Bulls

Bulls facing tough series against Hawks

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Bulls facing tough series against Hawks

Friday, April 29, 2011Posted: 4:04 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

While most of the so-called NBA experts are picking the Bulls to take care of Atlanta in 4 or 5 games, there are some real areas of concern when you analyze the match-ups.

First of all, Hawks' forward Josh Smith is one of the most versatile players in the league, capable of filling up a stat sheet like Scottie Pippen used to do. At 6-9, Smith blocks shots like a center, and runs the court like a guard. He's capable of putting up 25 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals, 5 assists and 5 blocks in an up-tempo game.

Against Orlando in the first round of the playoffs, the Hawks started a bigger front line with Jason Collins at center and Smith teaming with Al Horford at the forward spots. But Atlanta's best line-up is Horford at center, with Smith and Marvin Williams at the forwards. Smith is much too quick for Carlos Boozer to defend, and I'm not sure Tom Thibodeau would want to have Joakim Noah guarding a player with range out to the 3 point line.

If Atlanta goes small against the Bulls, Thibodeau might be forced to give more minutes to Taj Gibson, who has the best chance of matching up with Smith defensively. The Bulls might even go with a small line-up of their own, using Kyle Korver at small forward and Luol Deng at power forward.

The other issue is containing Horford, a 2-time All-Star, who had one of his best games of the season against his old college teammate, Noah, back in March. Horford is deceptively quick playing the center position, and is capable of driving past Noah for strong finishes at the rim. Noah and the Bulls did a much better job defensively against Horford in their 2 wins over Atlanta, but it's a match-up that will take on a lot of importance in the upcoming series.

Right now, the Hawks aren't sure about the status of Kirk Hinrich for the Conference semi-finals. Hinrich injured a hamstring muscle during the clinching win over Orlando, and had to be helped from the court. The Hawks don't know if he'll be able to play in Monday night's opening game, and they're not sure what he'll be able to provide throughout the series.

If Hinrich can't go, the Hawks lose their best defensive option against Derrick Rose. The other former Bulls' point guard, Jamal Crawford, is an excellent scorer, but one of the worst defensive players in the league. If the Hawks are forced to go with a tall back court of Crawford and All-Star Joe Johnson, they would probably have to put Johnson on Rose. Johnson is a strong defender, but at 6-7, he would have a tough time staying in front of the lightning-quick Rose.

On the other end, the Bulls will have to be physical against Johnson, using and Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer to keep him from driving into the paint, where he's tremendously effective scoring on jumpers and flip shots from 10 feet in. The Bulls have had a lot of success defending Johnson in the past, and his playoff history would suggest it's unlikely he'll come through with a series filled with high-scoring games.

One of the keys for the Bulls will be trying to establish Boozer in the post. He's coming off a couple of bad games in the Indiana series, and a painful "turf toe" injury. But he has the size and strength to get Smith in foul trouble if the Hawks go with their small line-up. Keep an eye on which coach is forced to adjust his line-up first. Will Thibodeau have to get Boozer out because he can't defend Smith, or will it work the other way around? That match-up could determine whether this series goes short or long.

Atlanta doesn't have any answers for Rose, but then again, who does? The soon-to-be-named M.V.P. is capable of blowing past any defender in a one-on-one situation, and he can also elevate over the Hawks' interior defenders, with the exception of Smith. With Rose getting into the paint, Atlanta's big men will be forced to help, and that should set up plenty of easy baskets for Noah, Boozer, Gibson and Deng.

The Hawks' best hope of extending the series is the 3 point line. Johnson, Crawford, Williams and Hinrich are streaky, but dangerous from beyond the arc. If they start draining 3 balls, the Bulls will be forced to extend their defense, creating more opportunities for Horford and Smith inside.

The Bulls "bench mob" didn't play to its usual level against Indiana, but they should have the advantage against an Atlanta team that normally doesn't get much production from anyone on the 2nd unit besides Crawford. And, when it comes to coaching, give Thibodeau and his staff a huge edge over 1st year Atlanta head coach Larry Drew.

I'm picking the Bulls to win the series in 6 games, but it might only go 5 if Hinrich is out for an extended period, or Atlanta's streaky outside shooters go cold. What do you think? Please post your comments in the section below. I'll see you at the United Center Monday night. We'll be doing SportsNet Central near Gate 3 at 6:30.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Nick Nurse confident in Jim Boylen, Bulls: 'He'll be a good leader for them'

Toronto Raptors head coach and lifelong Cubs fan Nick Nurse was in Chicago on Friday to throw out the 1st pitch and sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field.

It was a major moment for Nurse—who grew up in Carroll, Iowa and played college basketball at the University of Northern Iowa—to be able to talk with Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Maddon actually started his pro baseball career as a catcher for the Quad Cities Angles, based out of Davenport, Iowa, in 1976.

Nurse stated that Maddon is a huge inspiration to him and was clearly overjoyed to speak with someone he considers an excellent leader. Nurse's Chicago trip would not have been complete without a little NBA talk and he had no problem discussing his faith in colleague and Bulls head coach Jim Boylen.

"Well, first of all, Jimmy Boylen, the head coach, is a good friend of mine and he is a hell of a coach."

Nurse went on to joke about not wanting the Bulls to do "too well" of course, as the two teams will see each other four times next season and will both be battling for a potential postseason berth in a new-look, wide-open Eastern Conference. The Raptors, of course, will be looking to make another deep playoff run despite the loss of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The Bulls will be looking to at least have a competitive season after finishing with a whopping 60 losses in 2018-19, their first 60-loss season since 2002. 

But when discussing the future outlook of the Bulls, Nurse was confident in the direction of the franchise and Boylen's presence as a strong headman for the team is a major reason why. 

"Everything rises and falls with leadership and...he'll be a good leader for them."

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

Anthony Davis speaks on the Chicago hoops scene at Nike Rise Camp: 'We are the Mecca of Basketball'

On Friday afternoon the Nike Rise Camp took place at Kenwood High School and it was hosted by new Lakers star and Chicago native Anthony Davis.

Davis is excited to be able to help the Chicago youth with camps like Nike Rise, especially the much younger generations. The Nike Rise Camp is for kids ages 8-17 and focuses on skill development, drills, game programming, and various workshops. 

Davis stated that while he went to many of the illustrious basketball camps—like Pangos, Five-Star, Nike's individual player camps, etc.—he hadn't been to any basketball training camps at such a young age.

These kids are amazing, y'know, they're fun to hang around, they listen, they wanna learn. [There's] some good talent upstairs.....The future is definitely bright for all these young kids so I'm excited to come back and just give them my knowledge and my experience and spend that time with them."

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When asked to describe the relationship Chicago has with basketball, Davis made sure to laud the toughness of the Chicago hoops scene.

"It's basketball in any condition, y'know you gonna find a way to play...their love for the game right now is tremendous...No matter if it's hot, it's freezing cold in the gym, outside it's raining, whatever."

By any means necessary, we wanna play the game.

-Anthony Davis on the mindset of Chicago basketball

On a summer day with 90+ degree weather, the Kenwood Academy gym was even hotter inside but that didn't stop the coaches and trainees from getting in a great workout. 

Davis minced no words when letting the world know how he feels about Chicago hoops, "In Chicago, it means a lot more to us because we are a basketball city and we are the Mecca of Basketball and you can quote me on that."