Midway through the third quarter of their eventual 92-88 takedown of Memphis, Chicago opened up a 14-point lead as Kirk Hinrich went all 2004 on us. He had a few steals, a blocked shot, a layup, and started a number of fast breaks, all within a four-minute stretch. Eight minutes into the quarter, and Memphis already had seven turnovers while Hinrich was looking like Jimmy Chitwood. A lot to get excited about in the Windy City? Not entirely. Now that Nate Robinson is rocking the dreaded No. 2, allegedly cursed by Norm Van Lier, and then worn by Eddy Curry, Tim Thomas, Thabo Sefolosha and Dennis Hopson, Hinrich might be the squad’s only backcourt hope until you know who comes back. Yes, that’s all true. But the Grizzlies also didn’t play their starters big minutes, and even the Bulls were paced in scoring by Luol Deng (18 points), a guy who basically took the second half off. One thing we can say? The Bulls might the most underrated team in the league going into this year. That defense alone will push them to at least 50 wins, with or without Mr. Rose … It’s just about a week into the NBA’s preseason, which means the season is drawing closer and Carlos Boozer is closing in on his annual Chicago undressing. It happens every year, like clockwork. Even Midwest rapper Freddie Gibbs, a big Chicago Bulls fan, is getting in on the act, telling us yesterday that he absolutely hates Boozer… with a passion, saying he’d trade Boozer for a 90th-round draft pick (!) and four D-Leaguers. Boozer told The Chicago Sun-Times that winning will cure all. Too bad “winning” went out the door with Derrick Rose’s injury. If “winning” means making the playoffs and securing a high seed (remember, Chicago will be quite good this year as we just wrote – just not THAT good), then Boozer should be alright. But if it means “championship,” which is what we think it means in Chicago, then he better step it up if he wants to avoid a tongue lashing. He had six points and five rebounds in limited minutes last night … Now that we know Tracy McGrady actually is going to play in China, we can start contemplating how he’ll do there. Stephon Marbury transitioned well, winning championships and getting a big ass bronze statue of himself that even Michael Jordan would be proud of. J.R. Smith played well, except he didn’t do that much of it. He must’ve averaged close to 50 points a game, launching up shots with no regard for any offensive scheme, but left the country in a cloud of mystery, his personal team in direct conflict with the organization over all of his apparent missed practices. And a host of other players had up-and-down experiences as well. T-Mac? He’ll have the fans on his side. Plus, no one perfected the craft of putting up numbers without really trying better than ‘Mac. He should be just fine … And in the battle of lottery doormats, New Orleans beat up Charlotte, 97-82. The Bobcats shot blanks in the second half, finishing with 25 points in the final two quarters while getting pummeled inside by Anthony Davis (22 points, nine boards) and Robin Lopez (18 points, 13 rebounds) … Keep reading to hear why Dirk didn’t play last night …
Without Dirk Nowitzki, who sat out the game with some swelling in his right knee, Dallas fell in another exhibition game against a European team… this time 99-85 to perennial power FC Barcelona. The Spanish hosts controlled the game throughout, and then blew it open in the third quarter behind 19 points and five triples from old friend Juan Carlos Navarro. They punked the Mavs too, dominating the boards, 52-40 … While new pickups Darren Collison has been spectacular through two preseason games (he had 14 yesterday), and Chris Kaman has been solid when he hasn’t been handing the ball to the other team (he had 15 and 10 yesterday), O.J. Mayo looks like he forgot to pack his game for the trip. It’s too bad O.J.’s explosiveness/wingspan didn’t “improve” this summer. He still can’t get all the way by people with the ball, and finished 0-for-7 with one point despite having a couple of really nice initial moves off the bounce. That’s been the story of his NBA career: being unable to consistently finish anything outside of long, inefficient jumpers, and it’s the primary thing keeping him from that Eric Gordon/James Harden category … We hope Mayo at least picked up the tab for his dinner date with rookie Bernard James. Juice made the youngster eat 20 creme puffs … Watching these NBA/international exhibitions games are always a great time for “Remember him?” moments. Take for instance Pete Mickeal, who dropped 19 on Dallas. He started for FC Barcelona yesterday, years after starring for Cincy back when the Bearcats actually mattered. He was a monster back then, dropping nearly 15 and seven on 58 percent shooting as a junior (two years in JUCO) in ’99 and was a big part of Cincy teams that included a line of players like Danny Fortson, Kenyon Martin and Ruben Patterson. They always looked like someone dropped them in straight out of a G Unit video … The Mavs have a lot of questions that need answers before the games that count start. But they aren’t the only ones … Cleveland dropped a game to Milwaukee, 97-80 as Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis quieted the growing critics who say they can’t play together by combining for 30 points and 12 assists. After an off night in the Cavs’ first friendly game, Kyrie Irving responded with a 5-for-11 shooting night for 16 points … C.J. Miles spent years in Utah clamoring for a full-time starting gig. He might have one in Cleveland. The lefty walked out with the first five last night, and then put in 18 points and four three-point bombs as a perfect complement in the backcourt. He also caught a dunk on the break after Irving gave him a sick behind-the-back dime (in two preseason games, Irving is already averaging about 2.2 highlights a night) … And it’s that time of year again where NBA guys flood Twitter with photos of sleeping teammates. Sometimes they’re actually pretty funny, but this one of Jamal Crawford aka Frank Lucas aka Davy Crockett is one of the best we’ve seen. Ronny Turiaf‘s presence only adds to it … We’re out like T-Mac.
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