The race in the Central Division is about as sexy as a Joan Rivers sex tape. With Derrick Rose and Company turning Chicago into a Pamplona of sorts the running of the Bulls started in December and has showed no signs of slowing down. They have gored their way to the top of the division with smothering defense, dominating offensive glass work and a quiet (can’t believe its possible, but its true) repeat MVP campaign from Mr. Style himself. The rest of the division does hold some interesting story lines and believe it or not there is some really strong talent lurking at the bottom of the division that has the Central as an early favorite of mine to be one of the more competitive divisions in the 2012-2013 season. Without further adieu, here is a look at the Central division, Bachelor Style.
Derrick “First Impression” Rose- The Bulls
Sometimes you can look at a group of people and just know. There is a telling line in The Bourne Identity when Jason Bourne is realizing that he has inherent “fighting” abilities. He comments without even looking in his direction that “guy at the bar is 215 pounds and can handle himself.” This is how I feel about the Chicago Bulls. They can walk into any arena, warm up against any other NBA team and someone who has no basketball knowledge would be attracted to the Bulls. They have size, length, speed and a crazy floppy haired Seersucker suit wearing Frenchman who transcends what an NBA center is supposed to look like. They are 17-3 at home, 18-6 on the road and have gone 9-1 in the division with the one loss coming to the Pacers; a loss that the Thorned King took personally and already exacted his revenge upon.
The Bulls are suffering from some minor injuries right now with CJ “Dont Call me Randy” Watson, Rip Hamilton, and Luol Deng all on the shelf. They will need their entire group to play significant minutes the rest of the way because the running of the Bulls ends with the Matadors from Miami, and a Bull is always more comfortable in his own barn. There is no bloom off of this Rose and at first glance it is easy to see why someone would become enamored with the Chicago Bulls. As the State of Connecticut’s biggest Bulls fan Al Jones loves to say, no one can stop D. Rose one on one. I tend to agree with him, and this year he will overcome his 4th quarter struggles from last year. The minute they walk into the arena, you hand Derrick his last name, get out of the way, and hope that when he says he loves you, it isn’t just for the cameras.
The Group Date Rose-Indiana Pacers
If you are looking for intrigue in the Central look no further than the surprising Pacers who are winning with a young, deep rotation and “no-name” superstar Danny Granger, whose $12 million dollar contract is giving the folks in Atlanta about $8,000,000 reasons to hate Joe Johnson. The Pacers play 11 guys over 10 minutes a night (12 if you include Jeff Foster’s 10 games at over 10 minutes) and spread the ball from Gary to Evansville with no one player averaging more than 18 points per game. The last guy who spread the ball over the entire state like this should call TJ Ford and ask him why he stepped away from the game this week after sustaining what was described as a “stinger” in the media. With Peyton amicably jettisoned from the Colts the Pacers have been giving the good people of Indiana reason to smile with their brand of basketball that has resulted in an 11-5 record at home and a very respectable 12-11 record on the road. Read between the lines; the Pacers have a lot of home games left and should lock up the 5th seed with a better record than whoever wins the Atlantic. If you were out with the whole lot of Pacers there is no one guy that would stand out and make you feel warm and fuzzy. Granger is understated, Roy Hibbert is overstated and Psycho T is just, well he just tries too damn hard to give a rose to. My choice out of this group date? Paul George. He went from 6’8 to 6’10 in the off-season and is still growing into his new body. The Pacers future is with Paul George, and when picking one out of the lot to spend eternity (at least one big contract) with, you go with potential upside.
First Night Elimination-Milwaukee Bucks
The Scotty “30 Dimes” Skiles led Bucks who sit in the 8th seed in the playoff race despite having missed the Reverse Flush (Aussie Andrew Bogut’s new nickname, and yes, I just came up with it) for all but 12 games are going to push for a playoff spot until the last week of the season because to quote my late Grandfather, “Money Talks, and Bullshit Walks”. Brandon Jennings is looking to get paid and has been playing like the money he made in Italy and from his rookie contract whet his palate but didn’t satisfy him. He will command big money on the open market by keeping his team in the playoff hunt with 19, 6 and 1.5 steals per game all the while playing for a Napoleonic coach on a team with minimal talent. When he dropped a double nickel on the Warriors his rookie year, 29 in one quarter, the rest of the players in the league took notice. Now, he is putting together a season that the suits in the front offices are taking notice of.
The surprise of the season in the house that Sikma built is the Turkish Bath, Ersan Ilyasova. Okay, so these nicknames are pretty bad but I could have gone with “The Gobbler” instead. The Bucks are actively looking to move Bogut to free up some cap space for both Brandon Jennings and the revelation that has been their 2005 2nd round draft choice Ilyasova. The Turkish Bath has been steaming opponents from outside and giving deep tissue punishment on the inside and is looking at a hefty payday real soon. The Bucks are 10-9 at home, a paltry 8-15 on the road and just last week were 4 games out of the playoffs. If the Knicks keep their best Tom Petty impression going and Free Fall into the abyss the Bucks should be easy prey for either the Heat or Bulls in the first round.
Because you have guys excelling with one foot out the door looking to make a quick buck you cannot give them the benefit of a “rose”. They are fleeting and have no longevity…plus, there is nothing overtly sexy about them ie; Courtney from this season on the Bachelor, that would make one lose all sensibility and keep them “in the game”.
Next Season’s Bachelor-The Cleveland Cavaliers.
While Dan Gilbert’s promise of a championship in Cleveland before Lebron gets his first is looking bleak, the Cavs future is anything but. They, like the Bucks are in the hunt for the 8th seed in the playoffs and with their own floppy haired weirdo trying to make his way back to the lineup soon I do not see any reason why they will fade to black like Charlie Sheen’s post Two and a Half Men celebrity. Kyrie Irving is as advertised, which is amazing considering the mix of the super hype/lack of resume coming into the season. He had the ROY locked up before Ricky Rubio went down with an unfortunate injury, and is now playing with no rook in his rear-view as competition for the award. With fellow neophyte Tristan Thompson starting to produce positive minutes and Antwan Jamison playing the role of Jake Taylor out of Major League this group is hard not to root for. They have a triumvirate at the point with Boobie, Kyrie and Ramon, which ironically are also the names of my barbers, which will save Kyrie’s legs should the Cavs continue to make a push for the playoffs late into the season.
I do not think they have what it takes to make the playoffs this year, but should be the odds on favorite to announce that they are going to star in the “Bachelor” next season as everyone will be clamoring for a piece at this young, and talented group. They will be unceremoniously dismissed this year, but not before earning the good will from the adoring American public as the Lebron scorn when coupled with the love for Kyrie should propel them to be the sweetheart of tomorrow.
Wait, Which One Was She?-Detroit Pistons
You know that moment when they bring all of the suitors back before the finale and you see one of the girls sitting there and you have no idea who she is/was? Yeah. That’s this year’s Detroit Pistons. They are the “other Casey”, the one that made the B. after Casey necessary, but wasn’t around long enough to really make it necessary. They make friends with the other girls, forget they are in a competition and fall prey to the smiles of their conniving opponents only to wake up 4-20 a month later wondering what happened? Since they arose from their stupor they have gone a very respectable 11-7 but fall into the too little too late category as in; sorry we never got to know you but please just go away. Lawrence Frank has shown to me that my faith in him as a coach is well placed. It is tough to convince your group of young guys to play hard after starting so poorly but they have shown improvement and are no longer the laughing stock of the league. I am concerned with the development of Austin Daye. I thought this would be the year that he would supplant Tayshaun Prince as the team’s starting SF, or possibly become a 6th man of the year candidate. I loved his length, his ability to stroke from the outside and thought his game would translate well with Stuckey, Knight and Monroe. I was wrong, and now am starting to doubt whether he will be a good NBA player at all. Considering the young potential on the Pistons they can’t hit with them all (Monroe, Knight, Jerebko, and Daye) so I think that Daye may be the bust that we look back to Mark Few’s program at Gonzaga and point to as the guy who should have been the Zag in the Pro’s who made it happen.
The Pistons are the girl in the back with the little black dress who never had a shot from jump street. Not feisty enough to be good TV, not sexy enough to garner camera time, and not cool enough to warrant a second look.
TJ Ford was one of my favorite players to watch and am saddened by his forced retirement. He played the game the right way, did it with professionalism and respect for the game. He will be missed. TJ, this Knick fan always wanted to see you in Orange and Blue. I’m sorry I’ll never get the chance.
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