Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classic"


Five reasons to watch tonight's "Bulls Classic"

Five things to watch in Tuesday night's Comcast SportsNet Chicago "Bulls Classics" broadcast, featuring the Bulls' 97-93 1992 NBA Finals Game 6 victory over the Portland Trailblazers:

1) Michael Jordan led the Bulls with 33 points in the close-out game, out-dueling his biggest rival at the shooting guard position, Portland's Clyde Drexler. Jordan, who averaged 30.1 points per game that season, won his second consecutive league MVP award and third overall. Not that he wasn't already a household name, but by bringing Chicago a second championship, there was no doubt he was already a legend, at only 28 years old.

2) The Bulls' second consecutive title was the franchise's first that was won on the home court of the old Chicago Stadium. It was a fitting show of appreciation for Bulls loyalists and those who jumped on the bandwagon alike, commemorating an outstanding, 62-win regular-season campaign and cementing a dynasty that would dominate the decade in the NBA. After sweeping the Heat in the first round, the Knicks took the Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals before they dispatched the Cavaliers and Trailblazers in six games apiece.

3) Scottie Pippen's 26-point Game 6 effort, to go along with four apiece of rebounds and assists, don't quite illustrate his brilliance at that point in his career, but he was nearing Jordan's equal as a slasher and had perhaps surpassed him as a defender (he was named to the first team of the NBA's all-defensive team, as well as garnering second team all-NBA honors for the first time in his career and making his second All-Star Game appearance) and all-around talent. Meanwhile, starting big men Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright suffered through rough outings, but Scott Williams picked up the slack with eight rebounds off the bench, while Stacey King also contributed. John Paxson's 13 points were another key component to the win.

4) The Blazers, which lost to both those 1992 Bulls and the 1990 Detroit Pistons in the Finals, just couldn't get over the hump. As talented, balanced, deep and big as they were, it seemed as if they needed another piece to complement star Clyde Drexler. Perhaps Drexler would have benefited from being a No. 2 option in Portland; he went on to win a championship with the Rockets alongside University of Houston teammate Hakeem Olajuwon in 1995.

5) Portland center Kevin Duckworth, who passed away in 2008, was a Chicago-area native. The Thornridge High School graduate -- the south-suburban school also produced Indiana University great Quinn Buckner -- attended Eastern Illinois before entering the NBA in 1986. After his rookie campaign, he quickly blossomed, becoming an All-Star in the 1988-89 and 1990-91 seasons. While some observers poked fun at his girth, the late Duckworth was quietly considered one of the most underrated centers of his era.

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Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

Bulls physicality a new wrinkle from last season

College teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder made plans to go to dinner after Thursday’s game in Chicago but for a few short moments they weren’t just competitors but unexpected combatants, getting tangled up in the second quarter.

There looked to be some harsh words exchanged after Butler took a charge on an unsuspecting Crowder near three-quarter court, with Crowder putting the basketball in Butler’s chest while Butler was still on the floor, causing players on both teams to convene for some tense moments.

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas got involved and then before Butler could blink, Bulls guard Rajon Rondo joined the proceedings, as pushing and shoving ensued before technical fouls were assessed to both teams after an officials’ review.

If one wondered whether these Bulls—a team that touts itself as young with so many players having three years or less professional experience—could play with some bark and bite, perhaps the season opener provided a bit of a positive preview for the next 81 games.

Nearby, an unbothered Dwyane Wade took a practice 3-point shot, much to the delight of the United Center crowd, as observers witnessed the first sign of tangible proof the Bulls have intentions on regaining a bit of an edge on the floor.

Wade joked and took it as a sign of respect between the two teams.

“It looked like it, right? Yeah. It was a little something out there,” said Wade when asked if there was some chippy play. “Every time we play them it’s gonna be like that. Two teams finding their way in the Eastern Conference. We know we gotta see each other a lot. They never give up. They can be down 30 with 15 seconds left and they’re still gonna fight.”

The Bulls have externally preached toughness from the start of camp. Although Wade didn’t participate in that meeting of the minds, he isn’t exactly running away from such matters.
And Rajon Rondo is competitively ornery enough to have his voice hard no matter the setting.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

“It’s been a big theme of practice,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “We want to play with physicality and toughness. I think it was evident on the glass tonight.”

Yes, the Bulls outrebounded the Celtics by 19, but that could’ve been a by-product of the Bulls’ crashing the offensive glass on a porous shooting night. And yes, the slightly tense moment between Butler and Crowder probably won’t be an expected occurrence.

But when’s the last time one had multiple examples to dissect to discern this team’s level of toughness—or lack thereof.

“That’s something to show that the guys are out there fighting for each other,” Hoiberg said. “That they were playing with an edge. It happens with this game. You have to be competitive.”

Competition boiled over slightly, but considering the NBA isn’t exactly UFC, one doesn’t have to do much to display a little physical resolve.

“The fact that nothing escalated was good,” Hoiberg said. “The fact that those guys are out there and playing for each other and have each other’s back, that’s a huge thing right now.”

Too many times last season, it seemed the Bulls would submit in situations like those. Not that they were particularly soft, but it didn’t appear they had the collective will to fight for one another if an altercation arose.

Half the time, they looked like they could barely stand to be in the room with each other.

“It’s people’s will to win. Not saying a bad thing about anybody from last year,” Butler said. “To tell you the truth, I study the game and put in a lot of work but Rondo studies the game a lot. Every time I’m in the gym, he’s in the gym. That lets me know, these (dudes) are going to war with you. Every day. When I hit that deck, Rondo was right there. I wanna play with guys that’s gonna play hard, that’s gonna fight.”

And it didn’t take long for Butler to realize he has at least a couple teammates willing to jump in the foxhole with him.