The Bulls begin their preseason schedule tonight at home against the Memphis Grizzlies.
So what are we likely to see?
Probably not much of note. Preseason openers usually feature light duty for the projected starters (which, in the Bulls case, will likely be Kirk Hinrich, Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah). It’s the NBA equivalent of a mechanic looking under the hood to see what’s there.
One important component of Chicago’s engine may not be there at all: Noah. He’s been missing practice for unnamed personal reasons — although Noah has stated that his grandmother passed away on October 1 — and his status for tonight’s game is unknown.
If Jo isn’t available, look for Nazr Mohammed to get the starting nod.
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “I feel good about [Mohammed starting]. We have a lot of flexibility. Naz will start if Jo doesn’t go. Of course Taj (Gibson) could play the five. (Kyrylo) Fesenko, so we feel good about that. But we could also play Vladimir (Radmanovic) more at the four and Taj at five. They’re different things we could get to, so we’ll be fine.”
That’s kind of how I imagine Dr. Frankenstein discussing his monster-building plans.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote the annual “Bulls looking to become more of a fast break team” article. I think some version of this article runs at the beginning of every NBA season for almost every team in the league. In theory, fast breaks generate easy scoring opportunities, so naturally every team would like to improve their transition offense. But it’s one of those “easier said than done” things.
Put it this way: If the Bulls weren’t a potent fast break team when Derrick Rose was running the show — he is, after all, one of the league’s fastest players — it’s hard to imagine Kirk Hinrich becoming Magic Johnson 2.0.
Fortunately, Thibs is a realist and it sounds like he simply wants to diversify the offence a little.
Said Thibodeau: “You want to be well-balanced. That’s what you strive for. And there are a number of ways in which you get easy baskets. The obvious one is the fast break, but the second shot is an easy basket, cuts are another easy way, off post feeds, things of that nature, but you have to be well-rounded.
“I’m more concerned with the type of shots that we’re getting. The best teams are not going to give you easy scoring opportunities off the quick break. Most teams are sending three guys back, so when you have defenders back, you have to flow into secondary action. We’re trying to read that better, and hopefully we can get into a flow.”
Probably the most compelling aspect of tonight’s game will be seeing the revamped Bench Mob in action (assuming we can still call them the “Bench Mob”): Jimmy Butler, Marco Bellinelli, Marquis Teague, Mohammed, Nate Robinson and Radmanovic. And I suppose The Battle for the 12th Man Role — between Fesenko and veteran guard Marko Jaric — will be…somewhat interesting.
In this-has-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-this-season news, Bulls prospect Nikola Mirotic suited up with Real Madrid and faced the same Grizzlies squad the Bulls will play tonight. And, as Sam Smith of Bulls.com writes, the kid looked good. Unfortunately, he likely won’t play in Chicago for another few years, but when he does the Bulls could really have a player on their hands. Time will tell.