Bulls disappear against Magic


Oct 17

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The least someone could have done if the Bulls weren’t going to play much in Orlando Saturday was take a shot at Dwight Howard as payback for the cheap shots he got in with the hard take downs of Derrick Rose last season.

But with a 105-67 loss that wasn’t as close as the final score would suggest, the way things were going they would have missed that, too.

“Definitely embarrassing,” said Joakim Noah, who had one point and two rebounds in 18 minutes.  “When you lose by 50 obviously, you don’t feel too good about it (expectations in Eastern Conference). We have a lot of work to do and we are not where we need to be. We realize we have a lot of work to do both offensively and defensively. We definitely did not get better today.”

Yes, so much for the just getting better day to day cliché.

“Some people will get cursed out or whatever,” said Derrick Rose, who had seven points, one assist and two turnovers in 12 minutes. “We just showed no fight. That is what is going to happen when you go out there unprepared.”

It really was what they call a “schedule loss” in the NBA.

The Bulls had played an overtime game Friday night in Chicago and then got to Orlando after four in the morning, Rose and Noah had been playing an extraordinarily large amount of minutes, and, after all, it is still exhibition season.

I can’t say I think much about having eight preseason games as I remember a time in the NBA when teams were basically barnstorming with up to 20 preseason games. The subject came up during my segment with crack Bulls radio halftime host Steve Kashul the other night, and as I think more about it eight preseason games may be too much in this era.

Actually, I liked it in the ’80s and early ’90s when the NBA went to small cities that don’t have the NBA and showed off the game. The players felt a responsibility to the game and I remember Michael Jordan always playing and playing at a high level for fans he knew might never be able to see a live NBA game.

But that’s changed with the new era of divas like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

It probably hit bottom a few years ago when the Cavs were playing a game in upstate New York, Rochester, I think. There was huge excitement, of course, for LeBron. But he was talking coming into the game of not playing because of the strain of the preseason.


 Anyway, he dresses and then gets up in the first half and goes to the scorers’ table and the fans, predictably, go nuts. Then James struts back to the bench and is slapping hands and having a big laugh with the bench guys over how he faked out all those hick fans.

Now, you see players routinely skip half the preseason. Usually he’s a good guy, but the other day when the NBA had that new, annual outdoor game in the desert Dirk Nowitzki took off because he said he doesn’t get anything out of playing outside. Yes, we know, they don’t play outside in the NBA. But doesn’t anyone care anymore about the fans or the league?

OK, maybe I know the answer.

I know the eight games are for revenue just as the NFL preseason games are, but maybe four preseason games and 85 regular season games.

Eight may be enough. Maybe too much.

I can’t fault the Bulls because they have been playing hard and not taking games off this preseason, and Saturday was the first stinker since the opener in Milwaukee. In the others as the Bulls fell to 2-4, they played their regulars big minutes and competed to win the games. No one has been slacking, so they deserved—and really needed—some time off.

Taj Gibson got another game off with his heel/plantar fasciitis, though Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he expects Gibson back Wednesday in Toronto.

This one was over when the Bulls arrived as the sun was coming up, though not officially until about two minutes into the game when the Bulls trailed 9-0. They were down a dozen after one quarter and 28 by halftime. They trailed by more than 40 most of the fourth quarter—no, teams don’t always make a run—though they managed to do better than the Hornets, who lost by 54 to the Magic last week.

“I think people overlook a team like Orlando,” said Thibodeau. “But I think Orlando is as good as anybody. I think they’re strong in every aspect of the game. I think it’s going to be the team that can remain the healthiest and be

playing the best in the end that will have the best shot at it.”

It actually was the Magic’s 19th consecutive preseason win, which is crazy in its own right, as Rose might say.

They also have this team in South Florida that’s been getting a lot of attention, which seems to have them paying a bit more attention.

Vince Carter had 21 easy points shredding the Bulls starting backcourt. Howard and Brandon Bass had double/doubles, and J.J. Redick, who would have been the Bulls starting shooting guard if Orlando had not matched the offer sheet, showed off a bit in hitting seven of eight shots.

Ronnie Brewer had another awful shooting game and now is two of 13, though Thibodeau continues to maintain Brewer is coming along well and he’s pleased. James Johnson launched another wild three of 12 in less than 18 minutes and is now five of his last 19. It was pretty dismal all around as only CJ. Watson, with a team high 13 points, shot better than 50 percent. Overall, the team shot a dismal 31.1 percent, though no one got hurt, which with shooting like that someone could have taken a bad ricochet.

 “I don’t think anyone played particularly well tonight,” said Thibodeau. “I liked Kurt’s defense early. But I think we have a good solid bench. I think Ronnie will get better and better with time. His timing is a little off. He’s been off for a long time. I like his energy. I like the way he moves without the ball. Defensively he’s still not right there, but he’s trying to do the right thing for him this was good. CJ I thought got on track a little bit, but defensively we have to make a lot of corrections.”

That was becoming apparent even in the competitive game against Dallas Friday, and the Magic had a ridiculous 44-20 edge inside and shot over 62 percent for the game. Even tired, it’s hard to imagine allowing that.

“We know that if we start off and our offense isn’t there, then our

defense needs to be even better,” said Rose. “Our defense should never go nowhere. I think with the team that we have and the guys that we have, we should be all right. Defensively is what we have to be known

for. Around the league, we want to be known for getting after people from the beginning of the game and throughout the game. We want them to know it is going to be a tough game.”

Yes, maybe next time.

As points of emphasis go, Noah started again with Omer Asik, and it wasn’t clear who was more trouble for Asik, Howard or the officials. Asik had six fouls in 15 minutes, most questionable, and though I defend the officials most of the time, it’s difficult to escape that “rookie call” thing which they all deny when you see stuff like that go on.

Still, Noah needs Gibson back as the post game without Gibson (and, of course, Carlos Boozer for another six weeks) is Noah trying to make interior passes from the high post.

I also thought it was disappointing Thibodeau elected even in a blowout like this not to play Kyle Weaver, who got in along with Roger Powell for 1:38. Weaver has looked to me the best guard on the team after Rose, which means he’s either made the team or is going to be released. That’s right. You don’t get searing analysis like that everywhere.

Actually, Kurt Thomas had some good defensive plays and three blocks and Brian Scalabrine had some good garbage time, which is where he’s played mostly in his career. Kyle Korver is two for his last 11, but I wouldn’t worry about him as his shot will be there. And after the last few games, Rose and Noah needed to get off the floor.

The Bulls now have one game in the next week, close the preseason Friday at home against Indiana, and then open the regular season in 10 days in Oklahoma City.

Overall, even with Friday’s massacre, Thibodeau seems to be sounding the right tone, and he was correct about noting the Bulls will be seeing some tough back to backs in the next month on the road against good teams. So they might pay attention to what just occurred.

“The first month of the season, we’re going to have a number of these

situations,” said Thibodeau. “Whatever the circumstance is we have to be able to rise up and play the next night. We have to prepare ourselves better. I have to prepare us better. We have to be ready for the start of the game.”

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