The Chicago Bulls didn't exactly look like a well-oiled machine in Tuesday's 92-88 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, but they did look like a team that, with work, can win some games. Here are some highlights - and lowlights - from the preseason opener.
The core: The returning core - Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah - was solid, although Boozer was just 3-of-10. Deng (18 points) shot 50 percent from the floor and made it to the line 11 times, and Hamilton showed some flashes of the old Rip. All five starters had double-digit +/-'s.
Kirk Hinrich: I wasn't thrilled when the Bulls signed Hinrich, but he sure did look good last night. He took just four shots - the Bulls will need more to keep defenses honest - but had seven assists and looked quite capable of running the show in Derrick Rose's absence. I'll happily eat my words if Hinrich can consistently perform at the level he did last night.
Fast break: I was most impressed with the way the starting unit ran the floor. They had 32 points off of fast breaks, mostly off of good defensive plays and rebounds. With Rose sidelined, any easy baskets the Bulls can generate off transition and the break will be huge. Run, Bulls, run!
Second unit: The revamped second unit, with all of its new faces, understandably looked a bit ragged at times, and it was obvious that they need more time together. Nazr Mohammed surprised (stunned) me with 13 points and 12 rebounds; maybe he's got more left in the tank than I thought.
Second unit offense: The Bulls went into the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead, but the second unit nearly blew it by shooting 4.8 percent (1-of-21) - that's no typo, 4.8 percent - from the floor. Obviously, that's not good enough, but let's be patient and give the newcomers some time before raising red flags.
Jimmy Butler: Butler made a couple of nice plays on D and had six boards, but was 1-of-11 from the field (even though coach Tom Thibodeau was calling set plays for him) and got stuffed twice. Maybe it was just a case of nerves, but the Bulls are counting on more from Butler.
Overall, the Bulls' core appeared to be in mid-season form, even though the game was sloppy (a combined 40 turnovers and 29 steals) and somewhat disjointed. It was about as good as could be expected from a preseason opener; the team looks better on the floor than it does on paper, and there could be more potential here than I originally thought.
Notes: Only two of the Bulls' six remaining games will be broadcast nationally - at Minnesota on October 13 (WGN, NBA-TV), and against Oklahoma City on October 23 (NBA-TV). Comcast SportsNet-Chicago will broadcast five more preseason games locally.
Sources: NBA-TV; Bulls inconsistent but win exhibition, Chicago Tribune; Bulls top Grizzlies in preseason opener, CSN-Chicago; Memphis Grizzlies-Chicago Bulls recap & box score; Associated Press/Yahoo! Sports.
YCN featured sports contributor Steve Merritt is - for better or worse - a lifelong Chicago Bulls, Bears and Cubs fan. He's followed the Bulls since 1969, when he tuned in after bedtime on a cheap dime store radio tucked under his pillow.
Other Chicago Bulls articles by Steve:Did the Chicago Bulls Miss Out on Malcolm Thomas?: A Fan's View (October 3)
Build Your Own All-Chicago Bulls News Network: A Fan's View (September 30)
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