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Bloggers Talk: Talkin’ Bulls-Magic With Josh Hill Of Pippen Ain’t Easy


I exchanged questions with Josh Hill, the Lead Blogger over at our Chicago Bulls site, Pippen Ain’t Easy to preview Friday night’s showdown between the Bulls and the Magic. You can see his answers to my questions below.

If you’d like to see my answers to his questions, click here.

1. The Bulls had the best record in the Eastern Conference last year and fell three games short of the NBA Finals. What is the thinking in Chicago? Have they done enough to get passed the Miami Heat?

They will only have done enough when they bounce Miami from the playoffs. That’s the feeling around Chicago, it’s one of unfinished business. The city knows this team is amazing and the team knows it too. They just also know that amazing won’t get it done and you need to be a step beyond that. Adding Rip Hamilton this offseason was a direct attempt to beat the Heat. Chicago’s offense suffered at the shooting guard position last year particularly in the playoffs when it was needed the most. Hamilton provides the offense Keith Bogans didn’t have and Ronnie Brewer provides the defense. The feeling is that this should solve some major problems not only against the Heat but against all opponents. Chicago did everything to be great last year expect win a title and the expectations are throughout he roof for this year.

2. Chicago’s major addition was former Pistons guard Richard Hamilton? How is Rip fitting in with the team so far?

He’s fitting like a glove. I was a huge fan of this signing because when the offseason began the immediate need was shooting guard. The Bulls weren’t going to get a flashy name because that’s not them. Rip is the quintessential Bulls signing, whereas they grabbed Carlos Boozer in a free agency market that had LeBron, Wade and Amare in it, they grabbed Rip Hamilton when there were flashier names available. This always works out for the Bulls and it’s working of far. Rip is adjusting to Chicago beautifully and he’s got Ronnie Brewer behind him to relieve him when need be. Rip’s real value is his championship experience which is why I think the signing is brilliant. I’ve ben saying all along that this team needs mature playoff experience and none of them had as deep of playoff experience as they went last year. Tom Thibodeau had the most knowledge from his days in Boston and that can only go so far. Now Rip has the same experience from his ’04 title and that can be taught on the court and in the moment. Right now he’s just filling an offensive hole, but his true value will come in May and June.

3.Carlos Boozer has been constantly criticized since inking his big deal with the Bulls last summer. How deserved is the criticism?  Has he showed signs of turning things around?

Boozer deserves all the criticism and then some. You don’t ink a $75 million deal and do your best Houdini impression in the post season. That’s a lot of people’s big gripe with Boozer and it has spilled over into his regular season play. He got the benefit of the doubt for some reason during the season last year but as soon as he started disappearing in big spots in the playoffs people weren’t happy. He’s showing signs of improvement but that’s honestly not good enough. Not when you have a $75 million price tag. Not when you play at the NBA level and not when you’re as old as Carlos Boozer. We’re talking about him like he’s a young guy, like there is still a lot of time for him to develop. He’s Carlos Boozer we shouldn’t have to make excuses for a guy of his tenure and the sad fact is he’s not acting like it. He’s one of the only guys in the NBA who can create his own play down low and he doesn’t do that. Imagine if Boozer was at the top of his game, this team would be incredible. But for some reason he’s not. If Carlos Boozer played defense and focused his shooting as much as he shouts or worried about that gross beard of his then we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It frustrates a lot of Bulls fans that we have to have it as much as we do.

4. Dwight Howard has had some especially big games against the Bulls, averaging 24.2 points per game in three games against the Bulls last season. What do you think Chicago’s strategy will be Friday? Hack-A-Howard?

Chicago will do one of two things. They will either try to take him out of the game or they’ll just try to play around him and frustrate him. There isn’t really a whole lot you can do wit a guy like Howard who is just a physical monster. Joakim Noah will have his hands full trying to defend Howard and although his game will be well improved from their last meeting, he’ll still get beat. You just have to play around that because after Howard there isn’t a whole lot on this team that is scary. It’s not like Miami  where if you play around LeBron you have to account for Wade and Bosh. Compensate for Howard and take the buckets you can and you will come out on top. Derrick Rose can light it up from thee point land, as can Hamilton, Deng and Brewer. Noah and Boozer can play defense as can Deng and the Bench Mob like Omer Asik and Taj Gibson. It’s not going to be a pretty game but if they can just compensate for Howard and take what he’ll score, there isn’t much beyond him to scare a team like Chicago. I know he’s the flavor of the week right now but Ryan Anderson isn’t scaring Chicago.

5. Finally, lets get your thoughts on Friday night’s game. Do the Bulls get it done with a banged up Derrick Rose?

I think they do. Rose won’t be that banged up come game time and he’s the ultimate competitor. He’ll give it his all even if he’s not all there. The beauty about that is, unlike last year, the Bulls have the tools to work with a not all there Rose. Rip Hamilton can keep the offense moving as can Luol Deng. Joakim Noah will crash the boards and give second chances and the Bench Mob will out play Orlando’s reserves. Like I said, Ryan Anderson is a respectable player at the moment, not a game changing threat for Chicago. Dwight Howard will, as he always has been in these match ups, be the X-Factor. If he’s on a hot shooting streak deep into the game and he’s out-rebounding Noah then the Bulls may be in trouble. Going back to last 14 games these teams have played, whoever wins in rebounding wins the game. That won’t be any different tonight. It’ll be an ugly, gritty and damn fine game to watch but I say the Bulls pull out a close one. Both teams will win however because what we will see for the first time all year is top notch Eastern Conference basketball on both ends of the court.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him onTwitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)