On the John
When the going gets good
Originally completed April 20, 2010
Joakim Noah might be good. Actually-Good. Always tough to tell with young bigs. Marcus Fizer was not nearly the bust we remember. He just had no luck. Couldn’t stay healthy, couldn’t get extended minutes, played out of position as a rookie, never played for a team that won more than 30 games.
Take a look at his game logs some time and let it be known: Marcus Fizer routinely stringed productive streaks of significant length in each of his four Bulls seasons. In the second to last game of his Chicago Bulls career, Fizer posted a 30 and 20 with two blocks, shooting 9-16 from the field and 12-14 from the line. It was his first start of the season, and the first time he’d played 40 minutes in a game in two seasons. The Bulls lost.
So who knows? Switch Fizer and Taj Gibson, and we might have an 18 and 9 guy matching Jamison bucket for bucket, board for board. C’est la vie en l’NBA…
…as it was for Tyson, Eddy, and Tyrus, none of whom could really sustain NBA productivity in Chicago.
But Noah – ah, he might be sustainable. He closed his rookie season better than he started it… he seemed to be the principal beneficiary of the Fishsticks/Brad Miller acquisition… and he has undoubtedly benefited most from Derrick Rose’s arrival.
Noah’s productivity and consistency ballooned in the Boston series. He made the signature play of that series on his steal in Game 6, carried that momentum straight into November, with only a brief injury able to derail his season performance. For all we know, he might be an All-Star next year.
We’ve known since Stern called his name that Rose would be It. He has done nothing since to dissuade us. And now Noah may be joining him on the Dependable List. Which is strange, because it is such a different hoops experience than the one I grew up with, rooting for the only post-merger team (only team ever?) without a formal point guard or low-post scorer. Our 3 ran the point, our 2 scored in the paint. The 90’s Bulls won championships like Sam Perkins shot threes: with unorthodox style and great consistency.
Rose and Noah may not be enough to move the mountain called Cleveland. This Cavalier bunch is as good an NBA team as I’ve seen since the 2001 Lakers, maybe even since the ’92 Bulls. These Cavaliers are simply fantastic. It starts with LeBron. I have never in my life watched a basketball player capable of these feats. He was a fearless assassin yesterday who took great joys in creating new and interesting ways to destroy us. His drive and dunk in the first quarter on poor, hopeless James Johnson was violent and terrifying. Even James himself knew that one was especially powerful. He added two more blocked shots to his numbers, including one particularly fierce rejection against his small forward counterpart Deng.
The Bulls stayed close. A two-point game at the half. Tied at 77 after three. And then LeBron, boy oh boy. Possession upon possession in the fourth quarter, the great James made it his business to end us. An up-and-under layup. A three from DEEP. Fall-away jumpers with defenders aplenty. And four foul shots to boot.
His teammates are special, too. This is a Team, no doubt about it, and their secret is plenty of speed, plenty of height. Shaq still has some moves, and it’s always useful to have a four-time champion Hall-of-Fame center hanging around. The Big Cavalier sits down and Big Z runs in. Big Z sits down and Brazilian Noah runs in.
Varejao out-Noahed Noah in Game 1, while Noah out Varejao’d Varejao in Game 2. It’s a matchup as intriguing as Rose-Rondo, and one I expect to enjoy nearly as much as last year’s point guard track meet.
Ah yes, the speed. Cleveland’s got guards and guards and guards, and they are eager to dribble, pass, shoot, run, and steal. Williams, West, Parker, Moon. Even Boobie Gibson, if they need him.
The Bench now plays with LeBron on the bench the way B.J., Hodges, Good News Cliff, Stacey King, and Scott Williams once did with Jordan and Pippen takin’er easy. The Cleveland guys are dangerous to a man nearly all the way down the line, with the possible exception of Jawad Williams. (No doubt he or J.J. Hickson is good for a mini-Leon Powe game before this postseason is done.)
And when it is done, we will know more than we did. Joakim will be full-fledged Good, if he ain’t already. Rose will be full-fledged Second Tier, if he ain’t already. We will enter the market and see how we fare. Like Williams, Parker, and Jamison, help is coming for our Chicago Bulls. James Johnson has Shown Signs, Taj has become more useful than Fizer or Tyrus, and what the heck, I’m even coming around on Vinny.
But it won’t help us today, and as Bubbles tells Johnny, “Tomorrow ain’t shit. Today, Johnny, today.” Today it is Cleveland – LeBron and his Cavs. Excellent, ebullient, extraterrestrial hoops led by the world’s best player. Soak it up, basketball fans. Watch and enjoy. C’est la vie.
Copyright 2010, jm silverstein