by Bryan Crawford / @from_the_chi
All was eerily quiet in the United Center prior to the Bulls taking on the Knicks Tuesday night. Earlier in the day a trade was allegedly proposed between Chicago and Minnesota that would’ve sent Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas to the Timberwolves for Al Jefferson. Add that to the chatter of the Knicks being a player in the T-Mac sweepstakes (if that’s what you want to call it) for the better part of a week along with the Bulls potentially being interested in acquiring McGrady as well and you’d think there’d be plenty of people talking.
But there weren’t.
In fact, there wasn’t a whole lot coming out of either team’s locker room before the game about trades, or anything else for that matter. Oh yeah, Nate Robinson wasn’t with the team due to flu-like symptoms and Joakim Noah sat out another game with plantar fasciitis.
So as I loitered in the Bulls locker room, I was left admiring the pair of Reebok Questions in the “real” Eastern Conference blue colorway sitting in Derrick Rose’s locker (after the game he told me that he took them from Iverson’s ASG locker in Dallas because “he’s a Hall of Famer,” and that he planned to encase them in glass) and Joakim Noah and Brad Miller’s All-Star break tans.
But not everyone managed to escape the cold and snow of Chicago for a few days of fun and sun over the weekend break. Fresh off of signing another 10-day contract, Bulls PF Chris Richard stayed in Chicago over the weekend working out. “I don’t have the same luxuries as everybody else,” said Richard. You’ve got to love that kind of attitude and work ethic. It’s great to see a guy like that who doesn’t take anything for granted and understands how hard he actually has to work in order to stay in this league.
Derrick Rose was on fire. I could probably just leave it at that for my opening quarter observations because that was pretty much the story. He was a perfect 7-7 from the field and dropped 15 points on the Knicks in a New York minute. Mike D’Antoni had Jared Jeffries, Danilo Gallinari, and Wilson Chandler all guarding him at different times during the quarter, and the play call from Vinny Del Negro was the same…
Those guys didn’t stand a chance as Rose not only beat them off the dribble with ease, but he was also burying the mid-range jumper. When he has those two things going, it’s pretty much impossible to guard him.
Despite being burned by Rose, it wasn’t all bad for the Knicks who managed to get solid production out of starter’s Wilson Chandler (7 points), David Lee (8 points), and Al Harrington (9 points) who played a perfect quarter and gave the team good energy and effort off the bench. All three player’s combined production managed to keep the first quarter close and helped counter the Bulls attack. And for a minute, it looked like we had ourselves a game.
After one, the Bulls led the Knicks 29-28.
Tyrus Thomas played with more energy, more effort, more heart, and more hustle than I’ve seen from him in a long time. I guess seeing his name pop up in trade rumors gave him extra motivation to play harder. He certainly performed like a guy that didn’t want to be traded. And it’s flashes like these that has Bulls fans split right down the middle on whether or not the team should keep him or trade him. But whether he’s traded by the deadline or the Bulls let him walk in free agency over the summer, his days in Chicago are clearly numbered. And I think Tyrus knows it too.
His situation is sort of like when your teacher tells you that you’re on going to fail the class and then all of a sudden you start doing whatever it takes to try and make up for all the time that you’ve been slacking but it’s already too late.
Tyrus didn’t light the scoreboard up in the quarter—he didn’t even score. But he was active and disruptive on defense, quick in his defensive rotations, he was hustling and diving on the floor for loose balls, and he showed yet another glimpse of the player he could become if he just commits himself.
I’m an admitted Tyrus Thomas fan and I think that in the right situation and under the right coaching, he could become a really good player. But I’m a Bulls fan first and as much as I’d hate to see Tyrus go, if he is moved I hope he’s part of a deal that brings in either talent, or cap relief.
Derrick Rose was still on fire as he hit his first two field goal attempts in the quarter giving him nine straight baskets in the game. When he finally missed, the United Center crowd seemed genuinely upset about it. Rose also got a lot of help from him teammates in the quarter. Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, Luol Deng and John Salmons combined to score 29 points on 12-14 shooting. The Bulls are a very tough team to beat when the role players are producing like that.
The Knicks on the other hand went ice cold as they scored 22 points in the quarter on 9-24 shooting (37.5 percent) from the field as a team. That’s not going to get it done when your opponent is shooting 65 percent.
At halftime, Chicago leads New York 64-50.
Derrick Rose is still going to work. So is David Lee. In fact, the two All-Stars are the best players on the floor by a very wide margin and it seems as if they both left Dallas with their confidence and their competitiveness at an all-time high.
I haven’t watched very many Knicks game this season—OK, outside of their games against the Bulls I haven’t watched any—but I do know that David Lee’s been doing what he did to the Bulls last night all season long. He’s a very good player on a very bad team and this is clearly his New York City swan song. No way he comes back next year to play for a team in such disarray. If he does, he needs to have his head examined.
So, how bad were the Knicks in the third?
They put up 18 points in the quarter and David Lee scored 10 of them. He didn’t get any help from his supporting cast whatsoever. He’s been carrying the Knicks for so long, his back has to hurt. With three minutes to go in the third, the Knicks just laid down and conceded defeat to the Bulls. You can’t blame Lee for the poor effort though. By the end of the quarter he had 24 points and 12 rebounds in the game and it still didn’t mean a thing as the Knicks were down 27 to the Bulls.
After three, Chicago leads 95-68.
Both teams rested their starters as they’d have to face each other again 24 hours later in New York for the second half of the home-and-home at Madison Square Garden.
Bulls win 118-85.
If you follow either the Bulls or the Knicks on Twitter then you probably know about the avatar bet. Basically, whichever teams won tonight’s game the loser would have to use the winner’s logo as their Twitter avatar the following day since both teams have to play each other again. Maybe Mike D’Antoni didn’t get that memo.
“They just overwhelmed us physically,” said D’Antoni after the game. “They clobbered us.” That was pretty much his assessment as he didn’t seem to be able to find the right words to explain what went wrong as the Knicks lost their fourth straight and 13 of their last 17 games.
And what did fellow All-Star David Lee think of Derrick Rose’s performance?
“When he’s hitting that jump shot, he’s especially tough to handle,” said Lee when asked to comment on Rose. “He’s so strong. When he starts going to the basket, he’s so good finishing. He’s one of the best finishers as far as guards are concerned in the League.”
As for the Bulls, they once again reach the .500 mark on the season as they prepare to make a hard playoff push during the back half of the season. Still, the talk of the evening was the potential trades that are on the table not just in New York and Chicago, but around the League. Tyrus Thomas left the arena without speaking to the media but Luol Deng had this to say when asked if he was worried about his name appearing in trade rumors. “It doesn’t bother me. I’ve still got to do the same thing. I’ve been here six years and my name comes up every year so I’m used to it.”