There's a slight mist rising in the air from McGuane Park this morning, a result of the angry downpour we received last night. It was hitting my windows in sheets with lightning close enough to illuminate the slicked streets for seconds at a time.
Meanwhile I watched the Bulls just spank Philadelphia last night. As popular sports radio contributor Whitley From Ravenswood told me in an IM exchange the other day, "They're playing with a clue for the first time since 1998!!"
And they are. Bill Simmons of ESPN.com had this to say about the resurgence of the Bulls: "Lemme get this straight: It's a good idea to take players who were great in college? So you're saying that, if I'm a GM and I'm following college basketball, and there are certain players who keep dominating games and helping their teams compete at the highest possible level ... those guys might become good NBA players? And I should lean towards these guys over projects who look good in workouts, summer tournaments and one-on-one games?
(Wait, how does this work again?)"
It's true. While it's still too early for the Bulls to start eyeing a playoff berth, they are competitive, play a smothering lockdown D not seen since the days of the "dobermans", are extremely well-coached, and are quickly developing a team identity. It's even more amazing when one considers that the Bulls have four rookies in their main rotation.
They have the cornerstones: Kirk Hinrich with his court smarts and long wingspan; Eddy Curry is finally starting to play in the manner expected of him; General Manager John Paxson has made some shrewd draft choices the past two years in Hinrich, Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni, Chris Duhon, and Ben Gordon.
These kids are getting a trial by fire. After an 0-9 start to the season they could have folded. They've gone 15-9 since and have peeled off two five-game winning streaks in less than a month. The mindset on West Madison is one of expecting to win nowadays. And it starts at the top with Paxson and coach Scott Skiles. They were no-nonsense, no-bullshit, hard-nosed players who have taken a solid work ethic and patient teaching skills, cleaned the organization of me-first players like Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford, and revamped the identity of the organization. Both of them deserve consideration for Executive and Coach of the Year.
Moreover, they play the game with fun and excitement.