Can We Get the Regular Season Here?
Awoke to a coating of snow here in Chicago this morning if you can believe that. As for last night's preseason game between the Bulls and Wizards, I'll just say this: thank goodness it's over. Finally. I thought preseason football was unwatchable. The main problem was that the officials hit the Wiz with 38 fouls and the Bulls with 27 fouls so the action stopped just about every trip down the floor. The game had zero flow. Also Eddie Jordan and Scott SKiles liberally used their benches after the first quarter so players were shuffling in and out constantly.
For the Wizards, the most positive thing was that the first team dominated a first quarter for the second straight game. Even with Caron Butler getting a night off, the Wizards took an early lead and were in control against the Bulls first teamers. The Jarvis Hayes comeback tour continued last night. Hayes started at SF in place of Butler and again looked sharp. He made 4 of 7 shot, including 2 of 4 three pointers, and wound up with 11 points in 18 minutes.
The most impressive thing about Hayes and the thing that looks different from last year at this time, is that he's playing with so much more bounce. We've all seen what kind of elevation he gets on his jump shot and that's still there but he's also moving so much better defensively and when he's off the ball.
An NBA scout who was on hand for last night's game shared a couple of interesting thoughts on the Wiz. First, he said that the Wiz will badly miss Jared Jeffries when they play Cleveland because Jeffries did as good a job on LeBron James as anyone in the league. The scout feels that Jeffries' length gave James problems that few other defenders do. When I pointed out that James was still getting his 30 to 35 points in that playoff series, the scout countered: "Yeah, and against anyone else it would have been 40 to 45."
Secondly, while he feels that DeShawn Stevenson is "a little overrated" as a defender, the Wiz did get a steal in landing him for under $1 million. "He's a good fit for that team because he can get out and score in transition and he won't have to be counted on as a big time scorer. He's the kind of guy who will play his role." Stevenson has been knocked in the past for his lack of outside shooting touch but so far this preseason, he's shown an ability to make shots. Last night, he stuck a nice pull up baseline jumper over Ben Gordon. He also posted Gordon up and made a nice turnaround jumper in the first quarter.
The scout was also impressed by what he saw of Hayes. "If he's healthy, that's going to change a lot of things for this team. They haven't had that kind of shooter to spread the floor the last couple of years. I like his game. But will that knee hold up?" That's what everyone, including the Wizards, will be waiting to see.
None of the reserves particularly distinguished themselves last night. Donell Taylor had a nice offensive game, scoring 12 points on 5 of 10 shooting but he also turned the ball over four times and Jordan was clearly frustrated by some of Taylor's decision making while he was running the point. After the game, Jordan said Taylor made "too many mistakes." Taylor is built like a point guard but plays more like a classic shooting guard. He doesn't always look comfortable when he has to get the team into an offensive set and that's what Jordan wants to see out of him this preseason.
Former GW star Mike Hall had a rough NBA debut in his hometown. Hall, who had around 20 family and friends cheering him on from a section behind one of the baskets, threw up an air ball on his first shot and finished 1 of 6 with two points in 20 minutes. Hall's one basket was nice. He finished a break in the fourth quarter by catching a long pass and executing a fingeroll in traffic. However, he missed a mid-range jumper on Washington's second-to-last possession that would have given the Wizards a three-point lead. Roger Mason Jr. had a shot at the game winner but his pull up jumper at the buzzer was long and a little to the left.
Ben Wallace was exactly what I thought he'd be for the Bulls. He gives you very little offensively (he scored seven points and went 1 of 6 from the free throw line with one airball and another near airball ) but he is still an eraser at the other end. I was sitting directly under Chicago's basket in the first and third quarters and saw Wallace either deflect shots or scare Wizards into missing shots on several occassions. He covers so much ground and he gets where he wants to go withpurpose.
One play that stood out involved GIlbert Arenas. Arenas drove baseline and appeared to have an open lane for a lay in but then, at the last second, he looked out of the corner of his eye and saw Wallace coming. Arenas gathered himself with a hop step and tried to pass off to Etan Thomas but the ball got swatted away and Bulls recovered.
Last night, while downing a couple of cold ones with a good friend of mine who lives in Chicago, we discussed the Bulls and what my friend can expect from his team. Our verdict: the Bulls are going to be nasty defensively but they are going to have a lot of night's like last night when jump shots weren't falling. The Bulls shot 41.3 percent from the game. Ben Gordon made 2 of 8. Kirk Hinrich made 4 of 9. Chris Duhon was 1 of 3. The new addition at guard, Thabo Sefolosha was 0 for 4. It might be the most jump-shot reliant team in the league. We'll see.
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