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Heading into Game 5 of their series with the Chicago Bulls, the Brooklyn Nets were coming off what could have been a dispiriting (and stamina-killing) triple-overtime loss in Game 4. The team had plenty of chances to turn the tide and take back home-court advantage while in Chicago, but because the 63-minute marathon that didn’t go in their favor, the Nets were facing an often insurmountable 3-1 deficit in their first-round pairing as Monday evening set in.
Instead of boring his team with 63 minutes of game tape and adjustments, Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo dialed up this YouTube clip of Chicago Sun-Times columnist (and noted not all that swell of a guy) Joe Cowley, talking up some internal Chicago Bulls monologue that he is apparently privy to. Watch Cowley here:
Mind you, this was during halftime of Game 4, a contest directly following the Game 3 that saw the Nets stage a dominant comeback to nearly tie the Bulls at the buzzer and force the game into overtime.
The Nets ended up winning Monday’s Game 5 on their home floor, extending the series and their season. To hear star guard Deron Williams tell it, though, P.J.’s move didn’t exactly stir the echoes in the Net locker room. From Newsday:
"We laughed about it," Deron Williams said. "P.J. wanted us to watch it, and we're sitting there after it was over, and we're like, 'That's it?' What are we supposed to do now? Be like, 'Ahhhh, we're mad!' That doesn't mean anything.
"We wanted to win this game for us and for our fans and for a chance to extend our season. We didn't want to go fishing. We don't want to be on TNT with the hats on and going fishing and them talking about us."
While it’s true that the Nets probably didn’t need the extra motivation to pull out the Game 5 win, they probably also knew that Joe Cowley probably wasn’t the most accurate representative of the Bulls’ mindset at this point, as the Net players probably dismissed Cowley as much as the Bulls players probably would, if asked. Chicago probably did prefer to play the Nets as opposed to other teams in the Eastern bracket, but for actual basketball reasons, and not because the team was “gutless” and “heartless.”
Cowley doesn’t do basketball analysis, though. He does tough-guy words.
If the Bulls were actually dismissive of Brooklyn’s mettle, they wouldn’t be playing just about every possession as if it were their last. Joakim Noah wouldn’t be playing on one foot, Kirk Hinrich wouldn’t be giving up his body to defend D-Will, and the players wouldn’t be crying out in frustration when another long jumper rims out. The Bulls respect Brooklyn, as well they should.
This is a close series. Just one or two breaks in the game, sent Brooklyn’s direction, could have made the Nets winners in each of their losses. A few traded buckets in Games 2 through 4 could have given Brooklyn a sweep, and the two Nets wins in this series have come by comfortable margins. Why the Bulls organization would gloat over such a tiny advantage, or deduce things about Brooklyn’s character, is beyond me.
There’s the complication. Joe Cowley is not a member of the Bulls organization. He is not speaking for them. He just wants to act like part of the team.
Of course, I’m feeding the troll. We’re allowing for Cowley to stay in the spotlight and reap the benefits of being a homer columnist, taking the easy way out so as to please the local readership instead of actually providing analysis about a complicated game that goes far deeper than stupid junior high coach buzzwords like “gutless” and “heartless.”
I am a Chicago native and a Bulls fan, and I want the Bulls to win Thursday’s Game 6 by 72 points. That’s not going to cross over to my writing, though, nor will it influence me to denigrate another team’s character just to win local TV points.
Maybe in his next video, Joe Cowley can talk up actual basketball subjects. Like how the Nets have never responded well to the extra pass defensively this season, and that Chicago’s motion offense is allowing for far more easy looks than they have gotten against even crummier defensive teams than Brooklyn. Or that reserve rookie guard Marquis Teague’s finest game as a pro came in a Dec. 15 win over Brooklyn, a contest that saw Nate Robinson start ahead of an injured Hinrich. Or perhaps discuss Chicago’s incredible ability to hit contested mid-range shots in this series prior to Game 5, a hallmark of Brooklyn’s up-and-down defense all year. Or the switch that allowed Gerald “Gutless” Wallace to move from the shortened corner to the top of the arc on offense, a spot from which he has hit several 3-pointers as the series has moved along. Or how Robinson’s potentially too-aggressive perimeter defense on Williams was actually preferable to Hinrich’s in stages during Game 4, and how that could affect Williams’ plans heading into a crucial Game 6. Or how the presence of Andray Blatche is perhaps the perfect antidote for Chicago’s soft-hedge defense.
Any of those things are preferable.
Respect, Nets. Go Bulls.