Having just arrived in my current home after leaving one of my former residences, it occurred to me that one of the reasons I love both cities Philadelphia and Chicago is that both are extremely passionate places.
One thing Ill give Chicago the edge in is consistency, as the Bulls were among the NBAs best in attendance even in the post-Jordan era.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, while equally passionate about the game of basketball, shows its disenchantment with the Sixers when the team isnt doing well, which made it good to see a raucous crowd in the Wells Fargo (not Wachovia, as it was during my college days) Center last night.
I was reminded, however, of how over-the-top the city can be on my way to the airport this morning, when my cab driver, a nice fellow who was chatting with me about his journey from Lebanon to Philly, got into it with a cyclist. After getting flipped off by the cyclist, he sped up, almost ran him off the street, cut him off, jumped out of the cab and proceeded to threaten the poor guy with bodily harm.
Just another day in the City of Brotherly Love, but since thats neither here nor there, Ill show my appreciation for the Windy City by answering another round of your questions.
What do you attribute the regression of Omer's play to this year? Do you think he still has "starter" potential in the NBA? -- Benjamin
Benjamin, I believe Omer was more adversely affected by the lockout than perhaps any other player on the Bulls. After suffering a fractured left tibia against the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, he had very little time to rehab the injury before playing for Turkey in last summers FIBA EuroBasket event.
While he appeared to make some progress on the offensive end in that tournament, he also played heavy minutes and didnt get much rest until it was over, causing him to delay the conditioning process for the upcoming season. Ive heard that if the lockout ended up causing a cancellation of the regular season, he had no interest in playing professionally overseas.
That said, I believe Omer still has a chance to be a starter in the league, though not ahead of Joakim Noah. Omer is regarded as one of the NBAs premier defensive centers already and as the saying goes, you cant teach size. If he was playing for Miami, for example, would he not be an upgrade from Joel Anthony?
Omer certainly has weaknesses, but as a second-year pro, I believe he has plenty of time to correct some of his deficiencies. In fact, now that Luol Deng has ascended to All-Star status, I believe Omer and C.J. Watson are the most underappreciated Bulls.
Who (or what position) do you think the Bulls will target in this summer's draft? I know it's early but I really love everything related to the draft. -- Anthony
Anthony, the draft is always tricky for teams like the Bulls, who are deep, relatively young, yet still experienced. Like every other team in the league, theyre constantly evaluating talent, but when the draft comes around, they understand they might not have access to who they could be targeting, simply because of their low position.
Another thing to keep in mind is only certain players make sense for the system and personnel that they have. I remember last spring, when a lot of fans were clamoring for MarShon Brooks, whos having a solid debut campaign in New Jersey. Brooks is an excellent scorer, but unlike Jimmy Butler, hes not exactly a stellar defender, which wouldnt have gone over too well with Thibs.
Also, not to say Brooks is better than Jimmy or will be better in the long run, but where, exactly, would the Bulls find room for him with Rip now healthy? While Thibs did play Omer as a rookie, his hand was forced by Carlos Boozers early-season injury, then Joakim getting hurt.
But to answer your question, I cant say the Bulls have locked in on any one player, in particular its still somewhat early and with college conference tournament season here, scouts and executives all over the league are watching for breakout players though I can see them focusing on adding a defensive-minded big man, with the possibility that Omer or Taj Gibson leaves in the future.
Of course, another shooter couldnt hurt as long as Derrick is in town and theres always a chance they use a pick as an asset to include in a trade. I could give you some names now, but Im positive that list will be different in a month, so check back in with me in April and I can give you a clearer picture then.
Why don't the Bulls just sit Rip Hamilton for the next month or so to make sure he is healthy by the time the playoffs come? -- Tyler
Tyler, Rip is aware of the widely-held opinion out there that the Bulls should be even more cautious with him, to guarantee his health when the postseason arrives. Hes not sensitive about it, but doesnt agree with the notion. I told him that there are worse things for people to say about a player and it only reflects his reputation as a winner, but his argument is that the regular season is also important, as its always better when a team is rolling heading into the playoffs.
The organization is respectful of Rips significant experience 13 years in the league, multiple conference finals with Detroit, two Finals appearances and a championship as well as his knowledge of his own body, especially with his reputation as one of the leagues best-conditioned players, so it mostly defers to his judgment.
Personally, I think its the best course of action and since hes been back in the lineup, its clear that his mere presence has really opened things up.
Which team scares you the most for an opening round series in the playoffs? I'm personally very afraid of playing a much-improved Pacers team. -- Kiersten
Kiersten, Indiana indeed is a team to be reckoned with, as is Philadelphia, the Bulls opponent in the first half of the back-to-back, but neither is likely to be a first-round foe. In fact, both the Pacers and Sixers are in line to host an opening-round series of their own, meaning that either could face the Bulls (with the other likely looking at Miami) in the second round.
As far as scary first-round teams, Id have to go with New York. A lot could happen between now and the end of the season, but assuming the Knicks dont make another big push and none of the teams slightly ahead of them take a second-half nosedive, both the Bulls and Heat are probably crossing their fingers that they face the aging Celtics in the first round instead.
New Yorks athleticism and offensive firepower are formidable, and now that they have a legitimate point guard whether you think Linsanity is overblown or not, the kid can play; Baron Davis willingness to contribute in a backup role also doesnt hurt to distribute to Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, shooters like J.R. Smith and Steve Novak and defensive-minded role players such as Tyson Chandler, Jared Jeffries and rookie Iman Shumpert, a Chicago native, even surviving a series Mike DAntonis run-and-gun bunch could take a lot out of a team.
How did you get to become the Bulls beat writer? What did your road there consist of? -- Marcus
Marcus, becoming the Bulls beat writer here at CSN Chicago took a lot of hard work, a little luck and of course, payoffs. You wont get anywhere in the world without bribing someone.
Seriously though, I went to Temple University in Philadelphia, where I majored in journalism. After graduation, I was hired as a copy editor at a small paper in the city, where I interned as an undergrad. The paper also gave a handful of story assignments in my free time, though to my extreme frustration, I wasnt given very many basketball stories to write.
I ended up leaving to become a copy editor at a slightly bigger suburban paper, where I went through a similar experience before meeting a staffer at SLAM, the basketball magazine, through a former colleague at the first paper. I e-mailed this guy, now a close friend, regularly first politely, then increasingly insistent that I deserved a shot and months later, I was given my first assignment for the magazine, ironically on erstwhile Bull JamesOn Curry, who was a high school player at the time.
Over the next few years, I wrote for a variety of local publications, but consistently for SLAM, specializing mostly on prep ballplayers, many of whom are in the NBA today, although I also wrote about pros, college players and even stars in the womens game. Ive been blessed to write about some relatively high-profile athletes, as well as some sleepers at the time who became stars, but the most valuable part of the experience was developing contacts at different levels of the game and having the opportunity to see talent develop from the grassroots level; for example, I wasnt even living in Chicago, but I saw Derrick Rose play and lose, ironically for Simeon in person, so I had a reference point going way back, beyond what I saw on television and heard from others.
Anyway, I continued to write for SLAM (and still do, time permitting) and was freelancing in Chicago (mostly focusing on high school hoops, which I truly enjoy) when a friend of a friend told me about the opening at CSN. I expressed my interest and the rest is history, so youre stuck with me for now.
Keep the questions -- whether theyre about the Bulls, the rest of the NBA, other levels of basketball or life in general -- coming. Youll get a much better explanation, though not as instant, than you would via Twitter with only 140 characters. You can submit a question by commenting on this article below or by clicking here.