Thursday, November 4, 2010

Click-a-Bull (Rose Dunk; Noah's Fire; Rose FTs; Kerr on Bulls; Knicks)

Let me get this out of the way: I'm not going to angrily rant discuss last night's Bulls v. Knicks game in this space, saving that for the podcast this weekend*. But I will say this: it was nostalgic, and emotional, and just awesome to hear Marv Albert calling a Bulls/Knicks game again. I love the NBA.

*Looking like the podcast (BBS: AudiBULL) will be airing
sometime Sunday afternoon. For the exact time/details,
follow me on twitter: @BullBearSock (or follow fellow
BBS writer and partner for AudiBULL: @kmartBBS)

BBS: Derrick Rose's Dunk-of-the-Year Entry (from the 1st quarter of last night's game against the Knicks)

The Fire Inside

The house is set against a forest preserve, and through the trees you can hear the MetraRail north line chugging back and forth from Fox Lake. But all you can see out here, in the darkness of a Sunday night in the Chicago suburbs, is Joakim Noah's face illuminated by flames. He bought the house in part because of the fire pit in the back, the deep thoughts and long conversations it foretold. This may seem like buying a Bentley for the floor mats, only Noah uses the fire pit as he imagined, arranging the kindling in a pyramid at sundown, cracking open a light beer, folding his 6'11" frame into a chair under a tall birch. He can tell the regular season is coming because he has to slip a parka over his sweats and hike his socks up to his knees. His hair is pulled into a bun, and his beard is finally gaining momentum.

Noah has just returned from a preseason game in Orlando, where his Bulls lost by 38 points, though he keeps referring to the margin as 50. His father, former French Open tennis champion turned reggae star Yannick Noah, sent him a text message from an island off the coast of Africa that read, "Better to lose by 50 one time than lose by one 50 times." This is the role Yannick plays for his son, always showing him the brighter side, offering him a pleasant alternative. When Noah was in high school, spending summers living on his coach's couch in Queens, then tagging along with that coach and sleeping on his floor at the ABCD basketball camp in Teaneck, N.J., Yannick would call and tell him, "You can meet me on the beach in the Bahamas. You can join me on my catamaran in Greece." Noah, shagging balls for the likes of LeBron James and Sebastian Telfair at the camp because he wasn't good enough to be invited to play, would set his jaw and say, "I've got to stay here and play in the projects."

He sticks an iron poker into the fire pit and prods the embers until they spark. "I still feel like that guy," Noah says. "I'm not a very skilled player. I'm not that talented. For me, it's about wanting to win more than the other person. That's what makes me a little different." The NBA's regular season can be a mundane exercise, 82 games during which the best teams bide their time until the playoffs and the best players admit they are pacing themselves. "I don't see it that way," Noah says. "I can't." In the locker room before games, while teammates visualize themselves making every shot they take, Noah conjures a much different image: He is playing the worst game of his life, getting backed down and pushed aside, dunked on and laughed at. He lets the anxiety build before releasing it on the floor in a torrent of churning limbs and primal screams. The way he runs the floor, it looks like his ponytail might snap off. "Jo has the kind of drive that I don't think many people have ever seen before," says Tyrone Green, Noah's former Police Athletic League coach, the one who offered up his couch in Queens.

Derrick Rose starting to draw the contact

You still see it: Derrick Rose blows by his man as quickly as any player in the league, he is in the lane fast. The help defender is moving over just a second or two late, and Rose makes an athletic, acrobatic move to avoid the defender and spin in a bucket. You see the shot again on SportsCenter.

That’s not what Dwyane Wade would do — he’d slam into that late defender, maybe or maybe not making the shot but drawing the foul for sure. Wade also probably would go crashing to the floor in a manner as spectacular as the shot.

Last season Wade averaged 9.1 free throws per game. Tyreke Evans was 6.5. Deron Williams was 5.5.

Rose was down to 4.3. It’s long been the one thing that needed to change about his game. He needed to draw the foul. And he knows it, he told the Sun-Times.

”I’m trying to change it now where instead of avoiding the contact and hitting crazy shots, I’m trying to get fouled and go to the free-throw line,” he said. ”It’s kind of weird for me right now getting used to it, but it’s coming along.”

Back in broadcasting, Kerr high on Bulls’ future

For former Bulls guard and current TNT analyst Steve Kerr, the transition from the Suns front office back to the world of television wasn’t exactly all that challenging.

“It’s great, I’m undefeated,” said Kerr. “I’m home five days a week. It’s been great to get back with TNT and a lot of old friends and great people. To have a normal family life again after the last few years of being gone all the time has been nice.”

Kerr, a five-time NBA champion including three titles during Chicago’s second three-peat, says he’s very optimistic when it comes to the future of his former team. He applauded the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, as well as the way the Bulls are playing with a sense of purpose this early in the season.

“I really, really like their team,” Kerr said of the Bulls. “I think Tom is a terrific coach and obviously well prepared after 20 some years of coaching as an assistant. You can see just by watching them play that they have a plan, an identity, and they’re executing what they’re trying to do.”

Kerr added that another reason he’s been impressed with the Bulls is the job done by GM Gar Forman and EVP of Basketball Operations John Paxson.

“They’ve got a well-constructed, balanced roster and a good group of guys,” said Kerr. “There are a lot of high character players in Chicago who want to win, and that’s a great formula. Once [Carlos] Boozer gets back, we’ll see. It’s going to be very interesting. But they have a chance over the next six to eight years to be really good.”

Games of the Night: Where Derrick Rose had really good seats for the ending

Knicks 120, Bulls 112: Bulls fans are going to get all over rookie coach Tom Thibodeau for not putting Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah back in when the team was on a run and pulled within nine late. Instead, the Bulls two best players sat the entire end of the contest.

That was not where this game was lost. We’ll get to the ending and talk about it, but be clear that the Bulls lost this game a lot earlier.

The Knicks put up 70 on the Bulls and whatever that was Chicago playing when the New York had the ball in the first half. Most teams call it defense, but that’s not what it looked like to me, if you let guys get to the rim and give them open threes I don’t know what you call it when you give up 132.1 points per 100 possessions like the Bulls did in the first half.

Part of it was the tempo — that pace the Knicks played at in the first half is where they need to be all the time. The 13 turnovers by the Bulls in the first half helped fuel that.

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