Taking Care of Business

Andres Nocioni
Everything is better when you're winning, even helping out with the team's luggage...
(Courtesy of Bill Wennington)
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    February 28, 2005 – As impressive as the Bulls were in January, one could argue that the team’s success in February was just as remarkable. Playing only three times at home with several playoff contending teams on the docket, Chicago stayed true to its newfound winning ways, capping off the month with three wins in five days.

    By Bill Wennington

    No one saw this coming, did they? Did anyone think that the Bulls would be five games over .500 at the end of February? To say the least; the outlook wasn’t very good in late November after the team dropped its first nine games. Even after playing as well as anyone in the league during January, very few people thought that the Bulls would go 7-4 in February… but they did.

    Entertaining the thought of going to the NBA Playoffs is on the minds of just about anyone who follows professional basketball. When we go to opposing arenas, even the other team’s announcers are talking about how well the Bulls are doing. They’re discussing what a great core of young players that Chicago has and how good they can become in the future.

    In the end, no matter what happens between now and mid-April, I expect that people will praise the team and the effort that was put into making this team work. There has been a distinct emphasis on the team concept and these men really do work together. Different players are stepping up when the team needs them the most and the result is that the Bulls are coming from behind to win and taking close games. Take advantage of this time, Bulls fans, and enjoy it. Sit back and appreciate the basketball that this team is playing.

    Long and hard practices have made this team a winner. The work ethic that has been instilled to this team has now been realized and guys are no longer complaining that they need days off. Because of that mentality, after the last stretch of four games in five nights in which the Bulls won three times, Coach Skiles gave the guys a break on Sunday and didn’t schedule anything. Winning is great and it is becoming contagious with this group.

    Griffin, Pargo and Gordon in Charlotte
    Adrian Griffin, Jannero Pargo and Ben Gordon get loose on the court during pregame in Charlotte.
    (Courtesy of Bill Wennington)

    Fortunately for the Bulls, even Mother Nature has been kind in the last couple of weeks. The travel mishaps, which were quickly becoming the norm (and have nothing to do with basketball for those of you who have not read my previous columns), have disappeared. It is almost as if things are finally falling into place for the organization at just the right time. But that isn’t to say the Bulls’ schedule over the past week was an easy one…

    Unfortunately, in both back-to-back sets last week, the first game (one versus Miami and the other against Washington) was at United Center with the second one on the road. Keep in mind that the contest against Miami went into overtime. Departure time was close to midnight and the arrival time to the Cleveland hotel was after 1 in the morning, or 2 in the morning with the time change. The longer flight to Charlotte got us to the hotel about 3 a.m. Thank goodness there were no delays—those nights were late enough.

    Now, on to some e-mails… Greg Belevins writes: “I was recently in Chicago for the Bulls vs. Heat game. I couldn't have picked a better game to go to. Not only was the game amazing, I also got an autograph from the master of the chip shot, YOU!!! Do you think you and Neil Funk could take Tom Dore and the great Johnny “Red" Kerr in a game of H.O.R.S.E.? It could be Bulls Radio vs. Bulls Television. How about it?”

    Knowing what games to go to is always a plus and you picked a great one. It was unfortunate that Shaq got hurt in the first two minutes, but the game was still intense. In response to your question, my partner on the radio, Neil Funk, would not allow us to lose, even to the great talents of Johnny “Red” Kerr. So I would respectfully say we would kick some booty.

    "I love your columns and pictures,” writes Chris Hancock. “I am also glad the Bulls are finally doing well. Anyway, my one comment is that it did seem a bit too "homer-ish" of you to have not even a single criticism in your midterm report card. As a hardcore fan I can see the things they are doing well... it is the stuff they need to work on that is a little less obvious.”

    Eddy Curry
    If Eddy Curry continues to expand his game throughout his career, there's no telling how good he might be.

    Sorry for that, but I have been overjoyed with the Bulls. However, I do agree that there are still a lot of aspects in which the team can improve. One of the things they need to work on is their consistency. Too often there are stretches over a game or two where guys are disappearing and just not playing to a high level of productivity on the floor. I think Coach Skiles does a good job of rotating players out who are not up to par at any given time, but ideally you want your guys at a consistently high level. Also, because they are a young team, at times they get distracted from the game plan and settle for the easy shot. Sometimes they don’t move the ball enough, but with what we have seen the last four years I’m just nit-picking at this point. The team still has many things to work on, but let’s enjoy the good for now.

    Having said that, I truly believe that the team’s recent success is only the beginning; however, now is no time to get complacent. At the end of the season, the coaches and John Paxson will re-evaluate the team and try to make the necessary adjustments. My point is that this isn’t the championship caliber team we saw in the 1990s; rather they are the new Bulls and they are well on their way.

    Electricity shoots through me when Tad Michael writes, “In today’s NBA it seems as if the mid-range jumper is obsolete. Since you mastered the art of the ‘chip shot,’ why do you think so many players struggle with it? On the current roster, what player would most benefit from a mid-range chipper similar but of course not as automatic as the one you were blessed with?”

    Really good question. Mid midrange jumpers are never on the highlight films or ESPN’s SportsCenter, so young players today don’t practice them. They work on dunks or three pointers. If Eddy Curry had a mid range “J,” he would be unstoppable. A 12-15 foot shot, especially for a guy his size, is open more often than not. Look at Ben Gordon, for example. If teams lay off him and give him the room, that’s a shot he’s going to knock down for an easy two. If they play tight on him, he utilizes his quickness and drives by them. It’s tough to guard a guy who can hurt you in both ways.

    Bill's bookYou're missing out if you don't have this book.

    Every column must come to an end. But before I sign off, here is a little shout out to a few more fans who wrote in: Kate Gullum in Sacramento and Brett Stone in Melbourne, Australia. Thanks for your letters and for being Bulls fans. And finally, to Jim McGregor, a new Bulls fan from England transplanted here. Yes, I read all the other e-mails but unfortunately can not answer them all… good luck to you all and I’ll see you at the United Center!

    Send your questions and/or comments to Bill at bullsvip@bulls.com and check back next week to see if he responds to your e-mail.

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  • Past columns: Midterm Report Card (02.18.05) | Tough Times in Texas (02.10.05)
  • Man of the People: Bill Responds (02.02.05)
  • Thrown Under the Bus (01.25.05) | Team the Theme for Skiles’ Squad (01.18.05)
  • Wennington Column on the Way

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