Before the Chicago basketball fans and the sportswriters can work themselves into a “Heat-stroke” about the upcoming series against Miami, let’s take a minute to stop and smell the flowers of the Derrick Rose-less Bulls.
Winning a Game 7 on the road takes poise, heart and good coaching. Clearly the Chicago Bulls have all three. What this team and Coach Tom Thibodeau have done should be applauded. How they did it, should be studied.
The most maligned player on the roster, Carlos Boozer, stepped up his game when the team needed it the most. Booz boosted elevated from his regular season stats of 16.2pp/9.8reb/47.7FG% to an impressive 17.4ppg/10.6reb/54.5FG%.
The team raised its scoring average from 93.2ppg to 97.4ppg. That’s no small feat considering the Bulls didn’t have its very best player and shot creator in Rose and its (arguably) second best player was so ill he missed the last two games of the series. Deng also had a horrendous shooting series, hitting 40 percent from the free-throw line and even worse from the field. Ouch. Get better soon Loul.
However the biggest accomplishment of this team and coaching staff was adjusting to two different point guards with two very different styles.
Kirk Hinrich started the series providing good defense and a steady hand at the point. Nate Robinson ended and electrified the series, posting career playoff highs in Points, Field Goal % and Assists (17.4ppg/50.5FG%/3.6ast).
It took AMAZING coaching and preparation switching gears from the slow and steady Hinrich to the often wild and occasionally erratic Robinson.
You have to tip your hat to the Bulls, Thibs and the fans. I don’t think anyone doubted this team could win the series.
ESPN’S NBA PROBLEM
It’s just not working. The NBA Countdown show just isn’t that good. It should be better.
(Full disclosure: I’m a hardcore NBA fan)
I know I’m not the only one thinking this or saying this or wondering how to fix the studio show equivalent of “the sum being less than the whole of parts”. If that’s too high brow try this..NBA countdown finds a way to make fifteen cents out of a dollar.
The individual parts are great! Magic is a hall of famer and he’s MAGIC! Jalen Rose has been excellent. He’s insightful, charismatic and funny. But they ask him to do too much. Michael Wilbon is always smart, credible and knowledgeable. Bill Simmons is one of the most unique voices on the NBA and sports in general of this generation.
But when you put it all together, it just always seems to fall flat.
Listen, I know the bar is high. Inside the NBA is the gold standard. If there were something as trivial as a “Mount Rushmore of studio shows about sports” Charles, Kenny and Ernie Johnson already have three out of the four spots. Period. (Just FYI…in my opinion NFL network’s Rich Eisen and Deion Sanders are jockeying for the last spot)
Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose shared their lofty goals for the NBA Countdown show during a podcast on Simmons’s website Grantland.com early in the season. Safe to say, they fell short. The effort is there, the execution is not.
Here is how I would fix the show. It needs a ringleader. Think about how EJ keeps things on track and verbally spars with the Chuckster, the Jet and now Shaq. Look at how Eisen plays along with all the jokes. But he still corrals the wild energy of the Playmaker and Sapp while seguing into the analysis of Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner and setting up Steve Mariucci for a useful nugget.
You know who would be perfect for NBA Countdown….(drumroll) …Craig Kilborn!
Remember him? Kilborn was the man on ESPN’s NBA2nite in the mid 90’s. He was a pioneer of the catchphrase-witty banter-obscure reference style of sports anchoring (Jumanji!) we have come to know and love (and sometimes hate, but it’s love-hate).
Then he went on to host the Daily Show on Comedy Central. Yes, there was life before Jon Stewart and he was pretty good. Remember “5 questions”???
Kilborn then followed David Letterman on the Late Late Show on CBS. Coming out to “Play That Funky Music” every episode, he was the smartest guy in the room and the coolest when it came to late night TV.
In addition to having the anchoring chops to handle a highlight heavy show, he has the hosting skills and the personality to lead the pack on NBA Countdown. It’s a show that could desperately use his snarky, snappy and smarmy style to give it the edge and more importantly the DIRECTION it sorely needs.
I don’t know what Kilby is doing, or if he would be interested. But in the first Daily Dime after the finals Marc Stein needs to write “find a host” as NBA Countdown’s top off season priority.
One more thing, how about some special guests??? You are doing the show from LA! Would it have killed ESPN to fly in John Starks for the Knicks/Pacers game on Sunday??? How about James Harden for the OK/Memphis game? At least Chris Mullin for the Golden State/Denver game. He works for the network!