Ben checks in with the always-informative Media Row Report...
At times tonight, it felt like we had the five best players on the court. Position by position, it was difficult to find a matchup that favored the Bulls. Despite Thabo Sefolosha (gesundheit) going for a career high 22 and Nocioni being his typical Argentinian self, it felt for long stretches like we could do what we wanted when we wanted. Which is great; that's how it should feel if this team is serious about making the playoffs.
The consensus in the press box and in the locker room tonight seemed to be that when undermanned opponents show up in the Rose Garden, it's time to lay the smack down. And that did happen tonight, especially if you were underneath Martell when he was dunking, if you were getting shaken and stirred by Brandon, or if LaMarcus was swishing jumpers over you. Unfortunately, it didn't happen for 48 minutes and the Bulls, earning credit where credit is due, found a way to pull close and turn this into a free throw fest. Bill Schonely surely looked on with pride as Jack and Brandon iced the victory.
Almost as soon as the final buzzer sounded, it was clear that this team was already looking forward to the difficult road stretch ahead. This is a good sign. In the long run, a win over a depleted Bulls roster means a heck of a lot less than a loss would have. It also, as Nate alluded to in his postgame press conference, wasn't quite as meaningful as a win over Cleveland or Denver would have been. Thankfully, redemption is rushing up on this team, in the form of the playoff-caliber Pistons, Rockets and (sort of) Pacers. Although there's no guarantees in this stretch (except Minnesota... knock on wood), one thing is certain: once it's done, the team will have earned its All-Star break.
Up Close and Personal:
Broy - Brandon's game shoe. Nike does it again.
I Read the Media Guide so you didn't have to:
I'm debuting a new section tonight. It will feature all of the lesser known facts, cool biographical details and things that made me chuckle while reading the opposing team's Media Guide. Here we go:
-- Lamar Hunt, former owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and the man who named the Super Bowl, was one of the founding investors of the Chicago Bulls franchise.
-- Come again? Former Bull player Bob Love is currently an honorary spokesman for the National Stuttering Federation of America.
-- Talk about a tough assignment... Scott Sonnenberg, Chicago's Director of Corporate Partnerships and former BYU basketball player, served his Mormon mission in Las Vegas.
-- Maybe I'm partial here, but I absolutely love the names of the Bulls' team of mascots: Benny the Bull, Lil Benny, Big Ben and Benny Jr.
-- Remember when John Paxson hit that huge 3 to win the 1991 NBA Finals against the L*kers. Did you know he shot 65 percent from the field during that series?
-- Another did you know: Paxson was an assistant on the Bulls squad that went 72-10.
-- Best team owner photo in the history of Media Guides: Jerry Reinsdorf, not shy at all, surrounded by his six NBA championship trophies and the White Sox recent World Series trophy. Bling freaking bling.
-- Speaking of Reinsdorf, check out this sentence: "In addition to his sports interests, Reinsdorf is an attorney, a certified public accountant, a specialist in real estate securities, a registered mortgage underwriter and a certified review appraiser." Wow. I imagine he can change a light bulb and unclog your toilet too.
-- More proof that America is a forgiving society: Kendall Gill is employed as a TV announcer for the Bulls. I didn't see him interview his other personality but it might have happened when I wasn't looking.
-- From 1998 to 2004, the Chicago Bulls had the worst cumulative winning percentage of any team in the NBA; during those same years, they were number one in cumulative home game tickets sold. This is a little mind-boggling for two reasons: one, that it happened, and two, that the team would proudly admin to this in their media guide.
Random Game Notes:
-- Ben Wallace spent quite a while practicing his half court shots during pre-game warmups
-- Unlike you (most likely), Nate was a fan of the Shaquille to the Suns trade. He thought it presents matchup problems for most teams and he thinks Shaq will be energized with the change of scenery
-- The big story tonight was Jack getting the start over Martell. Nate said he was channeling his inner electrician, looking for a "spark." Jack delivered with 17 points. Nate said after the game he will most likely stick with this new starting line up for at least a game or two on this road trip
-- Call me crazy but I liked the three guard lineup we played in the fourth quarter - Blake, Jack, Roy, Outlaw, Aldridge. Granted, we can't get away with playing that small against most teams but there is definitely some comfort in having our best ballhandler (Blake) and our best clutch freethrower (Jack) on the court with our two gunners at the same time
-- They did the kiss cam again tonight, this time pranking Adrian Griffin and Ben Gordon. They both looked up sheepishly; Adrian blew a kiss to the camera which got a laugh and a cheer from the crowd
-- Dick Bavetta is a detail-oriented referee. He walked clear across the court to instruct Violet Palmer that Chris Duhon must be behind the three point arc during a free throw attempt
-- For all the talk about Joakim Noah, he looked completely lost. He might as well have been playing in the Memorial Coliseum. In fairness to him, playing without Hinrich and Gordon probably played some part in this
-- As far as the jerseys went tonight, I saw two great ones. First, a western conference all star Brandon Roy jersey. I probably quadruple-taked on that one. It was like seeing an oasis in a desert. Second, a red Mitchell and Ness throwback #91 Dennis Rodman Bulls jersey. That bad boy must have been pulled from deep in the closet. Pun sort of intended but not really
-- Joey Harrington was in attendance tonight. They showed him on the big screen and he received more-than-polite cheers. A reporter sitting next to me, who spent the last few years in Detroit, looked at me and we simultaneously said, "only in Portland"
-- Was I the only one that seemed to notice a hitch in Martell's jump shots tonight. He was ice cold from outside and it seemed like he was kicking out with his legs a little bit.
-- Saw a very funny sign on the floor doused in beer as I was leaving the arena: "Chicago: have you been Pritch-slapped lately?"
-- After the game, Tom Penn couldn't stop shaking his head. He seemed to be thinking, like everyone else, "That one was way too close for comfort"
-- Programming note: the Blazers take off on a tough road trip before next week's All-Star break so you won't hear from me for a few weeks. The end of February and beginning of March is shaping up to be great though, with home games against Seattle, Boston, L*kers, Suns. Good luck getting tickets!