Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Time for Another Bull Run?

The votes are in. We had 42 respondents.

18 voted yes to break up the Bulls' core and trade for Kobe.
24 said no coz the team is finally mature and ready to ascend.

Thanks for voting!

This is part of my NBA Eastern Conference Preview for Tower Sports NBA

Time for Another Bull Run

by Rick Olivares
Chicago Bulls 2007-08
2006 record: 49-33

The Chicago Bulls can no longer claim to be a team on the rise. The youth movement that General Manager John Paxson put together over the last five years is ready to ascend. Now.

Of course Paxson knows that all too well after his Bulls were eliminated three consecutive times by the Detroit Pistons before they won it all in 1991, their first of six NBA titles.

The window for an NBA championship is open only for a few years and if teams fail to make the move then they run the risk of being a middle-of-the-pack unit. Case in point: the Cleveland Cavaliers of Mark Price, Larry Nance, Hot Rod Williams, and Brad Daugherty. Magic Johnson towards the end of his career pronounced them as the team of the 90’s. Only no one gave Michael Jordan’s and John Paxson’s Bulls enough respect. Chicago not only ended the Cavs’ title aspirations, but they shook the entire franchise to its core. But then again what teams didn’t those Bulls of old dismantle? The list is endless.

And now together with Coach Scott Skiles, they have assembled a team in their likeness. A bunch of gym rats who can shoot from everywhere on the court and are Rottweiler feisty and scrappy. Some basketball observers noted before last season commenced that the Bulls would have been better served had they held on to Tyson Chandler rather than sign Ben Wallace. Chandler has blossomed quite nicely in New Orleans and has finally lived up to all that potential hung on him by former Bulls’ GM Jerry Krause.

Big Ben’s lack of an offensive game is never going to attract the double team that will free Luol Deng or Ben Gordon. Deng had his breakout season last year while Gordon is officially now the east’s hottest scoring two guard since Allen Iverson was shipped to the Continental Divide.

Early on the Bulls underachieved because of the weight of expectations and it took Headband Gate to put the team on the same page. An injury to Andres Nocioni put a little cramp on the team goal of 50 wins (they were one short). And that one loss changed the play-off picture as Cleveland got a free pass into the NBA Finals while the Bulls experienced a letdown by the time they faced the Detroit Pistons in the semis. Skiles and his Bulls know that had they played a little better they would have advanced to the Finals.

The team could have added Pau Gasol or even Kevin Garnett but the price was too steep for Paxson as he would have decimated his young core that was getting better every year. You can bet that Johnny Jumpshot will be paying close attention to Boston and how far Garnett will take them. With Kobe Bryant still available, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls the trigger on a massive trade to bring maybe the one player who can almost single-handedly bring the Bulls back to prominence.

The addition of Joe Smith is well… not bad. He’s a younger version of PJ Brown who plays good defense, provide locker room leadership, can rebound some, take charges, and knock down the mid-range jumper. Now hopefully he’ll play with a lot of heart.

The team’s rebounding totals got better with the addition of Ben Wallace as did their blocks and interior defense. Anyone remember his opening day block of Shaquille O’Neal’s slam attempt? That was Ben welcoming everyone to his new domain in the Windy City. Andres Nocioni when he’s healthy is a handful. Tall and strong enough to muscle with the big boys, he’s also agile and smart enough to draw them to the perimeter where he can hit the three or drive by them for a dunk. The health of the Wild Bull of the Pampas will also spell how Chicago fares.

Tyrus Thomas can only get better. He’s been working on his jumpshot. Once he knocks that down with consistency then Skiles will have his younger version of Amare Stoudemire. I guess the same can be said about Joakim Noah. We know he’s got heart, but offense? He didn’t play much in the summer leagues because of a torn rotator cuff. If he misses the season, he’s also missing out on an opportunity to contribute immediately. If he is able to play with a Rodmanesque ferocity watch out.

Who knew Luol Deng would be this good? I thought he’d be a marginal player since he wasn’t this explosive at Duke. But like everyone else, no one took into consideration his fighting heart and willingness to work hard. It would be interesting to see what he worked on this summer.

Chicago might have one of the smaller backcourt combos with Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon but their defense isn’t something to laugh about. Now if only Captain Kirk can stay away from foul trouble. Scoring is not a problem here as the trio of Hinrich, Gordon, and Chris Duhon averaged 45.2 points per game. That’s a little under half of the team totals of 98.8 ppg. The frontcourt duo of Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni accounted for another 32.9. So from their bench scoring was thin. If the Bulls’ guards can set up their frontcourt players for dime drops or gimmes this will make them more difficult to stop.

The much-maligned Chris Duhon despite coming off the bench was second in assists and provided steady scoring.

Chicago for all of Michael Jordan’s or Ben Gordon’s spectacular scoring sprees has always been a defensive-oriented team. The 2006 Bulls bettered their numbers in rebounds, steals, assists, turnovers-to-assists ratio, and scoring. They could have run roughshod over the East had they been healthy all season long. As it is, only Gordon and Deng played in all 82 games. What kept them going was their bench depth and if Joakim Noah and Aaron Gray contribute right away and Nocioni’s back holds up, this team will advance deep.

Should the team falter in the early stages, look to Paxson to make a blockbuster trade to bring Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol finally to Chicago. The Bulls lost on the Kevin Garnett sweepstakes and now they have another eastern contender to deal with. Money says that Paxson won’t make the same mistake twice. Unlike Boston, the Bulls have plenty of young talent to pick up the slack.

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