friends, NBA, sports

This Is What Happens When You Get Rid Of Vinny Del Negro As Your Coach.

Ladies and gentlemen, this season’s MVP.

x

In a prior NBA post, I (Ben) wrote this: “The Bulls are good. And Derrick Rose is very good. Scott Guldin has reason to be optimistic about his squad. If it can get Orlando in the second round and let Boston and Miami beat each other up, Chicago could steal the East.”

Scott responded:

The only way the Bulls-Magic would meet in round 2 would be if the Bulls finished 1st and the Magic remained 4th (or slipped to fifth but still won its first-round series). And anyway, the Bulls match up horribly against the Magic; until the trade, the Magic had defeated the Bulls sixty bazillion straight times, by a combined total of forty-seven kajillion points.

The Eastern Conference standings after tonight’s games:

EASTERN W L PCT GB
1 y – Chicago 48 18 .727
2 x – Boston 47 18 .723 ½
3 x – Miami 46 21 .687 2 ½
4 Orlando 42 26 .618 7

x

For context here, you need to know the following facts:

1. Scott Guldin really likes the Bulls. Always has. So long as he has drawn breath upon this earth, he has loved the Chicago Bulls. True fact: He’s the first and only baby in recorded history to emerge from the womb wearing arm sweatbands and Air Jordans.

2. I (used to) really hate the Bulls. I don’t recall exactly when my dislike of Jordan spilled over into intense hatred, but I think it was sometime during the ’92 Finals against Portland. All those threes, that replayed-until-the-end-of-time shrug as he ran back downcourt, as if to say, “I can’t help that I’m a basketball god and these Portland Trailblazers are mere gnats flitting about my immortal face.” Jordan had unearthly talents, and while he had every right to rub them in his opponents’ face with a pathological competitiveness burnished into commercial gold by Nike and eight million other sponsors, I hated him for it, not least because this was the type of commercial my hardwood hero was starring in:

And this was still long before he stabbed a knife through Utah’s heart, twice, in the Finals.

3. Scott Guldin and I, despite our vastly different views on Air Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, maintained (and still do) a remarkable friendship and watched about 800 NBA games together during college. And this time period encompassed the ’97 and ’98 Finals, for the record.

4. Since then, Ben has actually grown to appreciate the Chicago Bulls, especially this year’s squad, which has three former Jazz players, even though one of them is Carlos Boozer. This is a foreign but not entirely unpleasant feeling for me. I’ve never had a rooting interest in the East, and my appreciation for Chicago is enhanced all the more by its chief rivals: the despicable and bipolar Miami Heat, with possibly the worst fan base in the league; the proud but arrogant Boston Celtics, who have overstayed their welcome on the main stage; and the insufferable Orlando Magic, which has had, for reasons still unclear to me, every single one of its games nationally televised for the past eight seasons. (This is of course a bit of an exaggeration. But there’s only so many hoarse, ranting Stan Van Gundy timeouts we can listen in on without wanting to put our head in the oven.)

Now I find myself in the even-more-foreign position of being more bullish on the Bulls’ title chances than Mr. Guldin himself. He will no doubt scold me for being so reckless in my optimism and perhaps contend I’m invoking some kind of Voreblog curse upon Chicago. That’s not what I’m trying to do here, Scott. I’m trying to say, Your team is ready now. And I’m not alone.

“They’ve got a good, balanced team and the league’s MVP [in Rose],” Jordan said. “That kid has come into his own and has matured quite a bit. I told [former teammate and current Bulls operations chief John] Paxson, ‘You guys could be the best team in the East if you keep playing the type of basketball you have been playing.’  ”

Horace Grant was even more optimistic: “Hey, they have a very good chance to win it all this year.”

I watched them decimate my Jazz on the same night that the ’91 champs were honored. Rose hit five threes in the first period. (Sound familiar?) Granted, Utah is sliding its way into the lottery and but a specter of its former self. But Chicago dispatched the Jazz with terrifying efficiency, hitting a franchise record eighteen three-pointers. Somewhere, Jerry Sloan is banging his head against a John Deere.

Scott, I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. But I’m looking at Chicago’s schedule for the rest of March and I can see them running the table. They’ve got a hot Nets team on Thursday and a chance to avenge March’s only loss against Atlanta next Tuesday. Besides that, it’s cake. I think they’re running away with it in the East. And, my friend, I’m hoping they do.

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4 thoughts on “This Is What Happens When You Get Rid Of Vinny Del Negro As Your Coach.

  1. Wikipedia says that Air Jordans were first released in 1985. I’m now totally amazed by Scott Guldin–either he graduated from college at 14 or foresaw a product by at least 8 years.

  2. Matt, this may come as a surprise to you, but you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Unless, of course, we wrote it.

  3. Thank you very much for this post. I am flattered. I think my favorite part about this is its strong testament to our friendship. I remember on the nights when the Jazz won games in the ’97 Finals going to bed in my shack on a vegetable farm in Massachusetts feeling ticked off and sad. But it brought me comfort to think that, somewhere at a Christian sports camp in Pennsylvania, at least one person was happy (and maybe more? I’ve never been to a Christian sports camp, so I’m guessing here.)

    But of course my thought is that this is all an elaborate ruse to jinx the Bulls. Maybe as payback for that time I rigged a bet whereby you had to wear my Bulls t-shirt to dinner at Peirce? Is that it?

    The tipoff was the “I can see them running the table” line. If they lose tonight to the Nets at the hands of your boy D-Will, I will know I have been had.

    Final thought: When are we going to play ball again? We need to figure that out.

  4. Scott,

    This is no ruse. I’m struggling with what has been a whipsaw season for my Jazz. In the space of two weeks, our Hall of Fame coach and the future of the franchise are both gone. Kaput. Skipped town. And I hoped for a brief moment that this might inspire Utah to rally and salvage its season, sort of like Denver has done post-Carmelo Anthony. But no — Utah had its heart ripped out. It loses by 22 and 21, respectively, to the Knicks and T-Wolves. It’s only a game and a half out of eighth in the West, but I’m not kidding myself — this team is not playoff-bound.

    What I’m getting at here is I’m feeling lost and empty. And at this exact moment, I look at your Bulls and see a team I genuinely like, which has flown below the Miami-Boston-Orlando radar in the East, and which has steadily asserted itself against the league’s best. Dating back to December 10, your Bulls are 9-0 against these championship contenders: Los Angeles, Dallas, San Antonio, Miami, Orlando and Boston.

    This is not revenge, my friend. I’ve put that Bulls-t-shirt fiasco behind me. This is me saying, honestly, that I want to be a Bulls fan this year. If you’ll have me.

    (That “running the table” comment was NOT an attempt at a jinx. And it was in the context of March, obviously, not the rest of the season. Seriously, look at their schedule for the rest of the month and tell me who is gonna beat them.)

    (Should I be excited or afraid that Utah is going to draft Jimmer Fredette?)

    (You want to play ball tomorrow? I’m free.)

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