Neil Funk and Stacey King bring you behind-the-scenes insight and commentary on WGN's Chicago Bulls "BullsEye" blog. Also check out video of player interviews, photo galleries, and unique Bulls statistics from STATS, Inc.

Neil Funk: December 2010 Archives

The Christmas Trip

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This road that the Bulls are currently playing is unique in that not only do they have a game on Christmas Day, but they play the day after as well.   It's a difficult trip because of the time of year that it occurs.   Obviously, the players will miss the time away from their families, but they know that it's part of the job. 

The Christmas game is especially intriguing because the Bulls are playing the Knicks in probably the first meaningful game since the end of the Bulls dynasty.   Both teams were at their peak during the 90s and altho the Knicks had some good playoffs teams after the Bulls run ended, the Bulls were down and then when the Bulls returned to the play-offs, the Knicks were down.   So going into the Christmas Day game, both the Bulls and Knicks would be in the play-offs and could even be first-round opponents.

So, it's good to see two of the league's biggest markets playing meaningful games against one another.

Noah's Out

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Obviously, the news of Joakim Noah's surgery was a blow to the Bulls, but as we saw at the start of the season, the team survived the loss of Carlos Boozer...and similarly, the Bulls have enough to survive the 10 weeks without Noah.   The loss hurts them, no doubt, but he will back for the stretch drive for the play-offs.  

Coach Tom Thibodeau has indicated that Taj Gibson will get the bulk of the starts.   Tom prefers to make the other teams match up to him, but there will be some opponents when Tom feels it will be better to match up to the opponent's line-up and in those cases, Omer Asik and Kurt Thomas will get some starts.

The Bulls will miss Joakim's energy.  I believe that is his biggest asset that he brings to the team.   When opposing centers have to chase him around and run after him from one end of the court to the other, that really wears out the other guy and that will be missed.

 

                                                     -Neil Funk

Time to Make a Run

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The Bulls have successfully navigated the first month and a half of the season...beating some pretty good teams along the way.   Teams such as the Lakers, the Mavericks, the Suns, the Nuggets, the Trailblazers and the Thunder.   Starting tonight against the Pacers, the Bulls play 11 of 13 games against teams currently under .500.   This part of the schedule presents the Bulls with an opportunity to make a nice run and really stretch their lead in the Central Division and establish themselves as one of the elite teams in the East.  

That being said, it isn't always the opponent that makes for an easy or a tough schedule.   What matters more than won-loss records are back-to-backs, four games in five nights, travel in and out of time zones, etc.

But what I like about the position the Bulls are in right now is that the Bulls are competing, and winning, against teams like the Lakers, who are the World Champs, and then coming out strong the next night and beating the Timberwolves and doing so without lettting them get back in the game after the Bulls had gotten off to a strong start.

Winning breeds confidence and right now the Bulls are brimming with confidence and that is a good sign as this season gets rolling.

 

-Neil Funk

This Week

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It's probably easy to over-hype the Bulls win over the Lakers on Friday night.   It's one out of 82 games and if you beat the World Champs and then come out and lay an egg against the T-Wolves, what have you really gained?   BUT...from a confidence standpoint, it's a sign that the Bulls can compete against the NBA Champions.   From a fan's perspective, it's a great win because it shows the United Center faithful that their team is competitive with the NBA's elite and that fires up the fans and gives the Bulls a great home-court advantage.

Carlos Boozer has been in the line-up for about a week and a half and you can see the difference his presence makes.  It allows the Bulls to play inside-out, which is what Coach Thibodeau preaches.   I still don't think we have seen the real Carlos Boozer; it's really still training camp for him.   As much as the Bulls are looking for Boozer's scoring and rebounding, you can also see what a good passer he is out of the low post.

                                                                      -Neil Funk

Remembering Ron

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Obviously, anyone who spent time in Chicago knew Ron Santo was beloved as a player and then was just as beloved as a broadcaster...as much as any broadcaster who has worked in Chicago.

Harry Caray is kind of the standard that you think of and Ron was certainly in that category.  He was a class guy, a wonderful baseball player, passionate broadcaster and his real personality came out in all the charity work that he did for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Broadcasters hold a special place among fans in Chicago because they fall in love with the city and the passion of the fans for their sports teams.   That's why I think broadcasters have such longevity here.   Look at Johnny Kerr with the Bulls, Harry and Ron with the Cubs, Ken Harrelson with the White Sox, Pat Foley with the Blackhawks and of course Jack Brickhouse before all of those....Jack called games for every time at one time or another.

Chicago is a wonderful city, fans love their sports teams and that's why broadcasters love to work here and stay around for a long time.

Ron Santo will be missed, that's for sure.   We have lost a great voice and great person.