felt that way, or whether he begged for mercy and swapped his Hummer for a Prius. Even if he didn't, enough others felt that way to drop Hummer sales by 85 percent this year.
The NBA, just like the rest of America, is capable of learning, even if it sometimes requires a good deal of error amid the trials. This was the decade we discovered that gas-devouring SUVs aren't so cool when you're paying $4 a gallon at the pump, we learned not to throw all of our investment dollars in a company just because it had dot-com in the name, we found out that green-lighting mortgages for homeowners already deep in debt isn't such a bright idea, and the NBA realized it's not wise to become infatuated with players just because they have foreign names or to lavish huge contracts on centers who can't get you a double-double.
Fiscal responsibility became the league's focal point by the end of the '00s, whether it was saving salary-cap space for the 2010 free-agent market or trying to save a franchise from bankruptcy. One team executive estimated that up to 70 percent of trades are now made for financial reasons.
Grading the First 30: Bulls
Few teams have been more confusing than the Chicago Bulls so far this season, especially after how great they played in last year's postseason, but losing Ben Gordon has proven to be a much bigger deal than anyone expected (even if everyone still agrees that Chicago simply couldn't have paid him $11 million a season) and now the team is fighting and clawing its way back to .500. How did this happen? A lot went into it, but things aren't all bad here, even if the first third of the season was pretty dismal.
Best Offensive Weapon: Derrick Rose – An injured ankle sort of limited Rose early in the season and probably shook up his confidence a little bit, but once he got fully healed he really started tearing things up on the offensive end of the floor. He hasn't quite lived up to the expectations fans had for him this season, but he's getting there. As the leader of the team in scoring with 18ppg he is up from last year's average despite the slow start, but his assists and shooting percentages are down a little from his Rookie of the Year campaign. He's steadily finding the groove, though, and there's little question that by the end of the season he'll be back on top of his game and having critics oohing and ahhing again.
Bulls riding Rose's wave
Derrick Rose has the types of skills that bring video games to life.
He has the ability to leave opponents' heads spinning with the type of quick cuts he makes. He has proven that over and over during the Bulls recent four-game winning streak. The second-year point guard is averaging 25 points a game over his past seven games and is playing like the player everyone in Chicago grew to love last season when he earned the Rookie of the Year Award.
"That turbo button is a little bit different in the last six, seven games than it was early in the season," Bulls center Joakim Noah said of Rose. "He's been playing at a really, really high level so that definitely gives a boost to our team when D Rose is playing like that."
It's no coincidence that the Bulls have found their stride at the same time Rose has found his.
Post-Game: Could the Bulls be GOOD?
Luol Deng is always my emotional barometer for the Bulls, meaning that when he's happy and talkative, it's probably with good cause. I've always felt like nobody in that locker room takes the game more seriously than Deng, to see him in such a good mood and talking so positively about the team speaks volumes.
Derrick Rose led the Bulls tonight towards their season-high fourth straight win, scoring 30 points and chipping in 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Taking 23 shots is a lot for him, but his offense was on point tonight--so much so that he got the line ten times. That's exactly the sort of game Rose is capable of every night, and it was enough to fuel Chicago towards a big home win tonight.
What was interesting in this evening's game was the substitution patterns Vinny Del Negro used, opting to play Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah only minimal minutes despite really hot play of late in favor of Taj Gibson and Brad Miller, both of whom played their Magic opponents very tough tonight. Miller especially got into Dwight Howard's head, causing the big guy to have an off night which certainly didn't help Orlando's cause much.
I'll tell you this: the Chicago Bulls
are starting to look suspiciously like the team everyone thought they could be coming into the season. They still have some work to do closing out games, but they do look good. Maybe Vinny can breathe easy for a while longer...
I tweeted something similar to that during the Bulls W over the Magic: @bullbearsock: These Bulls appear to be good at basketball and fun to watch. 2010 is different/odd, but I am loving it
The Vinny Distraction
It's hard to explain what's going on in Chicago right now. For about two weeks now there have been a number of reports coming out of the Windy City indicating that Vinny Del Negro, the team's head coach, could be fired any day. The GM of the team passed on giving a definitive show of support to his coach, and there were even rumors that preliminary background checks were being done on potential replacements.
But somehow, Del Negro has survived, but that doesn't mean he's out of the woods, even taking his team's four-game winning streak into considering. One gets the impression that he's one more embarrassing loss from getting shown the door, which in most cases would be a huge distraction for an NBA team.
Not this one, apparently.
"We're not worrying about it all," said Bulls Player of the Month, Derrick Rose, who averaged over 20ppg in December. "That's in the front office, and they have to make that decision. We're just trying to play basketball right now."