Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top Ten All Time Favorite Chicago Bulls

After Joakim Noah's awesome rant about how shitty a place Cleveland is and his subsequent 25 point and 13 rebound performance, I got to thinking about how much I enjoy having him on the Bulls. Then I got to thinking about where he would rank among my all time favorite Chicago Bulls. After that I got to thinking that this would be a great place to rank my top ten players on my favorite sports team ever. The only rules are that they had to have played when I could have seen them (so no Bulls legends like Jerry Sloan), they had to be players and not a coach (no Phil Jackson), and I am only counting their time in Chicago (so no Ron Artest or Scottie Pippen's time in Portland).

Before I get to the top ten, here are some honorable mentions:

Horace Grant: In the early 1990s, Horace was one of the most underrated players in that lineup. He blocks Kevin Johnson's potential game winner in the 1993 Finals and was always good for 14 and 8 every game. In 1994, he left and joined the Orlando Magic. He then talked a ton of shit about the Bulls and received way too much credit in some circles for Orlando's 1995 defeat of Chicago in MJ's comeback. He wasn't that important, as they won three more without him. I loved him when he played for the Bulls, and I know I said I was only counting their time in Chicago, but Horace broke my heart by leaving and helping beat Chicago. Fuck Horace Grant.

Jack Haley: The quintessential 13th man, Jack Haley was the dude who sat in the business suit for the Bulls title runs and I'm pretty sure he did that for every franchise he was a part of. I looked up some pictures to see if there was anything of him playing, but this was the best I could do (he is number 54). As a matter of fact, the most action he ever received was appearing in the "Love in an Elevator" video for Aerosmith. It was even on his 1990 Topps basketball card in lieu of stats. He never played so I can't really say he is one of my favorite players, as he never played.

Now, onto the top ten...

10.) Joakim Noah: Noah is the current Bulls leader in rebounding, intensity, and defense. He is the Henry Rollins of the team. Without him, they struggled this yaer and I enjoy watching him play. He takes the game seriously, but he also likes to have a good time. As long as he and Rose are on the Bulls, I have a reason to seriously follow them.

9.) Steve Kerr: Kerr is one of my favorite role players ever. Also, he was born in Lebanon, sharing something in common with my family. He was there to be a spot up shooter from long range and he was great at it. He hit game winners in the 1996 and 1997 finals and won a couple of three point contests. Unlike now when I cry whenever Kirk Hinrich shoots, I always felt safe whenever Kerr put up a shot. He also got into a fistfight when Michael Jordan disrespected him and earned Michael's respect. Without that, who knows if he gets to take those two aforementioned game winners.

8.) BJ Armstrong: BJ was a backup point guard in 1991 and 1992 for John Paxson and was the starter from 1993-1995. He was athletic with a decent jump shot and was a decent facilitator in the triangle offense. He also had such a babyface that he still looks like a middle schooler. He was never my favorite Bull, but he was always a good player to have on your team. I was very sad when he was taken by the Craptors in the 1995 expansion draft and was replaced with Ron Harper. I definitely thought that would be a step back, but the Bulls ended up winning 72 games. Shows how much I knew at the age of ten. He is also the agent of my number seven, who is

7.) Derrick Rose: When the Bulls drafted Rose first, I have to admit I was disappointed. I wanted them to draft Michael Beasley to fulfill the role of low post scorer. I am not ashamed to admit I was wrong, as Rose is my favorite Bull since Michael. In only his second year, if Rose continues to improve and continues to do things like school Andre Miller, he will probably become my second favorite Bull of all time. I look forward to watching a Bulls team captained by Derrick Rose and if the Bulls manage to sign a marquee big man and hire a coach that can create some offensive sets, D Rose will become the best point guard in the NBA.

6.) Toni Kukoc: When I was a kid, I always thought that Toni looked a lot like Cody from Step by Step, but upon further review they do not look alike at all. Toni, the Croatian Sensation, was always frustrating to watch. When he was on, he was a truly transcendent player. He could shoot from anywhere on the floor, and pass and handle the ball like a point guard that just happened to be 6'11. However, if he didn't get involved in the offense within the first minute or two on the floor, he would sulk and zone out of the game. When the team split up after the 1998 title, Kukoc was the top dog and I was sad to see him leave a year or two after that. He was the prototype for Dirk Nowitzki since he was a big man with a soft touch and handling skills. I wanted to rank Toni higher, but he was a little weak mentally and there are five Bulls I like more.

5.) Dennis Rodman: Dennis will end up being known for his colorful personality and woeful personal life, but he was the greatest rebounder in NBA history. His defense and athleticism were so important to the Bulls and they would not have won three more titles without him. The best way I can sum up my feelings towards Rodzilla is with an anecdote. I remember when the Bulls were playing the Orlando Magic and he got to guard young Shaq. he kept bumping Shaq and throwing him off his game. Eventually, Shaq took the ball and launched it at Rodman's face. Shaq was tossed out and Rodman celebrated. The Bulls won the game. I loved it. These were the things that Dennis could do when he wasn't acting stupid. Dennis was also very frustrating because he was getting ejected and suspended all the time. It was things like that that keep him from being any higher than five. I love him for what he was good for, but couldn't stand the negative he brought. I still wouldn't have traded him for anyone else though.

4.) Bill Wennington: Bill was Luc Longley's backup at center from 1994-1998. He also had the best hair on the team. He was a mediocre defender and not actually that great, but he had the sickest ten foot jump shot ever. I remember in 1995 when MJ came back, he torched the Knicks for 55 points. With little time left and the game tied, the Bulls needed one basket to win. Everyone and their mother thought Michael was going to take it, but he dumped it to Wennington for the jumper. He hit it and the Knicks were again vanquished. After that, he was untouchable. I remember many a time when I was watching Bulls games with my dad and Luc Longley would suck. This happened a lot, and every time this happened my dad would yell "Put in Big Bill! Play Wennington!" I love that dude (my dad, and Bill Wennington as well).

3.) John Paxson: Pax was the starting PG for the late 80s Bulls and their first two title runs and the backup point guard for the 1993 championship. He was a relentless competitor and a great outside shooter, kind of like a demented Steve Kerr. This has poured over into his professional life as GM of the Bulls, as he has been known to leave games in a fit of rage and recently tried to get into a fistfight with coach Vinny Del Negro. Paxson will forever be a legend to me for his role in two championship clinching games. In game 5 of the 1991 NBA Finals, he hit five straight jumpers in the closing minutes to put the Bulls over the Lakers. In 1993, he hit the game winning three that gave the Bulls their third straight title. "Paxson, for three...Yes!" is probably the greatest thing I have ever heard in a sporting event. I was eight years old when this happened and it was fucking amazing. The Bulls became the first team since the Celtics in the 1960s to win three straight titles. When Jordan left, I would watch my VHS copy of this game and feel better about being a Bulls fan. To this day, it still ranks as my favorite game winner ever. To me, Paxson can do no wrong, unless he joins the Tea Party or something.

2.) Scottie Pippen: The greatest second fiddle of all time, my brother's favorite player of all time, and probably the greatest individual defender since Bill Russell. Recently, there has been this movement to give Scottie more credit in order to knock MJ down a peg and raise up Kobe and LeBron, but that's just crazy and I appreciate Scottie for what he was and not what people want him to be now. He was the leader of the team, the guy who made sure everyone was involved and on the same page. Michael was on a whole different level; he couldn't relate to the Jud Buechlers and Randy Browns of the team. Scottie kept the offense running and pretty much always guarded the other team's best player. His dunk on Patrick Ewing almost made me poop my pants when I was a kid. I used to love it when he and Michael would clown people with their defense. When MJ retired, Scottie was the man and won the MVP of the 1994 All-Star game. He was so close to getting them to the title without him, but he couldn't do it. This is my problem with Scottie: He didn't always show up when you needed him. There was game 7 in 1990 against Detroit where he came up with the migraine. There was 1994 when he refused to go in with 1.8 seconds left against the Knicks because the last shot wasn't called for him. In 1998, he missed time and threatened not to go all out because he was in a contract dispute and his injury in game 6 almost cost the Bulls the game. As great as Scottie was, he wasn't the one who scored 38 with the flu or hit the game winner in Utah. I don't mean to rip on Scottie. He was always one of my favorite players to watch and you could never ask for a better second option on your team.

1.) Michael Jordan: Like there was any doubt. Michael is my favorite athlete of all time in any sport, despite his douchebag tendencies. When I was a kid, Michael was one of my idols, which is something I'll delve into at a later time. In my eyes, he was superhuman and could beat teams singlehandedly (which he could). When he retired in 1993, eight year old Jimmy Shahen cried like someone in his family just died. When he returned in 1995, it was like someone had just given me a golden ticket. In his first game back, he only went 7-19 (a stat I remember by heart and didn't have to look up) and the Bulls lost to the Pacers. I was devastated and remember crying to me parents, "He's terrible now!" Hope was restored four games later when he dropped 55 on the Knicks. When he switched from the number 45 back to his original 23, I knew it meant certain doom for the Orlando Magic in the playoffs. Then they lost the series, the first time since 1990 MJ had lost in a playoff series. I remember my friends and kids from school saying he was done and no good anymore, but that couldn't be any further from the truth as Jordan and the Bulls steamrolled people in 1996 and 1997, winning over 140 of 164 games and two titles. Then they won again in 1998 when Michael hit the game winner over Utah (and fuck you, he never pushed off). I have so many fond memories of watching Bulls games with my parents and seeing Michael play. He was an artist on the court in a way no one, not even Kobe or LeBron, could ever be. No matter how many times my mom would say that the Knicks were going to win, Jordan pretty much always put a hurting on them. I distinctly remember watching that game where he hits the winning shot against the Jazz. The Bulls were struggling with Pippen out and the rest of the team sucking ass. Michael's jumper had no legs on it and he was bricking a lot. I remember my dad yelling, "Take it to the fucking hoop!" That is exactly what he did, hitting layups and getting to the foul line at will. He then hit a layup, stole the ball from Karl Malone and hit the jumper I linked to a few sentences before. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. We all knew that that was going to be his last shot in the NBA and it was perfect. Of course he kind of ruined that with his comeback in Washington, but I'll never forget the excitement of seeing that moment live with my dad or the excitement I felt any time I saw Michael Jordan play.

Well, that is the end of this post. Feel free to leave me comments on this page or on facebook if there are any Bulls that you really liked that I missed out on or would like to share your favorite players from your favorite team.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010 NBA Playoffs First Round Predictions

I do believe the title of this post basically sums up the purpose of this post, so I'll make the introduction brief. The 2010 NBA Playoffs start today, April 17. For each round of the playoffs, I am going to post my predictions and thoughts on each series that is being played. So without further ado, here we go.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (61-21) vs. 8. Chicago Bulls (41-41)
Much like last year, this season is supposed to be the one in which LeBron James is crowned champion. Last year, the Cavs were derailed by Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals. This year, they added Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison to their starting rotation and picked up solid role players like Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker. They finished this season with the best record in the NBA and are heavily favored to win it all. Chicago scraped into the playoff with a win on the last day of the regular season and finished at .500 for the second straight year. LeBron is talking a ton of shit about how ready the Cavs are and how they are super serial about winning the title. That won't stop him from celebrating each blowout over the vastly inferior Bulls like it's the greatest thing in the history of the sport. LeBron is kind of an egomaniac considering he hasn't won shit yet, but that is for another post. The Bulls need to put on a good showing in this series so they can vastly overpay someone like Joe Johnson or Amar'e Stoudemire to be Derrick "my favorite player in the universe" Rose's wingman. A couple of close games, or even two wins would be nice for my Bulls, but I don't think it is going to happen. Cleveland has too much depth and frontcourt might. Cavs in 4.

2. Orlando Magic (59-23) vs. 7. Charlotte Bobcats (44-38)
Orlando surprised a lot of people by beating Cleveland and making it to the Finals last year. I called that shit before it happened, but I guess that's of no real importance besides tooting my own horn. In the offseason, they decided to not overpay for Hedo Turkoglu and added Vince Carter to the mix and despite struggling early in the season, finished with the league's second best record. Charlotte finished above .500 for the first time ever and received their first ever playoff berth. I'm not a big fan of Larry Brown, but he has done a great coaching job and built a scrappy defense-oriented team that has beaten a lot of the league's top teams this year. I see them doing pretty well against Orlando, especially if Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis play poorly for Orlando. Dwight Howard should be able to boss around Charlotte's post players, but there is never any guarantee that he'll get enough touches to make an impact offensively. Seriously, the dude only averages 10 shots a game when he should be getting at least 15. While I said Charlotte would do well against Orlando, the Magic are too good to lose this series. Magic in 7.

3. Atlanta Hawks (53-29) vs. 6. Milwaukee Bucks (46-36)
Atlanta started this season on a tear and has come down to Earth a bit now. Milwaukee was projected to be lottery bound this season, but the drafting of Brandon Jennings, career year for Andrew Bogut, and the midseason acquistion of John Salmons (fuck you Salmons, why didn't you play this way in Chicago the first half of the season!?), teamed with Scott Skiles' coaching turned the Bucks into a surprise this season. Skiles, as he is wont to do, turned the Bucks into (much like Charlotte) into a very scrappy defense oriented team. If Bogut hadn't gotten crippled a few weeks ago, I would say the Bucks would steal this, as I think Atlanta is highly overrated. However, Bogut's injury changes everything and I think the Hawks advance in a tough, tough series. Hawks in 6.

4.) Boston Celtics (50-32) vs. 5.) Miami Heat (47-35)
Before this season started, Rasheed Wallace said the Celtics would win 72 games, at least. He managed to help them finish 22 games off that prediction by putting together one of the most awful seasons in the NBA this year. That, combined with nagging injuries to Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and infighting and complacency amongst the team, has Boston stumbling into the playoffs. A lot of the veterans on the team have been saying that the team has been saving up for the postseason, but I honestly don't see Boston doing much of anything with Garnett limping up and down the court, Ray Allen's defense crumbling, Rasheed Wallace's existence, and Rondo's abyssmal jump shot. Miami overachieved for the most part this season and have a healthy Dwyane Wade. Unless Dan Aykroyd and Daniel Stern kidnap him, a healthy D Wade and his supporting cast put Miami in the second round, where they can get smoked by Cleveland. Miami in 6.

And now, the Western Conference...

Western Conference

1.) Los Angeles Lakers (57-25) vs 8.) Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32)
The Lakers come into this playoffs as the defending NBA champs and then replaced role player Trevor Ariza with Ron "Crazy Pills" Artest. Kobe has battled injury this year and comes in pretty beat up. The team themselves stumbled into the postseason and have a lot of people questioning their cohesiveness and toughness. Oklahoma City is a surprise playoff team, winning 27 more games and Kevin Durant has blossomed into a superstar. The team is full of up and comers and will be contenders in the future. Key word here is the future, as the Thunder are not really there yet. They should make it a tough series for L.A. however. Lakers in 6.

2.) Dallas Mavericks (55-27) vs. 7.) San Antonio Spurs (50-32)
This should be the best series of the first round. Dallas and San Antonio have been rivals for years, and either team is a serious threat for the finals. Dallas is fielding a nasty team of Nowitzki, Kidd, Caron Butler, and Shawn Marion. The Spurs have mainstay Tim Duncan, Richard Jefferson, Tony Parker and a resurgent Manu Ginobili. Parker is playing hurt, but Ginobili is on fire as of late. Dallas has been on a tear since the all-star break, but most of their wins are close and they played some shitty teams down the last few months. If Parker was healthy and George Hill wasn't hurt, I say the Spurs take it in 6, but right now I'm not too sure. I'm gonna go with Mavs in 7.

3.) Phoenix Suns (54-28) vs 6.) Portland TrailBlazers (50-32)
Phoenix is another surprise team, as no one expected them to even make the playoffs. Steve Nash has had another career year, Grant Hill is still healthy, and Amar'e Stoudemire is playing his ass off for his new contract. Portland was supposed to be a contender, but everyone on their team has been hurt. Their best player, Brandon Roy, is out for the playoffs with a torn meniscus. Phoenix is playing so well right now and I don't think a crippled Portland will do much of anything. Phoenix in 5.

4.) Denver Nuggets (53-29) vs. 5.) Utah Jazz (53-29)
Denver was a clear cut number 2 seed for most of the season, but injuries, lack of low post scoring and a decline in energy has dropped them to the 4th seed. Utah has played through a ton of injuries and are playing pretty well right now. Both teams are terrible on the road this season, so that is working in Denver's favor, but I think between Coach Karl missing time with cancer and the team's deficiencies that Utah will eek out a win in this series. Utah in 6.

That wraps up the first round playoff preview and predictions here at Price Vincent. When this round ends sometimes in the next month, I'll post round 2 predictions. Be on the lookout for another blog sometime soon.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Review: Collective Soul - Rabbit

Since I first heard "December" back in 1995, Collective Soul has been my favorite band. I didn't realize at the time that post-grunge bands like them were anathema to rock critics and were supposed to just go away. Without knowing that information, I became sucked into their hook laden, big guitar sound.



As I got older and my tastes in music started to grow, Collective Soul's music started to change as well. Their songs started to become more electronic and then more poppy. Some of the songs were still catchy, 2007's Afterwords was their worst and most generic album. The lead single was the theme to last year's American Idol, "Hollywood." The album was filled with mid-tempo songs that sound like something my mom would listen to. When I found out they had a new album coming out this year, I was not hopeful. While I would gladly see them live and listen to their back catalog, I was seriously considering making this the first Collective Soul album I had never owned.



Luckily, I decided to go for it and give them another shot. Rabbit is easily their best and most consistent album in well over a decade. While it still leans towards adult alternative, like with the lead single "Staring Down," this album features what Collective Soul has always done best, write and play catchy rock songs. Every track has a chorus and melody that are easy to get sucked in by. "My Days" is a big rock song that sounds alot like their older material and is easily one of their best songs yet. In general, Rabbit is a perfect summertime album; it is a lot of fun to listen and sing along to and sounds like a sunny day (as stupid as that sounds).

With this album, Collective Soul reassured me. Rabbit managed to remind me what I have always enjoyed about them. Typically when I review something, I tend to ramble on and on but I'm going to keep this short, as there really isn't a lot to say. Anyone who has ever been a fan of Collective Soul or the 90s rock scene should buy this immediately.