Bulls have better chances than Illini

By Mike Rodriguez

OK I get it. The Illini play Penn State today, big deal. Sure I’ll watch the game and hope that we show up to play. I’ll hope that Warren Carter doesn’t get lost on the court and Shaun Pruitt can at least shoot 70 percent from the free-throw line. If the Orange and Blue are victorious, that’s great. Good for them.

But what has my attention these days is a basketball team with a much more promising future than the bubble-sitting Illini.

The team I’m referring to is, of course, the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls are currently 35-27, and according to General Manager John Paxson, they are quite happy with their current situation. In a letter sent to Bulls season ticket holders, Paxson addressed some of the issues surrounding this year’s team as well as the future of the organization.

Just to clear things up – I am not a season ticket holder. I wish I could afford to be one, but for now I’ll settle for cheering on the Bulls via the television every game – even though I’m getting really tired of watching Stacey King fumble with the teleprompter over and over.

Paxson’s letter, available on the Bulls’ Web site, focused on the fact that even though the Bulls declined to make any major moves in acquiring a low-post threat to complement Ben Wallace, they are perfectly happy with their core of young talent.

The two main players that Paxson refused to give up in any deal, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, are having career years for the Bulls in just their third seasons. Paxson insisted he could not sacrifice the future of the organization for a short-term solution that wasn’t ideal for the team dynamic.

“We didn’t think that there was a trade which could make us immediately and appreciably better without compromising our future,” Paxson said. “And the future is very important to us – my goal from day one has been to put a competitive group of players on the floor that you can be proud of, and that represent hard work and dedication to the game of basketball.”

In a week in which Ron Artest is dismissed from the Sacramento Kings for domestic abuse and Carmelo Anthony is about to be benched for his lazy play, Paxson’s words are comforting to a fan that appreciates hard work and team qualities. Paxson doesn’t put up with any crap. That’s why Tim Thomas’ lazy ass was kicked out the door last year faster than you can say Yao Ming.

Paxson, and head coach Scott Skiles, don’t waste their time dealing with ego-filled players that distract the team from winning games. The epitome of Paxson’s no-guff attitude is Bulls forward and bad boy Andres Nocioni. It’s too bad that Nocioni is going to be out most of March with a foot injury – watching him hustle up and down the floor and bang into any opponent who touches the ball makes me very happy he’s wearing a Bulls jersey.

Noce, thankfully, will be back in the lineup just in time for the Bulls to make their playoff run. For those who think they have no chance of advancing in the playoffs, let me remind you of how weak the Eastern conference is. When the New York Knicks are sitting one game out of the playoffs, something is obviously awry.

The Bulls have a very good chance of getting deep into the playoffs, especially with the recent injury to Dwyane Wade.

Wade should be given an Oscar for his acting job not only on the separated shoulder incident, but on any occasion he drives to the hoop. I’ve never seen anyone complain as much as Wade does.

Maybe it all stems from that stupid commercial he made a while back. It never showed in that commercial that 90 percent of the time when Wade “falls down” nobody actually touches him. Who cares if he gets up?

The Bulls have a very promising future, especially with Paxson calling the shots. Skiles is a competent enough coach to motivate the young talent on a nightly basis but we’ll see if he can carry them deep in the playoffs.

For the Illini fans out there on the edge of their seats hoping that the Orange and Blue will get the call to play in the tournament: good luck.

I’ll take the red and black over the orange and blue, and I’ll be sitting in my homemade “season ticket chair” eagerly awaiting the playoffs while the Illini are watching the NCAA Tournament from home, or maybe from jail.

Mike Rodriguez is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected]