When people talk about the city of Chicago breeding guards, they arent kidding. Three of the four starting guards in the Bulls New Years Day home opener against the Grizzlies hail from the Windy City.
In addition to reigning league MVP Derrick Rose for the home team, Memphis boasts a starting backcourt of two Chicago Public Schools products, shooting guard Tony Allen and point guard Jeremy Pargo, who has replaced the injured Mike Conley in the starting lineup.
Allen went to Crane High School, blocks from the United Center, before heading to junior college and leading Oklahoma State (which also featured Bulls reserve John Lucas III) to a Final Four. His younger brother, Ryan Allen, a senior on the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukees mens basketball team, also happens to be one of Roses best friends.
Hes a tough competitor. He can really play. Hes had some injuries in his career, but whenever hes gotten extended minutes, hes played really well. Hes as good as a defender as youll find in the league. Terrific cutter, slasher, can put it on the floor, can score, can play off people. If you turn your head, hes great at moving without the ball, said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau of Allen, who inspired Memphis Grit and Grind themed playoff run last postseason. I had the opportunity to coach him in Boston and hes a winner. Tough guy. When he got the opportunity to play last year, he played great.
Pargo, the younger brother of erstwhile Bulls guard Jannero Pargo, now with the Atlanta Hawks, grew in the same Englewood neighborhood as Rose. However, like his brother (who played in junior college before playing at Arkansas with current teammate Joe Johnson), he took the long route to the NBA, excelling overseas before making it to the league after the lockout ended.
Its another game. Youve got to come out and be prepared, and do whatever it takes to help your team win, said the younger Pargo, who estimated that he had 20 well-wishers at the game. Rose is a great player. Ive got to come out and be focused and ready, and when the opportunity presents itself, try to take advantage of the opportunities and the moments.
During the lockout, I had no idea what the expectations would be or should be. It was a tough time and fortunately, we were able to come through it, continued the Robeson High School graduate, who starred collegiately at Gonzaga before playing professionally in Israel. Its something that I wanted to do, play ball at the highest level and Ive been given an opportunity, so Im going to do whatever I can to help the team and take full advantage of the opportunity.