By and large, I don’t particularly enjoy preseason games. Ultimately, they’re meaningless, especially when they come against a lottery team that last season ranked 19th in Defensive Rating (109.2) and 26th in PPG Allowed (106.2). Of course, the Bulls ranked 18th in Defensive Rating (108.7) and 20th in PPG Allowed (102.5), so maybe I shouldn’t point fingers.
Anyway, Bulls versus Pacers ended with the Windy City Steers on top 104-95. And wins, even meaningless ones over bad teams, are better than losses, so that’s something. Here are the notables:
Guys who looked good:
Let’s hear it for the starting backcourt! Derrick Rose (17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers) and John Salmons (15 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover) combined to shoot 14-for-21 (66 percent) from the field (although they were 0-for-2 from downtown and Rose went 1-for-3 from the line).
Chicago’s player of the game was Taj Gibson, who submitted the following mighty fine rookie line: 19 points, 6-for-12 from the field, 7-for-8 from the line, 5 offensive rebounds, 9 total rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 turnover, 5 fouls. Take special notice of the eight foul shots he earned. The dude brought some serious intensity…which I seriously loved. So did Vinny Del Negro: “Taj is like the Energizer Bunny, just keeps on coming at ya. He shoots it better than you think, he’s picking and popping, he’s long. Just a great effort for a first game for a rookie. It’s a good sign for him.” And a good sign for the Bulls.
And I like the kid’s attitude. Said Gibson: “I’m just an athletic, extremely high-energy guy. If I have to go out and get a couple rebounds, take a charge, I’m willing to do anything to help the team win. That’s my whole mind-frame right now.” Of course, the cynic in me realizes a lot of rookies make statements like that until they stop getting minutes and/or fall out of the regular rotation. But if Taj genuinely means what he says, and if he gives “first preseason game” effort all season, I don’t see him falling out of Vinny’s rotation.
Guys who looked both good and bad:
In 24 minutes, Joakim Noah notched game-highs in defensive rebounds (7) and total rebounds (10). He also had a team-high 3 blocked shots. BUT…his offense (4 points on 1-for-6 shooting) looked as awkward and clunky as ever. Noah also committed 4 fouls in limited PT. For Joakim’s positive development to continue, he has to stay out of foul trouble this season. Not that I want to read too much into his fouls. After all, it’s the preseason. (But still…)
Tyrus Thomas had 9 points, 3 boards and 3 steals before literally getting knocked out of the game with a concussion after he took a charge from Danny Granger in the third quarter. But his shooting was, well, pretty much on par for him (3-for-8) and he committed a couple turnovers. It might have been a bad sign for Ty’s future in Chicago that his potential replacement (Gibson) played so well. Oh, and the following comment from Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald is worth noting: “This would be the second concussion in less than a year for Thomas, who missed two games last December after taking an elbow to the head.”
Luol Deng gave a nice all-around contribution (15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and a perfect 9-for-9 from the line), but his shooting left a lot to be desired (3-for-10). And his man, Granger, went off for 27 points (7-for-13 from the field, 11-for-12 from the line) in 26 minutes.
Guys who looked bad:
While one rookie was catching fire, another was frosting over. James Johnson finished with more fouls (6) than points (4), shot only 1-for-6, and had no rebounds in 20 minutes. The fouls (he’s a rookie) and shooting I can forgive. But frontcourt players have to crash the boards. Zero rebounds in 20 minutes? That’s not even remotely acceptable in my book.
Guys who didn’t play:
Brad Miller (“rest”), Kirk Hinrich (hamstring), Jannero Pargo (sore right wrist), Aaron Gray (left fibula stress fracture).
Possible reason for concern:
The Bulls went 3-for-12 from beyond the arc. One of those three conversions came from Lindsey Hunter (who won’t be a regular) and two of them came from Derrick Byars (who probably won’t make the team). Of course, Hinrich and Pargo were out, so that’s some cosolation. That said, without Ben Gordon Chicago’s long-distance shooting will be a concern until they start hitting some.