The Chicago Bulls wrapped up their pre-season with a nice win over Indiana last week to end their pre-season play at 5-2.
This last pre-season contest saw the Bulls kind of overwhelm the Pacers early on. I can’t say enough about the Bulls energy. They are one of the oldest teams in the NBA so I do fear that running game against a younger team that likes to get up and down the court. Without #1 to make decisions on the break, we are definitely weaker, but the playmaking ability of Noah, Boozer, Rip and Nate should be enough. I’m also impressed with the underrated passing abilities of both Jimmy Butler and Nazr.
You got the idea that the Bulls defense seemed intact, but who knew that there would turn out to be little to NO dropoff from last year:
Four things I’m looking out for as the Bulls season opens:
Kirk Hinrich’s health
Kind of scary that Kirk is ALREADY battling a groin issue. After Rip and D.Rose last season with the groins, I think its understood by many if not all that Kirk needs to be sure he’s ok to return. It was listed as a “sore” groin and not a “pull” so I don’t know how severe this is. The Bulls medical staff I think will also err on the side of caution. At the time of this blog, Kirk had participated in a full practice and is optimistic about playing in the opener. We’ll see. I loved how he looked with the starting unit. He averaged nearly 6 assists per game and shot 41% in just over 25 minutes a game… He did sit for 2 of the contests. Again, I’m concerned about Kirk, especially after appearing so “vintage” in his debut.
Nate Robinson to play under control
Nate has proved himself already playing with the starters. He was the second strongest playmaker in the pre-season assist-wise at 4.6. He is a disrupter. He plays with heart, but he’s a vet and has a variety of ways to score. He finds the open wing player, he can take the ball to the rack himself and he also can penetrate defenses and find the open man right under the rim. He was not as strong with the second unit, but we saw him with the second unit early on. He was trying to do too much too quickly in my opinion and was slightly out of control. He’s too important for that and I look for Nate to play with pace and be the most cerebral player out there. Thibs heavily recruited for Robinson and Nate’s also been quoted as being honored to play in Chicago after having looked up to MJ and the Bulls. Nice intangible, and its a relief that he and Thibs have history in Boston.
Bulls offensive production and playmaking
Will the Bulls be able to put the ball in the basket? Even with #1 on the floor, the Bulls struggled to score. They seem to KNOW that they will have to get their points off easy looks, pick and rolls, back cuts, 2nd chance pts. and on the break. FIVE players (Rip, Lu, Carlos, Noah and Nate) averaged double-figure scoring in the pre-season and Kirk was right there with 9.4 pts. Will this scoring be consistent? How much drop off will there be from the first and second unit’s production/output? Will Belinelli get loose (he hit his FIRST three in the last pre-season contest vs. Indiana so I guess that’s something to build on)? Will Nazr’s insane pre-season rebounding rate and FG% within 10 feet be sustainable? SO many questions about how the Bulls will put points on the board, especially against the more elite defenses in the league. Let the season begin.
The rejuvenated games of BOTH Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton
All the NBA talking heads always harp on Boozer and how he needs to find a way to play like the Utah All Star Boozer the Bulls need him to be. I agree and he seems to be ready to be a more creative finisher and passer this season. We’ll see if he can do it against teams that matter as he’s been known to fade against better competition. Rip Hamilton however looks MUCH more comfortable than he did last season and if he can stay healthy, his contributions can’t be overstated. The passing, the pick and pop, the open looks he’s getting off of curls. Nate Robinson has commented that they are running the same plays for him that they did for Ray Allen in Boston and that helps him as he’s learning Thibs offense.
Tonight we open against Sacramento on WGN at 7PM CST. No TNT or ESPN for the Bulls without #1 and the Kings WOULD have been a real softball opener for our squad in the past. Sigh. This opener now, might prove to be a bit of a battle because Sacramento can score the ball. The biggest key for the Bulls will be to frustrate DeMarcus Cousins (not a tough assignment) down low and get him into foul trouble. Then the Bulls just need to do a good job rotating and closing out on the Kings jump shooters. They can be deadly. Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette are all capable of making tough, long 2’s, shoot over 40% and they love to push the ball. They are one of the youngest teams, if not the youngest and they should give the Bulls a workout.
I’ll be in-game tweeting from @ChiTwnBullsBlog and cannot WAIT. Don’t forget that League Pass is free from 10.30 – 11.6 so real NBA fans should be ready for NINE games tonight. Check your local listings and get ready, get ready, get ready!
Til’ next time… –ct