Game Notes: Bucks at Bulls
The bank is still closed for Young Money.
Brandon Jennings’ introduction into the NBA was impressive. After watching the draft this past June from his Manhattan hotel room because he wasn’t sure where or when he’d be selected, when the Milwaukee Bucks chose him with the 10th pick he hustled over to Madison Square Garden and was introduced to the world by Commissioner Stern in what was probably the coolest moment ever in the history of the NBA Draft. But since that summer day in June, that’s been the only impressive thing about his NBA career.
Young Money has had a terrible preseason shooting the ball, and last night was no different. In Chicago to play the Bulls for their preseason home opener in the United Center, Brandon shot an abysmal 2-13 from the field which is 15 percent for all you stat guys out there. In five preseason games, he’s taken 59 shots and has only made 17 of them. Again, for you stat guys that’s roughly 29 percent from the field. His three point shooting isn’t much better. He’s 4- 18 from deep which translates to 22 percent. But as bad as these shooting numbers are, all is not lost and there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
Said Jennings after the game, “If I don’t have a good shooting game, I might as well do something else,” And that’s exactly what he did. His shot may not have been falling, but he dropped dimes like he had holes in his pockets. Jennings dished out 12 assists last night, tallying 5 dimes in his first four minutes on the floor. He also grabbed 6 rebounds while he was at it. Minus the shooting numbers, all in all Brandon had a very good game last night and almost got a triple-double. His line: 10 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds. It was easy to see that once his shot does start to fall he’s going to be a tough matchup for opposing teams this season.
Michael Redd, only 7 months removed from knee surgery, played in back-to-back games and looked really good in limited minutes. He scored 11 points in 15 minutes and was 4-9 from the field including hitting on 3-5 three-point shots. But his greatest contribution came in the locker room after the game in the form of encouraging words for Jennings by telling him that the shots that he took will eventually fall.
For Coach Scott Skiles, losing to the team that he’d just beaten by 12 points three nights earlier didn’t sit very well with him and his frustration was evident. “We did a lot of good things, but more so than in the last two games, we had a lot of defensive breakdowns that hurt us.”
As for the Bulls, Coach Vinny Del Negro aka “that little blow-dried mother****er” didn’t have much to work with last night. Due to injury and illness only 10 Bulls players dressed for the game, nine played and they still managed to escape with a 1-point victory. The Bulls bigs played their hearts out and Joakim Noah led the way and set the tone for the game.
Noah finished with 20 points and 16 rebounds and courtesy of the mics that are in place on the backboards in the United Center, you could actually “hear” how hard he was playing and his teammates seemed to siphon his energy and followed his lead. Every rebound, every put back and every block was followed by a very audible, almost primal scream that got the crowd pumped and kept the Bulls in the game. Said Noah afterward: “I’m trying to be more aggressive, but at the same time not do too much,” He went on to say, “I understand my role is always going to be the energy guy. Try to get offensive rebounds. Try to get extra possessions for my team.”
The real surprise of the night however came from the two rookies. With guys being out and their minutes increased as a result, both Taj Gibson and James Johnson made the most of their opportunities out on the floor.
James Johnson scored all but one of his 11 points in the 4th quarter. He went 4-5 from the field including a nasty put-back jam on a Jannero Pargo miss late in the 4th quarter which put the Bulls up 6 with two minutes left in regulation, easily making it the highlight of the game. But it was Taj Gibson who ended up being the best rookie on the floor for either team last night.
Gibson, who started in place of Tyrus Thomas, had an amazing game. He put up a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but what was most impressive about his performance was the way he got his points. A good majority of his 15 came from shooting mid-range jumpers. While in college at Southern Cal he was used almost exclusively on the blocks, but coach Del Negro has given him the freedom to take the mid-range jump shot and he’s responded by knocking them down. Still, in spite of his performance he was humbled by being a rookie playing in his first home game at the United Center.
“My heart was beating 100 miles a minute,” Gibson said. “When you look up and see those banners and think about Scottie Pippen and some of the other guys who played here, you’re bound to get a little nervous. I’m a city kid from New York who really loves basketball and follows basketball so it was definitely special to play here tonight.”
Hmmm… Scottie Pippen and some of the “other guys” who played here? Sorry Taj, but I have a strange feeling that Michael Jordan is going to show up at the Berto Center to see you one day. In shorts.