Preseason Game Three Preview: Bulls vs Wolves at the Target Center
I wish I had something to add to last night’s affair against the Pacers, but I sadly didn’t get to watch the game. It looks like the Wolves let Derrick Williams be the man and sat the majority of the main guys to give them some rest. This is to be expected during the preseason. Maybe the key the rest of the preseason is to see if guys like Amundson, Cunningham, Derrick, Chase, and even Shved, Barea or Conroy can develop any chemistry as a second unit of sorts.
These guys need to learn how to play together, as much as they need to learn how to play in the system. Especially in an offense that is so reliant on feel of what the defense is giving you and how you’re going to exploit it away from the ball, the Wolves’ bench guys will need to learn the mannerisms of their teammates when a backdoor cut is coming or it’s better to pop or roll after the pick.
I’m very interested to see if we see any progression throughout the preseason with the second unit.
For today’s 3-on-3, I’ve grabbed Matt McHale of Bulls By The Horns and Basketbawful fame. I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Matt before and I can tell you he’s a very funny guy, a smart basketball mind, and someone that literally just throws drinks on the floor in an effort to announce his presence with authority. Ben Polk is also joining us for the 3-on-3, and while I’ve never watched him throw drinks at people, I’m confident he can acquire this skill.
1. Wolves and Bulls both went through significant losses during last season and both were due to ACL stupidness. How are you coping and do you want to get a drink to talk about it?
Matt McHale, Bulls By The Horns: A nice stiff drink might help. It’s tough on multiple levels. Thanks to Rose’s injury, the Bulls missed out on a legitimate chance to contend for a championship last season. And, even if Rose comes back this season, it’s unlikely he’ll be at full strength until sometime next season. So, in essence, it feels like two seasons got flushed down the drain. Mmmm. How’s about them sour grapes?
Ben Polk, A Wolf Among Wolves: The second part of last season was like some sick, spiraling fever dream; it was nauseous and relentless and horrifying. But we’ve woken up and, I think, managed to rinse the aftereffects out of our waking minds. In my mind, Bulls’ fans have much more to lament than do Wolves’ fans. The Bulls were a block-and-a-half from a championship when the machine fell apart. Now they’re in this static moment, just waiting for their man to return. The Wolves’ have some waiting of their own to do but its really no big deal; waiting is what we do. All things considered, this looks to be a season of renewal, schizophrenic in that uniquely oddball, semi-pro Wolves-y way, but a season of renewal nonetheless.
Zach Harper, A Wolf Among Wolves: Sometimes, I lay awake at night and wonder what could have been with a healthy Rubio. Could the Wolves have continued to challenge for that playoff spot? What if they make the eighth seed last season and get bounced by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs? Would the front office have overturned the roster so significantly? Or would we be hanging onto guys like Randolph, Beasley, and Wes just hoping they were a reason for sudden success? It’s weird that Rubio going down with that injury helped expose so many holes on the team and caused the overhaul we saw this summer.
On the Bulls side, the Rose injury was clearly much worse. This was a title contending team heading into the playoffs. They probably would have relatively breezed through the first two rounds and hoped for a little magic against a banged up Heat team. Who knows what happens then? LeBron probably would have been too good to defeat even still, but the Bulls had title hopes and they weren’t out of touch. Instead, the Rose injury has allowed Jerry Reinsdorf to be all Reinsdorfy and try to save some money by gutting the Bulls bench while the team waits for Derrick to heal up.
2. Bulls are sporting an all new bench unit this season, outside of Taj. Do you like the changes and how do you see them complementing the starters?
McHale: Chicago fans — myself included — had strong sentiment for the old Bench Mob of C.J. Watson, John Lucas III, Kyle Korver, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer. In part because the nickname “Bench Mob” just sounds cool (and perfect for a city with a long and storied tradition for organized crime!). On paper, the new guys — Kirk Hinrich (who will start at PG until Rose gets back), Kyrylo Fresenko, Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic — could potentially prove to be cost-effective upgrades over their old Bench Mob counterparts (in addition to making my Spell Checker go wacky). The question is: Can they develop the same chemistry? And no offense to Belinelli, but I think the Bulls will struggle to replace Korver’s shooting and the positive effect that shooting had on the offense overall. And, too, there’s no way to replace Asik’s D.
Polk: That’s a great question, which I think breaks down into two smaller questions: a) how quickly can these new reserves be assimilated into the Bulls’ culture of defense? and b) can anyone provide consistent backcourt scoring? Considering Thibodeau’s track record and the Bulls’ overriding team culture, I’d bet that the answer to ‘a’ is “probably.” As for ‘b’…well you’re relying on some dudes–Marquis Teague, Marco Bellinelli, Nate Dogg–for whom consistency has been tough to come by. Without a doubt it will be more strange and interesting than the C.J. Watson/John Lucas duo.
Harper: The key for the Bulls bench this season might be Marquis Teague. As much as I think John Lucas III is an atrocious NBA player and I’ve never been a fan of CJ Watson, these guys were able to provide a spark in the backcourt at times last year. When/if Rose comes back, I can see Hinrich being more of a small 2 than a lead 1 off the bench. That leaves Teague the opportunity to come in and be the energetic and exciting backcourt player the Bulls need. I’m not crazy about the bench changes for Chicago, but I’m confident Thibodeau will find a way to make it work.
3. If this were a real game at full strength for both teams, what aspect of the game (rebounding, particular matchup, etc.) would intrigue you the most?
McHale: I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for rebounding. I loves me some good board work. That may be why I haven’t burned Carlos Boozer in effigy yet. Watching Kevin Love and Chicago’s bigs (Boozer, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson) fight for loose balls and rebounds would be a pleasure. Which might mean I need to get out more.
Polk: There are a lot of really interesting matchups on the floor (Noah vs. Big Pek, Deng vs. AK) but I think that the most telling will be the guard play. Both teams have retooled, relatively unproven backcourts. Can the Bulls’ guards score enough to keep them in games? Can the Wolves prevent anybody from turning the corner on pick-and-roll? What does an Alexey Shved/Nate Robinson matchup even look like? Is that even a real thing?
Harper: I was going to give an honest answer about how these two teams are incredible at rebounding and I’d love to examine the work on the boards, but Ben’s answer has left me wondering what a Nate Robinson-Alexey Shved reenactment of the movie Plains, Trains, and Automobiles would look like. In fact, can we find a way to make this happen?
Place: Target Center in Minneapolis, MN
Time: 7pm Central Time
Viewing and listening pleasure: Oh you better believe it’s being legally broadcasted! We’ve got the game on FSN, NBATV, and WGN tonight. You can also listen to the soothing sounds of Alan Horton on WCCO 830 AM radio.
Records: Wolves are 1-1 and Bulls are 1-1. Both lost Friday night.
Four Darkos and a T-Hud! Four Darko is coincidentally the most lethargic version of Four Loko sold in gas stations nationwide.