Posted by sportsmaven on January 21, 2008
I sometimes have an enormously difficult time figuring out the Chicago Bulls. Take Friday night, for instance. The Bulls play a talented but beatable Golden State Warriors team that provided match up difficulties and the Bulls were actually winning by 14 points in the second half, but were upended 119-111 by sketchy play down the stretch. The next night, on the second game of a back to back, which the Bulls are something like 2-9 on the second game of a back to back, beat the Detroit Pistons 97-81, arguably the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
The Bulls played a terrific game against the Pistons, defined by a very strong 4th quarter performance. The next 10 games are vital for the Bulls, for they have to have a stretch of winning to get to the .500 level. That should be their first goal. The next should be to position themselves as the 5th or 6th seed in a very weak Eastern Conference. If they are a 7 or 8 seed, the Bulls will have very little chance of advancing in the first round of the playoffs. But they have to get there first…..
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Basketball, Bulls, Chicago, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, NBA, pro basketball, Thabo Sefolosha | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on January 19, 2008
So much has happened since we last saw the Chicago Blackhawks grace the pages of the Sportsmaven blog. Barring a collapse of the Chicago Cubs (which is ALWAYS a distinct possibility) your Chicago Blackhawks might be the most successful of the major professional sports teams that call Chicago home. The Blackhawks have come out of hibernation and have done it at the most perfect time, given the struggles of it’s United Center roommate, the Chicago Bulls. It has done so in the face of a disappointing 7-9 post-Super Bowl season for the Chicago Bears. And spring training is about a month away, so the Blackhawks have center stage and are making the most of it.
Kudos to new owner Rocky Wirtz in making one right move after another in providing this franchise an about face it so dearly needed. The hiring of John McDonough from the Chicago Cubs was brilliant. The announcement of home games on TV began the healing. Parking Bob Pulford in the Wirtz Corporation offices and reaching out to Blackhawks alumni Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita to take front and center publicity roles were long overdue. The Blackhawks are seeing a revitalization that has rarely been witnessed in Chicago sports history.
Tonight’s article is about the franchise, the new direction, the new hope, the seizing of opportunity. The bulk of the heavy lifting still has to come from the players and coaching staff, but finally, this team no longer has to carry the baggage of the mess that old ownership bestowed. It no longer has to play it’s home games in a near empty stadium. The Blackhawks players and coaches have earned a pass for this season, but yet, they are performing better than I had anticipated, and could compete for a playoff spot if several key players return quickly from injury. Hockey fans rejoice — The Chicago Blackhawks have become relevant once again.
Posted in Chicago Blackhawks | Tagged: Bears, Blackhawks, Bobby Hull, Bulls, Chicago, Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Cubs, Cubs, hockey, Stan Mikita, United Center | 2 Comments »
Posted by sportsmaven on January 19, 2008
Watching the Chicago Bulls play the Golden State Warriors tonight in a 119-111 home loss, it occurred to me that the Bulls are flat out, not a very good team. And that’s about as polite as I can get about a team that really lacks game-breaking talent or any semblance of leadership, organization, or passion. The Bulls also lack a clear identity and that’s been a long running problem for this team and organization. The Bulls have somehow figured out a way to take two and a half steps back on the path to reclaiming their glory days of the Michael Jordan years.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
It appeared that the Bulls were assembling good, solid, fairly skilled players that are fundamentally sound and would be great complementary pieces to a marquee free agent signing. The Bulls then signed F/C Ben Wallace and paid him a boat load of money, but I’m still not exactly sure WHY they signed him. He was a high profile name, coming from a successful, NBA Champion pedigreed team in the Detroit Pistons, and seemed to be high energy with the heart of a gamer. A closer look at Ben Wallace shows an undersized F/C that was clearly on the downside of his career, a defensive stopper with no offensive game, a free throw shooter on par with Shaquille O’Neal, in short, not the marquee name to slide into the star role the Bulls sorely lack and need.
Future drafts and free agents signings brought in good, talented players from successful college programs. The Bulls were assembling more complementary talent, that I was sure was earmarked for a trade to bring a game-breaker or two. Then the Tyrus Thomas pick….GM John Paxson moved off the playbook and drafted for potential, bypassing C LaMarcus Aldridge for a more athletic, less fundamental, sky high potential of a freak athlete with only two years of college basketball under his belt. Then the whole thing blew up under the weight of high expectations following a 49 win season in 2006-2007.
After tonight’s home loss the Bulls record stands at 14-22, 8 games under .500 and having a very Chicago Bears-like season. The Bulls, owners of a win streak no longer than two games, are a mess. The Joakim Noah farce was the latest in a turbulent season that has seen gross underachievement, the firing of very successful head coach, Scott Skiles, on Christmas Eve, nonetheless, the two day pause in naming Jim Boylan as interim head coach (as if Skiles was fired with no plan for a replacement in mind) and now G JamesOn Curry developing a urination problem that required resisting arrest and an overnight stay in a Boise, ID jail cell.
The record and poor play would have been more than enough to dislodge the faithful. Add in the endless public relations nightmares, repeated over and over again, the lack of any clear direction or vision for this team, and the lack of any action to forge an identity (pointing out lack of pulling triggers on trades for Memphis C Pau Gasol, C Kevin Garnett, SG Kobe Bryant, or any other playmaker that can make a difference). Now there is talk that the Bulls may be interested in Tracy McGrady. Please. The Bulls are turning into the New York Knicks, and doing it so well, that people are forgetting about the real New York Knicks. Only in the NBA Eastern Conference, would a team like the Bulls be sniffing a playoff spot with this kind of karma……Note to Ben Gordon and Luol Deng: you should have signed those contracts.
Posted in Chicago Bulls | Tagged: Basketball, Ben Gordon, Ben Wallace, Bulls, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, JamesOn Curry, Jim Boylan, Joakim Noah, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Michael Jordan, NBA, New York Knicks, Pau Gasol, Scott Skiles, Shaquille O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Tyrus Thomas | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on January 11, 2008
Don’t let Illinois’ Rose Bowl performance fool you, the Fighting Illini are on the rise. After New Year’s Day’s meeting with the USC Trojans, Illinois is a better team that the final score of 49-17 indicated. The Illini played with heart and toughness, and with a bit of talent, but USC is arguably the team with the best talent in the country. Illinois, at times, hung in with the Trojans, but the gap in talent between Illinois and USC was too great, at least for this game, on this day.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
Now many people think that Illinois should just be happy they made a BCS bowl and that any other year, the 9-3 Illini are happily playing the Capital One Bowl, watching Ohio St. in the Rose Bowl. I think that’s fodder for narrow-minded; pessimistic thinkers. Illini Coach Ron Zook is an outstanding recruiter, and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley’s spread offense and his Washington DC area connections (as well as his remarkable eye for recruiting difference-makers) provides the rebirth of the Illini football program.
Now, if we could only get Ron Zook to help Bruce Weber recruit for the basketball program……
Posted in Fighting Illini | Tagged: BCS bowl, college football, Fighting Illini, football, illinois, Rose Bowl, Trojans, USC | Leave a Comment »