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MY KIND OF TEAM, ER, TOWN
Posted by Rob Peterson on Jan. 19, 2005 12 p.m. ET

CHICAGO IS...

I first heard this joke in reference to another team, but you can pretty much substitute any team and its fans that have seen their beloved team rise to the pinnacle only to recently fall on rough times.

Q: How many Bulls fans does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Five. One to change the light bulb and four to talk about how good the old one was.

It's tough to talk about the Bulls today without referring to their glory days of the '90s and then pointing to their recent history, which is, as NBA fans know, a complete 180 from what they achieved during the Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen-Phil Jackson era. Really, who can blame fans for climbing into the way-back machine and thinking: "Ah, those were the days."

But when you look at the standings in the Eastern Conference, you'll notice Miami, at 28-11, has been the class of the conference so far this season. You'll also notice that the surprising Wizards (more on them later) are a mere five games behind the Heat.

Finally, you may also notice a team on the edge of the playoff race. As of today, they're the eighth seed. When they started the season 0-9, you would have thought they would have no business being anywhere near the playoffs.

(Seems that the Bulls marketing campaign this season -- "Through Thick and Thin" -- was eerily prescient).

Ladies and gentlemen, your new Chicago Bulls.

Since losing their first nine to start the season, the Bulls have gone 17-9 in their last 26 games. In the East, only Miami (19-7) has been better over the same span. Chicago has won seven-straight games, and while the Bulls have not been goring the league's best (the six teams they've defeated in the streak -- they topped New York twice -- have a combined record of 82-145), you play who's on the schedule, and the Bulls have beaten them all.

Even those naysayers who famously shout about the good ol' days on national TV sports shows think these Bulls are for real.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

Also gone are the weekly columns calling to trade Eddy Curry, which are being replaced by articles about scenarios for playoff position.
-- [Chicago Tribune, Reg. req'd.]

Not even a fender-bender between the team bus and a Boston cab could dampen the Bulls' spirit.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

So, who to applaud for this turnaround and their infinite patience?

Heaven Is a Playground author and Chicago Sun-Times columnist Rick Telander says: "Everyone, take a bow!
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

You can applaud their defense, which in terms of defensive field goal percentage, is the best in the league at .412.
-- [NBA.com]

Bulls fans can thank Ben Gordon, who, in addition to averaging 16.1 points per game in January, hit the game-winner against the Knicks in New York and had Gotham scribes comparing him to you-know-who.
-- [New York Post]

And by the way, click here before Wednesday to see one of the best headlines ever on NBA.com.
-- [NBA.com/bulls]

(For those who couldn't get to it in time, the headline was: Madison Square Gordon. Nice work by the guys on the NBA.com newsdesk! Or, you can get it here too, with a bonus Spike Lee quote to boot.)
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

Fans in the City of Big Shoulders can also point to the point guard with slim shoulders. With his gritty play, Kirk Hinrich has spent the past two seasons thumbing his nose at critics.
-- [New York Times, Reg. req'd.]

Then, the team emulates its gravel-tough coach, Scott Skiles.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Also it's always good to make the man upstairs smile.
-- [Chicago Tribune, Reg. req'd.]

And, one man even dares to say Jerry Krause had a positive hand in this turnaround.
-- [Chicago Tribune, Reg. req'd.]

Still, that doesn't stop those from occasionally wiping away a tear when they look at the new Bulls and see a semblance of the old Bulls.
-- [Chicago Sun-Times]

Someday in Chicago, they'll be back to where it only takes one to change that bulb.

I'M SO LOST WITHOUT YOU!

Is there any team sport where one man can have more influence than in basketball?

People, that's rhetorical. You can make a fine argument for other sports and other positions in sports, but the addition (or subtraction) of a great player (or a player having a great season) is, I argue, felt more in basketball than in any other sport.

Team chemistry is such a fragile thing. You take one man out of that chemical compound and soon you're not getting the reaction or the results you once did on that team.

So, when you see the results with these players out, you can immediately tell that player's value to his team.

Here are some prominent examples.

Phoenix Suns: As recently as last week, the whispers were being amplified to conversational tones: 70 wins. Maybe 73, a record.
-- [East Valley Tribune]

Then came stumble against the Jazz on Jan. 12, then came Nash's injury, a deep thigh bruise, and another loss. "I'm not in pain -- until I move," Nash said.
-- [Arizona Republic]

That's never good. Without Nash, the Suns lost two more to take the streak to four (all on the road), shocking for a team that had lost four games all season before their skid.

So, how important is Nash to what the Suns do? Considering the four-game slide and that the Suns averaged 88.6 points per game in their last three losses compared to the 110.0 in their first 36, one would have to give Nash serious consideration for NBA MVP.
-- [Arizona Republic]

Originally, the Suns thought Nash could be back Wednesday, but he hurt his back in practice on Tuesday
-- [Arizona Republic, NBA.com]

When he returns, maybe Suns coach Mike D'Antoni may be able to say this again.
-- [New York Times, Reg. req'd.]

Utah Jazz: Another guy whose worth has been made more apparent by his absence is Utah's Andrei Kirilenko.

Kirilenko last played on Nov. 27 when he suffered a sprained right knee in a loss to the Spurs. After the loss, the Jazz fell to 8-6. Since then, they've been 6-20. Whether it has been inconsistent point guard play or general frustration, the one constant has been Kirilenko's absence.
-- [Deseret News, Salt Lake Tribune]

They can't wait for him to get back on the floor again and Saturday can't come quickly enough.
[Deseret News]

Golden State Warriors: True, at 11-18, the Warriors weren't tearing up the league. But they had just won four straight games when Jason Richardson hit the deck with an ankle sprain. Richardson, a two-time winner of the All-Star Slam Dunk Contest, was beginning to attack the basket and emerging as the Warriors' go-to guy when he went down with the injury.

What followed? Nine consecutive losses.

What happened when Richardson returned? He scores 42 in a Warriors win over the Nuggets.
-- [San Francisco Chronicle]

This is why the Washington Wizards, who are off to their best start since 1978, need to be careful. Guard Larry Hughes, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, will miss 4-6 weeks with a fractured thumb. Unlike the other three teams, the Wizards may have the depth to sustain this tribulation.
-- [NBA.com, Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

TIP-INS

Nice work by you Tony Parker. Nice work.
-- [San Antonio Express-News]

Check out the headline here. Oh really? Let's hope that the Suns and the Pistons have their full complement of players and see which style of play wins out in Phoenix on March 3.
-- [Detroit News]

Strange headline, good story.
-- [Atlanta Journal Constitution, Reg. req'd.]

Dwyane Wade, playing through the pain (most of the time).
-- [Palm Beach Post]

Prince really can play basketball. And not just on Chapelle's Show.
-- [Detroit News]

To GQ or not GQ, that is Scot Pollard's daily question.
-- [Indy Star]

Did Shaq bring the power of the West with him to Miami or did he leave it behind?
-- [Indy Star]

Taking control of the steering wheel while the car is well on the road isn't the easiest thing to do.
-- [Seattle Times]

Lots of stories on the Barry family (Rick, Brent, Jon, et al.) lately. Here's one. Here's another.
-- [Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News

Are you kidding me? Dave Bing has had blurred vision in his left eye since he was a child and still he went on to become a Hall of Famer? That's amazing.
-- [Cleveland Plain Dealer]

Interesting theory regarding height in today's NBA.
-- [Dallas Morning News, Reg. req'd]

Darko wants burn. Coach Brown says earn it.
-- [Detroit Free Press]

AND FINALLY...

Some All-Star thoughts from John Hollinger.
-- [SI.com]

The Bulls have many reasons to be excited these days.
(Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
North Carolina coach Roy Williams on Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich:

"I think Kirk is in the same ballpark with Michael as far as competitiveness is concerned."

2004-05 ARCHIVE
Jan. 19 -- My Kind of Town
Jan. 11 -- 'S Wonderful
Jan. 4 -- Points Well Taken
Dec. 29 -- New Year's Wishes
Dec. 21 -- A Wonderful Life
Dec. 14 -- How Good is Good?
Dec. 7 -- Getting Medieval
Nov. 30 -- LeBron vs. Dwyane
Nov. 23 -- Playing Good Ball
Nov. 16 -- SuperbSonics
Nov. 9 -- Hitting the Blue Note
Nov. 3 -- Bling, Bang, Boom
2003-04 -- Archive