Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Tests, Tests Everywhere



The recent good times the resurgent Bulls have enjoyed are about to get harder, at least on paper.

Everyone knew February would arrive and now it has. While the young Bulls took the NBA by storm and raced up the standings for the past six weeks, one eye was always set on the upcoming stretch of games, a stretch that would test even the most experienced and successful of teams.

If road games and opponents with winning records mean anything, then February will be the Bulls' month to show how much they've grown up. All those January home games against pretenders such as the Celtics and Sixers, and the truly downtrodden Warriors and Hawks, won't be around for awhile. Not until February 15, to be exact, which will be the next date in the United Center.

In the meantime, the Bulls start an extended period of traveling in scenic New Jersey tonight, which is not the prettiest place to begin a stretch of schedule that isn't pretty.

This is a must-win game for the Bulls, as much as the struggling Nets can be called a must-beat team. Throw out the Nets' record and the absence of the injured Richard Jefferson. Tonight is about revenge and getting over humps one at a time. This whole season started with the Bulls coming from twenty-something back on the Nets on opening night only to lose in overtime - at the United Center no less. Then there was the other time the Nets beat the Bulls around Christmas, again at home, after the Bulls had led pretty much the entire fourth quarter. The Nets have been a maddening pest. Plus, there's that whole Jason Kidd and the Family thing going on, Vince Carter probably wishing he stayed in Toronto, and they're the friggin' Nets.

The Nets must be beaten.

A win in Jersey would set up a feel-good trip to Miami to face the Heat on Friday night, and this would obviously be a preview of the Eastern Conference finals.

Say what?

In the words of Stuart Scott, "BOO-YAH!" Here's to Larry Brown and Ron Artest.

OK, a penciled-in trip to the conference finals might be a stretch, but the Heat, at least right now, looks like the team to beat in the East, so beating them sooner or later would be recommended. Shaquille O'Neal and Dwyane Wade are quietly doing their thing and playing it cool. No arrests to note. No ongoing trials. No drama. (Shaq must be loving life without Kobe.) Ron Jeremy is doing a nice job on the sidelines. Who knew he could coach? And they have Shaq and Wade. Did I mention that?

The Heat game will also set up Shaq-Curry, otherwise known as Curry-Shaq around these parts.

There has been some Eddyness of late, such as his continued lack of rebounds, but some of the better moments of his young, turbulent career have come against Shaq, including a Bulls sweep of the Lakers in 2001-02, the last year Shaq and the Lakers won a title.

Friday night would be a nice night for Curry to enter the pantheon, the upper pantheon, the pantheon where the great centers play and where Curry is destined.

Say what?

BOO-YAH!

(OK, I won't do that any more.)

Again, I'm speaking with hyperbole, but if Curry wants to be recognized as a legitimately dominant center (in a conference in which there aren't many), a matchup with Shaq is the perfect stage to announce his arrival. It's a chance for the young gun to prove his worth against the celebrated master. It's a chance for eras to overlap.

Meanwhile, if Andres Nocioni can madden Wade into a technical foul, he's officially one of my favorite Bulls ever. Wade is one of the nice guys, but Nocioni has ticked off more opponents lately than a liberal in a Jerry Falwell audience.

Of course, the trips to Jersey and South Beach are only the beginning of a month that will see the Bulls play only three home games, and those games will feature a return date with the Heat as well as visits from Sacramento and Washington, contenders both.

In between, the Bulls will travel to Dallas, Houston, Minnesota, Toronto, Cleveland and Carlotte. There are no gimmes in this stretch, the Raptors and Bobcats included.

It's going to be tough.

But nobody ever said it was going to be easy.

*************



Just win, baby.

That's about all you can say about the Illini at this point.

Everyone is watching them. Everyone knows their story. Everyone wants to know when the undefeated, No. 1 team finally loses, or if it loses. They had a centennial celebration on Saturday, which marked 100 years of Illini basketball and nobody could have ever planned it better. The past has come racing to this moment right now, as it always does, and things could not be more perfect, especially to Illini fans, who have by this point stopped removing their paint face between games. And a trip to Michigan State is one of the toughest trips any team can make. Ever.

It's quite the situation the Illini have beautifully played their way into.

And that will be on the agenda tonight. All of it.

Any team, no matter good, is expected to have bad games here or there, and a trip to East Lansing has done in more than one good team.

It's a good thing the Illini don't feel pressure, or at least not much, or at least they don't show it. Win here, and talk of running the table will explode. Win here, and something has truly been accomplished in a season of many accomplishments thus far. Win here, and another dangerous trap will be skillfully averted on the desired road to titles, perfection and history.

But one game at a time, always one game at a time. Strictly business. No more talk of 'perfection.' No more talk of what lies ahead. Tonight is all that matters for now, and tonight is a good ol' fasioned Big Ten clash first and foremost.

Just win, baby.

************



The lovefest in Chicago for Donovon McNabb, the South Sider, continues here.

Go Eagles.

************



From the "Yeah, I Don't Think So" Dept.:

John Kerry still doesn't get it, unless bin Ladin had something to do with sapping Kerry of all charisma and ability to make a statement with any conviction. I hope this guy isn't planning on running again in 2008, but he probably is.

************



I'm going to say something nice about Iraq.

I've felt a little bad lately about being such a pessimist when it comes to the complete fuck-up that is...wait...let me rephrase that...when it comes to what an interesting and important dilemma the Iraq situation is.

See, i can play nice, as long as i do so with a small i.

Anyway, I've decided that a perpetually gloomy vision of the Iraqi mess doesn't help anything. So...

Props to the Shiites and Kurds for showing up. Maybe the Sunnis will learn to play nice too, and maybe they'll start to remember to take off their wraparound bombs when they leave the house in the morning. This is incredibly absent-minded and inconsiderate of them.

The Shiites and Kurds, the silent majority, the former weaker people, the former oppressed people, stood up and said they will not be intimidated and fucked with. They have the numbers and they weren't run off by the gun-toting, insurgent jackasses who want to prevent them from using that undeniable power. There is a whole lot more Iraqis who just want to live their lives without conflict than there are morons who blow themselves up and take hostages in some ill-conceived attempt to obtain and maintain twisted power. A lot more. Don't let a few bad apples in ski masks with AK-47s taint the Iraqi population as a whole.

Power to the people.

And that ocean of people has made its intentions known. Thugs with guns and bad mustaches will no longer be ruling Iraq solely by brutal intimidation and constant fear for one's life. That shit is outdated. It's trite. It won't be tolerated.

Hopefully, from among the better and vast majority of everyday Iraqis comes someone who can lead with wisdom, and hopefully that person isn't alone. Of course, judging by politicians, oh, EVERYWHERE, I don't see that happening.

And hopefully, the Shiite and Kurd majority doesn't rule the understandably hated and suddenly outclassed Sunnis with a cruel and vengeful iron fist. This likelihood might be viewed as being doubtful, at best.

But i'm a playing nice and i'm saying nice things, you know, to not be a hater and all.

But BushCo. is still overseeing the most corrupt, inexplicably inept, and overall fucked up presidency in a long, long time.

BOO-YAH!

***************

"It is never too late to become what you might have been" - George Eliot

"If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else." - Yogi Berra

1 Comments:

Blogger Hoodrow said...

Must-win this early? Sound like you've been kiking it in New York my friend.

By the way, Gordon is on the block. Figure I'll get something now while his value is high.

5:50 PM  

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