Tomorrow at noon the #1 vs. #8 Chicago Bulls vs. Philadelphia 76ers playoff series tips off. This first round match-up of the NBA playoffs has a distinctive “homecoming” feel to it. Doug Collins who coached the Bulls for many years in the 1980s as Phil Jackson’s predecessor, was almost signed as the coach again in 2008.
The job went to Vinny Del Negro instead; who has since been replaced by Tom Thibodeau. Also returning to Chicago is Sixers point guard Evan Turner, the #2 pick in 2010 out of Ohio State. Turner grew up about five minutes from the United Center. He’s made some good strides in his second season, but gave the Bulls some Bulletin board material when he said the Bulls were a favorable match-up for Philly.
We’ll see how it plays out.
Sixers analysis: Philly is a group built somewhat disjointed and disfigured. They have no real center, two point guards, their leading scorer is a bench player you probably haven’t heard from- Lou Williams, and they’re overly reliant on Andre Iguodala. They have good balanced scoring all around, including 11 a game from another former Bull Elton Brand.
“We probably match-up better with them, they’re by far the best team in the East, but our personnel, we match up better with them, so you never know,” he answered.
He also expressed similar sentiments in social media. Collins assured he’ll play a lot of minutes in this series, as they need to get some athletic rebounders on the wings.
“The key for us in the playoffs is going to be the play of our big guys, if we play Chicago we’ve got the rebound that ball,” Collins said.
“We’re going to have the first two games of the playoffs on the road, so we’re going to have a stretch of 11 of 13 on the road. That’s a pretty tough stretch.”
I then asked about how he’s going to handle the inevitable deluge of ticket requests we know is coming.
“Yeah, I’m just going to have to tell ‘em no; those tickets are going to be ridiculously expensive,” he said.
Since Turner is seeing most of his time at point guard these days, get ready to see a rekindling of the rivalry between the former Buckeyes star and Bulls superstar Derrick Rose. The acrimony goes back to Chicago preps days.
Here’s an interesting tidbit found via CBS Chicago:
Back in 2007, Rose’s Simeon team knocked off Turner’s St. Joseph’s team 74-66 and Turner had this to say to the Chicago Sun-Times:
“I was better than [Rose]. With me guarding him he didn’t do much. He knows that and I know that.”
Rose then followed up with this:
“We both know who is better. He’s just doing this to get a little bit of publicity. We’ll see who does more on the next level.”
So far, the answer to that is obvious- Rose left Memphis after one year to become the #1 overall pick in 2008, and won the NBA MVP last year. Turner stayed three years at Ohio State, sweeping all the major college basketball player of the year awards his junior season in Columbus. He struggled quite a bit his rookie season, but has made some noticeable strides this year.
They did it again with rebounding and defense this year, as Chicago was near the top of the league in both categories most of the year. The big story was how many games reigning MVP Derrick Rose missed, and how (surprisingly) many games the Bulls won in his absence. Even more surprising, it’s Carlos Boozer (among the five regular starters) who played the entire season. Given how he routinely misses numerous games every year, it’s shocking. But the other three starters Joakim Noah, Rip Hamilton and Luol Deng, have all missed time as well.
In fact, the regular five have hardly played together at all. Yet the Bulls kept winning. Tom Thibodeau has probably coached better this year than he did last year- when he won coach of the year. What matters now is the health of Rose, Hamilton and Deng. That will determine how far the Bulls go this postseason.
The prediction: This season means nothing until the playoffs. After last year’s Eastern conference final to the Miami Heat, really no one cares, or no one cared until the postseason. And even the postseason doesn’t matter until it’s Bulls-Heat at the end of the conference road. It’s great that the Bulls locked up the #1 seed for the entire NBA postseason, but remember they also did that last season, yet failed to reach the Finals. All in all, people are still more interested in the NFL Draft right now than the NBA playoffs. The lockout and the 66 game shortened season hurt their momentum.
That said, this is still an intriguing match-up for Chicago and should be fun to watch nonetheless. Bulls in 6.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, MSN and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.