Friday, January 28, 2005

Backups Down For It

The sometimes strange substitution patterns of Scott Skiles have warranted much discussion this year, and Thursday night's 101-93 win over the Bobcats will certainly keep such talk snapping.

None of the Bulls starters played in the fourth quarter.

Not a single one.

After the starters saw a one-time double-digit lead shrunk to a mere 74-73 advantage after three quarters, Skiles apparently had seen enough and sent in guys like Eric Piatkowski and Jannero Pargo to do their thing. Piatkowski responded with 16 points, while the seldom-used Pargo pitched in with 14, all coming in the fourth quarter in lights-out fashion.

Wait a sec.

Jannero Pargo? Is this the same Pargo who had played all of 31 minutes with two points on the season?

And do Piatkowski and Pargo even have a "thing?"

I guess so.

Weird. Good weird.

Hey, I'm not complaining.

I've noticed two slightly disturbing trends in recent Bulls games:

1) They play down to their opponents. OK, I wouldn't exactly call it a "trend" just yet as this whole winning thing is so new, but the win over the Bobcats followed a similar pattern to their win over the hapless Hawks last Friday night.

In both games, the Bulls took an early lead, went up by double-digits in the second quarter, relaxed in the third quarter as the opponent made a game of it, and then pulled away in the end. In both games, you couldn't help the feeling that the Bulls were easing up off the gas just a little bit.

On the one hand, it speaks volumes that the Bulls are suddenly a team that may be deemed to "play down to their opponents."

On the other hand, this is a trend that needs to be outgrown.

2) Eddy Curry. I don't want to overreact. And I certainly don't want to jump all over Curry, whose work ethic, physical shape, and overall excitement and dedication this season have been a massively pleasant surprise.

However, Curry missed a start against the Nuggets on Tuesday after hurting his groin in the pregame warmup - stretch, man! - and was painfully ineffective against Charlotte last night, appearing uninvolved much of the time and committing a team-high five turnovers while being outplayed by the pride of Slovenia, Primoz Brezec.

Like I said, no need to panic just yet.

I'm just keeping my eyes peeled at all times for any unwanted sightings of the "old" Curry. That's all.

So how long until Andres Nocioni officially becomes a Bulls fan favorite? Or is he one already? The guy's hustle is pure fun to watch.

Congrats to Luol Deng and Ben Gordon on being selected for the Rookie Challenge game. Nocioni and Chris Duhon undoubtedly deserved a hard look here as well, but there are only so many spots.

And props to Kirk Hinrich for being selected to the sophomore squad.

Matt at Bulls Blog discusses the young Bulls here.


Sure sign that the world is backwards?

George Karl, in a press conference announcing his hiring as the Nuggets coach, cited the Bulls as an example of a team to emulate.

"They're the happiest bunch I've seen in a long time," Karl said.

This is where I slowly and cautiously look around, keep my ears open for the Twilight Zone theme song, and wonder what dimension exactly I have stepped into.


The 1989 Illinois team was not only my all-time favorite college basketball squad, it also had one of the all-time great nicknames.

The Flying' Illini.

Simple. Sweet. Awesome.

Now the Chicago Tribune is running a contest in which readers offer their suggestions for a nickname for the current Illini bunch. A vote will determine a winner this weekend. A list of the suggested possibilities is here.

Some of the Illini players humorously weigh in here.

My favorites? "Orange and Blur" and "Skyllini."


The Illini will wear retro uniforms of the '89 team on Saturday against Minnesota as 100 years of Illini basketball is celebrated.

Hopefully, the shorts will be a bit longer than what Stephen Bardo was wearing back then.

Word of caution: I still can recall where I was as a kid when the '89 Illini had their undefeated season and new-found No. 1 ranking obliterated by - that's right - Minnesota. It was a sad, sad night.

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin.

Be careful. The Gophers have a decent squad this year. There's no need for history to repeat itself.


Blogger Nels said...

I went to last night's game with my girlfriend, and during the 3rd quarter she declared Andres Nocioni was her new favorite player (rising above Captain Kirk). She later admitted okay, maybe they were tied... but still, high praise indeed.

Noch (is that how you spell it?) has been a favorite of mine since I saw the video of him dunking on Garnett at World's a few years ago. And since he's a hustler. That's how I play, so I admire him for it. He's not on all the time, but he's hustling and scrapping all the time. I'm sure Skiles loves him for it.

9:36 AM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Yeah, Nocioni can definitely be described as a "Skiles guy" - hustling, rebounding, playing defense, doing all the little things. That stuff is contagious on a team. I remember when some people at the start of the year were down on him because he was playing out of control sometimes and wasn't shooting well. But I was thinking, "Don't hate on the dude just yet, he HUSTLES!!! The rest of his game will come around."

When his wife and newborn kid came up from Argentina that probably helped him adjust.

That's funny about your girlfriend. I have a buddy who looks ALOT like Nocioni. He has the same shaggy blonde hair and the same goatee and he's about six-foot-four. His girlfriend calls him "Noc" and it kind of ticks him off for some reason. But I told him he shouldn't complain. Noc isn't a bad guy to look like. It's better than looking like Will Perdue or something.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

I think my favorite Illini team will always be the 00-01 team that made the elite eight. This is probably because it was when i was a freshman at UofI, but also because they had a bad*ss identity.

Their front line was stacked: McClain, Griffin, Archibald, Cook, Krujpalia, Lucas Johnson

and in their last game (the regional final against arizona), think all of those guys fouled out. Bill walton was crying that 'basketball is not about elbows to the head, or knees to the groin' because the Illini were so physical. if only the NCAA refs let them play that day.....

(backcourt wasn't bad either, with Frankie, Corey Bradford, and Sean Harrington)

10:07 AM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Hells yeah, I remember that game against Arizona. The free throw discrepency was ridiculous. I don't remember the exact numbers but didn't Arizona shoot about 40-something free throws and like 20-30 more than the Illini?

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but I do remember that it was completely ridiculous. And the game was still close. I think I remember throwing blunt objects at the TV.

The '89 team should have won it all. They blew out Michigam twice during the season, both times by about 15-17 points. And then they lost to them on a buzzer beater in the Final Four.

That was one of the few times I actually felt like crying after a game. Total heartbreak. Total.

10:16 AM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

By the Bill Walton was complaining about the Illini in that game?

Wasn't his son on Arizona at that time?

10:18 AM  

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