Five Things We Learned from the Chicago Bulls First Preseason Game
Here are a few noticeable things about this new-look Bulls team right out of the gate:
1. Kirk Hinrich is excited to be back home. Though his stat line is nothing to write home about (5 points, 7 assists, 2 steals), Hinrich clearly set the tone with his aggressive play and relentless energy. He pushed the ball every chance he got and often applied full court defensive pressure on Memphis' point guards. He seems to be in the best shape of his life after slumming it with the Wizards and Hawks while dealing with injuries, and if Hinrich's renewed sense of dedication and passion sticks beyond the preseason, he will be a very capable fill-in for Rose and an even better back-up. Being back in the United Center no doubt helps, and playing for a defensive-minded coach like Tom Thibodeau should make this a comeback year for Captain Kirk.
2. Jimmy Butler could have a breakout season. Butler shot terribly in his first game with extended minutes (25), going 1-11 and finishing with two points. But he showcased his quickness and sound decision-making, something that should excite Thibodeau going forward. Though he certainly hasn't developed the kind of shooting range Luol Deng has worked so hard to improve, Butler showed he can shoot with confidence. His shot will start to fall, and his ability to penetrate will make his current lack of range forgivable. He will be a solid backup for Deng, especially on the defensive end, and has an outside chance of being a strong sixth man if he can knock down shots.
3. Carlos Boozer is back to his usual self. Barking louder than he bites, playing lazy defense and failing to rotate fast enough, sticking to rainbow jumpers instead of working the block. I guess you really can't teach an old dog new tricks. Yes, it's only preseason, and maybe he's only saving the good stuff for when it counts (sarcasm), but his 3-10 shooting performance is eerily familiar to the kind of stats he was posting late last season. Granted, he only played 20 minutes, and most of the offensive work seemed to be flowing through Deng and the backcourt, but when Nazr Mohammed scores twice as many points as your supposed "low-post scoring threat", that should raise some alarms (not that they haven't been raised already. multiple times). Time will tell if Boozer can help this Bulls team that is desperate for offense, or if he'll pull a Houdini once again.
4. Marquis Teague is nowhere near ready for action. Not that Thibodeau ever gives rookies much of a chance anyway, but Teague followed up a poor summer league showing with a sub-par preseason debut. He played just under four minutes, which is an indication of how stingy Thibs is with his minutes, but Teague also didn't do much to make those limited minutes count. He had a couple of nice steals, but outside of that it was a typical rookie debut: trying to play too fast without letting the game come to you. I'm sure the jitters played their part, and Teague will most likely get more time later in the preseason, but unless he has some sort of breakthrough (which, again, seems unlikely given his performance over the summer), you can bet he'll be riding the pine and pay his dues like Butler did last season.
5. There are enough white guys on this Bulls roster for them to qualify as a Euro League team. Marco Belinelli, Marco Jaric, Kyrylo Fesenko, Vladimir Radmanovic, Kirk Hinrich (OK, Hinrich isn't European, but his name fits). Seriously, you put this starting five together and I'll take them as instant contenders over there. And since a title this year is sort of a long shot given Derrick Rose's absence and the time it will take for the Bench Mob's facelift to settle in, that might not be such a bad idea. Otherwise, unless most of the aforementioned list gets trimmed before the regular season (I'm guessing Fesenko and/or Jaric), the Bulls will undoubtedly win the "Roster With The Greatest Number of Confusing Names " award. Perhaps there is something to look forward to for Bulls fans this season.