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1  General Category / Sports / Vancouver fans as stupid as the Canucks --- gotta love it, eh? on: June 16, 2011, 01:18:13 pm
Vancouver fans as stupid as the Canucks --- gotta love it, eh?Steve Rosenbloom The RosenBlog
9:31 a.m. CDT, June 16, 2011
Eternal hockey question: Do the Canucks’ many moronic acts on the ice spark their fans’ city-wide moronic acts off it, or vice versa?

Either way, you have to feel good that the dirty and stupid hockey team choked away its best chance at the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in a manner almost as excruciating and embarrassing as a hater like me could script.

Steve Rosenbloom
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Unfortunately, the dirty and stupid Canucks didn’t blow a three-games-to-none lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7. That would’ve been sweet. The best.

But still, the dirty and stupid Canucks gagged a series in which they led two games to none.

And three games to two.

And had home-ice advantage for the final game.

AND got shut out.

And then suffered through the Boston Bruins’ parading the Stanley Cup around the Canucks’ ice in a series that turned on a Canucks cheap shot that finally earned a suspension after the NHL choked on so many other heinous acts.

Hope the Canucks got a look at Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, the Conn Smythe winner who was as perfect as the Canucks’ $10 million head case at the other end was flawed. Luuuuuuuuser.

It might not have been my perfect mean-spirited ending, but it was good enough. Hope it hurts up there.

One thing I know for sure: It hurts the stupid and dirty Canucks a lot more than Patrice Bergeron’s finger that cheap and gutless Canucks forward Alex Burrows bit in Game 1 of the series.

And then the fans rioted. Of course, they rioted. They’re the same fans who defend and rationalize suspendible acts by their “heroes.’’

So, they rioted and set fires and broke windows, generally marauding about the city streets acting as moronic as their “heroes’’ in uniform. One of the best cities in the world was getting torched by some of the biggest idiots in captivity.

Figures.

The Blackhawks came close to inflicting similar unspeakable pain on the Canucks two months and four series ago. You know the story: down three-games to none, forced a Game 7, scored short-handed late in the third to tie it, got a power play early in overtime, then pffft.

The Hawks couldn’t complete the miracle. They couldn’t finish the utter humiliation of the Canucks. Their fans couldn’t revel in that.

But this feels pretty good, eh?

Copyright © 2011, Chicago Tribune
2  General Category / Sports / Canucks no match in Game 7 as Thomas blanks them 4-0 on: June 16, 2011, 01:17:03 pm
Canucks no match in Game 7 as Thomas blanks them 4-0

By Helene Elliott, Tribune Newspapers
11:17 p.m. CDT, June 15, 2011
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Canada's Stanley Cup drought continues, as the gritty Boston Bruins cruelly dashed its best hope in years.

Defying the odds and a historical record that strongly favored the home team in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins played a patient and near-perfect defensive game Wednesday night to defeat the Canucks 4-0 at Rogers Arena and win their first Cup title since 1972.

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The Bruins raced off their bench at the end, mobbing goaltender Tim Thomas and hurling their sticks and gloves in the air as they embraced. Winger Nathan Horton, who suffered a concussion in Game 3, skated out in uniform to join the celebration. Thomas, who had two shutouts in the finals, was voted the Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.

"I think they got really cocky and they thought they were going to roll over us," said Bruins rookie forward Brad Marchand, who scored twice Wednesday and 11 times in postseason play.

"But we took pucks and bodies to the net and we were able to pull it off. It's surreal. I don't know if it will ever kick in. It was unbelievable. I'm lost for words right now."

The Bruins became the first team to win three Game 7s in a playoff year and only the fourth road team to win a Game 7 in the Cup finals in 16 tries. This was also the first victory in the series for a visiting team.

Theirs was a tense and grueling road, but it ended with a victory over the team that had the NHL's best record this season.

"I would like to do it again. It was amazing," Boston defenseman Tomas Kaberle said. "I have great teammates here. I would love to do it again."

Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo called the loss devastating.

"We obviously didn't get the job done in Boston," he said. "These playoffs were the hardest thing I've gone through in my professional career. It's just a grind, mentally and physically."

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault wouldn't disclose which of his players had been playing injured — it's thought Ryan Kesler and Henrik Sedin were hampered throughout the finals — and said the Bruins were worthy winners.

"You have to give credit where credit is due. Their goaltender was real tough to beat," Vigneault said. "The way they played in front of him was real tough to beat."

Patrice Bergeron also scored twice, the second time a morale-breaking short-handed goal. Mark Recchi, the oldest player in the NHL at 43, earned an assist and finished as the top scorer in the Cup finals with three goals and seven points. Knowing a good exit line when he saw one, he announced his retirement while still on the ice.

No Canada-based team has won the Cup since 1993 when the Montreal Canadiens prevailed over the Kings. That has become a sore point here but the high-powered Canucks seemed to have a good chance to change that. But they couldn't solve the Bruins' defense or their physical play.

Twin forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the NHL scoring champions last season and this season, respectively, combined for two goals and five points.

The Bruins scored the only goal of a fast-paced and physical first period, when Marchand threw a pass toward the slot to Bergeron, whose shot found space inside the post to Luongo's right at the 14 minute, 37 second mark.

The suddenness of the goal deflated the crowd for several minutes but fans quickly regained their voices and restored the pulsating energy they had been creating.

The Bruins broke things open in the second period with two goals, the second short-handed. It got so quiet in Rogers Arena you could hear the Stanley Cup being polished.

After taking a pass from Recchi, Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg took a long slap shot that Luongo saved with his chest. But Luongo couldn't control the rebound and Marchand pounced on it, controlled it and took a wraparound shot that eluded Luongo at 12:13.

Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was serving the game's first penalty — for interference called at 16:07 — when the Bruins scored again. Bergeron broke in alone on Luongo and was impeded by defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. The referee raised his hand to signal a penalty, but the puck slid into the net at 17:35. The play was reviewed and the goal stood, a stunning blow to a team that was being outscored 22-8 in the Cup finals. The final goal tally was 23-8 for the Bruins — and one Stanley Cup.

helliott2@tribune.com
3  General Category / Sports / A tale of what might have been on: May 20, 2011, 01:25:08 pm
A tale of what might have been

If the 2008 lottery went by the numbers, Derrick Rose would be playing for MiamiEmail Print Comments21  By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose should be wearing a Miami Heat uni. He knows it. Pat Riley knows it. Most of all, the Chicago Bulls know it.


  • EnlargeDavid Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
Derrick Rose landing in Chicago instead of Miami was a stroke of luck that changed the trajectory of the Bulls.

Rose's Bulls jersey number ought to be changed from 1 to 1.7. That's because the Bulls had a 98.3 percent chance of NOT getting the first pick in the 2008 NBA draft lottery. Or in guy terms, you have a better chance of a Hooters server asking for your phone number than the Bulls did of getting that top pick.



But then came The Miracle In Secaucus.



In the time it took for NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver to tear open an oversized envelope and say, "The second pick goes to the Miami Heat,'' the shape, form and future of two franchises was forever altered. And so was this Eastern Conference finals between the Bulls and the Heat.



Now, three years after the Bulls cashed the scrawniest ticket in the history of the league's weighted lottery process, the truth can be told. Beginning with …



First of all, then-Bulls general manager John Paxson not only didn't attend the lottery at the NBA's studios in Secaucus, N.J., but he also didn't bother turning on the TV broadcast.



"I had made up my mind that it wasn't worth watching,'' says Paxson, who dropped the GM duties in 2009 but remains the team's executive vice president of basketball operations.



Instead, Paxson was upstairs in his bedroom as his wife, Carolyn, and their two sons, Ryan and Drew, watched the ESPN telecast downstairs. Paxson had work to do, which was one of the reasons he hadn't traveled to New Jersey for the show.



"I'm not one of those who enjoyed being up there in that environment,'' says Paxson, who played on three consecutive NBA championship teams in the early 1990s with Michael Jordan's Bulls. "It usually signals that you've not done very well. I'd been there a few times and had no desire to go back. We were in the middle of draft preparations anyway. Plus, it was 1.7.''



So for the second year in a row, Paxson sent Steve Schanwald as the Bulls' draft lottery representative. The team's executive VP of business operations was joined on the trip by Brandon Faber, a team public relations staffer.



Schanwald had been there in 2007, when the Bulls ended up with the ninth pick of the draft. They later selected Joakim Noah, who made draft night fashion history with his seersucker suit, bow tie, electrified hair, joyful smile and peace sign as he shook commissioner David Stern's hand.



If the lottery odds held up, the Bulls would pick ninth again in the 2008 draft. Miami had the worst record in the league, but best lottery odds at the No. 1 pick (25 percent), while the then-Seattle SuperSonics were second (19.9 percent) and the Minnesota Timberwolves third (13.8 percent).



At stake was a chance to draft Rose, the wondrous point guard from the University of Memphis, or Michael Beasley, the high-scoring forward from Kansas State. Rose and Beasley dominated the mock draft debate about who would go No. 1.



Schanwald and Faber flew from Chicago to Newark, checked into their hotel across the street from the NBA studios and later attended a pre-lottery cocktail party before a briefing by league officials. Nervous? Nah.



"I'm figuring we're going to end up drafting right where we should have: 11th, ninth, something like that,'' Schanwald says. "There wasn't any tension on the part of the guy who had a 1.7 percent chance.''



Schanwald was so relaxed as lottery time approached that he started chatting up Jay-Z, who has an ownership stake in the New Jersey Nets. A friend had texted Schanwald and told him to ask the world-famous hip-hop artist about his line of Rocawear. Never mind that Schanwald didn't know Rocawear from Rocco Mediate.




 Believe me, I sit here a lot and think to myself that this organization somehow got Michael Jordan with the third pick in 1984. Now because of that 1.7 percent chance, we end up with Derrick.


-- John Paxson
 

Not so calm was the Miami contingent. Dwyane Wade was the official Heat rep that night, but team president Riley was also in attendance, as was Andy Elisburg, Heat senior VP of basketball operations. Riley had coached the Heat to those 15 wins that season.



Schanwald would appear on stage during the lottery telecast, while Faber would represent the Bulls in an earlier, non-televised drawing of the actual lottery pingpong balls. That's where Elisburg would be too.



Some of the reps brought good-luck charms. Timberwolves executive Fred Hoiberg (a former Bulls player) carried a teddy bear belonging to a child who had the same heart ailment as the Minnesota assistant GM. Schanwald had about 50 photos of the children of Bulls employees and friends. Faber, who is from Ohio, brought a buckeye.



A little after 8 p.m. ET, ESPN's Doris Burke began to introduce the 14 team reps to the national television audience. This would be Schanwald's moment to cherish.



Except that Burke called him "Stan'' Schanwald and accidentally referred to him as the executive VP of basketball operations.



"I just laughed,'' Schanwald says. "It's so typical of the story of my life.''



The first five lottery picks went according to their odds. Golden State was No. 14, Portland No. 13, Sacramento No. 12, Indiana No. 11 and Jay-Z's New Jersey team No. 10.



Then Silver announced, "The ninth pick will be made by -- the Charlotte Bobcats.''


Schanwald beamed and pumped his right fist. Somehow the Bulls had completed a probability Hail Mary. At the very least, they would get the third pick in the draft.



Back in suburban Chicago, Paxson heard the screams from his wife and sons.



"I knew at that point we were in the top three,'' he says. "Then I went downstairs and watched the final part of the show. I was a little pessimistic. I figured the best we could do then is [No.] 3.''



Miami, Minnesota and Chicago made the final three. Seattle dropped to fourth. So Wade, Hoiberg and Schanwald were brought to center stage for the final lottery order announcement.


"It's very awkward,'' Schanwald says. "There's not one person in that studio who's rooting for you to win.''



Schanwald, Paxson and the rest of America didn't know how it was going to shake out, but Faber did. He and the 13 other team reps had witnessed the official drawing of the lottery pingpong balls a little more than an hour before the telecast began.



On an entire wall of Conference Room 3A were the 1,001 possible winning combinations to the No. 1 lottery pick. Miami had 250 of those four-number combinations. Chicago had just 17, including the combination of 11, 9, 7 and 13.



"I'm writing down the numbers as they're called,'' says Faber, who left the Bulls only a few days later to oversee the Chicago Blackhawks' PR staff. "I'm thinking, 'At least we got the first number.' And then they said the second number and I say to myself, 'That's really good.' Then they draw the third number and I'm going, 'There's just no way.'



"At this point I'm starting to doubt myself. I'm thinking, 'I'm not doing this right. No way we're going to win the lottery.'''



The Bulls needed the No. 13 pingpong ball to fill out the miracle combination. Moments later, the NBA official pulled a ball from the lottery container and announced, "Thirteen. Chicago, you've won the first pick.''



"We'll take it!'' shouted Faber.



Faber was sequestered upstairs in the conference room. He couldn't have told anyone the results even if he had wanted to -- security officials had taken away his cell phone and sealed it in an envelope.



In fact, when Faber needed to use the restroom, a security guard escorted him from the conference area, into the bathroom and back to the Room 3A. It wasn't until the final results were announced on stage that he and Faber and the other team reps were allowed to leave the conference room.



  • EnlargeJesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Steve Schanwald, also known as "Stan," was the Bulls' lucky charm in May of 2008. By then, Schanwald had received congratulatory handshakes from Wade and Hoiberg. Schanwald was stunned by the news, but he recovered in time to tell Burke "that operators are standing by now at 312-455-4000 for your season-ticket order.'' Once a businessman, always a businessman.



Schanwald's cell phone vibrated like a tuning fork with calls, messages and texts. It wasn't until later, when he was done talking to reporters covering the lottery, that Schanwald snuck away to a back room.



His phone rang.



"Hello?'' said Schanwald.



"Hello, Stan,'' said Paxson.



Paxson also called Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf. ("We were both stunned,'' Paxson says.) Then he called Bulls director of player personnel Gar Forman and director of college scouting Matt Lloyd.



"Somebody was looking down on us,'' Paxson says.



ESPN.com's Chad Ford, in his first post-lottery mock draft, argued that the Bulls should take Beasley because of his low-post scoring ability. And the Bulls, who had initially targeted their draft preparation for possible candidates at the No. 9 pick, thought about it too -- but not for long.



Shortly after the lottery, Paxson's staff met to discuss the top pick. He went around the table and asked each person the same question: If the draft were that day who would they take?



The choice: Rose.



Weeks later, as the draft night approached and the Bulls had completed their research, Paxson convened his staff and scouts for another discussion. Reinsdorf also was in attendance. Again, he posed the same question about the No. 1 pick. And again, Rose was the choice. The vote was unanimous.



"Believe me, I sit here a lot and think to myself that this organization somehow got Michael Jordan with the third pick in 1984,'' Paxson says. "Now because of that 1.7 percent chance, we end up with Derrick.''



They ended up with a Chicago-born star and storyline. They ended up with a humble league MVP who dotes on his mother. They ended up in the conference final against the team that could have, should have won the lottery in 2008.


Riley declined an interview request for this column, but given his appreciation of game-changing guards, it isn't much of a leap of faith to say that Riles would have chosen Rose had the Heat picked No. 1. Instead, they drafted Beasley -- and later traded him to continue working on their roster after signing LeBron James.



"That [lottery] night set the stage for what-ifs,'' Schanwald says. "Derrick would have been paired with Dwyane Wade in one of the great backcourts in history. The irony is he could have played with them against us. Or maybe they would not have been able to sign LeBron and [Chris] Bosh. Maybe it wouldn't have happened.''



Says Paxson: "Had they gotten the first pick and taken Derrick, chances are we'd see a different-look Miami team. Riley completely changed his team into a championship team by going the free-agent route. He did a great job.''



But so has Paxson, Forman and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls' league-best 62-20 record didn't happen by accident. Check that -- some of it did.



"It was amazing how it evolved and how lucky we were,'' Paxson says. "I know I sit here seeing Derrick play and I never forget the luck involved. One-point-seven percent. That's remarkable.''



Remarkable. Memorable. Almost unexplainable.



Faber still has the folder full of the notes he kept from that night in Conference Room 3A. But his favorite keepsake is an autographed Bulls jersey given to him by Rose during his rookie season.



Wrote Rose on the jersey: Thanks for playing the lottery.



Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/nba/columns/story?columnist=wojciechowski_gene&id=6568064
4  General Category / Sports / Heat shrink from challenge in Game 1 on: May 16, 2011, 01:28:22 pm
Heat shrink from challenge in Game 1

May, 16, 2011
May 16
1:28



CHICAGO -- As Dwyane Wade turned his head to follow the ball, he instantly knew he was in trouble. Taj Gibson, the Chicago Bulls’ athletic backup forward, was about to take off for the rim and Wade was badly out of position.

Wade could see it coming. He tried to prepare himself, but it was useless. He promptly got run over, as Gibson thundered a dunk right through him with surprising force and ease. It was a breathtaking highlight not just for the athleticism but also the symbolism.

Gibson did Wade like the Bulls did the Miami Heat in the opening game of the Eastern Conference finals. The Heat obviously talked about them, studied film on them and practiced for them. But feeling the Bulls’ strengths in person for the first time in two months was as overwhelming as a sucker punch to the gut. Or a dunk in the face.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Taj Gibson's dunk on Dwyane Wade seemed to demoralize the Heat.
"That was a good one," Wade said. "First time I got dunked on all year. I'll take my 90-to-1 blocks to dunked on ratio. It was a very athletic play. I knew I didn't have a chance."

That’s not completely true. Wade has been dunked on more than once. But the not-having-a-chance part did ring true after watching the Bulls' general takedown of the Heat’s game plan and then their psyche in an exquisite second half.

The Bulls didn’t do anything special in their 103-82 victory -- they did exactly what the scouting report said they would. They rebounded and played defense. The Heat reacted to it not like the surging favorites they had been tagged following their five-game takedown of the Boston Celtics in the previous round, but instead like the junior varsity.

“We took it on the chin,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said before using words such as “sideways” and “surrendered.”

They didn’t get just beaten by the Bulls, there were demoralized by them. The Heat played like a baseball team that knows it has a bad bullpen, spiritless as the game wears on. Their initial defensive stops weren't rewarded because of an endless stream of offensive rebounds. And it robbed them of all the virtues they got to this point.

Some of this was the general energy and skill of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer -- a pair of offensive rebounding juggernauts. As those rebounds piled up, the Heat shrunk and shrunk. Chicago gobbled up 19 offensive rebounds in all leading to 31 second-chance points and quite a few unofficial third-chance points.

“We knew it coming in and we still let them do it,” Wade said. “No one is going to beat anyone giving up that. If we give up that every game, we’ll be going home early.”

Advanced stats aren’t needed to explain how this worked out. The Bulls shot 43 percent, which is a respectable performance from the Heat’s usually sound defense. But all those extra rebounds enabled the Bulls to take 19 more shots than the Heat and eventually five more free throws. That’s how the Heat gave up the most points they’ve surrendered in the postseason to a team averaging fewer than 95 points per game.

This exercise had a cumulative effect. At one point, it seemed like the Heat stopped boxing out all together. One of the most basic basketball tasks was suddenly nearly impossible for a team that spent several days supposedly gearing up to face the Eastern Conference’s rebounding monster. Instead the Heat looked unprepared for the moment.

“It really deflated us and we lost our concentration,” Spoelstra said. “The offensive rebounding really affected us.”

Of course, this is not supposed to be the case at this level and this deep in the postseason. The Heat have their own weapons with the capability to answer. They have the personnel and the game plan to deal with the challenge -- until they didn’t.

Gone was the 1-2 attack that Wade and LeBron James ran to perfection against the Celtics and 76ers, when they averaged 54 points and 48 percent shooting in the first 10 playoff games together. Even as Chris Bosh was attempting to don a cape and come to the rescue with perhaps the greatest playoff game of his career -- 30 points and nine rebounds -- Wade and James did the worst possible thing they could do.

They played afraid.

As the lead grew, the Bulls kept pushing them further and further away from the rim. Eventually, the entire Heat offense was basically operating in about a 15-foot wide zone 20-25 feet from the basket. They just dribbled and passed until the shot clock demanded they do something with it, like take a bad shot. At one point, the Heat went nearly 21 consecutive minutes without a free throw, astounding for a team that was averaging 30 free throws per game.

When Gibson threw down his dunk, Wade responded by standing still. When Ronnie Brewer, another generally unheralded Bulls reserve, did the same with a devil-may-care slam in Bosh’s chest in the second half, James responded with a meek fadeaway.

Wade and James combined for 12-of-32 shooting and eight turnovers. Set aside the bad stats, they let the Bulls dictate how the game was going to be played. The Bulls forced the ball from their hands, isolated them, and made them stop working together.

All of this was covered in the pregame plan because this is what the Bulls do. It is the same defensive system, albeit with younger and more spry big men, that the Celtics deployed in the last round. But any momentum from that series seemed like a memory watching the Heat handle the new challenge.

“I don’t even remember shooting in the fourth quarter,” Wade said. “We were throwing up some Hail Marys.”

That’s because Wade didn’t shoot in the fourth and James barely did either, taking only three shots. By then the Heat were waving the white flag.

It was just one game at the start of a series, true enough. But it was more than just a loss. It had all the makings of a mental step backward, something the team now will have to sit with for two days with their first deficit of the postseason.

“We took a beating,” Bosh said. “I think we’ll get better. This is a group that has responded well when we’re down a little bit.”
5  General Category / Sports / Re: Rose's humble approach to MVP all an act on: March 24, 2011, 01:32:34 pm
5-on-5: Rose running away with MVP?Five ESPN.com writers debate five of the biggest talking points in the NBA todayEmail Print Comments ESPN.com


Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images
Derrick Rose has led the Bulls past the 50-win mark. Has he left LeBron in his dust in the MVP race?

It's time for a little 5-on-5, our new experts' roundtable featuring five voices on five hot questions.

Today we touch on the Derrick Rose-for-MVP movement, the Bulls, the Celtics, the Carmelo Anthony trade and the fascinating Western Conference playoff picture.

Check it out and come back to ESPN.com for more 5-on-5.


1. Is Stan Van Gundy correct? Have we already anointed D-Rose as MVP?



 
Rose


Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: Anyone with a pulse would be very happy for Derrick Rose, and maybe he should win it if nothing else as a thank-you for the thrills, the work and the wins. But LeBron James is a better player, playing just as he did when he ran away with this award the past two seasons. Beyond bitterness, is there a reason to disqualify him so early?



J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: Yes, Stan Van Gundy is correct. The media have decided Rose is the MVP, and the media hate changing the story once it's written. But the media are correct, too. Rose and the Bulls are having a better season than Dwight Howard and the Magic.



Kevin Arnovitz: Heat Index: The media and fans like novelty because it keeps the narrative interesting. That means that whenever there's a legitimate candidate for MVP who hasn't previously been in the conversation, we tend to gravitate toward him. And when that candidate's team loses only three times in six weeks, the momentum builds. This is true in basketball or baseball.





5 on 5: Rose is the MVP?
Have you made your choice for NBA MVP already? Stan Van Gundy might want a word with you. SN: Poll
Chris Sheridan, ESPN New York: I am with Van Gundy on this one, and he is on point: I am as guilty as anyone of anointing Rose the MVP prematurely, but I am on solid ground in doing so.



Look where the Bulls are. Then ask why they are there. This guy has been the consummate leader for them, and the leap he has made in his outside shooting has been astounding.



Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I would appear to be guilty. The Bulls would have to hit a serious skid here in their last 12 games to convince me otherwise.

Howard has played at a higher level of statistical efficiency and has kept Orlando in the top five defensively all season, even though he's surrounded by bad defenders. But the combination of the on-the-court load that Rose shoulders along with the galvanizing effect he's had as a leader for a team that's exceeded all expectations with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah combining to miss 54 games … yup. Guilty.





--------------------------------------------------------------------------------




2. Are the Bulls the team to beat in the East?





Abbott: Yes. It's probably smart to discount the first 30 or so games as they mastered coach Tom Thibodeau's team defense. Since then, they've been electric.



Adande: Because the Celtics are the defending conference champs, they're the team to beat, regardless of how the seeding shakes down. However, the Bulls will beat them.



Arnovitz: We know that Thibodeau's team has the stingiest defense in the league, and that has been the case for the better part of the season. But what's frightening about the Bulls right now is their offense, which is starting to hum. The conference semifinals aren't for six more weeks, so there's still plenty of time for another realignment, but until Boston re-establishes that old fire and Miami reaches its full potential for an extended stretch, the Bulls are the most competitive team in the East.



Sheridan: More and more, it is looking that way. Miami hasn't beaten the good teams and hasn't made big shots in close games. Boston has been brutal (by Celtics standards) since the Kendrick Perkins trade. Orlando hasn't integrated Gilbert Arenas whatsoever. Chicago is the only East team that has been steady all season.



Stein: Nope. Because there isn't one.

The Bulls should be that team on paper, given what they've achieved in the regular season, but the fact that this group hasn't proved anything in the playoffs yet is a disclaimer that can't be ignored … unfair as that might sound when they haven't yet had the chance.

The Celtics, meanwhile, aren't the Celtics anymore, although there's still time for them to snap out of this sulky funk and finally move on without Perkins.

I firmly believe that you can't make a clear-cut case for Chicago, Boston or Miami as the East favorite, which is one of the things I look forward to most in these playoffs. We just don't know. Suspense!





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3. Is something wrong with the Celtics?





Abbott: They were never supposed to be this good for this long -- their stars have been living on borrowed time for a couple of years already. And their nonstars are all cast-offs. Now they're dealing with the absence of Perkins. Under Doc Rivers, that's still one of the NBA's five best teams, but the Bulls are scarier.



Adande: Yes: Rajon Rondo's shot is off. He's shooting 34 percent in March. If he gets back to his season average of 47 percent, the Celtics will get better.



Arnovitz: Right now, the Celtics' offense is not much better than league average. It's hard to tell whether this is a fatal flaw or, as was the case last season at this time, the C's have just hit a rut out of which they'll promptly shake themselves on April 16. Either way, the ball needs to start moving again in their offense. Chances are it will.



Sheridan: Yes. The Perkins trade did a number on their chemistry, their bench is a collection of cast-offs whom the Heat, Mavericks and even the Nets didn't want, and Shaq will not be in game shape when the playoffs arrive. Defensively, the Celtics are not what they once were.



Stein: Yeah. The self-proclaimed toughest team in the league is still feeling sorry for itself more than a month removed from the Perkins trade. Get over it, fellas. Danny Ainge didn't make the deal because he didn't believe in you. You guys aren't supposed to be this fragile.





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4. Is it too early to say the Knicks lost the Melo trade?



 
Anthony


Abbott: It's well worth it if it brings Chris Paul. Otherwise, I'd say Denver won.



Adande: Far too early to say that, especially because Chauncey Billups, the underrated component in the trade, got hurt. New York will need multiple superstars to compete with Miami the next few years; the Knicks got theirs. The key is winning the transactions to come.



Arnovitz: In the long term, yes. We saw in Miami that retooling a roster in the offseason -- even one packed with superstars -- doesn't produce immediate results. We should figure that condition is compounded when you overhaul a team in the middle of the season. Still, the Knicks won't win consistently until they implement a defense that denies opponents the ball and contests shots.



Sheridan: Yes. They are simply experiencing growing pains. Did Miami struggle at the start of the season when all the new players were trying to jell? Yes. Have Boston and Orlando struggled since their in-season trades? Yes.



Bottom line: The main piece the Knicks got is harder to acquire than the pieces they gave away.



Stein: Ridiculously early. Laughably early. What if Melo's mere presence helps the Knicks recruit a third star? Or coaxes Phil Jackson out of retirement a couple of years from now? Then what?





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5. Which lower seed in the West is most capable of a first-round upset?





Abbott: The Nuggets. They not only have been incredibly X factor-ish since the Melo trade but also are lining up to avoid the two virtual locks for the Western Conference finals: the Spurs and Lakers.



Adande: If the seedings stay the same, the Trail Blazers could knock off the Mavericks, thanks to the combination of the Blazers' playoff experience and Dallas' history of playoff shortcomings.



Arnovitz: A healthy Trail Blazers squad is a two-way challenge, even for the top teams in the Western Conference. Portland has positional flexibility, guys who can rebound, rangy perimeter defense, a point guard who gets guys the ball where and when they like it, and a tough gym.



Sheridan: The Nuggets, but I'd like their chances better if they allowed themselves to slip from No. 5 to No. 6 to face the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. If they stay at No. 5 and draw the Thunder, they'll still be a tough out, but I would not expect them to advance. Of the top six teams, they are the deepest talentwise.



Stein: This is a question that will be far easier to answer once we know the first-round matchups, but without that information, I'm still on the Memphis bandwagon.

No one wants to see the Grizzlies even without Rudy Gay, because that means dealing with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in the frontcourt and wing defenders galore (Tony Allen, Shane Battier and Sam Young) who cause problems on the perimeter.





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http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?page=5-on-5-110324
6  General Category / Sports / Rose's humble approach to MVP all an act on: March 24, 2011, 01:31:33 pm
Rose's humble approach to MVP all an act

He wants to win the award—and badly
 
   


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Don't let Derrick Rose fool you.

Don't let his occasional lapses back into aw-shucks mode obscure what he calmly—presciently?—said way back on Sept. 27 during Bulls' Media Day festivities.

"Why can't I be the MVP of the league," Rose famously said then.

Now, he laughs off endorsements for the award from even Michael Jordan and steers such talk back to what he's all about—winning. And that's why the humble approach to MVP is all an act. Rose wants to win the award—and badly. He has said as much to confidantes.


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Of course, his reasons for desiring so are selfless, not selfish. Rose wants to be the MVP because he knows that means he's playing at his highest level, giving his Bulls the best chance to win what he really wants, an NBA championship.

This is why Rose has done bolder, more confident things like announce during a casual conversation at summer-league play in Las Vegas last summer that he had improved his 3-point shot. Which he has, from 26.7 percent last season to 34 percent this season.

It's why he took his work ethic to an even higher level last offseason, entering the Berto Center one day after the World Championships in Turkey ended, jet-lagged and bleary-eyed for a two-hour workout.

It's why, in an interview with the Tribune, he shed even more light on what drives him and why he made his MVP claim on the eve of this season.

"It's the joy of proving people wrong, especially when people don't expect you or your team to win," Rose said. "I always look at myself as an underdog. People always ask why I wear No. 1. It took me a long time to get where I am right now. I think back to high school. O.J. (Mayo) was No. 1 in our class. I wanted to get there.

"In college, people said to me, 'Why you going to Memphis? They're not going to do anything.' That just added stuff to the fire. And then, even when I went No. 1 in the draft, I wasn't even in the discussion for Rookie of the Year. You look at all the other people who went No. 1, they were automatically the people to be considered Rookie of the Year candidates. And I wasn't. All that stuff added on to the fire and I still remember the people who said it.

"I like proving people wrong. And that's why I said what I said (about MVP)."

Hmmm. "Stuff to the fire." Does that sound familiar?

Nobody compares to Jordan and nobody ever will. But Rose is beginning to develop a similarly encyclopedic recall of sleights—perceived or otherwise—and missteps to fuel his already prodigious motivational levels.

On Feb. 1, Rose admonished himself for missing the game-tying free throw in the Dec. 18 home loss to the Clippers. He then dropped 32 points and 11 assists in Los Angeles the next day to kick off a 3-2 trip in positive fashion with a victory.

Last Sunday, he spat out details of the Bulls' near-historic, 35-point collapse to the Kings from December 2009 because Sacramento was visiting for the first time since. Rose had 18 and eight in just 28 minutes of a 40-point blowout.

Late Tuesday night in Atlanta, Rose spoke with disgust about blowing a 17-point, second-half lead against the Hawks, even though the Bulls had blown them out once at home since. The way Rose played, posting 30 points and 10 assists with a career-high six 3-pointers in just three quarters, the loss stayed with him more than the victory.

Rose also acted defiantly throughout a recent stretch in which he missed 19 straight 3-pointers. Since snapping that string on March 7, Rose is 24-for-55 for 43.6 percent from beyond the arc.

"I told you I'm not going to stop shooting, no matter what," Rose said. "The game tells me to shoot so I'm putting the shot up."

Spoken like a true MVP.

kcjohnson@tribune.com
7  Messages / Causes & Activism / Re: Judge issues temporary order blocking collective bargaining bill on: March 18, 2011, 04:38:16 pm
Ouch, Gov Koch¤head got b|atch-sla­pped, big time.

Modern Republican­s: the ugleeiest, most corrupt, meanest, and d-d-d-umes­t pekkers known to man!!!

The "quiet majority" is behind Governor Walker... as is the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy.

Recall Week End find way to help http://wis­consinreca­ll.net/blo­g/
8  General Category / Sports / Re: Jordan and Co. re-live that first championship season — 1991 on: March 14, 2011, 11:30:57 am
http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/chi-chicago-bulls-1991-championship-photos,0,3682804.photogallery
9  General Category / Sports / Re: Jordan and Co. re-live that first championship season — 1991 on: March 14, 2011, 11:30:22 am
http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/chi-chicago-bulls-1991-reunion-photos,0,2321628.photogallery
10  General Category / Sports / Re: Jordan and Co. re-live that first championship season — 1991 on: March 14, 2011, 11:24:29 am
The roars still resonated. The trophy still glistened

Chicago.Slim at 12:26 PM March 13, 2011
Great memories.   My hair was still brown.
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 SteveDJ34 at 11:37 AM March 13, 2011
Nothing matches that first one.  I'll never forget the partying at Division/State St.  I was there.  Incredi-Bull!!

Thanks for the memories!!
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 Bashir at 10:25 AM March 13, 2011
Wow! GREAT to see all these guys....Cliff "Good News" Levingston!! Hahaha! Where did they find him?? Awesome! I'm a basketball fan, college and pro, I watch it all. However in both the college and pro games I've never had as much fun watching as I did during the 90s. Boy! What a bunch of characters the League had back then!! Villains, jesters, heroes, lazy bums, enforcers, guys who were big lumbering behemoths with few skills, guys who could shoot from 40 feet away and the ball wouldn't touch the net! Sniff! I miss you guys! Wish them all the best! Thank you for entertaining me for over a decade!!
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 Bjks7239 at 9:38 AM March 13, 2011
Thank you in advance Derrick
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 Bjks7239 at 9:37 AM March 13, 2011
Thank you MJ!
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 Uncle Max at 7:28 AM March 13, 2011
As great as Michael Jordan was, it was the TEAM that won that 1st NBA title and the 5 that followed during that reign of terror we all enjoyed in the 90s.

But there was no word, no MENTION in this article of Jerry Krause, the man who brought every single one of those players to Chicago to play alongside Jordan not to mention every single one of the coaches.

Classy
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 Keith Lifetime Southsider at 2:33 PM March 13, 2011
This is the type of thinking that ended the reign too soon.
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 Uncle Max at 7:22 AM March 13, 2011
As great as Michael Jordan was it was the
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 SammyZ at 3:19 AM March 13, 2011
Shame on you Bill Cartwright for not showing up. I know your an assistant coach with the suns but you could of come out and caught a flight to Orlando first thing in the morning and gotten to the arena in plenty of time for your 3:30 game. I guess you still are not over the firing. GROW UP.

Shame on you B.J. Armstrong for not showing up. I guess your still hurt you got passed over for GM by pax. GROW UP
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 Keith Lifetime Southsider at 2:34 PM March 13, 2011
You are right, but Krause didn't show up either.
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 Mancill at 10:08 PM March 12, 2011
D. Rose for MVP

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMrUyVc-gP8
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 md-Norridge at 9:58 PM March 12, 2011
Great Tribute!  The 25th anniversary will coincide with the '96 20th anniversary.  And the 5th anniversary of this year's NBA Championship.  Go Bulls.
11  General Category / Sports / Jordan and Co. re-live that first championship season — 1991 on: March 14, 2011, 11:22:46 am
Jordan and Co. re-live that first championship season — 1991

Crew reunites for 1 night in celebration of the 1st of Bulls' 6 NBA titles



The 1991 Bulls championship team poses with their NBA Championship trophy. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / March 12, 2011)

 
 
Phil Jackson By K.C. Johnson, Tribune reporter
 
9:28 p.m. CST, March 12, 2011
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The roars still resonated. The trophy still glistened.

But when the 20th anniversary celebration of the Bulls' first championship ended Saturday night and the players and coaches assembled in a small hallway off the court, Michael Jordan stirred the senses yet again as he shifted the focus from the past to the present.

"I was just talking to Pax and those guys upstairs and said, 'You guys can be the best team in the East if you play the type of basketball you guys have been playing,'" Jordan said. "I don't think it will take them seven years to win one. I hope not. They have a good balanced team.

"I think they have the MVP of the league. That kid (Derrick Rose) has come into his own. He has matured quite a bit. … He has very few flaws.



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"Everybody is talking about Boston and Miami and Orlando. But people tend to forget about Chicago. You can have a lot of work on your hands."

The league learned that as well 20 years ago when Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, John Paxson and company stormed past the Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals and downed the Lakers 4-1 for a raucous celebration. Though the homecourt then was the old Chicago Stadium, the United Center rocked to life like the old barn.

"Thanks to the organization for bringing back a memory we wanted to live one more time," Pippen said. "Thanks for sticking with us back in the '90s. It was a great journey."

Former broadcaster Jim Durham navigated the trip down memory lane, introducing the entire coaching staff and 12 players to thunderous applause. Assistant coach Johnny Bach represented the coaches. Busy with the Lakers, Phil Jackson offered his remembrances via videotape.

All players but Bill Cartwright and B.J. Armstrong attended. Pippen and Jordan were introduced last, though Durham's words were drowned out. In a classy move, coach Tom Thibodeau brought the current team back on the court.

In a classier move, Jordan wished broadcaster Johnny "Red" Kerr, who passed away two years ago, could have been there.

"He was just as much a part of this team as anyone else," Jordan said.

In his remarks to the crowd, Jordan acknowledged the night's blowout of the Jazz.

"You look at this team tonight; you guys are in store for a lot more championships," he said.

In the hallway, Jordan grew nostalgic.

"Some guys I haven't seen in awhile," he said. "Dennis Hopson, I hadn't seen since 1991. For us to reunite and tell old stories brings back a lot of great memories. I wish we could turn the clock back. That's how I feel. Father Time is coming, touches everybody. I miss it.

"I saw parts of the old Stadium floor which brought back a lot of great memories. … I could sit here and reminisce all day long. I'm glad I had the opportunity to make my career here. The fans appreciated the hard work and effort we put on the floor. I played for them."

Grant, too, acknowledged the fans, and his teammates.

"We knew we had a bunch of special guys but learning how to play together and trusting each other, that was the biggest thing," he said.

As he walked away, Jordan donned his Charlotte Bobcats' executive hat and smiled about Rose.

"If you guys don't want him, we'll take him," he said.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/basketball/bulls/ct-spt-0313-title-bulls-jazz-chicago-20110312,0,4166341.story

12  General Category / Sports / Exclusive: Phil Jackson talks about his time with the Bulls on: March 11, 2011, 03:01:54 pm
Exclusive: Phil Jackson talks about his time with the Bulls

by LACY J. BANKS lbanks@suntimes.com .hideTime { display:none; } Mar 11, 2011 02:15AM



Phil Jackson with the Bulls' NBA Championship trophy in 1991 at the United Center. | Getty Images File
Article Extras

It’s a shame that if the Bulls don’t play Phil Jackson’s Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals this season, we might have seen — at least at the United Center — the last of this 65-year-old Hall of Fame coach who guided the Bulls to their first six championships.
Though there has been speculation this week that Jackson could wind up coaching the Miami Heat next season if beleaguered coach Erik Spoelstra is fired, Jackson squashed that rumor during an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times that included a tantalizing story about how he was hired by former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause and his thoughts about the current edition of the Bulls.
“This is my swan song,” Jackson said. “After coaching in the NBA for 20 years, this is my last year of coaching, and I’ve really enjoyed it. The Lakers and I have a great relationship, and we’re getting prepared for it. After that, I don’t want to stay on in any management position. I’m retiring for good.”
We caught up with Jackson because the Bulls are holding a halftime ceremony Saturday night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1991 championship. But Jackson will be a key figure missing from the event because his Lakers will be playing in Dallas that night.
“And I’ll really miss that,” Jackson said of a reunion that will feature Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. “It would have been great to see that team come together again.”
Jackson’s retired jersey will be hanging from the rafters. And his records as the Bulls’ winningest coach still overwhelm the Bulls’ media guide. But Jackson’s last appearance coaching at the United Center would be that 88-84 loss to the Bulls on Dec. 10.
“It won’t be the same without him,” said Pippen, who teamed with Jackson and Jordan to win all six titles. “He’s definitely the best coach of all time.”
Jackson won’t go that far praising himself, even though his 11 coaching rings are an NBA record, surpassing the 10 won by former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach.
Winningest coach? Jackson bristles.
“I’d say I’m the luckiest,” he said. “I don’t believe anybody else has ever coached the talent I’ve been blessed to coach for my whole career.”
How special was the 1990-91 team?
“Winning each championship was great, but the first was the sweetest,” Jackson said. “After that, it was a matter of us gaining more confidence, skill and chemistry because we could no longer sneak up on anybody. We knew we had to bring our best game because the other team was bringing its best game.”
Jackson, a son of Assembly of God preachers, nursed the notion of becoming a preacher himself before following his 6-8 frame to play four years for the University of North Dakota and 13 years in the NBA before coaching in the CBA and then the NBA.
“I definitely believe that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” the Zenmaster said. “My first step was being hired by the Bulls, and it all happened in the strangest way. My birthday [Sept. 17] just happened to fall on the day [in 1987] when the Bulls had lost assistant coach Gene Littles, who left to accept a job coaching the Charlotte Hornets.
“My telephone number just happened to be on Jerry Krause’s desk when somebody called him asking for it because they said they wanted to wish me a happy birthday. So since the Bulls had to pick up another coach at the last minute, those circumstances all came together to put me in the right spot at the right time. So Jerry called and offered me the job. I took my first step when I accepted the job, and the rest is history.”
Two years later, Jackson replaced Doug Collins as head coach. In just his second year, Jackson coached the Bulls to the first of six championships in eight years. Since that first championship, Jackson has traveled more than 1 million miles coaching the Bulls and the Lakers, won 1,028 regular-season games, 200 playoffs games and 10 more NBA championships while also being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“The hardest part of that first championship was teaching our players that they had to learn to beat the Detroit Pistons around Michael Jordan,” Jackson said. “They could not win a championship using him as a pacifier every time they came down the court. Once they bought into [assistant coach] Tex Winter’s triangle offense, accepted roles and played team ball, the rest was easy.”
Jackson remains upset about the way Krause pulled the plug on the dynasty — just when they could have won a fourth title in a row during the 1998-99 season that was trimmed to 50 games ­because of a labor dispute.
“As warrior champions, we had earned the right to keep winning titles until we couldn’t win anymore,” Jackson said.
But contentious contract negotiations between the Bulls and Jordan and Jackson made it difficult to continue.
Especially because Krause allegedly told Jackson that even if the Bulls won 82 games that season, “You’re [bleeping] gone!”
“There were other challenges we’d have to overcome to win again,” Jackson said. “After Dennis Rodman had played at such high level for three years, at age 35, he still could have played athletically. But his other distractions on the floor, his emotions and mind-set could have tipped in the wrong direction. Scottie and Michael could have played through their injuries. But we would have needed Rodman to dominate as a rebounder, defender and passer to put us over the top.”
As for the current Bulls and the way they are winning behind the leadership of Derrick Rose, other talented players and a new crop of ­outstanding coaches, Jackson says he is very impressed.
“They are an emerging team,” Jackson said. “They’ve gotten seasoning playing teams like the Celtics. Now it’s time for them to move forward into the playoffs, and we’ll see how far they can go. But Rose is having a great season as a player and a leader on that team.”
http://www.suntimes.com/sports/4249141-417/exclusive-phil-jackson-talks-about-his-time-with-the-bulls.html
13  General Category / Sports / Re: Crying game: Bulls bring Heat to tears after sweeping season series on: March 08, 2011, 03:08:04 pm
Cry-ami Heat
14  General Category / Sports / Re: Crying game: Bulls bring Heat to tears after sweeping season series on: March 07, 2011, 03:14:02 pm
Bulls complete the Heat sweep

The Bulls again fell behind big early in the game. Miami led by nine at the break. However, defense and Derrick Rose brought the Bulls back into the game in the third quarter.

Thibodeau remains the king of half time adjustments as Miami scored only 37 points in the second half.

Some people will talk about the Deng's cheap foul to build the lead, but on the final play LeBron James had a blatant offensive foul clearing out Noah on the drive. Mike Miller clearly went over Deng's back, actually tackling him in the process, but generating an offensive rebound for Miami.

In the end, LeBron missed. Dwyane Wade missed. The Bulls won.

Btw, Per Mike McGraw, the Heat were whiny bitches post game too, check out his twitter:

Heat definitely sent vibe postgame that Bulls didn't deserve the second set of Deng FTs that turned out to be game-winners.

LeBron: "I told my team I'm not going to continue to fail them late in games."

Wade:"This is what everyone wanted. The world's better now because the Heat are losing."

Derrick Rose puts another feather in his MVP cap

With the game tied at 76 all, Derrick Rose entered the game and scored six straight. An acrobat finish, a drawn foul, and a mid range jumper. The Bulls pulled up to 82-76. He also gave the Bulls a big lift in the third quarter to help close the gap.

Derrick didn't have the end of game heroics in this one, those belonged to Luol Deng, but in a game where the Bulls couldn't get much going offensively, a game where the Heat blitzed Rose constantly, he led all scorers with 27 points on 12 of 23 shooting.

Luol Deng was almost the goat, but ended up the hero

He hit a big 8 foot one handed running push shot to push the lead to five and when the Heat closed on the Bulls and took the lead, Deng slashed in the lane and drew the foul. After missing the second free throw to put the lead at one, Mike Miller got called for a BS foul, and Deng got another shot and knocked them both down.

Ignoring his luck at the end, Deng was the only one else providing any offense for the Bulls this game chipping in 18 points and playing excellent defense as well.

Joakim Noah played with great energy in hustle

Noah played outstanding help defense, He rotated well, he picked up LeBron and forced the tough miss at the end of game (despite the blatant push off). He had hustle plays, saves from out of bounds plays, and generally did what you expect him to do.

He had a lousy box score, but I thought he generally still played pretty well in the game.

Carlos Boozer plays much better defense in big games

Not that he becomes a warrior, but when it really counts Boozer steps up his d. If we could get him to do that every game, it'd be wonderful. Boozer did a nice job on the glass, kept a few offensive plays a live, and had a few tough defensive boards.

His offense wasn't spectacular today, but he stepped up and played more of a complete game.

The role players?

They generally played defense reasonably weell, they kept the Bulls in the game when they were on the court, but outside of Taj Gibson, the Bulls got precious little offense out of the bench.

However this game was really about the starters.

Final thoughts

It's hard to poke holes in the Bulls as championship contenders these days isn't it?

Bulls are winning all the big games. They're 13-7 against the elite teams in the NBA according to Jeff Sagarin. Only the Spurs (15-7) are better, but all of the Bulls losses come from early in the season.
.
Bulls are now winning road games against those elite teams.

I'll say this, the Bulls should sweep some awards.
15  General Category / Sports / Re: Crying game: Bulls bring Heat to tears after sweeping season series on: March 07, 2011, 03:13:18 pm
Something else Heat can cry about: Rose is better MVP choice than LeChoking James

The Heat cried?

The Bulls made some Heat players cry after beating them in Miami on Sunday?

When did the Heat trade for Roberto Luongo?

"There’s a couple guys crying in the locker room," Heat interim coach Erik Spoelstra said.

Crying in March? Jeez, how weak is that locker room? And how soon will Spoelstra be fired for failing with that roster and for ratting out his weepers?

So many questions about Sunday’s losers. So many answers about the Bulls.

For one, they’re not a fluke. Not with that defense (Tom Thibodeau, hello). And not with that point guard (Derrick Rose, hello). Those are two of the biggest reasons the Bulls lengthened their lead on the Heat for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.

Miami might have the "Big Three" of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, but the Heat also have a big hole: They don’t have a point guard, certainly nothing close to Rose, which has resulted in their inability to run a halfcourt offense.

The Bulls also answered, or at least confirmed, that the Heat can’t guard a team with a fast point guard. If the Heat gets to run, they can win. But good teams force you to work for each possession, and the Heat can’t. Not only did this underscore how right the Bulls have it, but it also shows how wrong the Heat have it for the playoffs when play gets excruciatingly tight.

You know what else might’ve been answered? Rose’s coronation, that’s what.

It has been building, what with his starting All-Star status and quality wins over Boston, a hot Dallas team, Orlando twice, the NBA-leading Spurs, and Miami twice, and that’s in just the new calendar year.

But here’s the clip&save: We’ll look back and say Sunday was the game that capped the week when Derrick Rose won the MVP award, in part because it also will be remembered as the week when James lost it.

James repeatedly and inexcusably choked in measuring-stick games. Rose repeatedly gave his team a chance to pass the Heat and threaten Boston.

It was the week when James and the “Big Three’’ were exposed as big losers -- bullies who can’t deal with a fair fight. The Heat can beat up the lousy teams, but they can’t beat top teams. The Bulls have beaten the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs, and if the Heat still count as a good team, the Bulls have beaten them three times. Swept the season series. Overtook them for the second seed. The Heat, meanwhile, have lost 9 of 10 to the top three teams in each conference.

How can your MVP come from a team that can’t beat quality opponents? You don’t matter if you can’t beat a team that matters.

And how can you elect an MVP who can’t close? Or at least set up the winning play.

James couldn’t score against Joakim Noah on a drive Sunday the way he blew a jumper in a loss to the Bulls in Chicago two weeks ago. Wade missed a jumper at the buzzer Sunday, and so, the Heat legacy grew to 1-for-18 when they were shooting to tie or win a game in the final 10 seconds. A hundred-million dollars apiece has to make that the most expensive pair of chokers in sports history.

Sorry, but your MVP can’t be a guy who comes up small at the biggest times. I mean, what’s so valuable about that? Beating the best would seem to indicate where a player’s value is.

In the past week, the Heat blew double-digit leads against the Knicks and Magic at home, got wiped out by the Spurs in San Antonio, then choked another double-digit lead against the Bulls at home. If it was close the past week, James missed the shot. Just to clarify: Not a good thing.

In the past week, the Bulls won three of four on the road, closing with a weekend when they beat the Magic on the home court of that whiny, cheap-shot goof Dwight Howard, then pantsed the Heat on national television.

Rose’s team has beaten tougher opponents and done it more often, while James’ gang has to pray that the Wizards and Cavaliers are playoff options.

"This is what everyone wanted," a sarcastic Wade offered Sunday. "The world’s better now because the Heat are losing."

Maybe, maybe not. But you know what’s decidedly better now? The clarity of which team is better and which MVP candidate is the better choice.
Posted at 10:46:49 AM in Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Erik Spoelstra, Joakim Noah, LeBron James, Roberto Luongo, Tom Thibodeau
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