Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Illini of the NBA?

I know that this blog is dedicated to all things Illini but I want to give a quick shout out to the Chicago Bulls. As a lifelong Bulls fan, it is great to see them winning again after all the rebuilding they have went through over the past 6 years.

Last night, for one of the few times this season, I had the opportunity to sit down and watch part of a game. They beat the Miami Heat 105-101 in overtime to go 4 games above .500. I have also heard several of Bull's games on the radio and have been following them in the newspapers as well. The more I see and hear about this team, the more I am beginning to believe they are the Illini of the NBA, or at least as close as any team in the NBA is to the Illini. Don't misunderstand--I am not saying the Illini are better than any team in the NBA nor am I saying that the Bulls are the best team in the NBA like the Illini are in the NCAA.

Let me explain my point. From my observations, the Bulls are playing the same type of basketball that has allowed the Illini to be so successful this season. They play tough, hard nosed defense, especially at the end of the game. They pass the ball on offense and work to get a good shot. They have different players step up on different nights to help them win. And last but not least, they have a coach in Scott Skiles who teaches the fundamentals, emphasizes team work, and knows his X's and O's.

General Manager John Paxson and Coach Skiles have done a great job with this team and the players are buying into the system and starting to live up to expectations. Finally, let me give one final shout out to Ben Jordan (oops--I mean Gordon). I thought I was watching MJ again last night. He scored 14 consecutive points at the end of the 4th quarter and overtime and had 20 of his 29 points in the last 11 minutes. Three pointers, drives to the basket, you name it. He was outstanding. In all seriousness, he is not MJ, but he can definitely light it up when the pressure's on. If you haven't had a chance to watch the Bulls this season, check them out. They just might remind you of our beloved Illini, and that is a rare thing in today's NBA.

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