Clippers vs. Chicago - Game Preview

LOS ANGELES CA - FEBRUARY 02: Derrick Rose #1 of the Chicago Bulls goes up for a basket over DeAndre Jordan #19 of the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on February 2 2011 in Los Angeles California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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1-1
2-1
Staples Center
December 30th, 2011, 7:30 PM
Prime Ticket, NBA-TV, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Derrick Rose
Chauncey Billups SG Rip Hamilton
Caron Butler
SF Luol Deng
Blake Griffin
PF Carlos Boozer
DeAndre Jordan
C Joakim Noah

The Back Story:

First (and only) meeting of the season. The teams split their two meetings last season, each winning on the other's floor.

The Big Picture:

The Clippers have their first home game of the season on the next to last day of the year. They opened the season with road games against the Warriors and Spurs and are 1-1. Tonight, they face the Bulls, a team most have picked as one of the two best in the East. Thought the Bulls are 2-1, barely nipping the Lakers on Christmas night, getting flogged by Golden State the next day and beating the Sacramento Kings by ten last night.

The Antagonist:

The Bulls had the best record in the league last season at 62-20. Then during the off-season they picked up Rip Hamilton after he was bought out by the Pistons, shoring up their one weak position last season. Shooting guard may still be the team's weak link, but if Hamilton has anything left in the tank at 33 he's definitely an upgrade over Keith Bogans, one of the worst starters in the league last season. Other than Hamilton the Bulls didn't add much, but with anticipated improvement from youngsters Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, not too mention Taj Gibson and Omer Asik off the bench, the Bulls should be very good and very deep. It's worth noting that this is the fourth game of the Bulls season (the third for the Clippers) and the back end of their second back-to-back.

The Subplots

  • The Rose Rule. Seems we periodically get a new rule to address a specific situation that comes to be known by the name of the player that was in that situation. The Allan Houston Rule (though ironically the Knicks did not choose to amnesty Houston when the rule was implemented), the Gilbert Arenas Rule (not the second amnesty, the one that gave team's limited Bird rights to second round picks that become stars), heck, even Bird rights themselves. Now we have the Derrick Rose Rule. In the new CBA, players with less than nine years of service are now eligible to make up to 30% of the salary cap if they have (a) won an MVP award or (b) been selected to start in two All Star games or (c) been named to two All NBA teams. Rose won the MVP last season on his rookie contract, and is currently the only player in the NBA to whom this rule applies (it could apply to Russell Westbrook next summer, and to Blake Griffin the summer after that, assuming they each live up to current expectations). Not surprisingly, Rose took advantage of the Rose Rule when he signed his extension. I wonder how that negotiation went? "Um, yeah, I want 30% of the salary cap. They named the rule after me. Duh."
  • Defense. The Bulls won with defense last season. They finished the year with the second best defensive efficiency rating in the NBA, just a few hundredths of a point behind the Celtics. It's no coincidence that Tom Thibodeau was the defensive coordinator in Boston before taking the head job in Chicago.
  • Point guard battle. I have a feeling Chris Paul and Derrick Rose are going to be seeing a lot of each other over the next few years. Since the Clippers acquired him, we've been bragging that Paul is the best point guard in the league. But the simple fact is that Rose was the MVP in the league last season, and plays point guard, so... yeah... awkward. Rose is of course more of a scoring point while Paul is a pure point, so that's the easy way to avoid confusion - Paul is the best pure point in the league. The real question will be the 2012 Olympic team - Paul (and Deron Williams) were Gold Medalists in Beijing in 2008. Rose was a Gold Medalist at the World Championships in Turkey in 2010. So who's the point guard in London? If Team USA is smart, they'll go with Paul.
  • MVPs. As countless others have said before me, Derrick Rose's statistics weren't strictly speaking MVP-worthy last season. But MVP voters tend to look at the narrative as much as the numbers, and Rose had the best story last season - by far the best player on the team that had the best record and a 20 game improvement. Chris Paul lost out on an MVP in 2009 when his statistics were simply absurd, but LeBron James' Cavs had the best record in the league that year. If Chris Paul has a Chris Paul season, and the Clippers surge into contender status, this could be the year where both the numbers and the narrative favor CP3. It's worth noting that in ESPN's pre-season survey of their basketball writers, Paul got 7 out of 30 predictions for MVP, while Rose wasn't mentioned.
  • Low turnover. In their third game of the season, this is the first time the Clippers have seen a team with a new starter (Hamilton). And really, Rip is the only new player who figures to be in Chicago's rotation tonight. The Clippers in contrast have three new starters, though it must be noted that two of last season's starters are still here: they've just been moved to the bench.
  • Home opener. As intense as the home pre-season game was against the Lakers, I can only imagine how pumped the crowd is going to be for actual regular season basketball. I'm definitely sorry I'm missing this one.
  • Defending Rose. I really don't have much feel for how Chris Paul will do defending Rose. He's giving away size, but he should be as good as anyone at keeping him out of the lane, which is the key. Paul and Rose have met head to head four times in their careers, and Paul has the statistical edge in those meetings - but Chicago is 4-0 in those games. That's correct - Chris Paul has never defeated Derrick Rose in an NBA game.
  • Rose's Three Ball. Much was made of Rose's improved range last season, but I'm still not a fan. If you look at his splits, he made 35.5% of his threes before the All Star break (including a scorching 44% in December) and less than 30% after the All Star break. Not to mention that he was taking almost 6 a game in those last couple months, which is too many. If Derrick Rose is shooting threes, he's not being Derrick Rose. And last time I watched him, his form was still funky. He should dial back the long ball.
  • Vinny Del Negro and Chicago. VDN made no secret of the fact that he enjoyed beating the Bulls last December. After leading Chicago to consecutive playoff appearances and then being fired, one suspects that Vinny has plenty of extra incentive against his former team.
  • Coming back after a bad loss. The Clippers were humiliated by the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night. It will be important for the Clippers, playing in their home opener to come back and play with some semblance of pride. If the Clips fail to improve their defense and rebounding, things probably won't go well.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    bull

    n. A word used by Philly cats to describe a male friend or male person.
    Your bull is looking for you.
    Who dat bull on the corner?
    My bull is at the party right now.
  • Get the Bulls perspective Blog a Bull.
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