In advance of tonight’s game at the United Center, I took a few moments to speak with Josh Hill of Pippen Ain’t Easy. I asked him a few questions to get a better sense of the 2012 version of the Chicago Bulls.
1) How are the Bulls different when they use Rip Hamilton and Ronnie Brewer instead of Keith Bogans and Luol Deng?
They’re 100 percent different. Deng isn’t the problem Bogans was, Deng is actually playing like an All-Star this year and there have been situations in games, most notably the Pacer game, where he was sorely missed. But in terms of Hamilton versus Bogans there’s not even a debate. Bogans was alright on defense but his offense was what needed to be upgraded. Hamilton is exactly that, with his 15,000th point being proof he can constantly score. Brewer is a nice change of pace guard when he comes in as he’s not the prolific scorer Hamilton can be but his defense is definitely appreciated. I’ve said this from the start, but when Hamilton will be most useful is in the playoffs when he can share his championship experience on the court. That was notably absent in last years run and for me, that’s where Rip is going to make or break his money.
Well that’s already happening in Chicago. The fans are already on Sunday when the Bulls get a chance at revenge for the Eastern Conference Finals. Like last year though, the first matchup won’t feature all the Big 3 but that’s a whole other topic. While the fans are on Sunday, Rose and the team are very much focused on the Bucks which is bad news bears for them. Rose is pissed, to be blunt, about the loss to the Pacers. I mean he held back tears in the post game press conference. This should make Milwaukee very uneasy because unfortunately for them they get to be the Bulls punching bag after that loss.
I’m not saying the game won’t be competitive but the Bulls as a whole are very aware they lost a game they should have won on Wednesday and it’s going to be a case where they grab the closest guy to pound. That guy is the Bucks.
Joakim Noah can really get back on track tonight. He’s not been playing up to his level thus far this year and with Bogut out, Noah can really dominate inside. His rebounding has been average for him which can be boosted tonight and he’s been working on his scoring, which can also see an increase tonight without Bogut. Then again if Noah doesn’t have a great night then this is cause for concern. Like you said the Bucks have no true centers and if Noah can’t dominate someone out of position then we really need to re-evaluate where he’s at this season.
Oh if I had a nickel every time I was asked this. I’ll say what I always say: my crystal ball sees a healthy, firing on all cylinders Bulls team easily making it to the Conference Finals again this year to re-match the Heat. But beyond that it gets fuzzy. The Bulls are no doubt improved but we have to see how they hold up. The problem last year was they ran out of gas in the end. They dominated the Heat, Pacers and Hawks in the regular season but when it came to the post season all three of those team gave them a rough time. The shortened season may actually help in keeping them fueled especially if they run away with the division and can rest guys late in the season after they play a quarter or so. But if they have to play the 66-game grind and they get tired, we may see a repeat of last year. That being said, all the teams will be tired and the Bulls may be able to get a leg up.