Numerous writers described the mid-1990s Chicago Bulls as resembling an octopus on defense. Long-limbed athletes like Jordan, Pippen, Grant, and later Harper and Rodman cut the available space in half and made every pass an adventure.
On Monday night, the octopus was back in the United Center. The unfortunate Sacramento Kings were more like a jellyfish, minus the sting.
Not every Kings pass or dribble turned into a steal and breakaway layup for the Bulls – it just felt that way. The Bulls finished with a season-high 16 steals and 36 fastbreak points.
It didn’t matter who was on the court for Chicago, which did much of its damage in the second quarter with C.J. Miles playing in place of Derrick Rose (who only took 11 shots and scored 18 points in 28 easy minutes) and Omer Asik in for Carlos Boozer for a six-minute stretch.
The Kings actually shot well and never really gave up, but they made too many mental mistakes to stay in the game.
It’s easy to forgive Sacramento’s players for being blown out by a vastly superior team playing at home. The gap between the two teams, though, is a little puzzling when considering all they have in common:
1) Both teams spent years picking in the lottery
2) Both teams are attempting to build around talented young players, specifically dynamic young guards paired with uniquely gifted big men who excel at getting on everyone’s nerves
3) Both have historically enjoyed a considerable homecourt advantage stemming from a wild, passionate crowd
4) Both have found success, in the past and present, employing a large percentage of late-first-round picks and international players
So, the surface similarities are there. But there are a number of specifics in which the teams unfortunately diverge. Returning to the previous list:
1) Chicago hit paydirt with its most recent lottery pick, Derrick Rose, one of the best top overall picks in recent years who has helped his team make the playoffs in each of his pro seasons. The Kings have found at best mixed results with high draftees Jason Thompson (who has declined statistically in every major category this season0, Tyreke Evans, and now DeMarcus Cousins (11 points, 8 rebounds, 8 turnovers Monday).
2) Rose vs. Evans was an unfair fight even before Evans spent most of this season injured while his Bulls counterpart blossomed into the leading MVP candidate. Cousins, meanwhile, is arguably more talented than Bulls opponent Joakim Noah, but hasn’t had anything resembling Noah’s coaching nor has he demonstrated a comparable work ethic.
3) Bulls fans are thrilled to have a good team on their hands again, and are vocal about showing their appreciation. Kings fans are perpetually on edge in light of the rumors about their team absconding for Anaheim.
4) Luol Deng (United Kingdom) and Asik (Turkey) fit ideally into Chicago’s offensive and defensive schemes; Beno Udrih (Slovenia) and Omri Casspi (Israel) play major roles for the Kings because there aren’t any better options.
About the Author
Written by Steven Jones
Portland native, Highland Park resident, middle school teacher/basketball coach.