Bulls Beat Trail Blazers, Just like the ’92 Finals (Sort of)

By Paul M. Banks

The Chicago Bulls welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to the United Center tonight. Sure, it’s not the 1992 NBA Finals, but it is an important contest with playoff implications on both sides.

[Read more…]

Will the Bulls Draft a Backup Point Guard?

bulls_rose_300

By Paul M. Banks

If there’s one position the Chicago Bulls don’t have a pressing need at, it’s point guard. The incumbent starter, Derrick Rose is the only player on the roster even remotely close to developing into a franchise player, and (SAT scandals and gang sign gestures aside) is the guy to build the team around. But the Bulls might see backup Kirk Hinrich move on soon and in today’s NBA, the “Golden Age of Point Guards” that we currently live in, it’s good to have two reliable point guards.

As former UCLA point guard and current draft prospect Darren Collison said at the NBA Draft Combine: “This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that.”

For teams currently needing a point guard, this crop of prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly all-time. It could produce a couple players with the same impact as current young NBA floor generals Rose, Chris Paul and Deron Williams.

On Tuesday, the Bulls looked at (among others) Maynor, Wake Forest’s Jeff Teague, Greece’s Nick Calathes, St. Joseph’s Tasheed Carr, the 5’6” David Holston from Chicago State and Bryan Mullins from Southern Illinois via Downers Grove High School.

UCLA’s second, and more hyped point guard prospect, Jrue Holiday has also met with the team and expressed a strong interest to join the team at combine media day. However, he should be long picked by the time the Bulls are on the board.

bullscourt

Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn, one of the hottest point guard prospects around, figures to likely be gone by the time the Bulls pick at #16 on June 25th, and long gone when the Bulls pick again at #26. However, he worked out for the Bulls, met with the front office and was extremely vocal about his desire to play for the Bulls at the NBA Draft Combine. Flynn told the media how much he enjoys the Bulls up-tempo system and their young nucleus. He also described his game:

“I think I have some characteristics of Chris Paul. His tenacity, he’s hard as nails, fiery, fires his teammates up, he really knows how to get his teammates in position to where they can score, where they don’t have to do much to score. Look at David West and Tyson Chandler; where would they be without Chris Paul?”

As much as the Bulls need a scoring big, as much as point guard is the team’s strongest position, they have needs at guard- especially someone to be a backup running the point and/or provide scoring at the off guard position given the (increasingly likely) case that Ben Gordon departs.

UCLA Pair Part of Point Guard Heavy Draft

jrueholiday

By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

In recent years, we have seen how drafting a point guard can help change the face of an NBA franchise.  Think of the impact Chris Paul has had on the Hornets, Deron Williams in Utah, Rajon Rando with the Celtics, or just this past year, what Derrick Rose brought to the Bulls.  If you are a team in need of a point guard this year, the crop of point guard prospects is deeper than any draft this decade, possibly of all time, and could produce a couple players who may have the impact of the aforementioned young NBA floor leaders.  Two prospects who play “the one” Jrue Holiday and Darren Collison played their college ball at perhaps the most storied of all programs, UCLA.

Ricky Rubio, Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn, and Stephen Curry join Holiday in a group of players that could be picked in the lottery to run the point at the next level.  That list doesn’t include Tyreke Evans who ran the point at Memphis, but figures to be a two guard in the NBA.  Add in the likes of Eric Maynor, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague, Nick Calathes, and Patrick Mills, and I have ten point guards being taken in the first round in my latest mock draft.  It’s possible that number could grow to as high as 12 if Holiday’s teammate Collison or Florida State’s Toney Douglas sneaks into the first round.
uclacheerleaders


Jrue Holiday

Despite grossly underachieving in his freshman year at UCLA, Holiday is catching the eye of many NBA teams.  Holiday was highly recruited coming out of high school, but played out of position with the Bruins, spending more time at the off-guard than the point since Darren Collison was already the squad’s established leader.  He struggled in Ben Howland’s offense which is more a grind-it-out style rather than an up-tempo system which would better fit Holiday’s game.  Still, based on his potential and athleticism, Holiday decided to declare for the draft and could possibly go as high as #4 to Sacramento. Playing at possibly the most high profile program of all may give Holiday an advantage over other rookies in adjusting to the bright lights of the NBA. “At UCLA you’re definitely an icon at school, around campus and pretty much everywhere you go because of the stature that UCLA has built, and it definitely prepares you for NBA life,” Holiday told me at the NBA Draft Combine.


Darren Collisoncollison

As for Collison, he would have been better off declaring for the draft after his sophomore or junior season when he was considered a possible lottery pick.  Returning to UCLA and putting together a less than stellar senior season really hurt his stock as he will most likely be taken early in the second round.  There is a chance that due to his experience, quickness, and shooting ability, he could end up being selected in the latter part of the first round. “I’m an unselfish teammate, I’ve never been on a team where it’s ‘I’ and we have to work around an individual. A team that takes me will get a great point guard because I’ve been in school for four years so I know what it takes to win at the second highest level and I’ve been to the final four three out of the four years,” Collison said at the NBA Draft combine.

Truly, this is the NBA’s Golden Age of point guards. Older veterans like Steve Nash, Tony Parker and Chauncey Billups are still in their prime or just slightly dropping off it. They’ll be remembered among the games’ all-time greats because they played in a era where young star floor generals like Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Derrick Rose also emerged. The Association’s talent level at the point will only increase with the ’09 draft class.

“This is the draft you want to be in right now if you’re a point guard. Everyone’s getting so much credit, from Jonny Flynn, to me, to Eric Maynor right on down the list because everyone knows they need point guards to win ballgames, to take that next step. And teams need a first string and a second string the whole game to be solid, and all the point guards in this draft have the potential to do that,” Collison said.

Derrick Rose Explains his Flashing of Gang Sign

derrickrosegangsign

By Paul M. Banks

As if the University of Memphis needed more bad PR. Headlines surrounding the program lately have been dominated by questions over whether former player and current Chicago Bull star Derrick Rose had someone take his SAT for him; as well as other stories of institutionalized corruption and malfeasance within the Memphis Tigers family.

Then the USC scandal broke and the men of Troy took the spotlight off the basketball mercenaries (well, maybe that’s a bit unfair- mercenaries are actually paid) affiliated with Memphis. So just when everyone had forgotten about Rose’s possibly cheating and coasting his way through his one year of school (seriously, doesn’t this mandated one year of college in order to get drafted rule seem even more incredibly stupid now?) we were reminded that “every Rose has its thorn.” Apologies to the ’80s hair band Poison.

I’ll let Derrick Rose explain the picture above in his own words. This is a statement released from the Bulls at 5pm  Thursday June 11th.

“Recently, a photo has been circulating on the Internet which appears to depict me flashing a gang sign.  This photo of me was taken at a party I attended in Memphis while I was in school there, and was meant as a joke…a bad one, I now admit.  I want to emphatically state, now and forever, that Derrick Rose is anti-gang, anti-drug, and anti-violence.  I am not, nor have I ever been, affiliated with any gang and I can’t speak loudly enough against gang violence, and the things that gangs represent.

In posing for this picture, I am guilty of being young, naive and of using extremely poor judgment.  I sincerely apologize to all my fans for my mistake.  I pride myself on being a good citizen, and role model, that young people can look up to and I want to urge all my young fans to stay away from gangs and gang-related activities.”

The image of Rose wilts from a minor gaffe that seems slightly offensive at worst, juvenile at best. Of course, this will blow over in a few days and Bulls fans will go back to having a man-crush on him. In the bigger picture, it’s yet another lesson about life in the internet/web 2.0/social media era. Remember, there are cell phone cameras and Blackberrys around everywhere you go, and if you get caught doing something that’s unfavorable to your public perception, it’ll spread like a virus.