Bulls Look Ready for Game 7


May 2

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BOSTON—Nervous? Nah, I wouldn’t say so. The Bulls gathered in the TD Banknorth Garden here Saturday morning for a last run through before Saturday night’s finale, Game 7 between the Bulls and Boston Celtics. They seemed most to be enjoying the moment.

“I was watching all the stuff on ESPN SportsCenter and all I could do was smile,” John Salmons was saying about his Friday night at the team’s downtown hotel. “A natural smile came on my face every single time. I couldn’t help it. Being in this situation. This is a great feeling, a great atmosphere to be around.”

He was just like you at home.

Hey, ma, they’re talking about us. Yes, they’re talking about my team. Finally.

“Like wow, I’m part of something,” Salmons said. “I don’t think we have any pressure. No one expected us to be in this situation. We’re just going to come in and try to play our game, try to get the win. We know we can win a game (here). We’ve done it already. The other games were close. We’re ready for the challenge and confident we can do it.

“I think everybody is excited, happy to be part of something special like this series. I think everybody is embracing the moment and just enjoying being part of it,” Salmons said. “Game 7 you really don’t need no motivation. Game 7 is alone is enough motivation. You’ve got to win. We talked a lot about (the series) on the plane coming here. I think we’re all together. We’re definitely a family. We really came together in this series. I think we’ve got a great shot of winning.”

Salmons conceded his groin injury is no better and isn’t going to get better as he keeps playing. Certainly not after 59 minutes and 56 seconds in Game 6. “Yeah, I played for an hour,” he laughed.

Ben Gordon was slowed somewhat by his hamstring injury.

“I wasn’t able to work up a lather like the first game I played with it (hamstring),” he said. “It just doesn’t feel like it’s getting better because I haven’t been able to stay off it. I’ve just got to be out there and help any way I can.”

Gordon said as a soon to be free agent, he thought briefly about this being his last game, but said he rarely does and only usually because reporters bring it up.

“The season, the series. This has been a real emotional season, the kind of series it is. It’s just a lot of emotion,” said Gordon “It’s definitely exciting. To me you’re not nervous. You’re really excited and antsy.”

Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro gave a bit of a preview of his pregame speech.

“I have my thoughts,” he said. “How do you get respect in this league? You get respect in this league by winning. All that stuff. I’m proud of my guys, but the job’s not done. I feel we’re prepared. Now we have to go execute.

“I don’t know about well rested,” said Del Negro, “but we’re ready to go. Obviously, John’s groin and BG’s hamstring. But you’ve got to get after it. Injuries with the hamstring and groin depend on how they loosen up during the game. No question (Gordon) was laboring (in Game 6). Especially, as good as Ray (Allen) is off screens and the way he shoots the ball makes your hamstring look more sore. But he’s got to fight through it.

“Keeping our composure and managing possessions is important,” Del Negro said. “Managing the game early, taking the first hit. We’ve been up. They’ve been up. The game is never over. If we’re up at the beginning great, if we’re down we’ve got to just keep on playing hard and doing the things that got us to Game 7. I expect our guys to respond and enjoy the opportunity.

“We’ve had our opportunities here. We won one. We let two get by us,” Del Negro noted. “They made some great plays. All this is great, great experience for me as a coach, for our younger players, for the organization, the city, everything. That’s what it’s all about.”

I was chatting with Del Negro, a noted shooter in his career, after the other reporters departed. I’d mentioned I’d rarely seen a shooting game like Allen’s with 51 points rarely going to the basket. Del Negro said he had.

“Dale Ellis,” he said. “Drexler, I saw. Because I guarded both of them.”

Still having fun and ready to go. One more time.

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