Chicago Bulls preview

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Fans can finally let out a sigh of relief after threats of a “nuclear winter,” as commissioner David Stern called it, which would have led to an entire season of exploring other sports in the absence of the NBA.

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Fans can finally let out a sigh of relief after threats of a “nuclear winter,” as commissioner David Stern called it, which would have led to an entire season of exploring other sports in the absence of the NBA.

The 162-day lockout was officially ended Dec. 8, marking the second time in NBA history that a work stoppage shortened the season. Fans who suffered through hearing information from sports reporters who were quoting secret sources all Fall were given the gift of basketball, which will be fittingly gift wrapped on Christmas Day with match-ups between the league’s top teams, including the Chicago Bulls.

Subsequently, free agent signing and trades have been the top story since teams were given permission to negotiate deals. The Bulls remained fairly quiet in the free agent and trade market, with only rumors of adding a shooting guard to fill a void that has been felt since last season.

The Bulls are playing the role of the dynasty teams from the 90’s with their version of Michael Jordan in place, but have yet to find the player to assume the role that Scottie Pippen filled as the clean-up hitter.

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Several names surfaced during the Bulls search for a shooting guard, including Caron Butler, Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford, but Bulls GM Gar Forman felt Richard “Rip” Hamilton was the Bulls best option to push the team through the eastern conference once again.

With a shortened 66-game season, the Bulls and the rest of the teams have a shorter time to get prepared, which features a brutal schedule filled with back-to-back games and, at times, even three games in the same amount of nights.

The Bulls team from last year’s Eastern Conference Finals dreaded loss to the

Miami Heat is still fully intact with a couple additions and exits, including the release of starting shooting guard Keith Bogans and forward Kurt Thomas and signing of free agent Jimmy Butler.

With a shortened season that is sure to put the big market teams in the playoffs once again, the same outcome from last season is expected. Let’s fast forward to the playoffs, undoubtedly to be narrowed down in the East to the Miami Heat, Bulls, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. The Bulls are fully capable of making a run to advance out of the Eastern Conference playoffs with the team from last season if they add a shooting guard of Rip Hamilton’s caliber.

Starting the season with a healthy Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, both tag teaming with going down because of injuries last season, immediately upgrades the Bulls front court. Luol Deng chipping in 15-20 points per game will be a huge contribution once again to the team’s success. The question mark is the shooting guard position.

Despite coach Tom Thibodeau’s effort to downplay the team’s need for a shooting guard, the team is in desperate need of help to get past the Miami Heat, who added former Bulls center Eddy Curry and forward Shane Battier.

With a tight schedule squeezed into five months, which includes four games against the Heat and Celtics, the Bulls are poised to land in the top three in standings once again this year after posting the best record in the league in the 2010-11 season.

Derrick Rose is coming off of an MVP season and is expected to produce nothing less this year with assistance from an expected shooting guard.

It should be another exciting season for the Bulls and fans in Chicago. The “nuclear winter” has turned into a season predicted to be as memorable as the infamous punch bowl-shattering episode of “Good Times.”

The basketball gods have all granted us the greatest Christmas gift of all: our Chicago Bulls are back.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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