Friday, October 30, 2009

Game One: The X-Man Cometh

During the first, second, and fourth quarters last night, the Bulls scrapped their way to a standstill against a talented (but tired-looking) Spurs team. The difference in the game was the third quarter, which is why, with apologies to Xavier McDaniel, I’ve got a new nickname for Tyrus: The X-Man. In the third quarter, he showed why, though by no means their best or even most essential player, he is perhaps the Bulls’ most important player, the X-factor who will determine just how good this team becomes.

And what’s great is, he doesn’t even need to be “consistent” throughout an entire game. Rather he just needs to consistently bring spurts like he flashed in the third quarter. Man, was he everywhere: blocking shots (3), getting rebounds (3), getting to the line (3 times), nailing open jumpers and cutting for easy dunks (going 4 of 6 from the floor), and not turnning the ball over once. It’s a cliché but Tyrus embodied it during the third quarter: He was a game changer.

These sporadic bursts of dynamism are what helped his LSU team reach the Final Four when he was a freshman, and they're why the Bulls drafted him over someone like Aldridge. Over the long haul, Aldridge will likely be a more consistent player, pulling in his 7 to 8 rebounds over four quarters and steadily knocking down his open looks. But when Tyrus plays with the type of controlled fury he unleashed during that 12-minute span last night, he becomes something like a turbo booster that launches the Bulls ahead of their opponents. Rather than see him average 20 pts. and 10 rebs. a game (which to me is a line suggestive of a measured, methodical player), I think I'd prefer regularly seeing Tyrus go bonkers in a single quarter.

We have plenty of consistent players on this team--Hinrich, Deng, Salmons, Miller, and even, perhaps, Taj, who impressed me despite not shooting the ball particularly well. What we don’t have, besides Rose, is another dynamo, and if Ty can provide that (even if it’s only for a quarter), this team could be very good.

One other thought: Since I haven’t seen it mentioned elsewhere, I think Noah’s interior passing really deserves to be lauded. The pass he threw to Deng curling underneath the basket for an easy layup was perhaps my favorite play of the night (the anticipation and the execution were so, so lovely). And it’s a nice change-up to have the offense initiated by Noah (or Miller, who seems to have had a fantastic impact on Noah’s game) at the top of the key. As good as Rose is on the ball, he can be equally effective off it (I think it’s why he and Kirk play so well together) and having such a fine-passing big man really helps the Bulls utilize that aspect of Rose’s game.