Ahhh, the Pacers. After what this team put us through last season in the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, it seems almost inevitable that we would meet them again in this truncated pre-season. The Bulls will first visit the Pacers on 12.16 (tonight, airing on WGN) and on Tuesday, 12.20. I’m estatic that they shipped Josh “McElbow”, er, I mean McRoberts to the Lakers. He’s such a dirty player and D.Rose hater that he could have potentially taken D.Rose out before the Bulls title run can even get off the ground. Think I’m exaggerating? Take a look at this cheap shot he gives Rose in game 4 at Indiana. This is AFTER Rose returns after rolling his ankle and gets a back door cut dunk when Dahntay Jones overplays him.
Thanks to a savvy move on Draft day by the Spurs to relieve some cap space, the Pacers gave up the Kawhi Leonard/pick #42 and the rights to Erazem Lorbek for George Hill. The Pacers have also recently acquired David West from Free Agency to a 2-year deal. It remains to be seen what David West can be a part from the court vision of Chris Paul. He will also need to prove that his knee is fully healed. Regardless, these personnel changes give the Pacers much needed depth and savvy. They will be more dangerous at the close of games simply because Hill and West bring more leadership and decision making than a Danny Granger, who can be a selfish player and needs to dominate the ball to be effective.
Not sure how or if David West and George Hill crack the starting lineup. Tyler Hansbrough saw dramatically more playing time under Paul Vogel and I don’t expect that to change. Paul George, a rookie last season perhaps would be better coming off of the bench while allowing a strong backcourt of Darren Collison and George Hill. We’ll see tonight.
Vogel will have these Indy boys pumped up as they look to begin the season on a strong note. The way in which the Chicago Bulls beat them last season in the first round of the playoffs will also serve as motivation for them to play well, especially at home and also knowing that they will meet us again as soon as next Tuesday in the United Center.
Question is, will Rip start or will Ronnie Brewer get the nod? I’ve heard that Ronnie really wanted to get the starting job and the fact that Thibs said he wasn’t sure which of the two would start adds credibility to Mike Fratello’s statement on NBA TV that Ronnie Brewer has been KILLING it in the Bull’s camp. We’ll see. I purposely didn’t read any preview news of the game tonight because I wanted to craft my own and see how I fare later!
Key Matchups: Carlos Boozer against the Pacers’ front court. No turf toe this time. Will he get the lift he needs to jump with Hansbrough? He also needs to defend Tyler and make him put the ball on the floor. He is not as effective off the dribble as he is a great spot up shooter. He really hurt us in the OT loss to them towards the end of the season and also in game 1 of the first round.
What to Look For: Who will start for the Pacers? 48 minute effort needed by Chicago to challenge the additional scoring punch the Pacers may have coming off of the bench. Look for Derrick Rose to concern himself with being a more efficient player and controlling the game from the opening tip. I expect him to do a lot of passing in the first half to feel out his team and run the offense as planned. No heroics or physically taxing drives until necessary.
Coaching Edge: Thibs of course has the horses and has also had time to examine so much film from last season. I expect him to have the Bulls ready to compete. Vogel is a motivator and has convinced the Pacers that they can compete with the best the NBA has to offer. He also will look to trap Derrick at every instance and hopefully the Bulls can make them pay. Edge: Thibs
The game will be televised at 6:00P CST on WGN (Channel 9) in Chicago. Can’t wait!