Sure, one game is in the books but that doesn't mean we can't touch base with our friendly rivals from BlogaBull.com. Full disclosure - the questions were asked prior to Game 1, while the answers came after the game was over. For my answers to their questions, check it out over at BaB!
FtS - The Bulls had one helluva roller coaster ride of a season. How many times were you convinced they were done, and how did they get all the way back to make the playoffs?
BaB - If ever truly down about the Bulls chances of making the playoffs, one only had to remember that it's the East. Even after the Bulls had lost 10 straight games in March, there were no contenders for that 8th spot besides them, and having to beat out Toronto or Charlotte didn't seem so daunting. All season it was known that this team was inherently average, and had such a lack of depth that injuries were potentially crippling. So my only time when I figured they wouldn't make the playoffs was when their top 3 players (Rose, Noah, and Deng) were all injured simultaneously, and Noah's foot troubles for the entire second half of the season meant it wasn't clear he'd ever be 100%. But he came back and played very well, and with a full complement of players the Bulls were able to win enough to take the 8th seed away. Bosh getting hurt helped too.
FtS - What am I missing about Vinny Del Negro? It seems the Bulls are dead-set on replacing him the minnute they get the chance. Now comes the news of a fight between Del Negro and John Paxson. What's the deal?
BaB - The Bulls Organization ('the Org.' for short)...is strange. Their spectacularly failed coaching search in 2008 had Vinny in a no-win situation, as everyone knew he was probably too inexperienced to do anything great, and he wasn't the teams first (or second) choice. And throughout his tenure Vinny has never proven to be a high-quality coach, though he does some things (mostly by not doing things) well. Firing him at any point this season could've been appropriate, but what the Org. screwed up is deciding to fire him without actually firing him. Word got out that the Bulls had given up hope on the guy in December, though they felt with no in-house replacements they thought an interim-hire would do more harm than good. When that was made the Bulls needed to stand by VDN and say that he was their coach the rest of the season. It didn't happen, and from then on VDN's relationship with the Org. seemed more adversarial. It came to a head with Noah's return from injury and the Org.'s belief that VDN was going for resume-padding wins over the long-term health of the players, but that's the risk you run when letting a coach know he's not in your plans, yet still letting him coach the team.
FtS - Who do the Bulls need to stop - assuming LeBron will do what he does?
BaB - I don't think they'll let LeBron due what he normally does, by really packing in the paint and over-helping. Also, Luol Deng is a solid defender, and though while nobody can stop LeBron he does as decent a job of trying as any. That means that the Bulls will have to simply hope the Cavs shooters are off their game, though they'll be so open that's tough to control. What they can control and need to stop then is the Cavs offensive rebounding. If they can't secure the ball and let the Cavs superior size get post position (that'd be on an intial set too, not just on rebounds) it'll get gruesome.
FtS - Give us the name of a Bull player that Cavs fans may not know right now, but will when this series is over.
BaB - I think Cavs fans know who Joakim Noah is, but feel like he's just another energy-player who is more annoying than effective. But Cavs fans wouldn't like other teams supporters thinking the same about Anderson Varejao, and they similarly shouldn't underestimate Noah, who may be comparable in game to Andy, but is better. Noah has really bulked up since he joined the league, helping his rebounding, and his length and athleticism make him one of the better help defenders in the league. And on offense, even an improved jump shot is still fairly bad, but he can do nearly everything else, and has very impressive passing and ballhandling skills for a center.
FtS - Prediction time. Who you got, and how many games?
BaB - I'm writing this after the Bulls game one loss, and though it wasn't the Cavs best performance and they still won by 13, I still see the Bulls potentially taking one game. All they have to do is keep the game close and hope Derrick Rose takes over some late possessions. But there will also be a couple complete blowouts by the Cavs and this series will be over in 5. The Bulls offense is just so terrible that they cannot keep up with a team this good.
Our thanks to Blog-a-Bull for taking the time!